My Bloody Valentine’s new album
“M B V”
March 6 2013
It’s no hyperbole: My Bloody Valentine’s comeback record “m b v” is surely one of the most awaited albums in recorded music history. For the past 22 years that separate this album from its predecessor, “Loveless” (itself universally recognized as an extremely influential offspring of British independent music), the band’s composer Kevin Shields has issued an unnerving series of statements suggesting the release of such an album. Championing the genre known as “shoegazing”, My Bloody Valentine have pioneered, with Loveless, a compositional technique based on pre-recorded guitar parts, strongly manipulated on tape with various effects as to transform them as pure sound generators integrated in songwriting reminiscent of childlike carousels and ingénue love songs. The harsh divide between the music’s droning wall of sound and the dreamy features of the songline established a benchmark for what would later be called “post-rock”. M B V has moments of intense beauty, incorporating some of the elements loved by the indie public in their previous records: distortion, crepuscular melodies, and a vague sense of being lost that resound magnificently with late-adolescent experience. The only difference, which is the most important one, is that this record came out after the scenery has dramatically changed – after the wax and wane of music streaming, for one. The bitterness of certain on-line commentary, paired with audience’s messianic appraisal, seems to highlight not the changes in their music, but rather how much the world has changed since Loveless. (Francesco Tenaglia)
Missy Elliott’s new album
January 30 2013
The duo formed by Missy Elliott and Timbaland was one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop during the late ’90s and early ’00s: the rapper and producer — each skilled in both arts — joined forces in the 1997 album Supa Dupa Fly, which delivered synth-driven beats characterized by the imposing presence of drum machines inventively stylizing UK bass music genres. Supa Dupa Fly was followed by a chain of records that perfected the formula: robotic — sometimes harshly so — electro hip-hop that dared to invent a highly synthetic, futuristic and estranging production format, while breaking with the conservative obsession with sonic “realness.” Now, after a seven-year hiatus since since 2005’s The Cookbook and a long debilitating sickness, Missy is back and ready to reign again, in a time when female hip hop is flourishing. Indeed, she has rejoined forces with her longtime collaborator and friend to record an album tentatively named Block Party (an overt reference to her obsession for early hip-hop) which she describes as “one of those albums you can play out in the streets.” The album’s crepuscular self-celebration (“9th Inning”) mixes romantic piano music with horror-sounding overtones, while “Triple Threat” brings hyper-syncopated, science-fiction funk. A relevant addition to the career of — as Missy puts it — the “new Ike and Tina.” (Francesco Tenaglia)
Zodiac’s debut record
January 10 2013
If you’re a fan of The Weeknd’s distinctively dark, brooding, drug-inflected R&B, then most likely you’re already a devotee of Toronto producer Zodiac, aka Jeremy Rose. This is because Rose claims he’s the unheralded mastermind behind The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye, who crooned over Rose’s beats on the first three singles that were leaked to bloggers. This was before Drake and the New York Times caught on and orchestrated The Weeknd’s astoundingly rapid underground-to-mainstream success. Rose even claims he came up with Tesfaye’s moniker before the “e” was dropped — this predated the band’s split due to “creative differences.” After this, Tesfaye even withheld production credits from Rose (which went to Doc McKinney and Illangelo). Amid the airing of all this dirty laundry, it’s easy to overlook Rose’s sound, which is still The Weeknd through and through. After the affair with Tesfaye, Rose has gone on to produce tracks under the new moniker Zodiac. He released a self-titled EP on September 24 featuring the single “Come.” This track takes The Weeknd’s trademark sound and brings it to a more complex experimental place. Muffled, slimy tracks infused with heavy synthesizers and a Burial-like sheen of gothic techno continue the sonic trajectory Rose established with Tesfaye back in the day at a house party in Toronto. Although he’s learning from past relations (and bad blood), Zodiac is making his mark defiantly solo. (David Everitt Howe)
Ital’s new album “Dream On”
December 18 2012
It was during a concert in my hometown that I first listened to Ital — solo project of Daniel McCormick, previously the front man of the dancey post-punk band Mi Ami. I was blown away by the disconcerting way the young Washington native mastered the art of layering; McCormick skillfully interweaves dense backbeats to rhythms closer to those of house, techno or drone. The result is a clever and deeply absorbing whole that reminded me of avant-underground artists like Oneohtrix Point Never or James Ferraro. Ital released his second LP, Dream On, on Planet Mu in November, less than nine months after his previous Hive Mind. This album, which sometimes flirts with the bizarre, is richer and more intense than its predecessor. The record’s seven tracks build “soundscapes,” recreating a tense and disconcerting atmosphere. Raw, gross and even unpleasant sounds are piled up and shrewdly brought into affecting, spellbinding harmonies. The aptly-named Dream On propels us into a genre-hopping musical trip, mixing noisy, experimental and disconcerting pieces with easier-to-hear but equally well-structured tracks. The incredible “Deep Cut”—the album’s pinnacle— ends this journey in reprieve from the rest of the album’s tension. Despite its enjoyable moments and its tangible depiction of our age’s sensory strains Dream On is frustratingly intrusive as background music and yet too haywire for boozing. As such, for me, Ital’s music is still something best enjoyed live. (Natalie Esteve)
Stream Dream On for free via Dazed Digital.
Dance-music label Fade to Mind
November 16 2012
The recent rise of the dance-music scene with artists like Cooly G, Laurel Halo, Girl Unit and Jam City is the result of the forward-thinking support of a few labels, such as Hyperdub, Hessle Audio or Night Slugs. For the most part this scene has been centered in United Kingdom. Ezra Rubin, the brainchild of Kingdom, has now teamed up with Nguzunguzu, Total Freedom and Prince William to create Fade to Mind, a transatlantic counterpart to Night Slugs. Although both draw from similar musical references, Fade to Mind defines its role in broader terms than its older brother; it claims to be not just a record label, but also a movement supported by a series of club nights, cooperative music and visual art projects.
As a statement of intent, Fade to Mind’s debut was hosted by DIS Magazine and organized in collaboration with Venus X’s cult underground party series GHE20G0TH1K. Among the most recent releases lies “Desert Strike“ the second EP of the ever-ruling Sci-Fi queen Fatima Al Qadiri or Massacooramaan’s “Dead Long Time,” featuring six songs taking in elements of juke, dancehall and other unidentifiable strains of dance music in a brilliantly calculated way. Next to the producers involved in running the label, stand also artists such as MikeQ, Gremino, Cedaa, Morri$, The CLAW, and Rizzla, exploring everything from droned-out techno and grime to ballroom. (Natalie Esteve)
For a quick overview of the label’s sounds, download Fade to Mind’s Mix that “fucks your brain up” for the FADER.
Purity Ring’s album “Shrines”
October 30 2012
Almost unknown in early 2011, the Canadian duo Purity Ring –Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (instrumentals) – gained recognition with their two singles, “Ungirthed” and “Belispeak”.
Despite the members’ young ages – Roddick is 21, James is 24 – their first album, Shrines, already evinces a robust identity. Purity Ring’s sound has aspects of Synthpop, Dream pop, Post-dubstep and even Indietronica, all fused through James’ smooth voice. The pulse of actual Southern rap productions – Rapper Ro Ransom in “Obedear”, the ninth track of the album – might form the perfect occasion of a remix. Purity Ring’s music has a way of attracting you and, at other times, repulsing you. Tracks like “Crawlersout,” “Fineshrine” or the simple ending “Shuck” define perfectly what Purity Ring is able to do best: creating a rich, if fragile, acoustic environment. (Romain Baro)
New York rapper A$ap Rocky
October 22 2012
New York City has lacked a rap star since Dipset and G-Unit bowed out of the scene in the middle of the last decade. Enter Rakim Mayers, better known as A$ap Rocky, a swaggering 23-year-old Harlem rapper who names The Diplomats, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, and Run DMC as his influences. He effectively launched his career with YouTube videos for “Peso” and then “Purple Swag,” a thumping, catchy recasting of his neighborhood as a hazy arcadia of weed, women, and gold-plated teeth that earned him a $3,000,000 recording contract with Sony, RCA Records, and Polo Grounds Music. Rocky released the mixtape LiveLoveA$AP (2011) to critical. Even on his most vulnerable track, “Demons,” he quickly defaults back to “fucking the chick you’re next to.” Other tracks, such as “Leaf,” take pot shots at those he’s compared to: “They say I sound like André/ Mixed with Kanye/ A little bit of Max/ A little bit of Wiz/ A little bit of that/ A little bit of this/ Get off my dick.” With his debut major label album, LongLiveA$AP approaching (due October 31st), A$ap Rocky is setting sail in September for a rather lengthy tour across the United States. In the meanwhile, if you’re getting impatient his “chopped up not slopped up” mixtape LongLivePurple is available for free on the web. (David Everitt Howe)
Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack to “The Master”
October 11 2012
Paul Thomas Anderson’s collaboration with Jonny Greenwood began with There Will Be Blood (2007). A fan of Radiohead, the director approached Greenwood with a proposal to score his upcoming movie after hearing some of his orchestral pieces. While having doubts about taking on this role—although Greenwood had already been in similar position, having provided music for Simon Pummell’s 2003 documentary Bodysong— he eventually agreed. Greenwood’s unconventional use of traditional orchestra sounds garnered considerable attention. This year, they are working on Anderson’s upcoming film, The Master. The film tells a story of an intellectual who establishes a religious organization upon returning home from the Second World War. Even in the brief trailer, Greenwood’s touch is apparent. The music is more percussive, but maintains a sparseness that is a fitting accompaniment to Anderson’s film. Application 45 Version 1, a track from the film recently uploaded on the internet, also begins with a scant rhythm that gradually grows into an unsettling string piece. The score lets the scenes settle uneasily, a feeling that largely contributes to the film’s overall aesthetic that values the pauses as much as what fills the space in between. (Aliina Astrova)