Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Single of the Week: King Krule - "The Noose of Jah City"

Previously releasing material under the psudeonym Zoo Kid, King Krule, aka 17-year-old bedroom producer Archy Marshall will release his first EP via True Panther on 8th November. The EP's closing track, "The Noose of Jah City" showcases the deepness of Marshall's socially conscious baritone, quiet yet potent amongst sparse guitar work and a garagey hip-hop breakbeat. The vocals, covered in echo and reverb effects, compliment rather than obscure their lyrics and Marshall's knack for songwriting, and heighten a sense of isolation and uncertainty. Just as the vocals re-emerge after the instrumental break, the song abruptly ends, adding to the "one more listen" factor. Hopefully the EP as a whole will induce that similar feeling when its released.

King Krule- The Noose of Jah City by truepanther

"The Noose of Jah City" will feature on King Krule, which will be released on 8th November via True Panther.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Album of the Week: Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls

With the release of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's excellent follow-up LP Belong earlier this year, many bands dabbling in the same kind of British C86-influenced indie-pop may be overshadowed. Fellow Slumberland Records comrades Veronica Falls avoid this pitfall with the release of their debut album - constructed from songs recorded and released from 2009 onwards - by adding a very macabre, quietly potent flavour to their songwriting, delivered by the girl/boy vocal duo Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare. These songs are always quiet and melodic (reminiscent of Galaxie 500), drawing the listener even deeper into their often sinister narratives, be they of a lover's jealousy ("Wedding Day") or suicide ("Beachy Head"). It isn't until the final track "Come on Over" that any kind of resolution is found. Quite a different take on a popular style right now; if you enjoyed the likes of the Pains, Yuck and possibly Girls this may be worth investigating.

Veronica Falls LP sampler by Slumberland Records

Veronica Falls is out now on Slumberland Records/Bella Union

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Single of the Week: Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica"

This is another new feature, the sister to my new Album of the Week feature I began last Friday. I'll try to go over the track in as much detail in as little time as possible. I'm using the term "single" to refer to any new track including album tracks not scheduled for individual release, but I may also use this space to talk about tracks with b-sides and even EP's depending on what I think is worth mentioning.

 A very Gothic piano loop forms the basis of the title track to the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, due 8th November. Replica is actually the fifth of Daniel Lopatin's albums under the OPN guise, who is also one half of synth-pop duo Ford and Lopatin, but it's fortunately clear he's sitting on potentially one of his best releases yet. The harrowing synth drones play backup on "Replica", instead of drowning out the forefront as in past OPN releases, and likely owes something to the "Returnal" remix featuring Antony Hegarty released last year. The most beautiful part may just be at around 1:30 when a rumbling bass synth shadows over the mix and grinds the track to a momentary standstill, only for the piano to rejoin a split second later. The video of slowed stock cartoon images capture the strange atmosphere surprisingly well. Many Oneohtrix Point Never tracks need to be twice as long to capture their sentiments, but "Replica" does it more or less straight off the bat.

Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica":

Here's another track from Replica, "Sleep Dealer":

Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never is released 8/11/11 via Software/Mexican Summer.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Album of the Week: M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Yeah I'm doing this now, instead of bringing back the Mini Review series. Now I will be updating at least twice per week: every Friday for my Album of the Week; and starting next week every Tuesday for my Single of the Week. Helps me out a bit.

And what better album to begin the series with than the new M83 double concept LP, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming? Sole member Anthony Gonzalez follows the hugely successful Saturdays=Youth with an album even more ambitious, anthemic and enchanting, which despite it's length never feels tired or out of ideas (honestly it could probably all fit onto a single CD). The breathtaking, Zola Jesus-assissted "Intro" is just the beginning. Many tracks encapsulate a childlike wonder, with electronic harkenings as sporadic as Brian Eno's ambience, Animal Collective's reverb-laden fervour, and the Books' universal musings. Many tracks, such as the first single "Midnight City", herald an 80's synth radio sound, yet Gonzalez's approach feels entirely contemporary, with an ever-greater expanded lineup of instrumentation than ever: strings, the leftfield sax solo which closes aforementioned "Midnight City", the list goes on. Even coming from M83, this album feels special. Highly recommended.

Hurry Up, We're Dreanming is released on 18th October via Mute. Below, stream "Midnight City".

"Midnight City"

Friday, 7 October 2011

EP Review: James Blake - Enough Thunder

EP number four for hugely hyped London songwriter-producer James Blake, fresh from his stellar self-titled debut released earlier this year. Blake's no stranger to the EP format; indeed it was his triumvirate of EP's - The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerke - that garnered praise from both sides of the Atlantic last year, elevating Blake into the most promising 21 year-old bedroom producer by the end of 2010. Admiration latched onto Blake largely due to the unique cocktail his minor handful of tracks stir: woozy R&B soundscapes, clattering piano chords, clipped dub beats and vast spaces of, well, nothing; and was eventually heralded as "post-dubstep" for those who care enough for names. Although a definitive aesthetic seemed to have been wrapped up in time for the album James Blake - signified but by no means limited to the forward single and Blake's most successful track to date, the cover of Feist's "The Limit to Your Love" - a familiarly disparate approach has returned to Enough Thunder, which goes on release next Monday.

During the release week of James Blake back in February, Blake identified two key influential albums which distinctly rub off onto the traditional singer-songwriter quality of his work: Joni Mitchell's Blue and Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. Both albums and artists are represented here, much as Feist has been already (and with Blake's next biggest track "The Wilhelm Scream" actually being a cover/homage to his father James Litherland's "Where to Turn", might there be a trend emerging?). Blake's cover of Mitchell's "A Case of You" is finally made into a studio recording after its debut as a BBC Radio 1 session piece during that same release week. To be honest, it's the flat-out dud of the six tracks here, especially as James' often beautiful falsetto struggles to  keep the pacing of his piano arrangement (ironically if Blake is known for anything, it's the pacing in his music). Although some credit ought to be given for attempting to make an imprint on such a classic folk ballad, the moment James'  London accent hits the "Oh, Canada" part is it truly realised how disastrous the idea had been. The track feels especially naked when compared to the linear dubstep arrangement "Limit to Your Love" received, as well as the remainder of the EP for that matter.

Unfortunately the much-discussed Bon Iver collaboration "Fall Creek Boys Choir" isn't a major improvement. After multiple listens since it's drop last month it's hard for me to approach the track as anything other than a shorter, less adventurous "Wilhelm Scream" or "Lindisfarne" with Justin Vernon's mapped-on vocal. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but seems rather pointless when stacked up against those tracks. However much other fans of both artists (and believe me I am one of them) seem to enjoy the inspired-on-paper pairing, for me the novelty has very much worn off.

The other four tracks on the other hand are actually as good as to be expected, echoing all of Blake's previous releases up to this point and beyond. "Once We All Agree" opens the set and does well to fill in the space that was for some too abundant on the LP. His familiar vocal delivery, echoed and doubled, becomes twisted into a Strokes-like distorted filter as a floating bass pulse growls under it; and ultimately the whole package is enveloped in a guitar wall-of-sound crescendo which begins in the second half. But the track's most prevalent component is the uneasy, slightly dissonant piano chords (a clear Joni Mitchell influence), caging his voice throughout. The EP as a whole is particularly strong in its piano arrangements, an idea which comes full-circle by the final title track. "Enough Thunder"'s piano borrows from neo-classical, contemporary jazz and songwriters such as Randy Newman, and rarely has Blake's voice sounded so soulful and impassioned, and not struggling to extend its notes like in "A Case of You".

The second track "We Might Feel Unsound" incorporates vocal loops and samples as last year's "CMYK" did, but is more beat-centric, and is defined with a haunting, howling synth. In contrast to Blake's lead vocal the effect is especially chilling, and helps to make Enough Thunder to sound like his darkest release yet; and therefore the most refreshing change of pace for his music. Such has Blake progressed from the Burial-like "classic" dubstep range this is one of only two tracks that sound anything similar to the genre's beginnings. The second track which that statement identifies is "Not Long Now"; which features a "drop" of sorts after the slowly rising beat folds, giving way to a dub bassline similar to that in Radiohead's "The Gloaming", and in effect wipes away all other bubbling textures to build themselves up anew. Blake's multilayered vocals are especially languid, and the familiar pauses return, essentially culminating into the stereotypical James Blake track, and the EP is all the better for it. It takes its time to adapt, and makes "We Might Feel Unsound" feel a tad short in comparison.

Enough Thunder is released in the shadow of three EP's and a hugely acclaimed full-length, and it's great that such an acclaimed artist feels the pleasure of multiple further, diverse releases to compliment his short-so-far career, even if this one in particular lacks the consistency of its predecessors. The EP also follows a comment Blake made to The Boston Phoenix, comparing the modern "macho-ism" found in dubstep's "frat-boy market" to "a pissing competition", a comment that has been re-tweeted and has sent strong resonance throughout the blogosphere. Enough Thunder sees him searching and scooping out a range of alternatives, and although scattershot in comparison to the excellent James Blake (the deluxe edition of which is also being released on Monday, and features the Enough Thunder EP on a second disc; recommended value if you don't own the album), the range on offer, coupled with the knowledge this searching is set to continue, often makes it in some ways more exciting.


The full EP is available for streaming below, courtesy of jamesblakemusic.com: