Sufficiently independent not to sound ‘indie’, yet aesthetically straightforward enough not to sound ‘experimental’, Neurotic Wreck’s schtick is a pretty accessible art-pop stew; a predominantly electronic production mashes up trip-hop, electro, shoegaze and other downbeat sources, into a melancholy and and carefully textured soundworld, freighted with nostalgia and regret. The album is all about its songs, which is to say it’s as much about lyrics and melody as it is about production, but the creative textures and arrangements are a central part of the utterance; it’s moderately avant-garde, but it’s also furnished with a pop sensibility, and very well put together. It’s not party music, but it’s very listenable, and indeed re-listenable.
Fluttery Records FLTTRY046 $5 DD $10 CD
Textural instrumental rock (i.e. post-rock, but isn’t that term starting to smell a bit mouldy?); Arms Of Tripoli lie near the gentler end of that spectrum, and their primary concern seems to be the enveloping ambience rather than the mathy complexity. Rock solid mid-tempo grooves scaffold warm, deep soundscapes which owe something to shoegaze, but which are restrained in their deployment of reverb, keeping the action closer to the listener than is often the case with similar recording practices. Engaging melodies and timbres, and unassumingly careful sonic craftsmanship, realised with generosity and skill.
Fluttery Records FLTTRY047 $5 DD $10 CD
Masters of the slow build, Ana Never open this album with sounds that could stand comparison with the electric guitar ambiences of There Is No Teenage Love (to pick a recently reviewed example at random) from which a rhythmically anchored dreamscape emerges so gradually that it feels like stop motion footage of the first chordata evolving, before they re-submerge in the amoebic mass of contingently polycellular associations from which they were synergised. So gentle in affect (although occasionally hectic in texture) that the listener could almost forget there’s anything artificial about it, and with its principal meanings located unobtrusively in its dynamic contours, this is beautifully enveloping music.
£4+ DD £5+ CD
Committed and confessional lyrics are spat in smooth, tight flows, with predominantly sung choruses that bear more relation to indie rock than they do to most hip-hop refrains. Similarly the beats: although funky, they’re decidedly not funk, and mostly feel like deep grooving rock more than anything else. I couldn’t say how these tracks were actually produced, but much of the sound is the sound of a band playing physical instruments. Although the whole album is accessible, The Scribes never compromise on their creative integrity, presenting a work that is serious, entertaining, inventive, satirical and moving all at the same time. Superb.
Here’s a hip-hop collab that really feels like a collab; there’s a self-deprecating, idiosyncratically creative vibe that resonates throughout and connects the beats to the rhymes. Both are rooted in an earthy funk, topped off with wit and erudition, rarely choosing the obvious option, but always nailing the groove. Quite a few of these tracks are pretty downbeat, but the humour is ever-present, and even at slow tempos the bass is heavy and propulsive. ZooLoop is far from bizarre or avant-garde, but the compositions are resolutely personal and individual throughout; it’s a lot of fun, it’s thought provoking, it makes you want to move, and it’s generally an excellent piece of work.
Billed as ‘the long awaited mixtape from Drifta’, it seems a fair assumption that this is the producer’s first full length under his own name, but he’s clearly been very busy constructing beats for a variety of artists, in a range of styles. He claims a primary allegiance to d’n’b, but the tracks on Tell Dem Drifta! are largely chunky atmospheric grooves of the sort that can serve duty as r’n’b or hip-hop, depending on what happens vocally. There’s a shedload of vocalists on this set, singers and rappers both; the best for my money is Joey Prolapse, who opens proceedings, and contributes more edge than the rest of them put together. Everything on here is at a very high standard, technically and compositionally, and although the creative agenda is more commercial and less rigorous than I like, it’s entertaining.
Joaquin Mendoza Sebastián has been known to produce music that is organised along relatively ‘figurative’ lines, with rhythms that add up to recognisable injunctions to bodily motion, but for the most part his work is pretty abstract on the majority of its axes. On Desparacer timbre is manipulated creatively, but it conforms to typologies that might be employed in a more conventional practice; rhythm and melody are off the wall, however. Some pieces have an ambient cast (although rarely an unproblematically gentle one), and others have a more hectic character. All are stimulating and inventive, and all will take you to interesting places if given the chance. This is very challenging, very rewarding music.
Beatquick €0 DD €7+ CD
Slinky and atmospheric hip-hop beats, with a soulful, earthy depth to them. Most of these cuts are composed of a phat groove in the bass and drums, with some piano, synth or other textural elements floating well above them in the spectrum, making for a feel that is simultaneously ethereal and cthonic. Samples are relatively few in number, and well chosen (‘because I know you wear purple underwear’), and the album visits a variety of stylistic touchstones, bluesy, jazzy, Brasilian, 60s-poppy and further afield, with a compelling funk beneath them all. There’s a great coherence to the music across the whole release, and it’s a real pleasure to listen to. Top production chops, like Tell Dem Drifta! above, but more up my street taste-wise.
Energetic pop-rock with a strong sense of the bittersweet about it. Although intelligently written, this is not cerebral music; its mood is a long way from the brainless positivism of mainstream commercial pop, and there is a noticeable element of melancholy, but it’s certainly not miserable either. Staring At The World is a collection of catchy, individualist entertainments, songs of recognisable experiences, pleasingly textured, well played, and animated by Francesca Corradini’s distinctive, engaging voice. A very likeable record.
strange gibberish $0 DD
Satirical and experimental Halloween and horror themed hip-hop: the various incarnations of strange gibberish crew and associates that have popped up on my radar have yet to disappoint. There’s a lot of variety in both rhyming style and production practice, and a great deal of creativity in the latter. The album is also a bit of a tour de force in the art of sourcing and employing samples, such as the creepy voice from some old movie talking about a ‘gentle rapping at the window’; I don’t need to tell you what they do with that one. Vocally there are some great skills on display; there are definite echoes of nerdcore here, both in the delivery and the general geek-hood of much of the material. This is artistically interesting and hugely entertaining, which more or less covers it for me.
Lo-fi Americana and roots rock, focussed on simplicity, delivered with a cultivated musical naivety. It’s at its best when its raging with ironically unselfconscious sturm and drang; in plaintive mode it’s too stark an appeal to the listener’s creative sympathies to quite pull off the specific aesthetic manoeuvres it attempts, to my ear at any rate. It doesn’t sound much like Neil Young, but it adopts a similar creative practice, blasting out its affective content so forcefully that technical precision has to rupture to accommodate it, issuing a powerful challenge to listen to it, rather than to your own preconceptions. Passionate, humorous and enjoyable stuff.
The martial arts movie sample is a well proven ingredient in hip-hop production; for some reason it usually works well, perhaps because of the way it bridges the style’s important discourses of humour, violence and crate-digging erudition. This album is a tissue of well sourced samples, assembled without recourse to refined generic flavours; the grooves are deep, but the textures are experimental, and unlike most instrumental hip-hop, things change direction often enough not to sound like the vocals are missing. It’s superbly creative, animated by an unmistakeable sense of fun, and compulsively fascinating.