"it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out." --Mark Twain

Posts Tagged: 2012

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Almost flipping the tracklist backwards, Pluto 3D places the few highlights from Pluto alongside his three newest tracks (“First Class Flights”, “Jealous” & “My”), each reaching higher than any of the original 15 songs.  Additionally, the decision to remix two of the better stand-outs from Pluto (“Same Damn Time” & “Neva End” — the latter featuring the lovely Rowland at her best), increases the album’s potency.  As a 5-track EP, Pluto 3D is infinitely better than Pluto and provides the perfect introduction to Future’s balance between mind-numbing melody and bass-centric trap.

Listen: “Jealous

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Listening to this with full-focus is quite the experience. On this single, Burial changes both the texture and the tempo so that there’s never a dominating style of electronic music. Nothing overstays, but it’s all just enough to perpetuate narration. There is a lot going on at all times, particularly when there is only one sound to be heard. One anticipates these subdued moments only to anticipate the next steady melody, enjoyed for thirty seconds or so before moving on. Ideas (and therefore sounds) float about as if one is glancing at a small portion of an ever-flowing, changing and expanding river.

Another thing to note is how Burial’s bleak, ‘scratchy’ aesthetic fits into another context. Glitches and static provide a subliminal self-awareness of where this music is going to end up: online. Sometimes music ‘found online’ has the potential to suffer from glitches and other audible problems. However, if these glitches are mastered into the music itself, it can give the listener the impression that they are listening to a glitchy copy of the song. Whether Burial was trying to break the audible fourth wall or not, listeners likely had the experience of “Glitch…or intentional?” when first streaming Truant / Rough Sleeper.

Contextual interpretations aside, this single feels like what Burial was trying to do on Kindred — create a ‘film’ through sound. There are movements, cinematic rises and silences scattered throughout both songs. Terms like “Future Garage” and “Dubstep” do not quite cover the scope of this music. Burial is looking forward and thinking big. In the process, his quality-control, consistency and humble approach has transformed him from a ‘just another bedroom producer’ to one of the most important musicians of our time.

Listen: “Rough Sleeper

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I never thought I’d jam out to Harris’ brand of electronic assimilation, but “We Found Love” found its way into my psyche.  When I saw 18 Months pop up on my internet radar, I was intrigued at how the formula would hold up beyond a three-minute single.  

The introduction to this album is probably what Calvin Harris sounds like in the mind of Calvin Harris.  It sounds lush and progressive, the “oh” sample like a watermark of relevance, but any satisfaction you get from this will surely be cut-short in the proceeding 30 minutes of derivative pop.  Most of 18 Months feels like something you’d never hear outside of Top 40 radio.

Indeed, the songs are too immediate for clubs and the ‘dance breakdowns’ are far too short to breakdown and dance to.  Everything, even when it’s working, rises and falls too quickly; the plateaus flash past long before you can make a connection to them.  This means that whether you’re in the club or in casual listening, Harris’ music feels anxious.  It’s as if he’s trying to compress hours of letting go into a ten-second hook, only to repeat the process one minute later.  It’s exhausting.

This scatter-shot, manic approach to recreating a lead single is nothing new in pop music, but unlike others, Harris does lift these restraints — if only for a song or two.  Take for instance, “Here 2 China”, an honest balance of electronic music and hip hop with neither style dominating the other.  Dizzee’s rap doesn’t feel like a backdrop to the chorus, as do most rap-elec hybrids, but instead a driving pulse.  He raps in harmony with Harris’ machinery and the result is Hip Hop with a refreshed formula.  It’s exciting.  

Another high-point stems from the tormented vocals of Florence Welch, better known for her Florence And The Machine cerebral-pop project.  Here, smack-dab in the middle of the album, she adds some much needed soul.   Welch is singing about how she is elevated upon the promise of “something unknown” and when Harris responds, it feels like REACTION.  Yes, “Sweet Nothing” is a powerful song, but amongst such empty music it juts out-of-place.

His talents cannot speak for themselves over the course of 18 Months; he sounds at his best when settling down to illuminate the spotlight for another.  This is never more evident than when the unrelenting, clearchannel pop comes to a screeching halt for interludes like “Mansion” and “School”.  Presumably meant for more “serious” fans of electronic music (as in, when you heard “We Found Love”, it was Harris you were curious about, not Rihanna), these songs feel like an homage to music found far, far away from this album.  “School”, in title, might just be a reference to Daft Punk’s “Homework”; “Mansion” a celebration of Acid House.  Now, what are these tributes doing amongst 11 iTunes’ singles?  What is “Awooga” doing tucked between Ne-Yo’s most off-key moment and a love ballad?

There’s a problem here and it’s that Calvin Harris treated this album as a compilation.  Deadmau5 took the same approach on <Album Title Goes Here>; for someone with an established sound and personality, this can be exciting.  For someone who’s pillaging for more hits in the same vein as “We Found Love”, it comes off like an advertisement for Top 40 radio.  When not making poptronic, he’s making some tunes that wake you up and get you interested to hear what’s next.  However, what’s next is seven more minutes of soulless collaboration with no relief in site.  I’m sure Harris is having a blast and is making great strides as a producer, but you’d never know that from listening to 18 Months.

Listen: “Sweet Nothing

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Disappointing. While GY!BE have always been known for their drone just as much as their 20-minute rising highs, they typically still “brought it” when it came to balls-to-the-wall Post Rockin’. Instead, the “rock songs” here feel either 1.) boring or 2.) like self-parody. “We Drift Like Worried Fire” gets interesting in the last section or so, but quickly fades out just as they’ve seized your attention. The vocal samples they chose this time around, as well, hardly create a tension or atmosphere — they feel hap-hazard and random.

Regardless their intentions, one can’t help but feel comparisons to their debut album, in both cover art and sound. However, the main advantage 'Allelujah! has over F♯A♯∞ is found in the record’s droning moments. These arrangements are far more complex than that which was found upon F Sharp, which relied heavily on repetition. Here, the pieces evolve and flow without feeling aimless. It’s a real treat; it feels fresh.

The problem is, yeah, they have your attention when you’re calm, but there’s no punch. What’s the point of settling down when you haven’t even been riled up? They’ve mastered indifferent dissonance but have forgotten how to spark a riot through sound. I’m glad they are making music again, but this isn’t the record we’ve been waiting for. Don’t believe the hype.

Listen: “Their Helicopters’ Sing

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"Let Dem Guns Blam" is the only time Flocka comes close to being inspired here.  Whether drowned out from clearchannel-pop mediocrity or simply bored ("Lurkin’", "Clap"), the ‘Let Dem Guns Blam’-Flocka hardly makes more than a single appearance.  Triple F lacks the tension which defined Flockavelli; there’s no risk here. He’s rich, successful and Warner Bros’ response is to release what they had wished his debut record would have been — packed with radio-friendly hooks and far less aggression.


Listen: “Let Dem Guns Blam