I would marry Dessa. She's everything I love in a woman; intellectual, driven, and appreciative of hip hop. This album is comprised entirely of reworks of her older material, inspired by her touring with a live band. Some tracks are very similar to their original incarnation, while others are completely new. Her vocals are somewhere at the crossroads between singing and rapping, yet also soulful and classical.
Dessa's writing style is entirely creative nonfiction, which brings an emotional content very unlike any other. The introductory track, 551, is a prime example, recounting the tale of a failed relationship due to adultery. The attention to detail in her writing style is evident from the very first song; lines such as 'Martinis taste like tears' and 'You can case and display and decay will waste it away' prove to be strong snippets of the style of writing one can expect from Dessa. The instrumentalists on this track bring a very affectionate attention to detail that has become almost extinct in hip hop music. Upright bass, guitar, suspended cymbal and orchestral ambiance complement the disposition of the story.
The Chaconne is a song that reflects the life of a violinist whose dedication is destructive towards his relationship ('Your love sleeps in a velvet case, so what'd you bring me for?'). The narrator is something of a student and mistress to the famous violinist, and she has trouble dealing with his status. As the story goes on, the chorus changes to reflect the current position in the story, from the birth of their child to the death of the violinist. This is definitely one of the most stirring tracks on the record, and it really showcases the power of simple instrumentation. A violin sneaks in at different points in the song, evolving each time, which really brings to life the imagery in the poem.
My favorite song on the album, The Crow, is driven by an ostinato guitar which arpeggiates a B minor chord, then drops the root to create a D chord in second inversion, followed by a G Major 7th. This is a really driving pattern, accented by the whole steps in the upright bass and accelerated by the upbeat hi hats. A peculiar choice was the snare on the downbeat of every fourth measure. There is a breakdown towards the middle of the song with a really active bass line that acts as a perfect counter harmony to the guitar.
Mineshaft 2 is an excellent example of Dessa's hip hop influence. There is a beautifully subtle plucking of the strings in this piece. This is the 'volcano' song on the album; calm at first, with a crescendo through the entire track, including a dramatic climax towards the end. Of course there is no lack of singing on this song either; the outro features layered vocals that create beautifully thrilling chords.
The album ends with The Beekeeper, an advance single from Dessa's forthcoming album. Strings sweep in and out through the entire song, and the melodramatic piano compliments the singing perfectly. The character of the beekeeper is a woman who brings a pitcher of smoke to bring rest to mankind after so many years of depair. The way the songwriting and instrumentation fit so well together is unprecedented.
Verdict: Get It
This is hip hop stretched to the limit of its definition. The beautiful singing and detailed storytelling are unlike anything else out there, and the inventive observation of humanity is definitely an experience worth having. The instrumentation alone is virtuosic, and although the album as a whole may be quite emotionally draining, it is also quite addictive.
Sorry about the hiatus everyone, I've been busy. I took some time to focus on releasing my first single! The entire project included a six track single (available physically and on iTunes), nine pieces of artwork (which are available as t-shirts), and a music video (which is still on the way).
I've also bumped up the production on my visual art, including jewelry and custom order paintings and have been experimenting with Chinese water brush. I encourage anyone interested to check my photo album
on my Facebook page
, or to visit this page
of my website
But anyway, I just wanted to ensure everyone that the sporadic yet frequent updates will return, so I'll see you in less that a week!
I somehow managed to get my hands on this album a day early. I got mad connects! Anyway, this is Aoki's debut album, but his track record includes names such as will.i.am, Lil Jon, and Tiësto, so he's definitely an artist worth watching out for.
The first track on the album is a collaborative effort with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, and employs a pop synth over the electro buzz of the bassline. Earthquakey People is a nice idea, and is a fun little party diddy, but towards the end it starts to feel like a large amount of repetition and causes the listener to frequently check on the amount of time left in the track. Worth noting is the fact that the album version of the song is sadly more fun to listen to than the version dubbed The Sequel.
Fans of Neoclubber will appreciate the vibe of the second track, a half techno, half pop jingle beautifully sung by Wynter Gordon. The build provides a bit of dynamic contrast and a little bit more of the house vibe, only to be again thwarted by the half time, somewhat dubstep sections of the piece, which provide a nice contrast to the somewhat timid melody and fuse a little bit of funk synthesizer with vocoded bass stabs.
What producer can claim they've made it without a song with Lil Jon? The crunk all star accompanies rapper Chiddy Bang, providing his signature shouts on the hook and throughout the verses. The percussion in this piece is excellent, building throughout the entire movement and perfectly matching the wailing jingles and sine drops. However the bridge feels almost out of place, and only serves to split up the quite repetitive hook.
Livin My Love was possibly the turning point for me in this album. After a lot of good production with skilled companions, Aoki seemed to have almost forgotten those big electro house sounds that make up the rest of the album. The vocals on this song, provided by LMFAO and NERVO, are obviously the focal point, but its a little difficult to listen to lyrics such as 'I'm like a helicopter; yeah, you up in the building but I'm up on top.' Throughout the track it becomes more and more difficult to find anything worth focusing on, leading to many 'what did he just say?' moments.
The Angger Dimas collaboration The 80s is a hodgepodge of chiptune inspired ideas, sometimes offset by the iconic fuzzy bass that we've all come to expect of house music. Upbeat splash cymbals and quarter note claps layered over bass make for an average house track, but this one spans the length of six minutes repeating just two notable patterns. Just as a bit of redux is applied to the track and the listener thinks the song is finally about to reach a new movement, it ends, leaving a bit of resentment towards the piece.
The outro is a percussion heavy screamo rave that makes the listener more intrigued than entertained. Orchestra stabs and techno drums alongside wailing synth lines and sore throated vocals give the eerie imagery of an apocalyptic punk club straight out of Tobe Hooper's contribution to Masters of Horror.
Yes, that is Freddy Krueger.
Verdict: Hear It
Although this album has a few issues with repetition, one must not forget this is functional music, and when dancing in a club songs seem to go by much faster than they do when laying in bed with headphones on. I think this is a solid effort for a debut album, and I hope to see Aoki strengthen his craft in the future.
At Vans Warped Tour last year I had the pleasure of seeing Bad Rabbits live, and this was possibly one of the most unique and captivating events I've ever attended. Stick Up Kids led the group to earning the title of Most Downloaded Band, and after five national tours they finally plan to release a proper LP.
The first track on this twenty minute EP, Booties, is possibly the most memorable, a half rapped and half sung electro funk piece, which establishes the tone of the group. From this track you get a sense of what Bad Rabbits is all about; funky synths and falsetto vocals accompanied by driving percussion and upbeat guitar. This song is definitely a party anthem fit for an energetic crowd.
Neverland is a fun track about... well, not growing up. Again, Dua's vocals bounce back and forth between singing and rapping, with the occasional scream or wail, while Davé lays down a concise swung rock beat. Masser's bassline is quite active and even melodic at times, and the countermelody of the synthesizer of RP Thompson is at times the most entertaining part of the piece.
The title track begins as a melodramatic angsty song, but that's as close as the band gets to their influence, Deftones (see below). This piece includes a lot of syncopated vocals and potential crowd involvement. The synth line employs a lot of neighbor tones as does the bass to a similar effect. This song has a sort of energy to it that seems to never stop growing, and ends quite suddenly at its apex.
The outro song, Can't Back Down, begins with a wail rivaled only by Prince himself. This track includes possibly the most percussion on the album, and the abrupt pause in the middle of the track is executed better than I've ever heard. Towards the last minute of the piece, the guitars make a few big statements that give the synthesizer a run for its money as the most prominent voice. The vocals fit it snugly without being overbearing, which gives the rest of the group an equal opportunity to be heard.
Verdict: Get It
With nary a price tag, the Bad Rabbits discography is a fun world to get involved in, and the group has found a balance between its funk and hip hop sounds. The band has created a respectable equality among voices leaving the listener begging for more.
This one's a bit crazy! Sachal Studios is the first custom recording studio in Pakistan, and they've been recording new music and Pakistani standards for about a decade. In May they released Sachal Jazz, a tribute to jazz played on traditional Middle Eastern instruments.
The record begins with the Brubeck tune Take Five, where Paul Desmond's sax parts are covered by the sitar player, Nafees Ahmad Khan. The following sax parts have been arranged into a melody by the viols in the orchestra, and the tabla player covers the entirety of the percussion section in a way that it doesn't feel as if anything is missing. The group plays the track live in a YouTube video, and you can see the Ustad's hands moving so rapidly he could scare Muhammad Ali.
Next the group tackles the bossa nova hit Desafinado, which was made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and has been recorded by everyone to Brian Griffin from Family Guy. The track spans about seven minutes, with every instrument playing a lovely take on the theme.
Another bossa nova piece, The Girl from Ipanema, is covered just as beautifully with its dancing violins and driving percussion. Mehtab Ali's accordion fits in perfectly with the slightly swung tinkling sounds of Chris Wells, but Tanveer Hussain's guitar and sarod solos are definitely the highlight of the piece.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention perhaps the most memorable piece on the album, Samba de Varão. This Marco Valle piece features the lone brass on the album, Derek Watkin's trumpet and flugel. The arpeggiated chords of the plucked strings move the piece forward and stay in your head for hours on end after listening to the record.
The record ends with a rāga version of The Girl from Ipanema, a completely different and even more Eastern version of the tune. This track is almost completely unrecognizable without the first version, and the altered scale provides a completely new and fun listening experience.
Verdict: Get It
This is a great starting place for anyone interested in learning more about world music, and an enjoyable reinterpretation of jazz standards for those who know about the genre already. This is particularly unique music, and I definitely think these guys deserve support.
This album can be streamed free via the artist's website.
I promised myself I wouldn't review a hip hop release for my first post, so I waited just long enough to remember that I hadn't yet listened to this free mixtape by the Glitch Mob. More Voltage was released in October, but hey, it's new to me!
This hour long mix begins with one of the group's more notable accomplishments, a remix of the Daft Punk track Derezzed from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Right from the beginning you can get a sense of the signature sound of the group; layered snare, heavy bass, reversed crashes, and nary an acoustic instrument in sight.
In fact, the only acoustic instrument that can be explicitly detected is the violin which plays the arpeggiated patterns in the aptly titled Warrior Concerto, from the Glitch Mob's own We Can Make the World Stop EP. In this piece, the violin plays a series of sixteenth note patterns throughout the first half, then takes a glitched out effect itself, blending seamlessly into the next tune.
Among the album are a slew of group tracks, individual pieces, and remixes galore, including one of Linkin Park, which begins like a ridiculous Dutch rave (see below) and quickly transforms into a vocoder driven cybernetic party anthem from 3011.
TV on the Radio fans will be pleasantly surprised by the direction of Red Dress, which is accompanied by beeps and crackles of all different types. The glitchy singing begins about halfway through the track, and a Moog line accompanies the gated pads, making this track much funkier than the rest of the mix.
The next five tracks cram in remixes of Project Blowed supergroup Haiku D'etat, West Coast heavyweight producer Nosaj Thing, and the band responsible for the most notorious high school football anthem, the White Stripes. The Glitch Mob version of Seven Nation Army builds for a solid minute before dropping into a half time section, then retrogresses into the previous section, only to be outdone by the second drop, which is led by a screaming, portamento abusing synthesizer that screams emotion more than any programmable instrument should be capable of.
The Glitch Mob isn't only capable of party tracks either. The last song on the album is Ooah's While You're Away I Wait, To Crumble In Your Arms, and the title says more than any lyrics or analysis could say about the emotional output of this track.
Verdict: Get It!
Overall, the latest Glitch Mob mixtape gives a huge variety of music, and doesn't disappoint current fans or new listeners. Although the group is creating a different atmosphere of sound than the usual, they continue to bring the effort that earned them the huge following they've gained over the years. I'd tell you to buy it, but it's free, so buy something else of theirs and then download this.
Aaron made the mistake of letting me have a regular spot on his blog. Things are about to get real gritty in here!
In all seriousness, the reason I'm here is to provide regular feedback on new music. As a musician I listen to new music every day as a source of inspiration, and I'll be letting you all know how I feel about different artists and releases. I sincerely hope to inform and educate you all, and to guide you in a journey through music.