Toro Y Moi – Samantha Review

Toro Y Moi – Samantha Review

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

 

Before today I’d never listened to a Toro Y Moi project, even off of the recommendation of a friend I put it off. And I’ve finally taken the plunge. Another surprise release (not from Toro, I mean in general) comes in the form of Samantha not knowing what to expect at all.

That was a slight lie it seems, as the sound is kind of what I expected from him. It’s either his name or the fact that artists that are hidden from the limelight often incorporate a sound somewhat original but is unoriginal in that it’s expectedly old school, expectedly strange, expectedly… expected. Not to detract from the music though, the sounds are refreshing in comparison with the same music heard day to day on the radio. It’s reminiscent of Soulection production, it feels Sango infused.

Identity wise, by the time I got to track four I wasn’t sure what Toro’s artistry actually was, whether it was rapping, singing, production or all three [Editor’s Note: After research I’ve come to find he is indeed a producer]. The songs are concise for the most part as there are twenty tracks which saves the album from being exhausting. An early highlight is Pitch Black which has a funky drumline and a plethora of effects which keep it different and infectious throughout.

The consistency of the project is welcome as the sounds are pleasant on the ear without getting overdone. This is helped by the mixing of the album which as you may know I adore when done well. The features perform well and fit their representative tracks perfectly, singing with an auto-tune less Young Thug and more Kanye (no T-Pain I’m afraid). Stoned at the MOMA is a favourite of mine in the way it uses the sample, the percussion and the guitar sweetening the package.

One thing that this project excels at is capturing an ambience all its own. Its production is dark but not so dark that you feel like you’re wallowing in the sins of somebody else, and provides ample enough groove to make you feel good all at once. This is a project worth listening to, especially considering that it’s free, and what do you have to lose with things that are free? There is time you can, I’ll give you that, but you won’t be, trust me.

Listen to the full project and download it Here!

8.0/10

Jack Garratt – Synesthesiac Review

Jack Garratt – Synesthesiac Review

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

I don’t know a lot about Jack Garratt other than he sings very well. I heard his single The Love You’re Given on a Beats 1 show a while back and decided to look for some of his music, because I liked it (obviously) and I found that he had released an EP this year entitled Synesthesiac. Synaesthesia by the way is a “condition” for want of a better word (apparently Pharrell says that he has it) which allows one stimulant to activate an unrelated response. For example, a common one had by many including myself is that listening to music can make one see colours, each represented by a different sound. So I’m going to use this particular thing to review this EP and let you all in on what colours are popping until the music [is] stop[ing]s.

To begin we have Synesthesia Pt.1. we’ve started off with some light blue tones as soft piano and guitar swims blissfully through the ears, then out of nowhere horns of orange blaze like fires in the night through a forest. The amalgamation of sounds varying from vinyl scratches to faint background violin and the digital sounds at play make for a work of art. During the second outro the blue hues come back in along with the greens as they pulse and rise at the preparation of a drop that never comes along.

Instead it bleeds fluidly into the next song, The Love You’re Given and Garratt’s voice is heard above the repeated high pitched sample. At the moment the sounds match the cover art. The bass covers our canvas in thick greens that mix with the light blue. Digital highs bring along pink streaks over the paint. Garratt’s vocals are a falsetto well practiced and confident in its usage as it repeats throughout the second drop. I’m surprised that he fit this amount of sounds into a song that I thought was supposed to be a slow jam kind of song. I appreciate the live drums at the end.

The mixing of this project makes for an arresting listen as each song blends so well into each other. I’m glad more people are appreciating that mixing is just as important as the songs themselves. Chemical starts off with deep purples, as the deep vocals provide a depth to the production, then we get into UK Garage territory and it gets heavy with the oranges, and the purples mix with them to create a colour that I can’t think of a name for right now. Purange. That will do. The song jitters and stutters for a while, my head bobs and the paints jump like when tiny polystyrene balls are put on top of a speaker.

Deep blues for the Lonesome Valley. The bass usage is increased as the song goes on, then stagnates then hits harder than ever before. It’s quite maddening really. Trying to figure out what will happen next that is. A random saxophone may pop up and work so well you don’t want to see it leave. Then other things happen and you forget about everything else. Let’s just bring in all of the colours shall we because I can’t keep track.

I like that most of the times, I only come across good music, and while I want to be fair and review things badly. That’s just not fair when it’s too good not to give its dues. Anyway, Jack Garratt has a new fan. His name is Aiden, and you should be one too. Listen to the EP below!

9.0/10

FKA twigs – M3LL15X Review

FKA twigs – M3LL15X Review

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

Last year, FKA twigs (FKA stands for Formerly Known As) released her first full length LP, LP1 and gained critical success along with more of a following, which was boosted further by her relationship with the guy from Twilight that ironically hates Twilight (EDIT: Robert Pattinson is his name). It was actually T-Pain who sparked my interest in her as he tweeted about one of her EP’s and because he’s a musical genius I thought that he’d have good taste in music, and I was right. Well, he was right.

Now, her latest project entitled M3LL15X comes in the form of her third EP, though I wish that it was called EP3, akin to both EP1/2 but oh well. I’m giving myself 19 minutes to write this which is also the length of the EP. Here goes!

First we begin with Figure 8 which was premiered on Zane Lowe’s segment of Beats 1 Radio. As usual, twigs’ voice is airy and fierce at the same time and she utilises her high pitched voice as a contrast to the dark sounds, spacey sounds. There is so much going on and the way that everything works together is impressive, I imagine this is what being on drugs would be like for 3 minutes and 3 seconds with how strange and unpredictable the song is.

I’m not going to lie, it takes a lot for me to understand FKA twigs sometimes. The production sometimes overpowers her voice, or the effects on her voice, while making it an arresting listen make it more effort than it should be to listen to the lyrics. If she took Cookie Lyon’s advice and put the vocals of top of the track then I think that it would be less of a problem. I’m Your Doll sounds like it’s supposed to be sexy but it’s not. It’s a harsh sounding song which makes sense considering the lyrics “Rough me up/I’m your doll.” Which is mostly what I could catch during my listen. Just in case you were wondering, when listening to projects I prefer to hear the lyrics first hand as opposed to reading them but it can’t work all of the time I suppose.

In Time is fierce. It’s actually quite a traditional love song but from the first bass drop I was thinking, “Yeah, this song yeah. Yeah. Wheel up the tune.” The drums which cascade from left to right are maddeningly infectious. This is actually a song to be played in the rave. Then the beat changes and it goes to a whole other level. You know what, this is my favourite song. I can see myself singing this often. You know those songs that deserve to be long? This is one of those songs.

Ironically, Glass & Patron feels fragile at the beginning, and then the beat kicks in and after the initial drop where all the sounds clash it comes in sounding like a classic noughties UK based party song reminiscent of Babycakes. Twigs’ resident producer Boots is a mad genius. How can one person throw so many flavours into one song? He’s like a UK Timbaland/Kanye hybrid, and the fact that both of these people bounce so well off of each other is strong.

The last song which is Mothercreep reminds us that FKA will be with us soon. Hopefully. I’m ready for this new album now I can’t refute and this just released. When I next go to a party I want to hear this song after the first drop to fade in from Drake’s Hotline Bling. Any DJ’s who read this make it happen. It ended too soon.

All in all I think that I actually like this more than I did the album, which is always a plus because that means that as an artist she’s getting better. With the climate of music at the moment as well, FKA twigs manages to be different enough from the crowd to still be a compelling artist to listen to. My body is ready for what’s next. Listen to the EP Below!

8.7/10

Bilal – In Another Life Review

Bilal – In Another Life Review

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

Produced entirely by Adrian Younge who has produced Twelve Reasons to Die / II with Ghostface Killah, the [amazing] score for the movie Black Dynamite and more, comes Bilal’s fifth album, In Another Life.

At 39 minutes this is Bilal’s shortest project so far. It begins with a reggae like bass line and deep vocals, mirroring the lyrical content on Sirens II [likely the second iteration of the same song]. The songs content seems like a precursor of what to expect of the rest of the album, especially considering the societal climate we are in today, where sirens are picking off black people left right and centre. But Bilal is still Bilal and where there is pain, there is also love.

If you have heard Younge’s previous work then you’d know what to expect. For the uninitiated, what is on offer is a very rugged sound. Live instrumentation, reminiscent of the Blaxploitation 70’s/80’s film period. The sounds however don’t overpower Bilal’s voice but if anything it compliments it more than his previous sounds. He’s always been a raw acoustic artist in terms of musical artistry, and like D’Angelo with Black Messiah, Adrian Younge’s production turns it up some more notches.

Open Up The Door takes the album into upbeat territory, as the songs moves at a fast pace that makes you want to step. I Really Don’t Care sounds as if you were listening to it in a café, sipping on a cold brew in summertime with a pastry in front of you, letting the breeze flow through your locks, or your scalp whichever is your flavour. Just relaxed. Relaxed, in love and on point.

Pleasure Toy is perhaps my favourite song, and as Big K.R.I.T. spits, “It’s hard to be subtle when you want what you want”. The song isn’t crass, but is another groove that is both an ode to the body and the power of music. The production is airy, light and the backing instruments I believe, do more for the songs atmosphere than what’s upfront, the piano in particular, while the synths add more to the groove.

Bilal is known for using his voice is an integral part of the track as opposed to just laying down verses, and the harmonies lay thick on the entire album, and his voice compliments the sound of each track you’d think there were different performers for each song. He goes from smooth soul man on Satellites to screaming on the chorus of Lunatic, intertwined with wispy voiced verses.

After working with Kendrick on both To Pimp A Butterfly and the excellent Colbert Report performance of Untitled, it made sense for them to work together again for the song Money Over Love. This song is full of energy, and Kendrick spits rapid fire lyrics complete with a backing choir to back up his words. “The best things in life ain’t free.”

I’d never heard of Kimbra prior to her feature on Holding It Back but her performance was a strong one, complementing the feel of the song perfectly, as well as Bilal’s voice, it provided a softer, almost vulnerable contrast. Spiralling’s lyrics really feel like he is losing control of himself, but the way he sings it is filled with a contentedness in his weaknesses. Strong.

As Bilal continues to explore with his sound and grow as an artist, he always makes for an interesting listening experience. With this project he stripped down the elements of music (with the help of Younge) and made them his own. It’s timeless music, and deserves at least on listen if only to appreciate the sounds at hand. Listen to the album below!

8.4/10

Where Has Conscious Hip-Hop Gone?

Where Has Conscious Hip-Hop Gone?

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

Recently, R&B legend, D’Angelo had an interview with The New York Times (read the interview here) in which he talked about how music is a force with which artists should [or could] use their voice to speak on the issues within society. More specifically he was referring to the Hip-Hop artists of today, who largely focus on the finer things in life for example, the fine women, the bags of money, their own greatness etc.

His comments came about as he was asked about how he feels pertaining to the killings of black people in the U.S., what power music holds etc. and naturally, he had a lot to say. He felt as if rap artists of today weren’t doing enough to talk about the issues surrounding their own people. In particular he cited Kendrick Lamar as somebody who was doing something productive and uses his music to speak to and empower people with To Pimp a Butterfly.

“Coming up, the music of my era was very conscious. I grew up on Public Enemy, and it was popular culture to be aware.” – D’Angelo

While I agree somewhat with his statements, Hip-Hop as a culture has changed from its inception and with that, the music has changed with it. The music in life itself has changed as inevitable it is, music is a product of the times and so, the artists revolve around that, especially nowadays. I’ve found that artists in the R&B and Hip-Hop genres particularly take on the qualities of Earth, feeding off of the Sun, which in this case is the public’s interests, and uses them to nurture their music so that it can be easily digested, thus making a successful profit.

Not saying that this is a bad thing by any means, it just it what it is in this day and age. More artists nowadays are in it just for the money as it were, and don’t really have substance to their music. Take for example, Jason Derulo – his music is made to appeal to the masses and make money. It’s even in his name, Derulo. Now again, I’m not condemning him, not that I listen to him either, it’s just the way music is these days. It’s a business and a business sole purpose is to make money, and in terms of the rap artists of this generation, the Young Thugs (who was named in the interview), the YGs and the Drakes are a product of the times, and they can’t be at fault for that.

Just like D’Angelo is a product of his time, where he grew up on Public Enemy, protests were rife and having knowledge of Malcolm X’s exploits were the cool things of that time, booty, drugs and partying is the cool things of this time. It is only relatively recently that the issues of blackness of become a highlight of society, not saying that race issues haven’t been on-going, in fact it was worse because it was not being publicised and was behind closed doors.

Then unfortunately, the Trayvon Martin murder was the event to open of the doors, then Ferguson and the Michael Brown murder held them open, shedding not only light, but mainstream light on black oppression, unearthing the dirtiness and reality of it. When black people were released from slavery it was a falsehood. Though we could cater for ourselves without immediate consequence and build ourselves up, we’ve always been under scrutiny. Through this we’ve been controlled and a lot of us haven’t realised this until now.

It would be a wonder if mainstream music could further enlighten those who listen to it, after all not all of life is make-up, break-up and parties, and the  further this is realised then I believe that more artists will step up to the plate. Not by because they want to cater to their audience but to enlighten and empower it.

Now, because of the infancy of the new wave of future Malcolms, Rosas and Martins it will take time for those with a louder voice than others to speak out and have a positive impact on the youth of today. If you’re waiting on a musical revolution, just wait on it because while it might not be televised, it can definitely be heard. Listen to some of D’Angelo’s conscious music below (read the lyrics).

@Thundercat – The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam Review

@Thundercat – The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam Review

By Aiden Harmitt-Williams

Having been recently featured on Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead! And Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly it is the perfect time for Thundercat to release his own project since 2013’s Apocalypse. The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam is his third release on the Brainfeeder label, shared with the likes of Kamasi Washington who also released his debut album The Epic earlier this year.

Before listening to this I didn’t know that Thundercat actually sang, which left me in a state of ignorance, but he has a very good voice. It’s high tone and works for the atmosphere of each song. The first track Hard Times is a sparse one, filled (or left with) airy guitar strings throughout. As the mini album plays on, it flows effortlessly. Midway through Song for the Dead is a musical tempest which had me in a trance, it was a literal musical storm which broke into the second half of the songs guitar instrumental back up by more natural wind like sounds.

Though the sound of the project is consistent each song stands out on their own, with Them Changes introducing itself with a funky bass line and a rolling guitar chord. This differentiation between sounds makes for an interesting listen, but you have to listen. I found myself having to listen multiple times just to grasp the themes and different sounds of the project. The fact that it’s so short (clocking in at just 17 minutes), and so mellow means that it can just pass you by with each listen.

Them Changes I approaches the theme of love with lyricism that is closer to poetry than traditional R&B. Metaphors abound effortlessly and they aren’t the cheap variety either. The very first line is something that I could hear Jack Sparrow saying, and whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you can’t refute its strength, “Nobody move/There’s blood on the floor/And I can’t find my heart/Where did it go/Did I leave it in the cold”

Now, Lone Wolf and Cub tackles the theme of loneliness and perhaps the most funky and drawn out method possible. Even though it’s drawn out and lacks a lot of substance lyrically, the musicianship here backs up those things that are lacking.

[Editors Note: Lone Wolf and Cub is a manga created by the writer Kazuo Koike, and artist Goseki Kojima which is about Ogami Ittō who was disgraced and forced to become an assassin. He then decides to take revenge on the clan who planned his disgrace, and brings along his three year old son, and together become… Omnimon! (Lone Wolf and Cub). So maybe Thundercat plans to take revenge on somebody, I guess we’ll never know unless it hits the news.]

The last two songs, That Moment and Where the Giants Roam / Field of the Nephilim are a smooth exit to the 6-set of songs. The former, has a fitting title due to its length, and is as sparse if not more so than the introduction, and the latter which is another short song, has shimmering production, although the lyrics are almost nonsensical but I don’t mind because they sound beautiful. “Where the dragons from?/Not in your mind/Somewhere between space and end/Watching, waiting for their time.” Maybe Thundercat is also part of the LoveDragon producer group and is awaiting his time to shine? We’ll find out in the next episode hopefully. This small project is most likely a teaser of what is to come, and while it is a snippet it’s a good insight. A foray into the strange and wonderful mind of Thundercat, and I’d like another trip. Listen to the project below!

7.5/10