DWHB – True Facts (hip-hop)
self released, 2012, DD album, 48m 34s
£0+ (name your price)
Da Waffle House Boys are all about loyalty; don’t even think about suggesting patronising some other fast food franchise, and definitely don’t even mention IHOP, motherfucker. The beats on True Facts are smooth and irresistibly funky, and the flows that they float are a lazy, infectious slick on their surface, giving the lie to any impression you might get from the deeply cheeked tongues of these lyricists that this music is principally satire or pastiche. No, this shit is funny, and it’s self-deprecating, and it pokes holes in all of rap’s clichés, but it’s hip-hop to the core, and it’s as head-nodding as pretty much anything I can remember hearing. It buys into certain of nerdcore’s tropes, without adopting its overtly geeky themes, but one of the MCs (I’m not sure which is which) kept reminding me of someone from Optimus Rhyme. Some of the time the self-deprecation is overt, but it more often takes the shape of ironic self-aggrandisement and sexual boasting. I’m not in the habit of dropping spoilers, so I won’t blow any of their jokes, but this had me laughing out loud. The lyrics are infantile, ridiculous, and very clever, set in a nest of juicy, musical goodness.
mOck – mOck (post-punk)
Coraille c013, 2012, DD & LP album, 46m 55s
€8 (DD) €12 (LP)
Mathy rhythmic groupings and feel changes don’t get in the way of mOck’s involving textures and harmonies, but serve to drag the listener in, intriguing the ear and inviting a deciphering of their original and seemingly complete language. This is an album that asks you enter its world. Complex, textural arrangements are built up from crisp electric guitar, sharp, trebly bass and tight drumming, recorded with great clarity and separation. The creative approach is one that foregrounds performance values, with very little in the way of studio wizardry, or even obvious signal processing, although everything here is EQed and compressed to crystalline perfection; so although the music is forward looking, and devoid of technical grandstanding, it evinces an old school respect for the business of composing and articulating musical ideas. The detailed content of each song eschews stock phrases or any remotely generic approach to the organisation of musical materials, employing a sophisticated set of rhythmic transformations, and the precision with which the band nails these compositions is far more impressive than an unnecessary outbreak of guitar complications would have been. mOck is an album of uncompromising creativity and rigorous artistic integrity, but it’s also a very listenable and appealing slab of contemporary rock music.
The Paragons Of Goodness – The Edge Of Winter (hip-hop)
self released, 2012, DD album, 45m 54s
I’ve seen this Greg Blackman dude (one half of the duo monickered The Paragons Of Goodness) on YouTube, and he’s the real deal, an old school entertainer, capable of applying some schooled instrumental chops to a post-funk language; he’s the kind of singer who can drop booty-shaking exhortations in an English accent without coming across like a prat, and the kind of keyboard player who understands the importance of physical theatre to the business of working a crowd from an instrument that’s played sitting down. I have no clue whether Nathan Wacey (the other half) is anything like as charismatic, but what I do know is that together these two musicians have produced an album that is polished, funky, fun-filled, funny and independent minded. A track like ‘The 5Golden Rules Of Commercial Hip Hop’ displays their critical understanding of the music’s means of production (economic and creative), but unlike many ‘underground’ acts they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and are unafraid to wear their love for the smooth sounds and professionalism of the commercial genre on their collective sleeve. Eighteen tracks of finger snapping r’n’b, hip hop and skits, featuring a variety of guest MCs in a variety of transatlantic speech modes, produced to a standard that bears comparison to anything on the market, creatively forward-facing, but deeply rooted in the traditions; The Edge Of Winter is entertainment, offering up its services as a motivating soundtrack to your personal movie, but sit down and give it your whole attention and it will reward you with some intelligent lyrical and compositional manoeuvres. This is physical music with a brain; head music that knows how to shake it.
Golden Gardens – Between The Siren And The Amulet (dreampop)
self released, 2011, DD & CD album, 58m 27s
$10 (DD) $12 (CD)
Volume is a contingent property in recorded music, for all that CDs are mastered to maximise their playback amplitude, and LPs are marketed on ‘super-loud 180gm vinyl’. Without getting into the vexed questions of dynamic range and the mastering arms race, if a record is quiet you can turn it up, and it will be loud, but it will still sound quiet. Shoegaze was the first genre in rock music to address itself to ‘loudness’ as a sonic quality, with its dense timbral saturations, and despite the ear-bleeding amplitudes of its live performances, it found its way through those timbres to a kind of textural quietness, a calm placidity. Dreampop, similarly, is a music that finds a form of peace in density; Between The Siren And The Amulet features layered skeins and sheets of sound, in which each element seems submerged in every other. Golden Gardens present us with songs, melancholy, pelagic songs that melt into themselves like Saint Etienne in the fog, but the sonic sensibility that informs the production undermines the arrangements’ sense of field and figure; songs they are, but the vocal is presented as an equal partner with the drums, or any other sound. This album is a set of atmospheres, a collection of beautiful textures, but it achieves the diffusive self-contextualisation of ambient music without eschewing the skeletal structures of pop music. The music’s appeal is aesthetic, not bodily: its liquid beauty speaks of foliage, of sunlight, of running water; and with its warm, buoyant sense of distance, of synaesthesia and anaesthesia. Like shoegaze in reverse, it accumulates quietness until it drowns out everything else.