Various Artists – Singles and EPs

In recent years the avant-garde fringes of metal have become one of the most fertile sites of musical creativity and invention; while my central musical inclinations might be towards other areas, such as jazz or folk, and while those areas certainly harbour some radically creative minds globally, the majority of music produced and performed locally to me is pretty conservative. Earthmass is one of several bands I have the opportunity to engage with directly (attending gigs, meeting the members, building an ongoing relationship as a music writer, etc.) that pursue a radical formal agenda, and really keep their eye on the ball creatively. There is no uncritical regurgitation of the tropes of heavy music here, no taking the language as given …

Copywrite – God Save The King (Proper English Version) (hip-hop)

Underground hip-hop takes distinct forms on either side of the Atlantic, to the extent that it’s arguable that ‘British underground hip-hop’ refers to a genre distinct from the American equivalent, rather than a geographically differentiated variety of the same thing. Arguable, but that doesn’t mean I think that’s necessarily the case… I do think that there are some important cultural differences (place and ethnicity both have very different functions in the construction of American and British identity), but I also think that the adherents of hip-hop’s undergrounds probably have more in common globally than they do with their local mainstreams. That being the case, transatlantic collaborations seem to be a little thin on the ground…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Serious pop music: I love it. Of course most pop music has been made with a serious attention to getting the sound right, such as it is, but then there’s the stuff that applies the language and sensibility of pop to its chosen themes in a manner that looks way beyond the superficial concerns of the mainstream. Obviously the ‘popular music’ label has ended up including tons of stuff, such as extreme metal and progressive rock, that have pretty much nothing to do with pop, but while DIN Martin’s filigreed post-punk is hardly in the pop mainstream (and is certainly a lot more gloomy than anything that charts these days), but there’s still something distinctly pop about this.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

This track, this EP, is a remix in one continuous utterance of the Hanetration EP Tenth Oar which I reviewed in my last roundup of short releases. Tenth Oar was divided into four tracks, while the Barren Waste EP I reviewed in the same roundup was called A unified idea split into meaningless pieces, which may explain why they stitched this into a continuum. The piece evinces the same sort of tonal continuity as the source from which it is constructed, and its sounds are recognisably the sounds of Hanetration’s release, but it is very much its own thing, with very much the sound of Barren Waste …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

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.

Rick Fury – Fist Of Fury (hip-hop)

I’m going to force myself to write this review without quoting the lyrics; there’s nothing necessarily wrong with quoting lyrics in a review, but with Rick Fury it’s too tempting a cop-out. When I find it hard to put my finger on the right words, his are so eloquent that it’s easier just to put them on my page, and stand back and admire them; but without the beat, the flow and the context it’s impossible to convey their impact, and you have access to his lyrics by following the link above. My job is to tell you what it sounds like, what it feels like to listen to it, and what I think it means.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you want to you can put your own rap to this beat, you can slip your own beat beneath the words, or you can chop both into a stew of your own devising. From my perspective, as a reviewer, the habit of packaging a single with its bare beat and an a cappella is an absolute godsend, enabling me to get another sense of each component, and doing a certain amount of my analytical work for me. The beat here has a heavy enough drum part, but the piano filigree that tops it works with the lyrically melodic bassline to evoke that combination of optimism and regret so characteristic of the UK underground’s more contemplative moments…

Verbal Terrorists – The War On Terra (hip-hop)

Political music takes many forms. Music that subverts conventional aesthetics can be political without any overtly political content, because it calls into question a hegemonic ideology that is as much a mechanism of control as any law. Widespread notions of musical ‘quality’ serve to keep musical production and activity in the hands of an elite whose membership is in the gift of a few very wealthy individuals; such structures operate in every area of our culture and society, and any refusal of them is a revolutionary act. Of course, the alternative, and more widespread view, is that formally experimental, avant-garde art perpetuates …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

It’s a hard lesson to learn, when you realise you’re not likely to hit the big time with your art, and you’ve already invested so much, with so little to show for it in material terms… it certainly can make you feel like an underachiever. Ben Black seems to conflate his focus on his work (rather than work) with a persistent immaturity, and looks wistfully around him at the homes, wives and cars of his friends. ‘How can I look my children in the eye/ and tell them Daddy didn’t make it because Daddy didn’t try?’ he asks, though, which more or less answers his own questions.

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Glockamole is a great name for a comedy hip-hop record. There’s clearly a lot of wordplay left in ripping the piss out of hip-hop’s tropes and clichés, but I have to say there are probably not many jokes left in it. It’s a well worked mine, especially gangsta rap, bearing in mind that everything N.W.A. released after Straight Outta Compton was basically a joke. No, it takes more to make a funny hip-hop record than just pointing out how ludicrous hip-hop is, or being incongruously self-deprecating. It requires some comic creativity to raise a laugh in any medium, but luckily for me, I find Fat Ross pretty darn funny.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A thin-sounding electric guitar (maybe a Telecaster), an electric piano, filtered through the glitchy sound of dusty vinyl, and looped in incomplete gestures that sound like a needle jumping. It’s the sound of nostalgia, the sound of distance from a desired space that the imagination is better equipped to apprehend than the senses. The uppercut combinations of the kick, when it enters, are located firmly in the here and now. That’s the heartbeat of the subject, the locus of the act of remembering. Such a simple psychodrama between so few musical elements seems a shaky scaffold to hang anything off, but when the female voice enters…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

There’s more than a nod to dreampop and shoegaze in this music, but Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofalo are clearly too in love with the raw and ragged sound of a distorted electric guitar to tame it to the extent that might imply. Some of Wish You Were A Pony is downright heavy! This is pop music, but not lowest-common-denominator, mass-market pop; it’s pop because it’s all about simple, accessible melodies, infectious, danceable rhythms, lush, inviting soundscapes, and, well… fun.

Various Artists – Singles & EPs

This three track EP seems to be Septic Trauma’s entire recorded output. A shame, as I could happily listen to a few dozen tunes in this vein. Many heavy rock bands lay claim to terms like ‘technical’ and ‘progressive’, but few have any reason to do so. Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of using a term like ‘technical’ to describe a style of music, most of the metal thusly classified makes no more taxing technical demand on its performers than that they should play fast and stay in time, which quite honestly is something any well trained monkey with a floppy pick can manage.