By now, I sound stuck-on-repeat about Ghost Beach. But I remain staunchly unapologetic because this band is so damn good. They’ve released their debut EP, Modern Tongues this week which is as good a time as any to dive into their music. We’ve reviewed Been There Before, Miracle and Tear Us Apart extensively on the site before (here, here and here) so let’s see how the other two tracks match up. Hint: Well.
For most of us September means school. Which means work. Which means a lot less fun. We can however take comfort in the fact that this month could be one of the most fruitful months for music in recent memory. With The 1975 already having released their debut album and The Weeknd providing us with his sophomore effort, some people (like me) might actually have the problem that every music fan yearns for: too much to listen to.
Apologies for my absence last week (I was in Berlin sampling the finest that eardrum-splitting German techno has to offer), but I’m back in sunny London now, albeit slightly damaged of hearing, and ready to fire off another round of this week’s best new slices of aural bliss.
1) Drake – “Hold On We’re Going Home”
OK, so this song has been out for a little bit but I keep meaning to put it into this column because it’s a rare example of the things that Drake is capable of when he takes his head out of his moody arse. Much of the song’s excellence is owed to the production provided by newcomers Majid Jordan. Their soft-flowing synth washes and ’80s disco drum beat sits perfectly under Drake’s singing and provides a welcome change from his recent outpourings of self-pity and a return to the intelligent lyrics and arrangements of his debut.
2) Atu & Asante – “Prototype (The SanteJazz Remix)”
Electronic producer Atu and vocalist Asante remix the melodic Outkast track by completely altering the arrangement and groove of the original. Gone is the squelchy bassline and André 3000′s falsetto top-line delivery, instead the song begins with an ambient and calming synth-build before slowly melding into a majestic wash of Asante’s vocals. The arrangement initially feels muffled and out of reach, akin to the recent work of virtuoso bassist Thundercat through its prioritising of the vocal line. Two thirds through the track, though, Atu shows his true skill as a producer, effortlessly introducing a weighty drum beat and bassline which hark back to the original and which grab your attention as the track plays out leaving you wanting more.
3) Captain Murphy f/ Victor Vaughn & Earl Sweatshirt – “Between Villains”
There’s a serious amount of stage names going on in this track; Captain Murphy is the rapping alter-ego of producer Flying Lotus and Victor Vaughn is hip-hop pioneer DOOM. “Between Villains” is a stellar collaboration from some of hip-hop’s finest for the theme song of an Adult Swim cartoon. The track begins with a minimal yet terrifying beat that trips uncomfortably under DOOM’s rhyme-entangled verse before leading into a bass-heavy Earl Sweatshirt drawl and then finishing on some surprisingly mature lines from FlyLo who showcases that he can pretty much do anything when it comes to music. One for the fans of the art of rap, not just production:
4) Hiatus Kaiyote – “Nakamarra”
I’ve been very excited by Australian neo-soul/jazz quartet Hiatus Kaiyote for quite some time now, and so have the likes of Questlove, Erykah Badu and Salaam Remi it seems. Having started performing around their native Australia they soon created a huge buzz with video posts of their energetic live performances and have just this summer signed to Salaam Remi’s new label and set forth a worldwide release of their debut LP Tawk Tomahawk. “Nakamarra” is one of my favourites from the album, combining some subtle jazz instrumentation from the band and lead singer Nai Palm’s signature formless vocal flow to create a head-nodding hommage to the likes of D’Angelo and Robert Glasper.
This week has seen Egypt descend into a political-hatred fuelled war zone and Jeremy Paxman grow a beard, so if you’ve had enough of all these gruesome images and coverage then here are five pieces of pure joy in aural form to get you through the next seven days:
1) Kwes – “36″
I like to think of Kwes as a musical teddy bear; singing in his soft falsetto and producing ethereal yet comforting beats that make me feel all warm, fuzzy and happy inside. Following the release of his debut EP Meantime last year, the xx, Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn collaborator and singer-songwirter is gearing up for his first full-length release ilp. Lead single “36″ is a beautiful soundbed of flowing keys, compressed hip-hop drums and a grooving bassline all sitting underneath Kwes’ own delightful falsetto. Take a listen and smile (a lot).
2) Kaytranada – “Seeu Enni Way”
20 year-old Montreal-based producer Kaytranada is a relative newcomer, but he’s building his chops in a big way with the release of his latest track, “Seeu Enni Way,” a laid back Hip-Hop number that takes its cues from ’90s R&B samples and jerky J Dilla beats. Beginning with a fractured drum-beat intro, the groove soon settles under a flowing bassline, splaying in funk-inflected vocals, synths and some twisted EQing. In a typically unpredictable style, Kaytranda also showcases a Motown-inspired influence in the last thirty seconds, fading out with a soulful funk breakbeat. It’s a surprising yet easy to listen to offering and will sound excellent with the addition of some choice verses laid on top.
3) Chase & Status f/ Moko – “Count On Me”
I’m not normally one to champion the pop/dubstep/drum n’ bass/electro sounds of Chase & Status and their swarm of Pendulum-esque followers, but I have to admit that they have always had a knack for mixing production value and a love of genre-defining classic dance music with easy appeal and memorable tunes. With “Count On Me” they deliver once again, taking cues from the house and acid scene of the 1990s with the track’s shuffling 2-step drums and synth stabs whilst adding an infectious falsetto vocal hook and forceful delivery courtesy of singer Moko. The song brings to mind a heavier Robin S thanks to the bass-heavy backing for the vocals and will be a perfect addition to the late festival season and those cold winter club nights ahead.
4) Kelela – “Enemy”
Some like to divide time Before Christ and After Christ, I however prefer to measure mine as pre and post R&B goddess Aaliyah. Someone else who shares my horological fetish is up and coming experimental R&B singer Kelela. With her esoteric production tastes and floating vocals, Kelela seeks to emulate the Aaliyah-Timbaland golden age of commercial R&B that still used unusual arrangements and tasteful instrumentation. She says herself that ”the music’s not just weird, it’s deliberately offputting, it’s designed to interrupt the space. I want people to be, like, ‘What the fuck is going on?” With production credits from the likes of Night Slugs founder Girl Unit, her debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me, straddles electronic and urban genres, making for an unusual yet satisfying listen. “Enemy” is all grime breakbeats and Wu-Tang inspired Japanese string-lines combining to create a track that’s just as welcome in a club or in the car.
5) FKA Twigs – “How’s That”
This is just a beautiful song, pure and simple. Twigs’ soft vocals sit on a Massive Attack-inspired production arrangement and combine to create the most blissful listening experience. Close your eyes and you might even reach a higher level of conciousness. Open them for a bit, though, only to check out the wonderfully strange yet appropriate animated visuals for the video. Twigs, who is signed to the xx’s Young Turks label, is most definitely one to watch, mixing a pure visual aesthetic with some cleverly arranged production, she’s set to give The Weekend and his imitators a serious run for their money.
That’s all for this week. If there’s any aspiring musicians out there, send me a link to your stuff (through comments or Twitter) and I’ll give it a shout if it’s worthy.
Ammar: Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many weekly features where I shepherd you musically-inclined folk to the tastiest gems of the past week’s new releases. I’ll try and cover as broad a range of music as possible, as long as I actually listen to the stuff, and traverse across the popularity spectrum (from Rihanna to ‘that amazing post-punk-grunge ’90s band that were overshadowed by Nirvana’). Oh and I’ll try and abuse some of the week’s most hotly anticipated releases (because I like doing things like that).
1) Earl Sweatshirt – “Hive”
I know what you’re thinking – ‘holy fuck Earl has ginormous lips!’ – and indeed he does, but it’s those wonerous taste-flaps that give Earl Sweatshirt the best delivery, rhyme schemes and story telling capability of the whole Odd Future gang. Tyler, The Creator’s raps about rape and drug blitzes are getting old and it’s looking like Earl is the only saviour for Odd Future (he always has been). “Hive”, then, is an absolute beast; laying a super dragged back beat under a filthy bassline which leaves ample room for Earl, Vince Staples and Casey Veggie’s verses to breathe.
2) IAMNOBODI f/ Stacy Epps – “LoveLite”
Time for some feel-good hip-hop/soul now to remind you of the golden days when R Kelly wasn’t a suspected paedophile and everyone (I mean everyone) was wearing baggy pants. On “LoveLite” German producer IAMNOBODI channels some classic J Dilla energy on the production front with a choppy beat and squelchy bass/synth line. Adding to the instrumentation, R&B songstress Stacy Epps layers her effortlessly silky vocal on top, creating a sound reminiscent of only the best Slum Village/Badu ’90s R&B. Having already worked with Hip-Hop giants such as Madlib, MF Doom and OH NO, Epps puts her collaborative experience to good use, helping to create a track that is, just as its title suggests, light and perfect for some summer radio-play.
3) Sango f/ JMSN – “Affection”
Let’s make things a little more sexual now (it’s that time in the column) with a quality electro slow jam from Seattle-based producer Sango, featuring difficultly-named vocalist JMSN. With it’s glacial synth and percussion backing, “Affection” is a slow-moving yet subtly engaging electro/R&B song. The introduction of a soul-grooving bassline halfway through the track is also a genius move and puts Sango ahead of his contemporaries in creating genre-straddling, aurally-pleasing songs. Get yo’ groove on:
4) Arca – “&&&&&”
Ok, I’m cheating with this one a little bit because it’s more of a continuous mixtape rather than a single track, but because the whole thing is so great I just had to include it. Arca is an electronic producer who recently collaborated with Kanye West on Yeezus and on &&&&& he lays down some hip-hop heavy, ominously sparse beats meanwhile making sure to include influences from the wider realm of electronic production, most notably Aphex Twin, whose terrifying sample-based sounds can be felt in Arca’s use of acid synths and bass-heavy vocal sampling. &&&&& is an experimental and brave piece of work through which Arca shows his ability to produce a wide range of uniquely forward-thinking music without the need to accompany other artists and their visions. Stream and download below.
5) SZA – “Euphraxia”
SZA is a soulful female singer/songwriter/producer on the rise, following the independent release of two free EPs, S and See.SZA.Run. “Euphraxia” is taken from See.SZA.Run and is a floaty, bass-laced R&B number. SZA stands out from her contemporaries with her intelligent lyrics, referencing existentialism and the merits of soy milk all in one song, and quality minimalist production (“Euphraxia” is produced by the relatively unknown Dot). I highly recommend both of her EPs as they’re a far more creative take on the sound that The Weeknd perpetuated with his previous releases.
So, that’s all for now folks. Congratulations to those of you who made it to the end of this column and if you liked what you read/heard then check back next Friday for a fresh set of choons. If you didn’t like it, please make no attempts to comment/contact me…
Henry: If you do want to contact Ammar, you can on his twitter: @AmmarKalia2
If you read our interview with DJ Leo Lauretti, you might remember him promising a half-hour exclusive mix. Well guess what? He’s given us double the trouble with an hourlong set that is absolutely out of this world. If there was ever a summer party mix full of anthems and tunes to jump around to, then this is it. Listen below, and because we’re so nice you can download it absolutely free by clicking here.
Last night Drake’s label’s newest talent PARTYNEXTDOOR released his self-titled debut album. Having only previously dropped two tracks, the finer details of the album were shrouded in mystery before the release, though the two songs did seem to reveal a lot about PARTYNEXTDOOR’s sound. There are a lot of things that I love about this album and some things that I don’t.