New Music – 03/24/11

Atmosphere – She’s Enough single

For some reason, without knowing too much about Slug, I think he’s turned a corner in his life. When Life Gives You Lemons… was a great album, but it had so much angst.

She’s Enough is the most positive track I’ve heard from Atmosphere in….ever? They’ve had albums devoted to the pain and hate and struggle of a single past relationship. This feels downright cheery in comparison.

Ant, as always, crafts clever, catchy beats with so, so much character. The instrumental version is perfect.

Such a great track.

Zion I & The Grouch – Heroes in the Healing of the Nation

Some sort of confluence has happened with me. I’ve heard Zion I before, and I knew there was something eerily familiar about the Zumbi & The ARE’s The Burnerz, and Pigeon John mentioned The Grouch as one of the reasons he got onto Quannum. AmpLive did a remix I’d really enjoyed sometime last year. Here we are, all of these artists on one album, and boy is it good. Oh wait, I’ve not even mentioned the guests…

Only yesterday I listened to a 2009 podcast from Seattle’s KEXP where Zion I perform some of their tracks. Much learned, and even more respect given. I finally hit up Wikipedia to get even more information and clarification.

This album is, as its name suggested, a positive effort to get people to be a part of a healing effort. To that end, they’re touring presently, with a stop in Park City’s Star Bar next week. Proceeds of these shows go to a variety of charities. Now that’s positive.

To the music, well, the beats are fantastic. DJ AmpLive has a touch with many of these cuts that is brilliant. I’m a big fan of the UK Grime and Dubstep scene, and tracks like Rockit Man, Drop It On the 1, and others are heavily influence by these scenes. Thankfully these aren’t just rude transplants of beats, sloppy and misplaced. AmpLive really, really knows his trade.

The Grouch is one of those talents whose voice I’ve heard only rarely, but feel refreshed to now experience. His presence on the mic is strong, knowledgeable, confident, and smooth. Zumbi’s style and presence compliment this, with more of a playful and clever delivery. Both of these MCs are top notch.

Fantastic album. Can’t wait to see these guys live and get the healing going.

Rocky Business – A Rebel’s Roar

These guys are new to me, and without doing some digging, I can’t say if I’ve ever heard of them.

Decent album, though only Glide and Rocky’s Theme are tunes I’d play on the show. The other cuts range from an indie sound, 90s DnB, to jamming rock. It makes for a diverse album, and the talents of the artists here aren’t wasted, because there are only a few tracks I didn’t like.

Interesting stuff, and I’m glad I have a few to spin, because they’re very good.

Jib Kidder – Library Catalog Music Series: Music for Hypnotizing Minds

This is probably the fourth or fifth of this series I’ve received. Some have been good, and this is one of those for sure, but another from B Lan 3 was just awful.

Jib Kidder has dived in to the Asthmatic Kitty archives, using a laptop and a Technics 1200 turntable, and produced this very interesting release.

The artist is a new one to me, but he will have a place in my playlists for years to come. I’ve always been a fan of DJs and artists who can take a boatload of samples and make something out of it. DJ Shadow, DJ Signify, Blockhead, DJ Premier, and others I’ve listened to over the years have made careers by creatively sampling music and recompiling it.

Every track on this album is interesting because of how it’s been created. Suspension 1 might be the best example of how sampling can take what’s probably a total of 20 seconds of music and make an entire song out of it. Breaks used to be a clever way to make the sweetest part of a song into the crucial part of the new track, like the legendary Amen Break. This track uses some guitar and drums to draw us through three minutes wonderfully.

Reflection, Cruising 1, Blue, and Together are my other favorites from this album, though you can’t much go wrong with any of it.

Pretty neat album.

New Music 03/10/11

Federico Aubele – Berlin 13

Unbeknownst to me, I’d heard this guy on one of the Thievery Corporations compilations, and once I started listening to the characteristic vocals and Spanish guitar, it came flooding back.

This release highlights the changes in the artist’s life while living in Berlin, and 13 is the “death” Tarot card, which represented for him a new beginning. He keeps his talents, but mixes them rather sublimely with some heavy, deep Dub tones. It gives the bulk of this record a thick feel, even when it’s only the vocals of Ka and the guitar. To my delight, it works well, if not very well, across the entirety of the album. I love the sound.

Rainbow Arabia – Boys and Diamonds

With a name like that, there’s a whole lot of expectations for what this album is going to sound like. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed much, though the highlights were few. It’s a heavy, synth-dependent style with the distant female vocals and plenty of catchy percussion, while avoiding a lot of the pitfalls this genre’s known for. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes, given identical tools, %75 of these groups will make something I can’t listen to.

Without You and Hai are my favorite tracks on this album, while Nothin’ Gonna Be Undone and Sayer are throwaways. The rest of the album is solid listening and entertaining, for sure. Good stuff.

Ancient Astronauts – Into Bass and Time

I’ve known about these guys for a little while, but it’s been less than 24 hours since I listened to them first and I can’t stop. There are perhaps one or two records a year I get which, upon first listen, can get a five-star ranking for EVERY track. The last time I remember this happening was Pnuma Trio, or maybe Dutch. Interestingly enough Raashan Ahmad is also present on this release too.

This pair of Germans has somehow captured the best of US underground hip-hop sounds, blended it in with their own interpretations, some Jamaican Dub/reggae, Asian strings, and made it a very delicious treat. I hear the echoes of every DJ I’ve ever respected in here, but without it feeling like a copy or riff in any way, shape, or form.

It’s like DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, RJD2, Kabanjak (a fellow German), Blockhead, Stoupe, and many others have all been blended, slowly, and poured over ice.

I’ll not only be spinning this for a LONG time, and include at least one of these track on Nerd New Year, but this will be something to enjoy for years to come. Brilliant.

Robert Miles – Th1rt33n Remixes

I am not a big fan of Th1rt33n as an electronic album, perhaps because I’ve long since moved past the Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Fennesz electronic haze and soundscapes.

Delightfully, however, Miles knows a guy or two who can do some of the work for him and get some vocals and beats on these tunes. A four-track EP or remixes, I’m pleased to say that only Antimony (Max Pollu Hypnotica remix) was shy of my best rating. The other tracks, one even done by Miles himself, are entertaining and certain improvement on the originals, especially when airplay is considered.

I’m pleased that I’ll have a couple tracks to better represent what I hoped Th1rt33n could sound like.

Mic Crenshaw – Under the Sun

Mic is another name I’ve heard over the years but never had opportunity to sample in album form. He’s a vocalist whose presence is instantly listenable and compelling without feeling preachy or harsh. Mic is certainly an activist voice and he gives us a tour of what he thinks, track after track.

As we know, tracks aren’t worth listening to if the beats aren’t up to snuff. Fear not, because you won’t be bored or annoyed by the backing Mic gets on this record. Lots of synths, believe it or not, and a fair bit of interesting treatments like bells and claps. Hey, I’m failing here to explain it, so get it where you can and make sure you listen to Bad Blood, Yeah, and That Glue. Great stuff.

Dub Is A Weapon – Vaporized

Akin to what I’ve heard before from the legendary Dub Trio, this is an instrumental group who are a hard interpretation of Jamaican Reggae and Dub. It’s got the heavy, omnipresent bassline, but with guitar riffing, piano stabs, and horns, not to mention the drums.

Over the years I’ll get a few instrumental albums that have little to do with the Nerd Show theme: electronica. However, I can’t help by play this stuff on the show because I have such an affinity for Dub and Reggae. Guess that means you’ll be hearing it on the show…

Donwill – Love Junkie Remixes

The basic track, Love Junkie, is good. Funky beat and clever lyrics. Content is a bit sketchy though, because it’s kinda a weird love song in a very pop way. Not so much a fan. Look At Me rubs me the wrong way from the intro, as it’s just a bunch of noise.

Relief hits, however, when I get to the So Shitty remix and dub of Love Junke, the last two tracks. The track has been rendered anew and it’s genuinely interesting. Cutting up Donwill’s lyrics and spreading them over a Garage-type beat gives it a new lease on life, not unlike the Blueprint track I mentioned last week.

Now it’s fun.

New Music 03/03/11

Zion I & The Grouch – Rockit Man Single

Tracklist – Rockit Man (feat. Silk E), Instrumental, Drop It On the 1, Instrumental

These tracks are solid.  I don’t mean that just to be nice, either.  Zion I has had my ear for a while and his vocal style is top notch, but The Grouch completes this duo’s collaboration with Silk E for some seriously strong presence.

But I’m hugely, and I mean HUGELY impressed that they’ve basically imported the UK Dubstep-based sound for these tracks and even tossed in some chopped and screwed Houston style for good measure.  The instrumental versions of these alone are seriously radio-worthy.


The Electric – Life Is Moving

A project involving DJ Vadim, probably the only Russian DJ anyone has ever heard of.  It’s a R&B/Hip-Hop flavor.

The album starts out a little flat for me, and We Rolling, track three, is a skipper, but Sometimes and So Now You Know are both a compelling mix of restrained vocals and driving, snappy beats.  It’s hard to ignore Beautiful, as it’s a track I’ve heard before as a single, but it’s a bit repetitive and chatty.  Kinda wish for an instrumental version of this.

The next set of tracks gets tiring, though a few of them I would prefer as instrumentals.  Let’s call this the R&B section.

Did I mention that many of these tracks would be best as instrumentals?

This could have been a much better album for me, but I’m pleased that there are two or three tracks I feel good about.

Paris Suit Yourself – Sometimes

Hmm.  Let’s not mince words: the base track kinda sucks.  The Micachu mix doesn’t do it any favors, but the M.E.S.H. remix brings a new wardrobe to the equation and I like how it’s dressed.  Victor Tricard tries hard, and does a good job making a miserable track fun.

The Qemists – Take It Back (EP?)

This track, Take It Back (feat. Enter Shikari) was one of my favorites on their 2010 release, Spirit In the System.  I spun that one like mad and included it on the Nerd New Year broadcast.  This is the original track, a remix by The Prototypes, a VIP remix, and Drity Words, a track I’ve heard twice before, strangely with differing guests, but with another go at it with the VIP remix.

The original cut is a classic for me, and The Prototypes made their interpretation beautifully. The VIP mix is a complete rebuilding of the track, and it’s somewhat unrecognizable, but certainly moves its appeal a bit wider because it’s less of a pounding.  Really nice, too.

Dirty Words, well, no thanks.

The Death Set – We Are Going Anywhere Man

I don’t like The Death Set.  Nuff said. Deleted.

Chilly Gonzales – You Can Dance EP

Nine remixes of the track You Can Dance.  The original is, well, not bad. It wasn’t even near one of my favorites on Ivory Tower.

It kinds sounds like he gave the track to a bunch of his quasi-disco mates and had them remix it.  Mostly it sounds like music for bellbottoms and cocaine.  Not into that, thanks. Edwin van Cleef and Max Tundra make a few decent remixes, but they are still working hard against the base track.

Blueprint – So Alive (remixes)

The track So Alive is very good, with compelling vocals that don’t overpower the excellent backing band beats.

The Budo remix is a stripped-down version with a Casio-like beat, guitars, and a progressive introduction of bass and horns.  Very interesting interpretation of the original with its own merits. X144’s interpretation is a bit more bombastic. innerpartysystem remakes the track to the point it’s unrecognizable save for the vocals. The instrumental version might be the best of them all.

Stateless – Matilda

As a fan of Stateless from the Bloodstream EP, prior to their first, self-titled album, I had high expectations for the full release after getting a few singles with remixes.  I’m not disappointed.

There’s a cohesive aural element throughout the album, something very important to a release with the track diversity Matilda has.  Curtain Call, for example, gives you a full three seasons, if you will, by the time it’s halfway finished, and you know you’re in for a bit of a ride.  Ariel, one of the two singles widely played, is a dynamic, questioning, accusatory track that would give any listener familiar with their older work a bit of a breath of relief 25 seconds in.  Yeah, they still have it.

Miles to Go makes you realize that, given the same elements, SO MANY groups would get this wrong. Blending a piano, heavy beats, spare percussion and haunting vocals is not easy.  Great track. Visions carries on this delicate blend with some guest vocals that just work. Assassinations is the second single released beforehand, and it fits right in beautifully.

Red Sea begins a more ponderous stretch in the album as almost a two-minute interlude. I’m On Fire carries the theme onward. Ballad of NGB is, for lack of a better term, a romantic song  Very neat. Song for the Outsider might very well be a reference to DJ Shadow.  Chris James, lead vocalist for Stateless, worked on several tracks for DJ Shadow’s The Outsider, and his mention of Stateless in his blog years ago helped promote the group in many important ways. Junior earns it keep here with rich vocals and a simply lovely beat.

I Shall Not Complain finished the album with another brilliant display of melding Chris’ vocals with percussion, electronic beats and synths, and even an accordion.  Again, it would be so easy to get this wrong, but they don’t.

Great album.

Austra – Beat to the Pulse

Interesting little EP here.  Beat and the Pulse has some neat instrumentation with good beats and synth work, but I’m a bit tired of the chorused, subdued female vocals.  I’m feeling it a bit more with another listen, and I’m going to give this one a chance.

Energy disappoints me with some decidedly lo-fi sounds, as if they’re hiding the vocals.  Bjork would be blowing this the hell out, but Austra are not. Young and Gay is interesting, and a decent track. I look forward to some more material from Austra.

Return to Mono – Frambreaker

One of the few CDs I got this week, this one was out of the blue.  That’s led to some bad results in the past, but not so today.

Song of the Beast was good enough that I wasn’t ready to write it off.  How many of these artists I’ve never heard of, given the same tools, would make a mess of it?  You’d be surprised.

Framebreaker, Doomsday Device, and The Promise make for a great trio of tracks.  Great vocals that make me respect the talent, and a genuinely interesting beat and synths.

XRUST and Nightfall are the other highlights of this solid album, with Black Swan being the only disappointing track on this album for me.  Impressive work, going to have to play these tracks for a while.