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  • Danny Brown "Twitch" (2018) | Fri, 21 Sep 2018 20:22:00 +0000

    The origin story of this bootleg mixtape is rather interesting! Turns out the Detroit rapper has taken up gameplay streaming on the popular! That's where the name of the record comes from because Danny decided to stream nine songs he has been working on during a recent livestream. These nine songs could be for a new record, perhaps unfinished. There may be more information out there but all I can do is speculate, however all is looking good from here.

    Although there is room for variety these songs mostly carry a hard, urban, gritty vibe. Reinforced by a low-fidelity feel they take on a rugged street persona. That however may have more to do with the streaming quality than the recordings themselves. Loose percussive loops and sparse sequences collide with a keen ear for sampling that builds atmospheres through the aesthetics of its sources. The melodies frequently feel second fiddle to the tone conjured and so these beats become rather indulgent.

    The lyrical presence has quite the boisterous, aggressive stance. Danny's navel voice and flow raises the energy but around him an arsenal of features from rappers work dark and mean angles. On Cut It Up one of his friends puts in a crazy maniacal stuttering flow to much effect. The opening Funeral Lines features has some similar enunciation with the cries of "brusa brusa brusa". Among his comrades Danny stands out the best of lines and rhymes however they all put in a shift with an abundance of style and little to fault.

    For nine "leaked" songs it holds up really well as a short record, clocking in just under thirty minutes. Its gritty, gloomy and maniacal in bursts of harsh attacking rhymes. Danny and his friends go crazy on the mic, the beats step into some dark territory, the closing track especially so as a dirty grisly baseline buzzes while errie haunting vocals call like a distant ghost. There's a lot to get excited about, the production is distinct and the lyrics ripe.

    Favorite Tracks: Space Trip, 8 Ball Flow
    Rating: 7/10

  • Apex Twin "Collapse" (2018) | Wed, 19 Sep 2018 17:18:00 +0000

    I'm not here to comment on the history or legacy of English musician James D Richard aka Apex Twin. There is one, however his music has always been just out of my reach. Ive never been sucked in but throughout my time I have heard nothing but praise for him. Catching wind of this new release I fancied a try given its an EP. This trend of thirty minute records is quite appeasing to me. Its the sweet duration where music never seems to outstay its welcome. That is true in the case of this album, each listen feels like another leaf upturned with much to discover in this meld of relaxing, pleasant ambient countered by dizzying jumbles of electronic percussion.

    Its not all magic though. Much of these six tracks felt like an effort, enduring the drum sequencing in hopes of finding its charm. James assaults the rhythm with fast choppy waves of sampled sounds that stack, collide and trip over one another as they fall neatly into position. Its crisp and clear, clean and punchy yet the off-kilter timing and swift, rapid rolls leave me a little disoriented as flurries of glitched out sounds constantly bombard the listener. Feeling the groove and rhythm is difficult. There are glimpses of aesthetic delight and occasional strides of movement but a lot of it just isn't on a wavelength I'm able to connect with.

    Behind it an arsenal of strange and wonderful inhuman sounds forges calm and yet unusual atmospheres fit for indulgence but constantly hurried along by the abrasive presence of tireless sampled percussion. The Occasional emergence of childish melodies ground the emotions from the continual roll synthetic and odd sounds. In other moments thees same oddities form cohesion to resemble something more traditional but at all times the music resists being anything but.

    Tracks MT1 and Abundance gives the musical side far more credence to form a memory of the music as much of the drum sequencing feels like a continuous attempt to dismantle itself and all sound encompassing but on these tracks they give a little more room to breathe. Ultimately its a strange experience with two elements mostly opposed to one another in my mind. It does find bursts of charm and passing intrigue. My curiosity will have me continuing to expose myself to Collapse in the hopes that something unheard may click for me in the future.

    Favorite Tracks: MT1 T29R2, Abundance10edit
    Rating: 6/10

  • Between The Buried And Me "Automata II" (2018) | Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:50:00 +0000

    Automata II is the second installment of the Automata double mini-album format the band have split their music into this year. This second half clearly strides into consistency with a stronger sense of theme that their progressive nature can usually make a meal of given the array of influences these musicians share. Across its four tracks the theatrics of showmanship play out in moments of carnival festivity as horns and trumpets emphasis jovial moods emanating between the cracks of rattling drums kits and metallic groove shredding guitars. The chemistry is tuned to its apex on Voice Of Trespass as striking memories of Diabolical Swing Orchestra are conjured.

    On the other three songs this particular vibe is less prominent as the slew of intensity shifts, direction changes interchanging of instruments leads it along many paths. Its thirteen minute opener The Proverbial Blow takes the cake as both records best song. Its opening riffs evolve with intricacies in replay as subtle organs and synths wade in on the melodies. Its energetic thrust eliminates the building hype as calm wades in on the storm, holding us in suspense. Singer Rogers brings a vocal performance to elevate the fine direction the song takes, the steadily rising intensity finds its moment for shouts and screams or tight distortion guitar grooves.

    A distance lead guitar wails across a suspended atmosphere as the music builds its tension to release. Its fine musicianship but only on this track does it really resonate. The other songs tend to fall into the mishaps of Prog music that doesn't quite engage this listener with the direction itself. As shifts permeate and new instances arise the juggling of serine melodic harmonies and dirty aggressive hammering play somewhat jagged. That's more of a comment on the first Automata though, this is clearly the better release, the best of both could of made a swell record but instead we have two reasonable releases that are sure to keep fans happy.

    Favorite Track: The Proverbial Bellow
    Rating: 6/10

  • C418 "Excursions" (2018) | Mon, 17 Sep 2018 20:35:00 +0000

    German composer Daniel Rosenfeld aka C418 has birthed iconic music and sounds stained into the minds of millions of Minecraft fans worldwide. His unique sound and approach seems an uncanny match for the games engrossing atmosphere, almost to good to be true. Over the years he has released the games soundtracks alongside his own records that mainly dive into the House and Downtempo orientations of Ambient Electronic music, while showing that his flair extends into all degrees of composition hes attempted. With each passing record the wonders are revisited with a degree of expectancy and predictability but always within the allure that his style conjures, resonating and radiating its hypnotic, colorful warmth.

    Its not been since my first exposure to his sound that the soothing radiation of warm indulging sounds has been so strong. Even within the realms of familiarity and anticipation, his capability finds an exuberant stride. One hundred minutes of beautifully ambiguous moods and engrossing atmospheres that win me over with a luminosity and vibrancy to these sounds we know all to well. The textures of synth, tones of melody, buzzing baselines, composition traits, the shrink and expansion is all akin to what we love about this artist and its executed wonderfully. One new experiment emerges, the sounds of birds chirping in Cold Summer gives it a wonderfully exotic and mysterious vibe if only for a song or two.

    Its hard to dive into details when everything feels so snug and sweet. This is the C418 we know, the songs don't take long to feel like you have known them forever and yet the magic flows forth through a range of songs so typical of him. We have light ambiences led by pianos, quirky ambiguous melodies and banging percussive lines that seem to creep in like the morning sun through blinds. The transitions are sublime, one instance there is barely a beat and moments later the synths have arose, the snap and clap of snare and kick is in full swing. Excursions has flow, zen and sustains its spell for a remarkable length, suspending us in its dimension. Possibly his best.

    Favorite Tracks: Cold Summer, Benton, Thunderbird, The President Is Dead
    Rating: 9/10

  • Greta Van Fleet "From The Fires" (2017) | Sat, 15 Sep 2018 10:15:00 +0000

    Following up on Black Smoke Rising we have an unusual release from the greatly hyped Greta Van Fleet. Its marketed as a double EP, eight songs that could of been an album however four of the songs are from the aforementioned release. So its like another four songs released alongside the last. Because of that Ive just focused on the new independent tracks, of which two are covers. That was unknown to me before writing this up, perhaps it serves as a testament as to how well they embody the era that inspires them since I was none the wiser, these songs fit sweetly into the run time.

    These songs took a little longer to get into and I believe that's because these are the less dynamic cuts. They don't aim to dazzle up front with hard hitting licks but sneak up on you as their atmospheres build in intensity. Both the originals here culminate in guitar solos after the songs tempo feels hastened in the rising tide of instruments steadily raising the energy. The cover songs also ask something more from front man Josh Kiszka who certainly rises to the occasion without a sweat.

    Admittedly I felt these song illuminated their potential to reach more crevasses of this era but in reality its a patchy release to comment on with just two originals. With an album arriving in just a month we will find out what this band is made for. Until then I will continue to enjoy these EPs very much so. Its been a while since Ive been so excited for a band outside my musical comfort zone and this is it!

    Favorite Track: Edge Of Darkness
    Rating: 5/10

  • Algiers "Algiers" (2015) | Fri, 14 Sep 2018 15:46:00 +0000

    Algiers self titled debut record is a similar beast of burden to its surpassing successor The Underside Of Power. Release two years prior, this record plays with the rawer edge and grit you might expect closer to a formation. Its influences, attributes and roots stand more so exposed and open as the union of sounds frequents dark corridors of shadowy, dread soaked atmospheres. Its bleak resentment drags us down to hell as moments of relief and uplift are far and few between here.

    The rattle and snap of Blood's percussion echos the chain gang clank its vocals personify. Subtle gospel, soulful choirs hang heads in the shame of abuse and suffering. Its a song that captures the downtrodden mood and tone of the record. Overpowering, dense guitars wail in a wall of sharp distortion and feedback, playing into the conjuring of a hellish, fearful atmosphere. Singer Fisher cries 400 years a slave, 400 years of torture, driving in the nails that seethe.

    The track highlights the records darker tone. It and many of the songs lyrics leap from the page, others addressing police brutality and many horrors linked to the era of slavery it draws its inspiration from. Its electronics are also chained to this path, chirpy, punchy sounds of sequenced snappy beats and stabs reminiscent of 80s Hip Hop find themselves sucked into this abandon. Almost all the sounds from this eclectic tapestry of influences find themselves sinking into terror.

    Its a brood, punishing listen fit for overcast skies and the cold of rainy days. At its inception Algiers dive deep into the disgust and dismay of slavery, from a very personal and unforgiving angle that Fisher time and time again ties together with his words. I'm not sure how hearing the records in this record effected my enjoyment but the darker direction and rawer tone smothered some of the magic I expected to hear like on its predecessor. Very impressive record but something restrains my enjoyment.

    Favorite Tracks: Blood, Iron. Unity. Pretext.
    Rating: 7/10

  • Greta Van Fleet "Black Smoke Rising" (2017) | Thu, 13 Sep 2018 17:53:00 +0000

    Do Greta Van Fleet live up to the hype? Does it even matter? Music should be about what you get out of it! If you can connect with the artists vision there is often something wonderful to be enjoyed. That is certainly the case for me and I even got to see them live earlier in the year at Download Festival. I really wish I had got to spin these songs sooner as I would of really dug that show. Familiarity and repetition are important for getting to know music but the reality is I was already singing along by the third listen. The four songs that make up this record are fantastic.

    Hailing from Michigan USA, Greta have fallen under the spotlight for their enigmatic revival of 60s Rock, frequently being compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin. It is singer Josh Kiszka, one of the three brothers, who's electric singing makes them stand out. His howling voice hails back to that era vividly and compared to anything popular, or within my scope that's happening right now, he stands alone. It is a little unfair to focus on him alone though, the rest of the group embodies this era too.

    Across these four songs you may be thinking this is a nostalgia trip but whats really making this music tick is the songwriting. The hooks are driving and powerful, the keys and organs gleam with that spark Lynyrd Skynyrd had. The music develops its themes and channels them into fantastic eruptions of energy when Josh kicks his voice into fifth gear and the guitars rise up with the hard grooving licks. Between its brilliant choruses the verses set the tone for whats to come, keeping you anticipating the shifts and waves of mood and charged emotion that come with it.

    Another thought crosses my mind. This is not a style and era of music I'm that well versed in and so they could be plugging a void. The production is modern, bright and crisp, so much so to make the music far more inviting compared to the soft and muted recordings of times gone by. As I said up above, music is what you can get out of it. If you've exhausted everything from a style you like then its hard to get excited about new music in the same vein. I can see why fans of Classic Rock are skeptical but there is a huge opertunity here for a new generation to discover some truly fantastic music.

    Favorite Tracks: Safari Song, Flower Power, Black Smoke Rising
    Rating: 7/10

  • Parliament "Medicaid Fraud Dogg" (2018) | Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:57:00 +0000

    My interest in Parliament and Funk music is superseded by its influence on the Hip Hop music of the 90s. In this case of George Clinton and his P-Funk musician collective, its the re-imagining of his songs from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube that are among some of my all time favorite Rap tunes. Their last record was thirty eight years ago, so it was quite a surprise to hear of a new album in the works, I thought they were done and dusted, the last Parliament tour was in the 80s bar occasional one offs as the Parliment-Funkadelic collective. So after a long hiatus Clinton returns with his son Tracey Lewis to go another lengthy round.

    Medicaid Fraud Dogg plays very much like an open, grooving jam, a free for all. It explores avenues with varying degrees of styles, aesthetics and instruments that mostly stick to a Funk template but often slip into rather mellow and jazzy lulls of relaxed expectations. Clocking in over a sizeable one hundred minutes it clearly sets no bars for curation and may test some listeners patience. It drifts from track to track with no obvious theme or direction bar the references to medication culture. Many of the songs have a leisurely temperament about them and a few tracks take a drastic shift as one young rapper gets the limelight to showcase their modern rap style with a tightly produced modern, Trap influenced Hip Hop beat. The track Mama Told Me aims to meld the two sounds together in a rather tragic mess.

    It doesn't suit how I enjoy records, yet there is some good music is to be found. Its glossy sound revises lots of classic Funk sounds and ideas. With an arsenal of trumpets, the bass guitar, saxophone, piano and other instruments, Clinton's musicians meld the punchy synthetic sounds with little in the way of new tricks or surprises but certainly with a big dose of style and fun. The production however is insufferable in its inconsistency. The difference in volume between tracks and instruments can be misleading. The loud voice over the quiet music of Kool Aid sounds like an interlude compared to the loud and prominent Dada that follows.

    The album hits a few good notes with its "social media ain't shit" hook on the Antisocial Media track. Its a reminder of how little this record lands its hooks. Not even its jiving I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me song with its big raunchy baselines and funky synths, fit for a west-coast remaster, can deliver something memorable on the lyrical front. The album rolls out on a lull and given my lack of affinity with Funk music the length may just wear me down. There wasn't a lot to take away on this one.

    Favorite Tracks: Backwoods, I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me, Antisocial Media
    Rating: 5/10

  • Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods" (2018) | Sun, 09 Sep 2018 18:34:00 +0000

    The return of iconic Norwegian Black Metal outfit Immortal is now upon us. They truly are the gods of northern chaos and this mighty ninth chapter in their story has been a shock on two levels. Firstly the surprise of its release, living up to the name, sound and reputation of the band. Secondly the fact that it exists. Last I heard of Immortal Abbath had left them over legal issues and produced a solo record totally akin to the Immortal vision. It seems that Demonaz has stepped up to fill his boots. Once the guitarist he was forced to take a back seat roll as lyricist after the punishing speed of their music took a toll on his tendons. He is now back on the guitar and in control of the rights to the bands name, this is his testament to their sound.

    Demonaz has no issue replacing the legendary Abbath and that's no dismissive statement. He has big boots to fill and somehow the music retains the same breed of beastly cold, icy onslaughts of shapely guitars and demonic snarling in the form of shrill screams and throaty roars. The themes of Ravendark and Blashyrkh return again and the song constructs and progressions feel perfect. Where Mountains Rise deploys its acoustic, reverb soaked guitars, the same tone is achieved as they have done before. Everything is just as you would expect, right when you might anticipate it to be somewhat different given the personal change.

    With modern production and a nine year gap between records the groups aesthetic is the best its ever been. The harsh, dense, ravishingly cold and cruel guitar tone puts forth a biting meaty fuzz of blitzing power chords and savage tremolo picking. It plays in parallel with longtime drummer Horgh dizzying assaults on his kit as blast beats and crushing grooves reinforce the dynamic onslaught. Through it all the demonic cries seek us out through the icy cold blizzards and their breed of Extreme Metal is a alive as its ever been, this record does all that Immortal is known for.

    With so little done wrong, one can only imagine what some experimentation might have done to their sound. All the riffs and drum patterns fit snugly into what the band have previously established and so its ultimately the execution that is impressive. The chops and churns of pace, styles of riffing and momentum shifts all have echos of past records. If your a fan who wants more of the same, this new chapter gives you exactly what you want. If you were hoping for an new avenue for the band to walk down, this is still a pretty sublime record and I can't recommend it enough to fans of Black Metal. What a treat its been!

    Favorite Tracks: Northern Chaos Gods, Called To Ice, Mighty Raven Dark
    Rating: 8/10

  • The Lion's Daughter "Future Cult" (2018) | Sat, 08 Sep 2018 17:03:00 +0000

    With every listen Future Cult has crept deeper into the conscious, its harsh iterations of Extreme Metal and obvious synthetic experiments have yielded charm in their familiarity. What was initially a wretched experiment of clashing styles found its territory as the repetitions revealed the chemistry that's not so always apparent. The Missouri based Black Metal outfit jump the bandwagon and fuse elements of Synthwave and this surge of interest in Carpenter horror soundtrack aesthetics.

    The band have a harsh aesthetic, readily reliant on the pummel of blast beats and angular discordant guitars, commanded by the flat and narrows shouts of singer Giordano. The best bits emerge from the moments between when intensities wavier and so its harshness serves as that root into extremity it frequently turns too as the music drops in and out of its anger. In these fluctuations the trio prime the atmosphere for the music to break to its more meaningful and progressive passageways which give most the songs here conclusive moments of dark illumination.

    The retro synths would fit sweetly into a 80s horror soundtrack but not so much in the case of this mid paced metallic pounding. Instead of sacrificing their harsh and assaulting aesthetic and jagged music to fit the synths in, the three let them rub upside. The clash is obvious yet the charm is in progression, how the music finds its way to more cohesion, the brutality sways into chemistry and that is their sweet spot.

    The introduction to The Gown highlights this chemistry as the dialed down guitar tones work with the synths through an initially percussion less instrumental in perfect tandem. The texture and atmosphere oozes over the warm, burly baseline. As the record stretches on a couple of tracks cop out of the experiment with the synths being pushed deep to layers of grit and fuzz heard in the creeks between thick distortion chords. The do however remain as solid songs in the run time.

    There is definitely something to be done with these two styles. The Lion's Daughter have dipped their toes in and proved the waters warm. However my take away from this record is their musicianship, more so than the aesthetics that often feel rigid and raw. The synths could easily be swapped out for guitars and retain the same atmosphere as I felt their dark avenue is what shinned more so that the Carpenter accent. I hope they continue on this path and push the fusion further.

    Favorite Tracks: Future Cult, Call The Midnight Animal, Die Into Us, The Gown, Grease Infant, Galaxy Ripper
    Rating: 8/10

  • Logic "Under Pressure" (2014) | Fri, 07 Sep 2018 15:41:00 +0000

    Released on the one and only Def Jam records, Maryland rapper Logic invests half a million into his breakout debut album. How do we know that? Under Pressure is a characteristically blunt, youthful set of songs with rather direct commentary from the "onboard assistant" and Logic himself who takes a raw and straight forward approach to his rhymes and story telling. At the end of the tracks the fourth wall is broken as the feminine electronic voice runs through facts and tidbits related to the albums creation, giving us an insight to the scenes and inspirations behind the music as Logic binges on Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest and Tarantino movies during its recording.

    The instrumental side of the music takes on a rather traditional approach hailing back to the 90s with modern sounds far and few between. Soulful, jazzy sampling lays down warm, temperate moods and good, grounded vibes that tight, rugged beats back up with solid sequencing. These sounds and Logic's flow occasionally drifts into territory that fondly reminds me of To Pimp A Butterfly. Its got an organic quality hailing back to the pre-digital age of musicianship and that chemistry infrequently finds these illuminating grooves where it all clicks instrumentally speaking.

    Its obvious that logic aims high and with his lyrics, painting a vivid introduction to himself and the city he came from. Its typically in the moment and he has no problem getting the stress and worries off his mind through the pressures of making it in the rap game. He mostly takes on a more palatable, generic flow letting the words come across with ease and oddly in moments of technical proficiency, pushing his swift snappy flows he lacks the same lyrical cohesion. It a raw, direction experience, tackling the topics head on with plainer language delivered through enjoyable lyrics.

    For me the record plays without any stand-out moments. Or any duds considering the flip side. Its all feasible and achieved to a solid standard. It paints a picture without re framing anything, its sixty seven minutes can drag its feet with only a couple of features at the end to shake things up, Childish Gambino droping in, his voice a good match to bounce of Logic. Under Pressure is a fine effort, it lands where it aims and perhaps lacks a drive to go further as the chemistry here feels ripe for something special which doesn't manifest, however its a good listen.

    Rating: 7/10

  • Teyana Taylor "K.T.S.E" (2018) | Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:30:00 +0000

    This year we've been spoiled, Kanye has brought us five hyper curated projects. The introspective and of the moment Ye, a brilliant psychedelic collaboration with Kid Cudi on Kids See Ghosts, an introduction to the highly articulate Pusha T and at bottom of the pile a disappointing production with Hip Hop legend Nas, the pairs styles just struggled to meet. The last of the five is again a highly curated seven track twenty two minute record, correction, eight tracks, an exception to the Wyoming sessions. Its actress and model Teyana Taylor second release and that's about all I know of her!

    K.T.S.E is a record of two half, two tones that have moments of overlap. Its better half comprises of soft, smooth and luscious R&B licks lined with subtle, inspired hip hop beats and percussive grooves. Kanye lines up beautiful, soulful samples to let Teyana's singing swoon and sway with the warm and soulful, emotional music. Its use of instrumentation instead of synthetics adds a matured warmth and class that reminds me fondly of Black Messiah. When in these songs the record is classy, full of good moods and uplifting aura. Teyana sounds like she seeking the heights of the classics as her vocals soft inflections stir up a delicious, appetizing smoothness.

    We are blessed with four or so songs that firmly move within that blueprint however hyper sexual themes of 3Way and WTP indifferently highlight and align with shifts in her singing and Kanye's production. Teyana also shifts gears with her voice, pushing the power of her voice towards the sterile and over inflected modern style Id associate with Beyonce, out of ignorance of course as R&B isn't music I delve into that often. It doesn't charm like her softer side and with indifferent lyrics and topics It can become quite the bore when before shes inches away from greatness.

     The production of WTP stands in contrast to all that came before it, an obnoxious, retro Dance tune with god awful 80s stabs and strikes repeated to insanity, a real turn off. It also plays up to some really odd laser zap sounds heard on Issues. Its such a bizarre sound given the instrumentals tone but somehow works as an interesting and unusual oddity. This is mostly a brilliant record mixed with some obnoxious production and unfavorable singing that strongly turns me off from what I was enjoying moments ago. I'm a bit fussy but every listen has been peaks, mostly peaks and valleys.

    Favorite Tracks: No Manners, Gonna Love Me, Issues / Hold On
    Rating: 6/10

  • Dance With The Dead "Loved To Death" (2018) | Tue, 04 Sep 2018 17:19:00 +0000

    Right as I feel like I'm clued up on their sound and back catalog, Californian duo Dance With The Dead drop a brand spanking new record which I wasn't particularly in the mood for. At this point their sound is played out on a personal level. The 80s John Carpenter soundtrack nostalgia ride has been explored and so this new collection of tracks does little unexpected or even exciting at this point. The aesthetics sound unchanged if only refined and polished a fraction. Loved To Death doesn't deploy any distinct theme or spin a twist, its another ten straight tracks of dark, dense and melody rich Synthwave playing to its niche.

    On occasions the music musters intrigue with some under utilized avenues, Red Moon introduces metallic rhythm guitar to the forefront for brief instances. War deploys some gargling synths that fluctuate like a Dubstep drop. Similar deep textural synths rumble on different wavelengths in bursts but beyond these brief glimpses of places for the sound to expand the music mostly sticks to its guns with the same digestible arrangements of pumping horror soundtrack boldness and neon lit nightlife adventure melodies.

    When the music shows signs of something new its always limited to aesthetic and so the record drifts on by at the same pace. Its predictable, yet wonderfully executed. Hard to critique but all to palatable. I did enjoy the occasional cheesy 80s Hair Metal solo, it has a fitting place here but unfortunately none of the tracks stepped beyond what I expected of the band and so it just sounded routine and repetitive. Good music but desperately in need of a new direction.

    Rating: 4/10

  • Alice In Chains "Rainier Fog" (2018) | Mon, 03 Sep 2018 16:35:00 +0000

    There is so much that could be said of Alice In Chains and their history. To boil it down to some specifics, they are a a legendary band from the Grunge era with a metallic tint in guitar tone who lost the iconic voice of singer Layne Staley to extreme drug abuse. Reforming a few years after his death they somehow found a vocal harmonization with new singer William DuVall that resonated on the same frequency as Layne. It allowed them to continue along the same spiritual path laid out on prior records and after five years their return with their third album of this second stint for the band.

    I have a strong fondness for their last two records, the five year wait has been worthwhile but Rainier Fog pulls no new tricks. It may explore some heavier guitar tones and grooves but very much plays like a band who are comfortable with their identity. They have taken the time to reach in deep and curate the very best of their inspirations and form a fine craft of songs that hold your attention and move your emotions for the steady fifty three minutes the ten tracks make up together. If it does offer any new spice, slower tempos hint at some Doom Metal influences but its a side of them that just seems more prominent for this project.

    Its pace is sturdy, slow and soothing yet momentous and empowering. The atmosphere they conjure together is sun soaked with a streak of introspection bordering on melancholy. With a gorgeous production aesthetic Jerry and William weave their vocals around one another to constantly illuminate the music in electric tandem. The guitars relish this opertunity to flex in the directions Alice In Chains are known for, finding some laden, steady grooves and stretching to the slow and sombre acoustic epics with all manor of lead guitar breaks stitching in the details. Its a lively, animated record in the energetic moments they often leads too. When in a more subtle position it still retains these big and strong atmospheres that engulf the listener.

    With each listen one comes to know the songs better and as each rotation revolves the character and identity of these songs really lights up, especially the second half of the record. This is the kind of curation that can make a known sound exciting however that may be this records only flaw. Its a fantastic set of songs but has no surprises or unexpected directions. The music in no way cries out for it however it makes me wonder if the band can keep making this well established sound work? They certainly have done this time around but you will know what your in for.

    Rating: 7/10

  • Eminem "Kamikaze" (2018) | Sun, 02 Sep 2018 18:52:00 +0000

    Kamikaze may just be the most fitting, self descriptive name for this surprise album. Dropped out of the blue a couple days back by the one and only legendary Eminem, it responds to the general disappointment and fallout of last years Revival. The shock and surprise of this mean, gritty record taking verbal aim at anyone nearby has Em painted like a wounded animal, lashing out as his frustrations with the changing landscape of Hip Hop pin him in the corner. His state of mind manifests before us into a Rap fest of disses and vocal prowess. He's like the deranged tyrant on the throne, no one can deny or challenge his position at the top, yet his verbal trajectory of insults is unlikely to harbor any new fans of friends.

    Once again Eminem is stuck in his reactionary mindset. It was once the cutting edge back when he was public enemy one on the Marshall Mathers LP. His position has changed, reputation established and undeniable yet here he is lashing out at Mumble Rappers and artists with different styles. It paints a sour image of an aging artist, out of touch yet one can not deny how wonderful his flows and creative is. The record has its moments of pure brilliance, Em even takes on his despised triplet and choppy flows to flip them over, load them with lyrical substance and spit them back in the face of those he goes after. He does however drown in a plethora of tasteless slurs and swears that weigh down the genius behind the rhyme.

    Breaking down the lyrics, which run deep, we find regards to Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Logic, J Cole, Joyner Lucas, who is featured on the track Lucky You. On the other end of the stick Em goes hard at so many rappers its hard to keep up. Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Pump, Lil Xan, Lil Yatchy, Earl Sweatshirt all get caught in the crossfire. He also takes aim at Tyler The Creator using the word faggot. Given these times and context it really does him no favors and comes off as poor taste. That was disappointing, yet "Not Alive" had me in hysterics as Eminem and Royce Da 5'9" mock the Migos Bad & Boujee flow, its hilarious but simply redundant. Drake also gets accused of relying on ghost writers and Em goes rather pointless into number comparisons, which he also extended to music critics making views off Revival.

    Its really just petty, yet delivered through the lens of supreme talent. Behind the lyrics there is another layer of madness as some beats resemble the modern trends Em criticizes himself, however it may all just be playing into the mockery. One notable thing stand against this, Em constantly uses the Drake "Yuh" prompt before rhyming... Its so distinctly alike it just seems strange. Tracks like Nice Guy & the second half of Normal resurrect some classic Eminem vibes. Lucky You is dominated by its features and modern aesthetic, it barely sounds like his own track. To say the least the record tends to go all over the place as his sounds play around with new ideas too.

    Beyond the attention grabbing tracks his lyrical content hits and misses with a variety of topics. Hearing him address the D12 situation and run through his thoughts was well executed yet not every song hits that grade. The content fluctuates as does Ems flows, dropping some excellent rhymes and patterns alongside some belly aching cringy lyrics and plain schemes. At other times it loads in so much its difficult to unpack. If one thing is consistent, its a lack of hooks, the best he musters is the Migos own Not Alike flow and groove, ironic of course. Em also lashes out at the new generation not respecting the old guard, his actions will do little to change this.

    Ultimately, this record is as described, a kamikaze. Its hard to see Eminem reclaiming his place at the top again, even when working with Dr.Dre. Given his attitude to the state of Hip Hop he comes off like a sinking battleship landing missile strikes as it goes down. Its the best we have heard of him in years from a technical perspective yet when not striking out a fair bit of the topics arn't engaging and with a refusal to change with the times little excitement is stirred unless hes angry and viscous. I can't see him coming back from this unless he finds a new source of inspiration... Also I can't leave this blog without mentioning the Beastie Boys and License To Ill, there it is!

    Favorite Tracks: The Ringer, Normal, Not Alike
    Rating: 6/10

  • Old Tower "Stellary Wisdom" (2018) | Wed, 29 Aug 2018 07:41:00 +0000

    Stellary Wisdom is another two track release from the Dutch Dungeon Synth composer Old Tower. Both of the songs that make up this release clock in at fifteen minutes, both traversing their individual phases with fade outs and blunt transitions yet this time they blur the lines as the mood is held firmly together in its couple of angular shifts. This release is distinctly different from the low-fi and dingy realm of Spectral Horizons. It deploys the same grandiose strikes of gongs and has a similar compositional attributes yet Its clearer production and aesthetics lets the wave forms of synthetic instruments strike their own mystery and intrigue with soft reverbs and sweeping transformations of oscillation in lengthy notes.

    Its minimalism is far more obvious as much of the record is propped up on one or two synths. It always seems to have the right texture to evoke a much deeper atmosphere than one might presume. The first track closes its quarter hour duration with an oddly airy, knife like synth cutting through the silence with its bleak and metallic tone that whirls like a mechanized wind, yet created by no one. The value of craft is not to be understated as the aesthetics play a huge role.

    A shift in tone is felt as the following title track opens with softer wave forms and light chorals. It finds its way to a lengthy passage of minimalism where once again just two instruments resonate of one another with a spiritual meditative state that embraces its bleak loneliness. One can envision themselves as a sole conscious entity, roaming the endless beauty of mother nature in the peril of this unending burden.

    This is quite possibly my favorite Old Tower release, its spell seems to be far more encompassing and with every spin I find a meditative state in the wake of its softly droning synths and slow atmospheric brooding. It comes close to tapping into some of the minimalist magic I first heard by Burzum with his tracks Tomhet and Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat. Its a particular spell I rarely hear musicians come close to. They may have the charm of bonds formed with firsts and youthful freshness but I do hear creaks of that charm in the lengthy passageways of minimal construct on this record. That is a positive thing to say the least.

    Rating: 7/10

  • Plini "Sunhead" (2018) | Sat, 25 Aug 2018 11:26:00 +0000

    After the exuberant Handmade Cities released two years back, one of my favorite albums that year, Plini has captured my interest as one to watch, an astonishingly talented guitarist with a defined sound capable of mustering lasting wonder and inspiration in the wake of a constant melodic onslaught. Sunhead is the newest release, a four track mini album curating the best of his output in a short but sweet experience that lightly expands the aesthetic pallet with a couple of exotic instruments and obvious moments of inspired Jazz.

    The xylophone, saxophone and expanded synths tones arrive on the back of a Jazz Fusion kick that makes itself known in the opening phase of Klind, the free form tangents of Flaneur and lead solos on title track Sunhead. They provide a welcome expansion but certainly not a necessary flavor to Plini's sound which shows no signs of exhaustion in its current form. The Jazz melds seamlessly into the flow of dazzling music that is ever evolving in its Progressive form.

    The four tracks make a dense web of music, easy to enjoy on the surface and deep in its construct. Llayers of instruments weave gorgeous details both textural and tuneful into the ever unfolding songs that Plini sings over with the accent of his endless lead guitar playing. Despite it being defined and distinguished, there seems to be no lack of places to explore on the fret board. With him and the other instruments constantly unleashing such dexterity and joy not a second passes without awe.

    The production is gorgeous, a warm, authentic and timeless tone graces the crisp, clear, modernized recording with character and meaning. The percussion is especially enjoyable on this project, Chris Allison manages to find a stunning flow of groove and fluidity in his decoration of the beat with exotic fills that run through almost every moment, loading the record with another layer of musicality to dive into.

    In the records most ambitious moments two things emerge, the mastery of the Djent groove which moves seamlessly into the natural crescendos and peaks as a part of a bigger picture, rather than some forceful event of singular momentum. Its other big moments are in the gleaming melodies which rise into lead melodies and hit big notes with a touch of 80s cheese, something I can't quite put my finger on but is certainly their with fondness. Its a truly exceptional twenty minutes of excellence.

    Rating: 9/10

  • At The Gates "To Drink From The Night Itself" (2018) | Thu, 23 Aug 2018 21:24:00 +0000

    It doesn't feel right to start here. I have barely given the Swedish group a listen in the past, Ive heard the praise, recognize their album covers and am very much aware of their legacy within the broader Metal community. After a string of well regarded albums in the early nineties At The Gates split in 97 for over a decade long, returning with the original lineup many years later in this era of sustainability for bands given the increased wealth in music and large amount of festivals to support and give exposure to bands, especially old bands die-hards want to see again.

    To Drink From The Night Itself is the bands second album after their reunion and the first proper listen Ive given then. Unfortunately it falls into the "generic" Melodic Death Metal camp but of the vein I can very much enjoy. That is only because I know this sound all to well, they may have once been at the forefront of this style but their is little fresh or new on this record, it is however very well written and strongly executed, making for a healthy dose of a sound and style I really enjoy.

    The band put together songs without flash or flair, their consistent pounding pace and temperate approach to guitar riffing lets the mood and tone of the tracks eminate from steady and composed melodies hidden in the exterior of harsh distortion guitars. When they do break in tone an introduce acoustics its rather underwhelming in the wake of their steady Metal machine that drives ever forward at this consistent speed that feels simultaneously sluggish and hastened as the drums never swing into break downs or blast beats.

    The production aids the music well, the instruments feel rounded and cushioned to share a space without piercing through one another and this is again reflected in temperate music that lets its self speak without aesthetic tricks. Vocalist Lindberg's dry screams play up the atmosphere of this drone as his flat and drawn screams brood in the dreary aggression that is only and rarely split by the timely introduction of simple and gleaming guitar solos, bursting to life but fitting sweetly into the direction.

    It may be in the title but this is truly a recollection of the night time, the steadily aggressive and evolving guitars unleash darkly moods and tones that the music frequently unravels as its guitars wind and weave their way forward with melodic inflections between the grinding of subtle grooves and darkly tunefulness. Its a solid listen from front to back, a bold and consistent approach that has the record swiftly establish its realm and hold you there for the forty five minutes. Great record, I may have to go back and get through their classics now.

    Favorite Tracks: Daggers Of Black Haze, In Nameless Sleep, The Colours Of The Beast
    Rating: 7/10

  • Madball "For The Cause" (2018) | Tue, 21 Aug 2018 08:07:00 +0000

    Kicking off with distortion guitar feedback fading in, the pounding drums ramp up the energy as the sticks make their way around the kit, striking the rising toms, signaling whats about to land. New York Hardcore legends Madball jump straight into the action with all the hallmarks, gang shouts, thrashing riffs and slamming grooves fit to get the crowds moving, spinning in circles, hardcore dancing and jumping of the stage. One can hear it all but that's because we have heard it all before. For The Cause is the bands ninth full length in their now thirty year career.

    This blog will be short and sweet, their isn't too much to talk about from my perspective because the record does so little wrong yet so little new. The band pull together with a tight set of songs that deploy all the same riffs, techniques and cliches a Hardcore fan could want. Its got energy, attitude and aggression the likes of which we have heard time and time again. The lyrics circle the same topics of pride, strength and integrity spun through different analogies and formed into hooks. Not even the presence of Ice-T makes much an impact in this straight forward record.

    Once Id got my Hardcore kick from the record its repeated spins left little impact on me, a lack of experimentation or aiming beyond the scope leaves these songs feeling weak beyond the ability to hit that certain vibe, which it does well. The records biggest strength is production, everything is crisp, cutting, sharp and lean, with the right Hardcore flavor. The drums are especially snappy with a gorgeous clapping snare that hits hard without piercing through. Unfortunately my enjoyment of For The Cause was limited by the records own limitation within a sound the stick very strictly too.

    Rating: 5/10

  • Old Tower "Spectral Horizons" (2016) | Mon, 20 Aug 2018 12:04:00 +0000

    I'm growing rather fond of Old Tower's stellar approach to Dungeon Synth. The Dutch musician has a knack for composing in this mysterious, illusive realm. It calls from just beyond the horizon, always distant, out of reach, a seemingly calm and uneventful place yet its full of intrigue. The music lingers in its moment, you focus your gaze upon a frozen statue, its pose different with each lapse of attention. Subtlety is the power it yields. With its soft synth and dreary drones Spectral Horizons conjurers a gloomy, majestic atmosphere of time, place, culture and nature that is most likely a personal one for the listener, depending on where your imagination wanders too.

    Its soft, elongated melodies and gleams of event in the form gong crashes and buried, pounding tribal drums calling from the deep create quite the sense of epic within this aesthetically meek setting. Its instruments play to their quiet selves, no conflicts arise as they do not compete for attention. Its a cushioned production where the sounds meld sweetly, allowing its most eventful passageways to pass a distracted listener yet suck in the attentive captivated by its shy spell. It has some awkward moments of wind whirling and rain transitioning the music but between them long stretches of yearning, ancient synths and archaic choral chants suck one in.

    Like The Rise Of The Scepter, Spectral Horizons is split into two halves around twenty minutes in total and its songs have distinct shifts, clear breaks in its tone and instrumentation that could of been broken into smaller sections however it is not labeled in two parts. The nature of the music commands it to be enjoyed as a whole. With a shorter run time one feels the benefit of curation as these compositions hold well for their duration. They may not call for the most lavish of praises but within their own realm Old Tower is produces some unique magic with this project.

    Rating: 5/10

  • Danzig "6:66 Satans Child" (1999) | Sat, 18 Aug 2018 07:43:00 +0000

    Arriving at the sixth chapter in the Danzig series we have a refinement of sound, vastly improving upon the disappointment of Blackacidevil which tried and failed at its own unique take on the Industrial Metal sound of that era. Satans Child follows suit in the same genre but takes no risks with erratic experimentation and nauseating drum sampling. Instead the band forge a leaner sound with a rounded, brighter production. They give its guitars a weighty metal punch that unfortunately doesn't manifest the same magic from Danzig, II, III or IV, however we do hear strong echos of that time on songs like Into The Mouth Of Abandonment but the record is a mixed bag.

    The biggest sell of this record is front man Glenn Danzig himself who returns firmly to his bluesy style, rising to the center of attention, the double tracking of his vocals has some real oomph that's a nice touch and his emotional burdens find their theater again. With a firm sound and the return of the singer it is the obvious influences that initially took my attention away. In the wake of the Nu Metal scene one may initially hear the syncopated stop start grooves that play thick distortion guitars against their absence and focus on the altered approach to groove however its not really not in that vein. They do sound strikingly akin to other bands on some songs though, the Unspeakable main riff sounds lifted from a classic Helmet record and Apokalips sounds uncannily alike to Swans. For the most part they sound like Danzig experimenting with the Industrial Metal style other bands had mastered at this point.

    Once over these humps I could hear somewhat of a slow start to this record, its first tracks roll out and the tone is cramp, the guitar work stiff but as it grows the slow crushing guitars of Doom Metal start to revere its demonic head. Further down the road the welcome sound of pinch harmonics starts to bounce of the guitar riffs in true Danzig style. Cult Without A Name is the first instance but its not until Cold Eternal and the last five songs that the record really blossoms, the closer being a real gem. Its a strange journey that ends well, the music is enjoyable but the infection is only to be found in a handful of songs at the end. I think the band find themselves again here but have a hard time getting the best from Glenn and themselves when they are stepping away from the fundamentals of their roots and sound together. A fair record.

    Favorite Tracks: Into The Mouth Of Abandonment, Apokalips, Thirteen
    Rating: 6/10

  • Deafheaven "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love" (2018) | Fri, 17 Aug 2018 11:09:00 +0000

    California Black Metal outfit Deafheaven, often a target of controversy among purists, return with their fourth full length record and with it they take a step further away from their roots. On my third listen I found a strong distaste for the musics construct as the album revealed itself. It was rather odd to suddenly dislike what had initially been enjoyed but now that Ive grown to really get where this record is coming from, it all makes perfect sense.

    Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is barely a Black Metal record in any musical sense and yet it clings to the raspy screams and shrill aesthetics of the sound with clutching hands. It holds back the music, the notation, mood and melody, the emotions they invoke simply don't stem from darkness. One can hear flavors of Ethereal, Dream Pop, even Grunge and some strong Pink Floyd influences in their "blackgaze" which is essentially disconnecting from the darker aspects.

    The opening You Without End ushers in a stunning piano sequence and spoken word phase to evoke a peaceful, serine setting. In rumbles shrill screams distortion guitar leads, forcing their way into the music and unsettling the spell. To use a word like contrast or juxtapose would be complimentary, these are in a state of conflict, opposing moods that wont meet. The transitions, the sways between ends are without an organic flow that was once the magic itself.

    In all fairness the record has some moments where they gel but its a case of brief encounters. The bulk of the music composed has obvious draws from a range of non Metal influences. Canary Yellow is a song that has to constantly battle this opposition out as gleams of light and uplift are inflected through the barrage of drumming, distortion guitars and howling screams that dispel the songs actual charm. It becomes a constant ache in the side as the serene and Ethereal guitar work is burred by this constant reach for extremity that's unwarranted.

    Near and Night People, the shortest songs, get to flourish in the lack of this burden. Chelsea Wolfe features to transform the music with her presence on the latter. Her voice so distinct she always makes a song sound like her own. There is a lot of fantastic music on this record, I just struggle to enjoy it as the shrill Black Metal inflections constantly disrupt the mood of the music. It feels unnecessary at this point, a hangover, perhaps part of their sound that needs evolution rather than holding on to.

    Favorite Tracks: Near, Night People, Worthless Animal
    Rating: 6/10

  • Job For A Cowboy "Doom" (2005) | Thu, 16 Aug 2018 09:26:00 +0000

    As the years pass by my memories of the Deathcore scene's days grow fonder. My recent addiction to Job For A Cowboy's classic Entombment Of A Machine has reminded me of just how much fun we had when the scene blew up. We got to watch all the new bands fly in from the states and it was wondeful. Although my introduction to the music was through Bring Me The Horizon (IIRC), this EP from the American group was where it all started, spawning many imitation bands in the wake of its unusual popularity and new style. Make no mistake, Entombment is an ugly song! Harsh and abrasive, its shrill pig squeals would challenge fans of guttural vocals yet somehow this Extreme Metal song spread like wildfire through the Myspace music scene, it would give them the exposure to land their debut album Genesis in a billboard chart two years later.

    Its probably been a decade since I last listened to Doom in its twenty seven minute entirety. I believe the copy I own now has an extra track I had not heard before, which was a pleasant surprise as I remember all the other tracks like a day had not passed. The bonus song Entities leans more so in the direction of a fundamental Death Metal song towards its end, sharper blast beats, tighter riffing, a flashy guitar solo and only one pig squeal? Its a subtle indication of their next direction as a band, to rid themselves of the Hardcore influence and go strictly Death Metal on their full length debut album.

     The other five songs, minus the cinematic intro, are a riot of violence, a vile thrashing of dense guitars as snarling screams and guttural roars are all channeled into abstracted moments of groove that underpin the musics harsh, unforgiving aesthetic. The songs often drifts through brief passageways of ugly, bitter chaotic sounds in the wake of pinch harmonics and loose, rattling blast beats. These moments are swiftly transformed as the record's tracks all revolve around a philosophy of continual evolution. The ugliest moments are quickly transformed and transcended as gear shifts chop up the pace and allow slamming grooves to erupt, as the classic Entombment does so well.

    The vocals are a big point of contention that could easily turn a listener off, the pig squeals are blunt and piercing. They jump into the music with little more than rhythmic sequencing as "bree bree" and "squee squee" clearly offers no lyrical content. I personally find it hilarious, between the swings of gritty shredding and slamming grooves the eruption of unwieldy squeals is an amusing testament to the nature of the music itself, a joke. That's not an insult but a means to say the music is clearly aware of its own deliberate abrasion and boisterous persona.

    Everything must be taken with a pinch of salt, the ugly, challenging aesthetic is manipulated to extract the groove and excitement in music from the most devious of places. That is what is genius about extreme music and here Job For A Cowboy brandish a new fusion of ideas that would go on to spawn a whole new wave of Extreme Metal that would upset the old guard and stir controversy within the community that at the end of the day is a waste to even care about. Enjoy music if you can but don't spend your energy on hating it. Doom is fun, a really exhilarating listen full of obnoxious extremity.

    Favorite Track: Entombment Of A Machine
    Rating: 7/10

  • Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra "Midnight Fullmoon" (1997) | Tue, 14 Aug 2018 11:37:00 +0000

    Continuing our journey through the nostalgic realms of Dungeon Synth, I cast my mind far back as memories reach commands. Into my mind popped this strange cassette I obtained well over a decade ago. My memory of how and why I got Midnight Fullmoon are vague but I remember finding the band name somewhat hilarious. The music itself didn't captivate me since I only listened to it once, at the time I had no knowledge of DS or if that term had been coined yet. It was just a strange and peculiar piece of music from the early days of a now evolved and blossomed sound.

    Its opening track wains in a balance between harsh, cheesed synths and whirling, spell bounding wave forms in the background. They relish the low fidelity setting and start to conjure the dark and indulging atmospheres one might expect. The following track nails this, a primitive composition pined by a beating heart as the sound of rain drops lowers the tone and thunder strike reinforce a lonely, gloomy setting steeped and an eerie, mystic vibe driven by its subtle synth lines. Track three is one I remember, or more so its familiarity to a well known melody which I couldn't pin down. The music is fine but the aesthetics are just to bold and punchy, it stands in contrast to what came before it.

    At this point a direction, arching theme or sense of place fails to define itself. A swampy song is clustered with a selection of sounds including trumpets that seem to pull it in multiple directions, only to be followed by a dizzying six minute experiment with techno synths and buried electronica drums. It too suffers from an arsenal of contrasting sounds that fail to gel. A brief uplift from the short The Last Rays Of A Dying Sun is a brief glimmer as the following track plays around with bells and reoccurring theme of unsuited instruments chiming in with one another in an unmusical fashion of gap filling.

    Its easy to point out flaws and focus on negatives. If I were to rid myself of the focus a charm does emerge, one of mysticism and distant voices of despairing figures. Its dark allure has a safe distance and a couple of passages ways do strike something of memorability, especially that ever present heartbeat. Another consideration is how primitive this was. I have no idea as to how these ideas spread beyond tape trading and its relation to the Black Metal scene. Although records like Depressive Silence had far more to offer at its time, this could be seen as a jewel if isolated in its inception. There are interesting and intentfull ideas at play here, they are just far behind the then curb.

    Favorite Tracks: Raining Darkness Of The Forestland Midnight, The Last Rays Of A Dying Sun
    Rating: 4/10

  • Travis Scott "Astroworld" (2018) | Mon, 13 Aug 2018 13:35:00 +0000

    Anticipation for this record has been a thorn in the side, a constant ache commanding me to routinely check for its arrival with no release date mentioned. Its a frequent trend these days to drop albums with only a short notice. Although my reviews of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight and Rodeo were not especially favorable I could hear something unique in Travis. Its truly manifested as the power of shuffle and time away from his music had those songs giving back more with each listen. After plenty of binging Id even consider Rodeo a modern Hip Hop classic. As my love for his sound grew, so has my apatite for more, hence the growing anticipation.

    Astroworld had been grossly hyped. Given my knowledge of Six Flags Astroworld thanks to a Defunctland documentary, my curiosity was peaked as to what the closed theme parks roll in its topicality was this time around. Given my often disconnect from the lyrical aspects of music I certainly didn't pick up on any particular theme beyond a few references and so Astroworld has landed soft, nothing feels particularly distinct or intentional and so the promise of an obscure topic for a Hip Hop record is lost on me.

    Reflecting back as to how the other records took months and even years to grow on me I figured its best not to rush into making up my mind on Astroworld. Although it hasn't charmed me I can analytically hear some stylistic progressions, expansive instrumentation and compositional ideas blossoming into indulging atmospheres, however the over saturated "skrt skrt"s and "its lit" cries coming from the background with excessive reverbs hold the music to its previous step, overshadowing what makes this record unique, retrospectively speaking.

    The sleek dark atmospheres and romping grooves of tracks like Sicko Mode and Carousel are to be expected but get the album rolling in a different gear to the rest of its run time. The synthesizers and aesthetic of the music drifts into a peculiar place more psychedelic, dreamy and laid back than the urban darkness heard in his previous efforts. At times it can feel uplifting, the track Skeletons embodies this however its brief moment of what seems like a stream of conscious rap seems to loose its own train of thought as Travis morphs into a derogatory pair of rhymes spit very much in the style of Kanye West, a voice, tone and style you can hear in his flows often across the project.

    My take away from Atroworld at this point is a lack of stylistic focus. Much of his production style traits stay intact and flirts with more excess as he layers some lyrics with gated reverbs and the like. The album steers its sampling and instrumentation beyond the percussion with R&B accents, some eclectic instruments like the harmonica and organ, it fails to nail a vibe that sucks you in. As stated above I am willing to let this one sink in and hope it reveals more meaning and indulgence with some absence and revival.

    Favorite Tracks: Sicko Mode, Stop Trying To Be God, No Bystanders, Butterfly Effect,
    Rating: 5/10

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