So this is what the voice of Karnivool does on his days off: produce emotive, streamlined alternative rock and it’s so contagious and memorable it should be under quarantine, but despite resonating with a larger mainstream audience (well, in Austrailia anyway), it somehow feels more organic than Karnivool are. The explosive first half of If This Ship Sinks is a surprisingly heavy yet radio-friendly rush down a highway, then the vehicle crashes and the second half is a piano-charged ascension to the stars, which accompanied with violins is actually fairly moving. Karnivool seem more like the brains in Ian Kenny’s world, but then that makes this self-titled album and the rest of Birds Of Tokyo’s work his thoughts, emotions and feelings and it’s pretty damn enduring.
Never before have a crude or low-brow humour band impressed me with their musicianship, even before I’ve heard them speak. Enter the ridiculously named Maggot Twat, a fuel-charged metal trio who are as ridiculous looking as their namesake but more ridiculously talented than it. Kill The Bitch is borderline offensive, but between samples of a grave digger, satisfying guitar squeals and good ol’ fashioned thrash style technicality in the instrumentation, it becomes enjoyable for the right reasons, instead of the outrage-spurring misogynism it could just as easily attract. 8 Bit Apocalypse has other multiple targets in its lyrical content, luckily some of them are funnier.
In the world of drum ‘n’ bass, more often than not, I am late to the party of the best of the best. Rockwell’s Detroit was lauded by many enthusiasts as one of the best tunes released last year, and for reasons I now understand six months later, I can see why. The tune is incomprehensibly addictive, bouncing along instead of jetting or speeding, with a synth line that bubbles or speaks in an alien language through out as possibly one of the most unique tunes I’ve ever heard. How something can be described as dirty but minimalistic is beyond me, but this seems to have been constructed for clubs clearly in mind, anthemic but without so many of the words to make it so. Many things wobble and bounce, much like something I would assume this track heavily implies and Detroit has it in spades here, pounding the dancefloor into submission as opposed to tearing it to shreds.
Belgium’s HYQXYZ is one of the most underrated producers in the neurofunk scene, period. To be able reel off titanic, massively warping monsters of drum ‘n’ bass time and time again requires serious skill, which HYQXYZ has in abundance. Whilst both Titans and Triangulation are staggeringly visceral tracks, The Beginning will be entering my DJ set for illustrating the need for atmosphere and a sense of presence, before attempting to destroy everything in sight, with a giant heat ray.
(Track of last week, to avoid confusion)
The Clamps are without doubt in the upper echelon of up-and-coming producers of the electronic dance game right now. Whilst their efforts span from electro house, techno and dubstep, their ventures into the constantly evolving drum ‘n’ bass scene are what I spend most of my time engrossed in. Released from their own production unit Kosen Productions, Serenissima builds up as a film score, an orchestral ensemble leading the charge into a battle fought between Earth and its intergalactic invaders. War drums absolutely thunder across the soundscape, even before the main beat is brought in, giving a true sense of how epic a scale this track wants to be. It succeeds beautifully. The tension rises rapidly with the orchestra and with it the bass, which sounds somewhat like an interdimensional chainsaw shredding through the very fabric of time and space, breaks its chains into a slightly syncopated flurry of punches you’d call drums. One brutally heavy drop later, the fight for the planet starts once more and you have a half-time mauling to await you in the mean time. Once upon a time, I dreamt of making drum ‘n’ bass for a film score, and this is currently the closest definition I have encountered to true cinematic drum ‘n’ bass. Spectacular.
When you name a band, you make it count. In the essence of Kowloon Walled City, they did just that. Crushingly heavy, dense metal surrounds and bombards your senses, but with an inner emotion and melancholy, not too similar from the abandonment of the actual place in Hong Kong. Whilst the city was demolished, and most of your speakers and headphones will be in the sheer musical devastation on display, the legacy of its unadulterated filth and sludge remains in living memory, and in this music. Who says that music can’t give you history lessons? Annandale from Gambling On The Richter Scale is just one such insight into a dark corner of humanity, and it’s staggeringly brilliant.
*side note: I do not endorse what the Triads did there, but what I do endorse is these guys’ Bandcamp as they’re giving away digital copies of their albums for free. Go get.
This week I was on holiday, in lovely Wroclaw, Poland of all places. Having squeezed the free Wi-Fi for all it had and avoid the leeches of international data charges, I still had access to Spotify. However, the coldness of some areas of the city inspired some very 80’s new-wave, electronica and post-punk tones, so I didn’t do any listening of new musics per se and my soundtrack more or less consisted of entirely Depeche Mode, Schoolyard Heroes and Pure Reason Revolution. Instead of trying to pick one or traverse the extensive 80’s back catalogue of music I own, have three cherry-picked choices of the songs that echoed constantly from the hostel’s incredibly comfortable common room. Bon apettit.
Imagine Mastodon. Imagine their technical ability and prowess in all their hairy, B-movie tattooed, Star Wars fan-boy glory. Now imagine Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shows up and you have Blue Ox. Minneapolis’ sludge quintet are unrelentingly heavy, punching hard enough to make brick walls bleed and playing fast enough to make greyhounds depressed. Night of the Technicolor Yawn is the pinnacle of this in full effect. Truly bludgeoning riffs pile up one after the other whilst vocals are screamed hard enough at you, you start melting, all at literal breakneck speed. If Blue Ox took prisoners, you can expect them to be executed with an axe as their sophomore Stray Dogs On Pity Party Island, is a savage animal on the loose.
Although now defunct because of domestic violence, Riverdales was a side-project of punk legends Screeching Weasel, blending the garage roots of the punk of past with the dementia-inducing vibe of psychobilly and a little of that ol’ good time rock ‘n’ roll. Time Chaser, effectively true to its name sake, harks back to that jukebox diner period, complete with embroidered infectious patches onto the classic denim of swinging grooves and soulful serenades, something that their final album Tarantula is filled to the brim with.
Hello there, it’s been a while since I posted on here, I got rather carried away with life and this became a casualty of neglect in the process. For no longer. One of my resolutions for this year was to maintain this blog, as I’m passionate about what I do and it would be a massive shame if I had nothing to show for it. So, what better way to kick off a new year of musical hunter-gathering than sharing with you my personal favourite songs of last year. Some of them may seem familiar as I have raved about them before, others you may have never heard before. They’re not all from unknown artists, most of them aren’t even from this year and some of them I’ve just been late to the party for, but all are in my eyes, subsequently awesome. This list is also available as a playlist on Spotify if you fancy listening to it without my commentary: Top 20 Songs of 2013