This is going to be quick and dirty. We’re talking about nearly 300 tracks to listen to, all told. Lots of good stuff too, as if there weren’t enough excellent music out there right now…
3:33 – EP-1
The definition of Crunchy Hip-Hop. Heavy basslines, distorted drum beats, distant synthesizers and noises sampled from the darkest depths of the meanest subways in the world. Short-ish, but very much a complete meal. I’d really like to hear a mashup of some of these cuts with one of my favorite MCs. 333N3, 333EP1, 333EP2, 333N4 and 333DIRT all make, as I mentioned elsewhere, “Cracker Jacks seem downright mushy”.
Errors – Come Down With Me
Once or twice a year I’ll get an album like this. It reminds me of a crossover between Holy Fuck and, say, Cut Copy. Instrumental, but with a lot of drive, however, non-confrontational. This is an album that wants you to groove along. Very well administered electronic components and effects make it a step or two above many acts who give it a whirl. I was surprised that only the final track, Beards, wasn’t at least a four-star. A Rumour in Africa, The Erskine Bridge, and Germany are my favorites.
Fabriclive 57: Jackmaster
Oh sweet days, more Fabric releases. I made a few inquiries and was rewarded with more than I expected. For this treat, we’ve got what is a Fabric release that fits solidly into the dance floor. This is 70 minutes of music from the best clubs in the world, some new, many old, and some forgotten till now. It’s a combination of House, Hip-Hop, Florida Bass, European garage, German eccentricities and the like. Lots to like here, some stuff I’m not too fond of, but this is an album focused on the dancing, and it pulls no punches. Model 500’s Night Drive, Anthony Shakir’s Plugged In, Splack Pack’s Scrub Da Ground, and Hudson Mohawke’s Fuse are only a few of my favorite tracks on this delightful dancehall release.
Gorillaz – The Fall
Let me be clear in that I’ve never been a Gorillaz fan. I respect some of their work and innovations. November Has Come is still my favorite track of theirs, if ONLY because it features MF Doom’s voice. The Fall was edited completely on an iPad, which is surely a first for a release of this caliber. It sounds a bit like it, too, but perhaps that explains why I’ve been impressed by a few tracks. On Revolving Doors, Hillbilly Man, and The Snake in Dallas, all things fall into place and this good album finds its great moments for me.
Atmosphere – The Family Sign
Slug and Ant bring to the table their seventh full-length release. It’s been a bit since we were treated to When Life Gives You Lemons…and it feels to me like Slug has gone from tortured soul to insightful storyteller, to our benefit. While I don’t like this album as much as You Can’t Imagine.. and God Loves Ugly, it feels better, even when the topics are depressing. Slug’s presence on these tracks is almost mesmerizing at times, and it’s hard to concentrate on anything but the story. It’s compelling, and that’s why we love Atmosphere and their flavor of Hip-Hop. Became, Just for Show, She’s Enough, Millennium Dodo, If You Can Save Me Now, and My Notes are very choice cuts indeed.
2562 – Fever
Imagine my delight when I found this one available. Any Craftstep fan like myself knows that 2562’s place in the arena of a post-Dubstep world was long ago solidified. Fever isn’t more of the same, it’s even better. There’s a delicate methodology required to make this sort of music not feel cacophonous, and with few exceptions, Fever has done that solidly. Winamp Melodrama, Cheater, Aquatic Family Affair, Intermission, and This Is Hardcore are my favorite tracks.
Graham Knox Frazier – Conna Dig This
I’ll admit that House has been a favorite of mine from many moons ago, and it’s not hard to believe that quality House is still being crafted today. GKF has done his homework and isn’t breaking any new ground with this release, but with a formula so well tested, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this could almost be called minimalist by some standards. The typical house beat, some synths, and a vocal sample are the most common formula. Nothing much extra, just good stuff here. Check out And House Music, Something Special, and Bonus Beats for my recommended tracks.
Findlay Brown – Promised Land Single
The original track is a bit of a 70s-era throwback in all the right ways. A good track, but there’s no way I’d play it on my show. However, as is commonplace nowadays, remixes accompany. The Hypnolove remix tweaks the original and makes it less a muzak track and morph it smoothly into a calm, electronic tune much more suited to the show. A few of the other mixes are decent, but move in the wrong direction for my taste.
Mr. Pauer – Soundtrack
Another South American artist finds his way to me, to great effect. The opening track is intriguing, while the second, featuring Itagui is less so. The third is where I get very interested. Its reinforcement of the vibe I heard earlier is certain, and I can’t help but bob my head to the beat. The use of more traditional South American beats and influences combines very well with electronic sampling, beats, and synthesizers. It’s a really fun blend. I quite enjoy Escaping, Get Me High, and Mente De Mente.
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy R3c0nf1gur3d
Take a damned fine musical score/soundtrack by the world renowned duo Daft Punk and give it to some of the best electronic artists in the world for a bit of a retouch and see what happens. Tracks like Derezzed get treated by The Glitch Mob and Avicil, Paul Oakenfold reworks C.L.U., The Crystal Method blasts The Grid/Game Has Changed, and Photek reimagines End of Line. All told, fans of the original are probably fans of Daft Punk, and they’ll appreciate the liberties taken by Moby, Kaskade, and others. This is a very good companion to the original. Really like it.
younger Brother – Vaccine
This was a surprise until I did a little research. It turns out that the music for this release was made by one of the guys from Shpongle, of whom I’ve been a long time fan. That’s a pretty solid basis, but it’s easy to screw it up with terrible vocals. Good thing Benji Vaughan has a voice to match the music. The combination makes for something kinda unusual in music that I’ve heard for a while. Few male vocalists sing over this style of electronic music, and perhaps that’s why I like this album so much. There aren’t any bad tracks, seriously.
Blueprint – Adventures in Counter-Culture
I knew this was going to be one of those albums I’d like a few tracks from and hav a lot of trouble with the rest. I was right. Go Hard or Go Home, My Culture, So Alive, and Stole Our Yesterday are definitely standout tracks, The rest, for reasons that I haven’t been able to grasp, don’t compete. He’s certainly talented, and even the tracks I don’t like are better than, say, Del’s latest, but this would be a far more compelling album if it wasn’t such a crapshoot.
Second Sky – The Art of Influence
Ah, how sweet is this? I’d heard a few tidbits of their work in the past but never a full release. This trio, unsurprisingly signed to ESL, the label of Thievery Corporation, take us on a full-length downtempo, chill, tour of the world. I had a good feeling this would be one of those uncommon five-star albums, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is music that takes cues from every form of cultural music there is, from Hip-Hop, Reggae, Dub, India, Spain, Africa, and beyond. It’s a rare treat, and one I’ll be enjoying for years to come.
Fabric 57: Agoria
The first Fabric release I’ve had in at least six months, this one is a journey in the truest Fabric way. Agoria gives us a House and Progressive House treat all the way through. Its as diverse as I’ve heard, and there’s not a bad track on the whole release. Top Fabric quality, and I’ll have fun playing some of these cuts on the show for sure.
Dam Mantle – First Wave
This one is another I can put in the Craftstep bin, and it’s not what I was surprising from a release I received on physical media. There are many samples blended in amidst the heavily dubstep-influenced tracks. Certainly a very broadly spaced album, it does have some notable tracks including Theatre, Broken Slumber, D2, and Movement. I’m pleased that there are some more cohesive tracks on this album, as I know artists within these genres tend to get a bit crazy sometimes. I do hope to hear more from them in the future.
French Horn Rebellion – The Infinite Music of…
How could this be any good, with a name like that? I’m as surprised as you might be that I didn’t just delete it after the first listen. However, from the first track I was teased onward. Broken Heart finally convinced me that yes, this was an album I need to pay more attention to. Heavy synthesizers, beats, and male vocals can give me a headache, but the production does wonders and there are simply interesting sounds here. Brasilia Girl, Mawson’s Peak, and What I Want are some of the more interesting cuts on the album. Interesting, for sure, and I might even be able to see them live.
UNKLE – Only the Lonely
UNKLE are a group I can compare with, say, Atmosphere in some ways. I’ve loved some of their past releases, and consider them canon in the annals of music. However, more recent releases have fallen a bit flat. Only the Lonely, with a track featuring Nick Cave, is basically an EP with two great tracks. Only the Lonely (dub), and The Dog is Black are more interesting than the rest and help me maintain my faith that UNKLE will find its way out of the darkish funk they’ve been in for a while. I want something more inspired.
Slugabed – Moonbeam Rider EP
On of the newest on Ninja Tune, this guy gets my respect for that alone. This kinda reminds me of Rustie, but less trippy and noisy. I did have to go through and listen to this EP twice before giving it solid ratings, so different was it from what I was listening to before and from what I expected. Heck Flex and tomorrow morning are the sort of tracks I’m looking forward to hearing from his solo work in the future.
Chancha Via Circuito – Rio Arriba
I like this guy. An Argentine with a Cumbian heartbeat, I’ll be playing this music for years to come. Similar to Mr. Pauer’s re-imagining of his influences, Chancha takes the ever-diversifying Cumbian genre and runs it through the wringer. It’s better for my Western ears, and it’s much more interesting too. Cuts like Puente, Cumbion de las Aves, Pintar el Sol, Prima, and Amelia are among my favorites. This is a heavy album with much to share. I shall do so in turn.
Matthew Dear – Slowdance EP
Hmm, I like the Todd Edwards remix of Slowdance and Innh Dahh, and didn’t really care for much else. I really would rather the original track be better than the remixes, or at least hold its own. Could be worse.
Moving Units – Tension War
Wannabe The Faint. Skip it.
Wagon Christ – Toomorrow
An interesting album, and as I mentioned during a review of a single from this album, it’s very similar in feel to Negativeland, but with some more musical insight instead of being so heavily reliant on samples to tell the story. Tracks like Toomorrow, Ain’t He Heavy, He’s My Brother, and Wake Up are definitely interesting. I am not surprised that, similar to Negativland, I have a hard time with some of the other work. There are very good tracks on this album, but I wish there were more.
Young Athletes League – We Only Feed Ourselves
Received as part of a package from Ninja Tune, this was a surprise. I didn’t expect the three tracks to be as good as they are. This music resides at a weird crossroads where many have fallen. It’s simple, and simpler to get wrong. It’s very hard to make this kind of music and do it well. How can I even describe it? Easy: intriguing.
Eskmo – We Got More / Moving Glowstream
Eskmo is an interesting sound. I would have preferred his album to be instrumental, but it wasn’t. In this case, two tracks that I was a bit of the five-star fence about are given to Amon Tobin, Slugabed, and others. There are some good retouches, but there are other tracks from this album that would’ve been better choices.