I still remember the first time I heard City of Ifa. I was in the car with my bandmate, and he was blasting Blue Shoes– and when the album transitioned into “The Human Atlas,” I was sold immediately. The track is post-hardcore that begins with the catchiness of pop-punk; complicated music that calms itself for its first minute before descending into instrumental chaos incarnate. It’s as if An Isle Ate Her decided, just momentarily, to stop writing the most complicated songs they could afford before harking back to their ways of havoc. This group is more melodic than that technical-metal outfit, though, recalling Thomas Erak’s work in The Fall Of Troy– how he’d write those tapped riffs that were impressive as hell, sure, but that also found a way into your head after a few spins.
Today marks the day that City of Ifa is finally streaming its self-titled album only four hours before its December 1 release date, and to call that a cause for celebration for the group’s fans would be an understatement. While the post-hardcore act (or at least more post-hardcore than any other genre label) has released some incredible music in its time, nothing has ever floored me at the end of the day. On a precursory glance, though, this record seems to possess all the necessary ingredients for success. Just by looking at the tracklisting (nope, I haven’t listened to this yet either,) this album looks more comprehensive than anything else…
Sithu Aye has always been a shining star in the instrumental progressive scene, standing out from the crowd for his unique flair. Oh, and that’s right– he just received his master’s in physics too. So on top of all the music the man’s released (and in only the last few years,) he’s been busy climbing the rungs of academics. The alleged romanticism of musicians devoting all their time to their craft has always rung a little hollow to me, anyways, which is why I think there’s something to be said for artists that pursue their work while tackling life’s challenges. The end product feels more urgent, since the artist went utterly out of his way to create it. So maybe that’s why Sithu Aye’s music has always struck a chord with me, because I know it doesn’t come easily. He must’ve spent days upon days fine-tuning his production methods, saving up for the perfect guitar and drum program, and writing such intricate music. That’s right– he does all this by himself, if you weren’t aware. And while he was getting all of this done, he didn’t need to put his other priorities on hold– he plowed straight ahead with them, and still came up pretty damned far in the Bandcamp metal scene. Color me impressed.
So when Aye posted about a new release on his Facebook page, I was pretty surprised. I mean, this specific brand of progressive seems like it would take awhile to brew, right? And…
Once upon a time, I honestly hadn’t heard a proper hip-hop record. I was perusing through Sputnik’s recent releases, and lo and behold, a hip-hop album with cool artwork! Sobhi’s review for Dark Time Sunshine’s Vessel sounded promising enough, and so I decided to go out on a limb for the album. I found it on Amazon for a penny, and three days later I experienced the thrill Sobhi did– my experiences with it really lacked that pivotal context, though. I think one appreciates Vessel the most when they’re aware of hip-hop’s history, and understand how many new things the record brings to the table. This is drastically different than my first– and rather superficial– interpretation of the album: “Whoa, these cool beats, man!” In the beginning I saw the diversity of the album, as well as the fact that it traversed both optimistic and grimy territory with the flick of a switch– and really well, too. But there’s more about Vessel to consider.
One of the biggest things about Vessel that I’ve come to appreciate is what rapper Onry Ozzborn brings to the table. His lyrics are personal, but not too revealing– although we can all tell “E.R.” stems from a personal experience he’s had, we aren’t being drowned in the details. We can understand where he’s coming from, and that sense of relatability is what makes songs like “E.R.” really stand out. But on the other hand, Onry sometimes removes…
For the life of me, I’ve never quite been able to figure out which elements of Gold Panda’s music speak to me the most. I’ve always been fascinated with the orientally-focused electronic producer, because he has this way of expressing Asian culture in a distinctly relatable lens, but what about it works best? “Brazil” answers these questions with a (probably warranted) eye-roll, reminding us it’s all about the textures and percussion. Because ultimately, what’s most important here is the mood the reversed sample creates, the serene and almost angelic vibe it gives off. But damn, does the percussion complement it– as confident as ever, the tom hits are as important as the basic drum-&-snare pattern. The two merge in a marvelous way that’s characteristically Gold Panda, assuaging any remaining anxieties about the producer’s upcoming release. The only complaint about the track is the sub-par sample used, a man apathetically saying the song’s title. It wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t utilized as the primary voice of the track, but its monotony detracts from the overall mood “Brazil” presents. But annoyances aside, the track continues to tread the same path Gold Panda’s been working towards for his whole career. Maybe by the time he stops messing around with all these teasers of releases, he’ll have built the worthy and telling compilation of oriental culture his talents have always demanded of him.
Keep your eyes peeled for Gold Panda’s upcoming full-length, titled Half of Where…
Colin Stetson is one of those rare musicians who successfully creates harmony from discord. In each of his New History Warfare albums, he constructs via saxophone, if only to deconstruct, to tear down the walls of sound from around him and to arrange them in a strangely beautiful manner. And New History Warfare III: To See More Light is no different– if anything, it further proves Stetson’s worth in the avant-garde community– but the most interesting choice regarding the album is Justin Vernon’s featured vocals. Laurie Anderson’s vocals were comforting on Judges, but they weren’t as blatant as Vernon’s are here. I rather like the change-up, though, because the album functions well with more of a vocal centerpiece to guide the chaos. Besides, Stetson makes sure the vocals are distorted just enough to fit the destructive panoramic picture he paints with the saxophone.
Colin Stetson has released a few tracks off the upcoming album thus far, but the one that’s probably most representative of the overall album’s sound is “High Above a Grey Green Sea.” Listen to the track, and see where it takes you. If nothing else, you’ll at least be damned shocked at how much sound one man’s capable of making.
Keep an eye out for New History Warfare III: To See More Light, out on April 30th, 2013 on Constellation Records.
Moombahton. First off, it’s an actual genre. Second off, when it’s done, damn is it done well. It’s hard to put into words exactly what moombahton is, but here goes: around 108 BPM, an off-shoot of electro, and as Dillon Francis puts it, “music to fuck to.” Take that how you will.
But “Que Que” is by far the most solid moombahton track I’ve heard yet. It’s a solid mix of keen vocal sampling, varietal instrumentation and irresistible percussive work. Ultimately, though, it was most likely made for sexual purposes, so act on that. Don’t even be careful– just go for what you’re thinking.
Effective music videos are hard to find in 2013. There’s not really a uniform outlet in which music junkies can watch videos from their favorites, and financial issues in the music industry have led to a sharp decline of high-caliber music videos.
What this means, then, is that I freak out when something substantial comes along. Take Sigur Rós’ 2012 video for “Fjögur píanó,” and how the piece was simply saturated in eclecticism: the underwater car ride, the potentially electric popsicles and even Shia LeBeouf’s exposed penis all made us realize that a), director Alma Har’el had a disorienting message for us music-goers, or b), the specifics didn’t really matter. The latter makes more sense to me, although there are certainly poignant parts to the music video. Overall, though, what you got from the piece probably differed vastly from mine. I’m partial to my theories of the ‘ol acid trip gone amiss, but ultimately the video said much more to its audience than I can possibly know.
And ultimately, this is how I see fantastic music videos. The unconventional ones stick with me, the videos pushing the envelope towards what the song itself could only hint. Maybe it’s easier for directors to work with more ambiguous songs, then: more space means more flexibility. And “Old Skin,” serene as it is, really does leave room for the imagination. This is why I didn’t have specific expectations for the video, because it could probably focus on any…