On Deck | Bryce Perry, Justin Poulsen, Chris Montgomery
Post-dubstep’s golden boy James Blake’s self-titled debut challenged what we thought electronica could be and pushed it in a new directions. A perfect marriage of Thom Yorke inspired rythm with the emotional depth of R&B, Overgrown seems to indicate an artist comfortable with taking new journeys again. With shimmer and shine he whimsically makes his way through each track, with no particular indication that he has any intention of rushing to the end. Just as you feel a natural end approaching, the track receives a shot of Trent Reznor proportions and roars back to life, always keeping you guessing. The title track immediately sets you back in the mystical wintery lands of his debut. Layers of synthesized organs swoop in and out. Autoned whispers and whines compliment and then contrast in melodramatic, yet magnificent melodies that chisel their way into your mind and leave you wondering how something so deconstructed and industrial could cause such warmth. Hip-hop legend RZA helps Blake meld his inventive soundscapes with rhymes on Take A Fall For Me. It’s refreshing to see any artist step out on just their second album and take such a rewarding risk.
From the first delicate cuss that interrupts the echoing piano ballad of the opening track, to the casual death threat that closes the final track’s sequence of breezy strings, Wolf is unnecessary. Granted, some of the lyrics are absolutely brilliant—in meaning and even just pure aesthetic manipulation. But it’s disappointing how much of the lyrics are unrelated expletives that achieve the same jarring impact on the listener as pure silence. Additionally, Tyler keeps addressing the gimmicky distorted voice of a father-figure. It’s a conversation you’d hear someone having with themselves at night on the skytrain: “...you can drink piss and eat a dick in a few. / The sickening view, of visuals, I’ll eat your ribs! I’m a wolf. / Then meet your kids after school, and give them drugs cause it’s cool.”
Telekinesis’ Dormarion at very first listen does not seem like much. The opening track “Power Lines” begins with a timid voice coupled with acoustic power chords, not exactly making this an easy sell. But linger for a minute into the track and you’ll hear an explosion into an electric-fueled, synth-lined potential summer anthem. This very well could be what Seattle’s Michael Berner is aiming for. The twelve-track album zigzags in and out of different summer moods. The twanging hum of the guitar in “Wires” and “Lean on Me” sends you to the hot sands of a mid-July beach. A genuine acoustic guitar in “Symphony” puts you under the stars by the fireside with your friends, implanting what will assuredly foster severe nostalgia. And of course no summer is complete without those windows down, arms out drives. The sacred duty of summer driving music can be entrusted in the gritty, high-octane distortion of “Empathetic People” and “Dark to Light.” Dormarion may not be a unified whole as far as musical tone, but the varied moods triumph over skepticism. But honestly would you expect any less from the son of Fox McCloud (google it)?
On the sixth day God created man and woman and it was very good. On his sixth LP Bonobo created Northern Boarders and it was pretty good. While the returning British DJ presents familiar ethereal tones, they are in danger of feeling too tranquil. Despite this danger, electronic sultriness still glistens from the album in tracks like “Transits” and “Don’t Wait.” In “Jets,” attractive mixing of synths, a harp, and voice track dancing atop captivating beats mark the beginning of the albums success. The only problem is that this occurs nearly half way through the album. Northern Boarders holds promise of a finely tuned balance of catchiness and tranquility, but requires patience. It stubbornly remains idle in the preliminary half of its anthology, acting as a very soft opening to the main event of the latter half. But this is why God created the skip button.
If you had no idea who Charles Bradley was, you would swear you came across a 1970’s recording artist, but “the screaming edge of soul” has just released his second studio album. Bradley’s title is well deserved, but this is not at all a hindrance to the album. His voice exudes passion sending the blues into your bloodstream and would assuredly bring us down if it weren’t for the bands all-too-cool vibe. The push of the horns in “Love Bug Blues” swells deep amongst the travelling jazz flute as the backup singers bounce and glide beautifully off of Bradley. An echoing guitar falls back to the late 60’s in “Where Do We Go From Here?” while the horns continue to provide the drive to accompany the cries of Bradley. These cries may resonate with James Brown, but in the world of soul Bradley continues to establish himself. Victim of Love is just what the music scene needs today because honestly you can never have enough soul.