Various Artists – Album Roundup

Concept albums are something that are probably most often associated with complicated rock music and high-falutin lyrics dealing with such themes as the importance of dragons as a symbol of self-realisation. Well, this is very definitely a concept album, but the music it includes is not rock, not complicated, and not endowed with any kind of lyrical content. There is a brief explanation on the Bandcamp page: 4-zero-7 relates the experiences and reminiscences of the eponymous interceptor droid 4.0.7 as it lies on the operating table after sustaining combat damage; eventually the …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Worlds collide in Dementio 13’s latest release, albeit without the biblical histrionics and cataclysmic consequences that usually dance attendance on such events in fiction. There has always been more to Dementio 13 than the electronica with which he has populated his records, and he has always been a musician of unusual erudition, drawing his language from a huge range of sources across a selection of decades (roughly the last four) which have witnessed an unprecedented frenzy of musical innovation and invention. Those that read his frequently updated and always interesting blog will be aware that distinctly electro-acoustic devices have been appearing in his studio of late, such as bass guitars (always a welcome presence to my…

Beattrix – Take It Back To Bring It Forward (hip-hop)

‘Our story of music begins in the dim distant past,’ announces the sample with which this album commences; it’s followed by a boom, and shortly thereafter, by a bap. This is twenty-first century music, today’s music, produced with today’s tools, with a sound that is distinctly located in the now, but it situates itself proudly in a tradition that will always be associated with the nineties. Everything about it is funky, bouncy and brash, and it roams freely over the last fifty years of popular music history like a wayward stylus. Coherence can be an elusive quality on hip-hop albums, especially when they feature a large cast; those that are produced by a small coterie on both the production and vocal side of the equation usually fare the best, but even…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

There are ‘pieces’ that are undeniably rap, and definitely not poetry, such as The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and there are others that are undeniably poetry, and definitely not rap, such as John Donne’s Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going To Bed. This emphatic distinction is a matter of customary usage however, not of hard and fast definitions, and to look for the precise boundary between the two is to fall into an essentialist fallacy. Nevertheless, many assume the existence of such a defensible frontier, which can make for a strong reaction to its penetration, either of outrage or amazement. The Ruby Kid straddles that imaginary barrier without difficulty; the songs/poems/raps on Strange, Lively & Commonplace are both one …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

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.

Various Artists – Album Roundup

The Interceptor (a creative alias of the musically promiscuous Chris Saunders, a man who seems to join or form a new band every week), is a purveyor of electronic music; there’s a definite 8-bit vibe but these tracks are far from purist chip-tune territory. Looking at the project’s fairly minimal online presence we can discern an interest in soundtrack that tallies with the primarily atmospheric content of the music: specifically, these sounds are intended as a soundtrack to killing zombies, driving through apocalyptic wastelands and fighting cyborgs or serial killers. Which might lead the listener to expect something heavy and harsh, in the manner of electro-industrial or powernoise, or some kind of circuit-bent hybrid like Army of 2600 …

Review Of The Year 2012, Part 2: 12 EPs

In previous years I’ve assembled my annual review solely from album length releases; it’s interesting to note that the vast majority of music I come across, whether I actively discover it or somebody sends it to me for review, is in something resembling album format (notwithstanding that most of it reaches me as a sequence of ones and zeros). However, I do receive EPs and singles, and some of the very best music I’ve heard this year has come my way in shorter releases. It’s clearly time I reflected this in my end of year review, and as it would seem strange to compare two track singles with seventy minute albums, I’ve decided to assemble my favourites in two parts …

Review Of The Year 2012, Part 1: 12 Albums

It’s that time of year again, the nights drawing in, the pointless over-consumption going into overdrive, and the music bloggers arranging releases into spurious hierarchies of how hip they think they make them look. Well, let me issue the same caveats I always do: I don’t claim that these are the best albums of the year, simply that they are the ones I like the most out of the ones I happen to have heard. There are lots of famous records I happen not to have heard, some of which I might think were fantastic if I did hear them, but quite honestly I haven’t had time in the past year to hear any more music than I have, and I consider it infinitely preferable to stumble across music organically than to be guided to it just because it’s famous …

Various Artists – Straight Outta B.C. – Tape One (hip-hop)

B.C. Birmingham City. Britain’s second city, and crucible of the world’s first industrial revolution; ask most people in Britain about it though, and they’ll probably think it’s just some Midlands city, and they certainly won’t think of music at the first mention of the name. Unlike Liverpool, Manchester or London, Brum is not associated in the public imagination with any particular act or scene, and it is generally a byword for mediocrity rather than a paragon of cultural excellence. This is a total misconception, and in the field of music Birmingham has particular historical significance, with formal music institutions that possess an international reputation; Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Napalm Death have all re-written metal from this West Midlands base …

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

Why do I write reviews? Largely so that I can blag free music instead of buying it like everyone else, and so I can kid my conscience that my inane ramblings are an adequate substitute for paying musicians their due. Of course I can (and will, given half a chance) list any number of more high-minded motivations, but I always feel that the transaction is balanced in my favour; so when this CD was pressed on me by guitarist Simon Rollo, and a review requested with the circumspection of a man asking me to clean the diarrhoea off his sofa, I was amused, embarrassed and confirmed in my impression of Three Thrones, which is that whatever they’re full of, it’s not themselves.

Various Artists – Album Roundup

As far as I know Dialect are no longer an active collective, although its members continue to release razor sharp and uncompromisingly independent hip-hop on their own account; they have released a lot of great music, and are clearly a mainstay of hip-hop in the Northeast, and this is the second album of unreleased tracks to appear on emcee Joe Eden’s Killamari Records imprint. You don’t expect a bunch of disparate tracks like this, recorded at different times for different reasons, to sound like an album as such when they’re bundled together for release, but there is a certain coherence to this music, a consistent aesthetic that makes it clear it’s a Dialect album, not a bunch of tracks by the crew’s various members. The rhymes speak …

Melanin 9 – Magna Carta (hip-hop)

It winds me up somewhat, on occasions like National Poetry Day, or in public discussions about poetry among the mandarins of the cultural elite, that the richest, most diverse and thriving field of poetic endeavour is more or less completely ignored. The academy thinks it owns the word ‘music’, and qualifiers such as ‘popular’ or ‘folk’ are required to distinguish other practices from the self-evidently definitive Western art tradition, sometimes grudgingly tagged as ‘art’ music, which is a breathtaking arrogance, not to mention an insult to every artist working in another genre; similarly with poetry. I’m the first to argue for the specificity of forms, and to defend songs against the attempted critical manglings of those writers who’d like to locate the …