Tracks of the moment #1

Yesterday the indie fellas Mansions on The Moon gave a heads up on facebook about their new song, Full Moon, which is a pleasant arrangement of retro-style synth chords and smooth, echoing vocals. The sound feels a bit 80s, and it’s really just going right in your head and stays there. Have a listen:

(are these guys soon releasing a full length?)
EDIT: while it ain’t a full length release, they have a new EP coming Oct. 14th, yay!

Cyril Hahn played in Copenhagen last week @ Rust, and I did not make it to the gig, which I am so bugged about. Especially since I’ve heard from friends that it was a really great set. So, recently I’ve been spinning his remix of Solange’s hit single Losing You, and I really can’t seem to get enough. Hahn amplifies the theme of losing, transcribing the song into a track with a darker atmosphere and deep bass, aswell as changing the pitch of the vocals, which I just think this is a great yet simple foundation for a nice, almost hypno-like track. Get on it:

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Unique & Urban: Burial

Today I want to talk about Burial, which might sound like some death metal band (actually I think there is one by that name), but that’s not the kind of music I will be featuring in this post. I would rather talk about the London based electronic musician & dubstep ghost William Bevan, who remained anonymous until sometime back in 2008. That was about a year after the release of his 2nd full length album, Untrue. He stated in an interview that “only five people know I make tunes“, which to me evokes a great deal of astonishment; releasing 2 full length albums with critical acclaim and still remaining anonymous is to me remarkable in the age of individualism and self promotion. As an artist he is very elusive, and this also tells us a lot about Bevan as a person. He is a loner, introvert and thoughtful person, and he does not seek fame or fortune. I think this is a great feat, and it is definitely mirrored in his music.

Burial – Untrue

Genre-wise it is being described as dubstep, among other things; a tag that is for the wide majority associated with the ‘wobbling’ sound that has been popularized by artists such as Skrillex and Rusko. However, this is not a sound that can be found in any of Burial’s tracks, nor do you find any of that explosive energy. What you are going to find, on the other hand, is atmosphere, emotion and melancholy. There is no doubt that Bevan is very connected to his music on many levels, and that solidifies his integrity as an artist.

There is also this urban sound to his music, which I personally find very interesting. In fact, it inspired me to write a short story that plays out in a big city, which I wrote while listening to almost nothing but Burial. When describing his music, one can not get around without mentioning his signature clink-clank, organic sounding beats, which has spawned a wide range of imitators. Few to none have had success in imitating Burial’s sound completely, yet there’s an attempt worth mentioning.
Since the release of Untrue, Burial has moved from the full length format and started to experiment with the EP format. Subsequently to Untrue, he has released 5 EPs, the first of these being the EP Moth / Wolf Cub, which he did together with Four Tet. Following this, there was the Street Halo EP and Paradise Circus / Four Walls EP, which was a remix of two Massive Attack songs. The remixes are very atmospheric, ghostly and almost dream like, with very little percussion/beats used. The most recent EP releases from Burial are the Kindred and Truant / Rough Sleeper EPs, of which I mostly enjoyed the former. The Kindred EP, which I also featured in my 2012-end-year list, contains three tracks: Kindred, Loner and Ashtray Wasp. The first and last of these go past the 10 minute mark, with the 2nd track being about 7 minutes long, making the whole EP clock in at half an hour. Have a listen:

Out of the three, I enjoyed the first two tracks the most. On the first one, Burial weaves his signature beat together with a beautiful female vocal sample creating a harmony that is simply chilling. I especially love how he ‘bends’ the sample to make it fit into the progression of the synth chords.
Loner is of a bit different nature, as it has a more standard, forward-going beat, with some great synths aswell. The atmosphere of the song is dark, and the synth chords are arranged in a way so that they almost sound alerting, indicating that something bad might happen soon. It was recently featured in the movie Elysium, a pleasant surprise in an otherwise predictable and bland movie (however it fit really well into the scene). Have another listen:

Antlers Mulm – a sonic journey into the dark

Some music has the ability to bring back memories of places. Places that hold experiences or impressions. Music can remind one of people and relationsships. And some music can mystify you, create images in your head of places you’ve been or never been before. Places that don’t necessarily exist, but are comprised of dozens of visual impressions you’ve encountered earlier in life. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read along, take a listen, and you might just find out.

Antlers Mulm is a dark electronic, ambient & spoken word music project whose sole member is Hans Johm. He is hailing from Germany, and is also running a record label known as Sonderübertragung.

The three ‘tags’ mentioned above (genres, if you will) are fairly good as guidelines for what to expect from a Mulm release – yet there is still a lot between these that is not easy to put tags on.

A thing that seperates Johm from other ambient projects is the use of clear, bleak keyboard melodies, that sound like they are pulled out of a machine from the 70s; they have this “fake” feel to them. This, together with subtle samples and Johm’s calm, almost preach-like vocals creates a surreal atmosphere.

This being said, there are some points where I think that the vocals don’t work very well together with the melodies – this is typically when Johm’s lyrics goes from being spoken to almost sung – however, this is a rarity, seeing as Johm does not have the abilities of a singer. But this fact is something that I at the same time admire a lot: despite his lack of this particular feat, he is still the man behind the microphone; the man with the ideas – and it simply works.

He has released over a dozen of full length records throughout the years along with a couple of EPs, and done some minor touring (mainly in Russia; the ambient scene there seems to be quite extensive). The latest full length I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying (Weihnachtsfunk 4 has since been released) is the Age of Efficiency – an album that was a little different from the other releases I’ve heard by Mr. Mulm. It’s a bit difficult to put my finger on what it is, but I think that this release might be a bit more beat-oriented, yet it still retains the mystical atmosphere that Johm is a pure guru at creating. There also appears to be a bit more focus on the lyrics here, although they seem to be quite cryptic in meaning – but my guess is that there is a certain critical approach against modern society inbetween the lines.

One of my favourite tracks by Antlers Mulm is the track Untruth (Restructured), which is featured on the Lone Songs EP. I find this to be a very appropriate title; seldom have I experienced a similar feeling of loneliness while listening to some of these songs, or any other songs by a different artist for that matter. Have a (lonely) listen:

Bad Sector – the soundscape genius from Italy

Bad Sector can perhaps mostly be characterized by his unique sound made through his homemade/or heavily modified instruments and his light googles that he wears when he perfoms live.
Bad Sector is the pseudonym of italian Massimo Magrini, who’s been making electronic music for the past 20 years. His musical style could be described as (dark) ambient, noise and drone. Or as he describes it himself, deeply emotional dark ambient noise.
He has studied at the University of Pisa and has a degree in Computer Science. After his study he did some work for an italian company, constructing hardware and creating software for musical purposes.

Bad Sector’s music acts for me as some sort of a thought/feeling atomizer. That’s because his music has this weird, mystical and special feeling to it. When I listen to it, it doesn’t remind me of anything I know. It just frees my mind – you could say that the slate gets wiped completely clean. Everything that could have bugged me, anything that I could have concerns about, can simply be washed away (at least as long as the music is playing) by a single second of Bad Sectors music, which I think is fantastic. It puts me in such a relaxed mood, and I find the music very inspiring. That is probably one of the main reasons why I enjoy his music so much.
Another thing I like about Bad Sector is the diversity between his records: he has released well over 10 albums, but the originality since Ampos doesn’t fade. Every single record has something special, something new. None of the records resemble each other, yet this touch of Bad Sector magic still remains.

Since I first got acquainted with Bad Sectors music a couple of years ago, I have been diligently returning to a wide selection of his albums from time to time, but one album in particular has really been sticking out for me. This is the Dolmen Factory album from 1998, which is his fifth release. The album has a very thick and dense sound throughout, with layers of noise and beautiful harmonies. It features sounds that one would associate with those of an old factory, yet it is brilliantly blended together with something less familiar; I can’t help but think that it sounds like something from outer space. For example, on the track Pierre 1902, it opens up with a quiet hum that builds up to a huge sound, while strange machines produce a hissing, almost chant-like sound.
The space-theme is supported on the opening track, Alex 1964, with a short sample from Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi movie Blade Runner. The sample is of some of the very first lines in the movie; even before Holden says anything, a voice over the intercom briefly describes Leon Kowalski’s background. I think this is a very interesting detail, because I feel that the mood of the album can be found in the movie as well. I still remember making this connection between the sample and the movie when I first saw it, and getting that mind=blown kind of feeling.
 On Dolmen Factory, Magrini takes the listener on an audible journey to the depths of his imagination, manifested in mystical sounds and noises.

If we take a look at the title and the cover, these start mystifying us and raise questions right away: what is a ‘Dolmen’? What is this factory actually producing? And what is the cover depicting? It does look like an ultraviolet scan, but I do not see anything resembling a fetus in there. Perhaps we’ll discover some of the answers to these questions as we start our dwell into this magnificent Bad Sector soundscape.
There’s also something strange about the track titles. The titles seem to follow a certain pattern – Name + Year. Except for two specific tracks, which happen to follow another pattern: halfways through the album there’s an Exit A and the closer track is Exit B. These “exit” tracks support the idea of the factory-theme. As to the significance of the names, I recall Magrini mentioning this in an interview: they symbolize people who have died over the years, people whose names are lost in time and whose deaths didn’t mean anything in the bigger picture.

Overall I think this album is overwhelming in its entirety, and as any other Bad Sector release I enjoy listening to it when I feel like zooming out and forgetting about everyday problems, just falling into the endless depths of the music.

Top 10 discoveries 2012

Yet another year is coming to an end, and it’s time to take a look in the rear view mirror. At first glance, I did not think that my musical horizon had expanded notably compared to 2011, to my great disappointment. However, upon further inspection, I found out that there actually had been quite a few musical treasures found in 2012. Luckily!
The genre-trend, I found, was also interesting. My previous year-list had a lot more metal in it, but this year seems to be dominated by electronic music of different kinds.
So here is the list of the 10 most listened-to/interesting new artists of 2012 and the albums I liked the most by them.

10. When Saints Go Machine
Danish electronic-rock band When Saints Go Machine play some really nice, melodic and creative rock. One of their definite trademarks of their music is the electronic keyboard, from which they draw many of their awesome sounds. This, combined with the special vocals of front man Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild, make up a very original and immensely catchy, yet slightly dark sound. The album that introduced me to the band was their release of this year, Konkylie. The tracks I liked the most were Church and Law, Kelly and Add Ends. The band has been announced for Roskilde 2013, which is a show I’ll be looking forward to.

9. Miles Davis
For #9 I have here an absolute classic – the jazz musician Miles Davis. I felt like I wanted to try out jazz, and I am glad I did. I had heard some unknown jazz artist on the radio before, and I did actually like it back then. This is also the case for Davis and his all-time classic record Kind of Blue. This just 5-track long LP clocks in at 45 minutes and gives you this feeling of pure, relaxing 1950’s jazz-bliss. Apparently, Davis just walked in the studio that day back in 1959 and started playing the whole thing in one take. That is cool.
Apart from the jazzy-awesomeness, a side-bonus I found was that his music is perfect if you’re doing any kind of work that requires you to focus on something at a longer period of time. Favorite tracks: So What and Freddie Freeloader.

8. Kendrick Lamar
Lamar reaches the 8th spot on my list of the year as the only rapper (ever to reach any spot on any of my lists…), which is quite a thing to say the least. Why is this? Well, I rarely listen to rap. This year, however, I decided to give it a shot, and I must say I really liked Lamar’s Section.80 of 2011. It might be because of the fact that the album itself is not a traditional rap album, given mostly the lyrics and the composition of the album. It may just be the fact that it is just really a solid record instrumentally. Ultimately, it is a combination of both. The lyrical themes suggest that Lamar is a thoughtful person, seeing that the themes include critique of modern society, as well as addressing issues of the opposite gender. Favorite tracks: ADHD, Rigamortis and Ab-Soul’s Outro. Also, brings back awesome summer memories!

7. Animals As Leaders
The three piece progressive metal act Animals As Leaders, based in Washington D.C., deliver hard hitting instrumentals with catchy guitar riffs and slamming bass lines. Their music is technical, inventive and intense. My favorite record of theirs for this year will definitely be their self-titled debut (from 2009); a very cohesive, yet varied record, featuring tracks such as CAFO and Tempting Time. Animals as Leaders is the only metal-act to reach my top ten for the year of 2012, and as I stated in my introduction to this list, this comes as a surprise to me – especially since metal has been my preferred style of music for years.

6. TNGHT
The trap-hop electro-group TNGHT is a collaborative effort by Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, from Scotland and Canada respectively. They produce hip-hop-beat-like music, with a hard hitting bass combined with a wide array of samples. On top of that, there is a certain glitchy feel to the music, overall making it original and unlike any kind of electronic music I’ve heard before.
Since their 2012 release is their only release so far, this is what’ll have to be my favorite (the TNGHT self-titled EP), and my favorite tracks off of that would be Higher Ground (absolutely immense track) and Goooo. I also found a track of theirs named R U READY, which had some similar effects used as on Higher Ground. These guys should definitely join the Roskilde lineup, especially now that Baauer is on the list as well.

5. Disclosure
UK group Disclosure consists of the Lawrence brothers, who have just recently hit the charts with their single Latch. They play a distinct style of electronic music, which features a variety of different elements, along with some dubstep and “garage-house” (apparently). Latch, for example, features great vocals by Sam Smith and a woman I could not find the name of, together with an incredibly catchy melody and rhythm, delivering an incredible, feel-good vibe. The songs I enjoyed the most by these guys would definitely be Latch together with the Control remix of Joe Goddard, and I am most certainly looking forward to future releases by Disclosure. Oh, and they are performing at next year’s Roskilde Festival – perfect.

4. Frank Ocean
Playing a style of RnB mixed with a bit of hip-hop, Frank Ocean gained popularity independently of the already famous hip hop collective Odd Future, which he was also a member of. I downloaded Ocean’s first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra (released March 2011) back in January, which mostly featured instrumentals of classic songs with Frank Oceans own lyrics. Mixed in the bunch were two original tracks, Novacane and Swim Good. The overall theme of the mixtape is obviously love and affection, and I really liked the way he made his own interpretation of the classic songs, although I am not really fond of second hand music in this manner. However, Nostalgia, Ultra is definitely an exception. He released his own full length this year, titled Channel Orange, which I did also enjoy, but not quite as much as the mixtape.

3. Nicolas Jaar
Coming in on a solid 3rd spot is the New York-born Nicolas Jaar, whose special kind of electronic music caught my attention at the beginning of the year. I have actually already written a post about his debut album Space is Only Noise if You Can See on my blog earlier this year, talking back and forth about what I like and dislike about the album. His music can be described as being minimal, ethereal and soothing. His top album for me will definitely be the already mentioned Space is Only Noise if You Can See, although I also really liked the Time for Us EP.

2. Burial
The man taking the 2nd spot on my humble list here will be UK’s future-garage & dubstep-ghost Burial. I got acquainted with his music back in May, with his album Untrue. At first I did not really pay much attention to it, and actually forgot everything about it until autumn. It’s weird because his music really fits that time of the year, and I have almost not been listening to anything but Burial for the past month-or-so. His music is so atmospheric, cold yet warming and soothing. It reminds me of the city at night, with all the concrete walls, the parks, the dark alleys. Very inspiring. His top album for me this year will be the album Untrue (released 2007), and if I were to choose a release from this year I would go with his Kindred EP.

1. Death Grips
Death Grips have caught a lot of attention throughout this year, releasing two full-length albums, earning a record deal at Sony’s Epic Records and trashing it a few months after, because, you know, fuck the record industry. The immediate impression one gets of Death Grips is that these guys do simply not give a single fuck about anything, and that can clearly be heard in their music and seen in their many cheaply produced music videos; make no mistake, this is aggressive hip-hop with the spirit of punk, mixed with harsh electronic elements. They make up the first place for 2012 due to their originality, recklessness and integrity. Their top album for me this year will be the Exmilitary mixtape (released april 2011), which I discovered in January. If I should choose one of their 2012 releases, I would go with The Money Store.

Honorable mention:

A band that I did not discover this year, but still listened to diligently for the first half of 2012 were Neurosis. I discovered this band way back in 2010, but it was not until 2011 that they really caught my attention. For this year, I enjoyed the absolutely massive album Through Silver in Blood the most and I really hope to see them making a Roskilde appearance the coming year!

New things, nice things

Phew, I know I haven’t been posting something in a long time, but I did not realize my last post was back in june! If only I could be arsed to update this lonely blog of mine some more, and perhaps become a successful blogger… well, a blogger atleast.

So, what’s new in Me-Land? Well, I’ve got a new keyboard. Not just any keyboard, the keyboard. Quite literally speaking, because I have acquired myself the Das Keyboard, a mechanical keyboard unlike any other. It is quite pricy, but there is nothing but quality and typing euphoria about this thing. Although I must say that I expected something a little bit different, I am still going to give this keyboard a try. One does not simply get used to a completely different thing after using the same rubber-dome based keyboard for the last 10 years! Oh, and did I mention that this thing has blank keys? Yes, it is badass. I am badass. Thanks.

Music-wise I have been listening to a lot of different tunes and styles, and names that stand out when I think of the last couple of months are definitely names such as Disclosure, TNGHT and Death Grips.
Disclosure are two brothers from the UK who play a blend of electronic music with some dub and garage influences. I found them randomly through youtube, and in two weeks they showed up on the UK top 40 chart with their song Latch, which is by the way awesome, give it a listen:

Next up is TNGHT, a collaboration between Lunice and Hudson Mohawke. These guys make some weird, sample-oriented, instrumental electronic music, which is essentially hip-hop beats, and this style in particular is apparently called ‘trap‘-music. They released their first EP this summer, and it features the song Higher Ground, which is a bass heavy track with a really catchy sample that relentlessly besieges your brain relentlessly, and stays in your head for days. For some this might seem annoying, but for others it will appeal as a killer track. Check it out:

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Death Grips. If you haven’t heard about Death Grips yet, they’re a Californian trio who make aggressive, forward thinking hip-hop, and generally just don’t give much of a fuck about anything. The trio consists of Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride, Flatlander and Zach Hill. The lyrical themes are obscure and deal with all kinds of things, such as drug abuse, paranoia and lust. The trio recently released their third full-length album, No Love Deep Web. Just about everything is controversial about this album, right from the first day of its release: some days before it was released, the label announced that it would have to postpone the release to sometime in 2013. The band clearly disagreed with this as they released the album themselves, most definitely pissing off some people over at Epic. Furthermore, the album cover featured an erect penis with the title of the album written on it. Maybe its just me, but I have never heard of a band who dared defy a label as big as Epic in this manner.
The album itself turned out to be a grower, and I’ve given it about 10 spins if not more, and I really like a lot of songs on it. The overall sound of the album is very heavy, electronic-wise. Death Grips have not used samples in the same manner as they did on their previous albums, and the vocal style of Ride is not as aggressive as before. But don’t be fooled, this is still aggressive, ugly and obscure as hell.
Have a listen:

Tracks worth the penny #1

Bam. I do not often purchase single tracks digitally. Partially because I like complete physical albums, partially because I know that close to none of the spent money go directly into the pockets of artist. That is, of course, if we’re talking about the iTunes store – Apple takes like 33% of the revenue per track. Which is why I prefer to buy the music directly from the artist. However, this is apparently not always possible – some artists distribute their digital material exclusively through iTunes – what a shame! Anyway, this post is not about the iTunes store or the music industry, I’ll save this topic for a later post.

I will on the contrary devote this post to the recent digital purchases I have made. There is a total 3 of them, and these tracks have totally been worth the penny.

 

Track #1 – Professor Green – Remedy (featuring Ruth Anne)

OUCH. What a track! This one hits really hard. Professor Green is a rapper from England, who has just released his second album which features this song. The album is entitled At Your Inconvenience, and I might just listen to the whole thing at a later point.

Speaking in terms of genres, the instrumental of the track is definitely some hard-hitting drum and bass of the finest kind, combined with the wicked rhymes of Green. His rhymes are accompanied by the vocals of Ruth Anne, which fit really well into the song and make the chorus insanely addictive. Together, they deliver a remedy for the ordinary weekday: make no mistake, this is a real weekend tune.

Fun fact: i first heard this song on YouTube, and I kept coming back to it – which eventually made me buy it. However, the bought version sounded not quite like the youtube version – the mixing was completely different! So I’ve been sticking with the YouTube version.

Listen below:

 

Track #2 Sub Focus – Out The Blue (featuring Alice Gold)

This tune was a pleasant reunion with UK-based musician Nick Douwma aka Sub Focus. So far, Sub Focus has only released a self-titled debut album back in 2009, and now recently a few new tracks. Maybe this means that there is a new album in the making, which would be awesome news, because I really like what I am hearing. Sub Focus plays electronic music which can be categorized as mainly drum and bass, yet there is also some dubstep here and there.

The track in question is without doubt a real ear hanger. I’ve had it on repeat ever since I bought it, and I’m enjoying every bit of it. The melody, the rhythm, the beautiful vocals of Gold – everything plays so well together. While the aforementioned song was more of a weekend type a’thing, I actually think I would categorize this more as being a festival tune – I can totally see Sub Focus setting up an awesome atmosphere on the Arena stage at Roskilde Festival.

Listen below:

 

Track #3: Spose – Gee Willikers

While the first two tracks were from the electronic/drum and bass department, this one’s from a rather different part of the music spectre. Spose is a rapper from Maine, USA, and his song Gee Willikers comes off his third studio album, The Audacity!. In the song we get the idea that Spose is a laid back, unpretentious and honest guy; not trying to be the hardest dude, while also making a bit fun of himself. This turns out to be persistent with his style if we look at his other songs (for example the song I’m Awesome, which appears to actually be more or less a parody of himself).

The song is therefore delivered with a sense of humor, which makes the lyrics even more memorable and enjoyable to listen to. The accompanying music video emphasizes this fact, as we see Spose doing some business with the Easter Bunny and Santa.

Listen below: