Thursday, 19 September 2013

New Tracks: XJX TAF- Meditation

Frome, Somerset rapper XJX TAF, aka Jake Hight, uploaded his debut track, "Meditation" to his Soundcloud page last week. It's an absolutely rip- roaring way to start off his career. The beat gives off a hugely old- school minimal style- all booming snares and low- rumbling bass, as well as cuts of guitars, trumpets and keyboards,  all of which is stripped back to give XJX's flow plenty of space to ring clear. His near- spoken word flow is snappy, energetic and well- constructed, but it's his lyricism that's what's most captivating about this track. "Meditation for the nation grasp piece of mind, but in the application control what you find," he warns, before venturing off on allusions dealing with all kinds of problems, from an uncertain sense of self ("What's the truth, am I blind? Forward thinking or behind?") to drugs and the lack of information provided on them ("I bark at the Government, educate us properly") to lines that will take a couple of listens to understand fully ("solely the left of our brains doing the projects").

It's a fast- paced and brilliantly written way to start his career. It's certainly got my appetite whetted for the EP that XJX currently has in the works, which is reportedly due for release within the next couple of months.

You can stream "Meditation" via the Soundcloud link below:

Carcass- Surgical Steel

Artist: Carcass
Album: Surgical Steel
Record Label: Nuclear Blast

How do you live up to the expectations of having one of Metal's most important albums in your back catalogue? "Surgical Steel" is how

Many a Metal critique, and in fact journalists of a broader persuasion, would emphasize the importance of Liverpudlian Death Metallers Carcass' 1993 album "Heartwork" and the impact that it had, not only on the band but on the Death metal scene itself, and rightly so. A savagely bitter record written in the throes of time in which relationships within the band were beginning to deteriorate, it's furiously heavy, brilliantly melodic and all tied together by a sense of extravagant purpose that didn't oblige by the ideas of the natural DM sound at the time. And the fact of the matter is that bands like At The Gates, Exhumed and In Flames wouldn't have made most of their records were it not for the imprint left by "Heartwork", a record that showed DM didn't have to be all about lyrical and mechanical savagery (an idea imposed by bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide).

"Surgical Steel" is the band's first album since the universally panned "Swansong" in 1996 and their subsequent disbandment. Back with a revised line- up, it's clear that original members Jeff Walker and Bill Steer have almost everything to prove. "Surgical Steel", however, does not have the word "disappointing" enlisted in its vocabulary, and thankfully so; the truth of the matter is that it's nothing short of absolutely barn- storming.

"Thrasher's Abbatoir" (the album's first track proper after the soaring highs of the short- lived instrumental "1985") wastes no time in proving that Carcass are back, and as unbreakable as always. It's monstrously heavy, as well as groove- orientated, and wastes no time in proving they've lost none of their taste for aural assault. "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System", one of many quizzically titled songs here. A huge dollop of furious harmonized riffing leads into more blisteringly fast destruction, exposing frightening levels of skill that rarely deviate from such throughout the whole record (Bill Steer's shredding, in particular, is often nothing short of astonishing). "A Congealed Clot of Blood" is a resolutely evil, mid- paced gallop and sees Walker's lyrics indulge into something more conscious than most of his wordplay on the record; "Nothing is true but infinite human conflict," he growls.

"Surgical" is the key word here; surgical musicianship, terrifying lyrics preserving images of surgical, meticulously murder and torture. "Non- Compliance to ASTM F 899- 12 Standard" taps in to the clued up, supposedly scientific theme in terms of its title, but it's also a blindingly melodic, soaring and gloriously constructed performance, the "surgical" element adhering to the absolute precision with which the band play. "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" and "Unfit For Human Consumption" are both thrilling, rollicking pieces of Megadeth- esque rifforama. The latter explodes into a furious storm of blast beats and sinister, low- tuned DM crawling before resurfacing and ending on a rip- roaring close.

"Mount of Execution" is maybe one of the most epic 8 and a half minutes of Metal you'll hear in 2013. Harmonic, soaring guitars ring clear and echo throughout the grandiose atmosphere before descending into a fest of equally as catchy rocking. "A dark mobilisation... The war unrestrained... Reign of Terror" snarls Walker over a hard hitting, epically catchy chord progression and groove. They manage to pack one final stonking riff into the last two minutes and go out sounding just as vital as they did at the beginning of the record.

"Surgical Steel" is a piece that rings with conviction, incredible precision, great riffs and the kind of determination that Carcass have always exuded, and that same kind that has always been absent from many a band who go through the things they've experienced. It's not "Heartwork" or "Necrotism", but on its own merits it deserves to be hailed as a fantastic piece of work, and well worthy of a place next to the classics the band have previously churned out. Welcome back, riff- masters!

Key Tracks: Mount of Execution, Noncompliance to ASTM F 899- 12 Standard, Unfit For Human Consumption
For fans of: At The Gates, Megadeth, Exhumed


New Tracks: Real Lies- World Peace

A few days ago excellent young London trio Real Lies released their brand new single "World Peace", and it's absolutely banging fusion of '80s electro- pop, late- '80s Italo- House and baggy indie- isms. A hypnotic, colourful keyboard rattles throughout the whole track, as well as a pummeling, rumbling and funky bass line that adds danceable weight to the gorgeous melody. The vocals are buried beneath an ac knowledgeable but not over- bearing layer of haze and sweeping, hazy synth swoops lay themselves gracefully over the chorus. The track is ludicrously catchy, smart and pretty, as well as being rather addictive. Fans of the Pet Shop Boys, Happy Mondays and Hurts are sure to find plenty pleasurable about this track.

"World Peace" is out now via Marathon Artists Ltd.

Dessa- Parts of Speech

Artist: Dessa
Album: Parts of Speech
Record Label: Doomtree Records

Author/ poet/ rapper/ singer- songwriter Dessa deals a hefty dose of beautiful heartache on "Parts of Speech"

Although relatively little- known outside the circles of underground Hip Hop fans, the Doomtree collective is the home and hubbub of some of America's finest writing talent. Artists like P.O.S., Sims and general producer Lazerbeak all have their fingers deeply steeped in secretive critical acclaim (a sense of respect that is shared in the reverence of all members of the group). It's the group's stand- up female stalwart Dessa, though, whose pen and ink musings span the farthest diameter and reach the widest emotional appeal. She's published books under the Doomtree name, as well as dealing in beautifully fractious poetry, rapping and general song- writing. "Parts of Speech", her third solo project, is a record that brings all these kaleidoscopic talents to the fore, and therefore stands as perhaps her most representative work to date.

Like all personal Hip- Hop records "Parts of Speech" is a voyage of self- analysis, but the way that Dessa writes about the prevalent themes of heartache, self- degradation and honesty that makes her such an enigmatic, captivating artist; she's in full control of the reigns here. She's not trying to ram emotional responses down your throat, but she's laying herself bare in a perpetually heart- string- tugging way.

Proceedings begin with "The Man I Knew." It's a heavy- handed way to kick affairs off, lyrically concerning the loss of loved one to drugs and debauchery. But straight away it oozes with her metaphorical, well- flowing prose. "You said your conscience was clean, about as white as a line of Cocaine", and then in the chorus "The man I knew, I don't think that he can hear me now." "Call Off Your Ghost" is a much darker piece of work. It revolves around a cavernous, intoxicating electronic beat with glacial, resounding piano chords and a mournfully gorgeous chorus; "We've lived too long, too close... so call off your ghost."

"Skeleton Key" has the makings of a great pop song with it's catchy, upbeat and melodically dense trajectory. Lyrically it finds Dessa luring herself into a sense of fickle security as she sings "I'll come and go as I please, I've got my skeleton key." "Fighting Fish", one of the more out- and- out Hip Hop moments here, sees Dessa's fast, snappy but also soulful flow ride well over a meticulously crafted live Boom- Bap beat. it's both cynical and motivational, a concoction that finds Dessa asserting evidental truths like "To aim high is to make waves, to split scenes, but that's not what it seems like to me..." and "if you don't aim for the centre it's a waste of the art."

"Annabelle" is the most vivid, heartbreaking moment present here. A beautiful, teary- eyed guitar melody leads the foray as presence- filled strings swarm the chorus. "Annabelle, come back to me, I' calling you from home", cries the chorus, before things get more bleak in the second verse; "Even though I'm here right beside I barely recognise you, you're like a photo that I'm watching fade away", and then "You're in the bathroom with a flashlight, trying to weigh your shadow, you say it's gotten far too heavy, hard to drag across the floor."

It ends on "Sound the Bells", a beautiful, rousing, almost hymnal anthem which gradually gets more epic and moving as it continues. It's a near perfect way to round "Parts of Speech" off; the light at the end of an emotional hurricane- filled tunnel. Cavernous, beautiful, well- formed and expertly written, "Parts of Speech" is not only one of Hip- Hop's finest moments in 2013, but also perhaps one of the most intriguing literary experiences of the year too.

Key Tracks: Annabelle, Call off Your Ghost, Fighting Fish
For fans of: Doomtree, Leonard Cohen


Monday, 16 September 2013

Arctic Monkeys- AM

Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Album: AM
Record Label: Domino

The 'Monkeys 5th record sees Alex Turner returning to his illustrious lyrical brilliance, says Jack Greenwood

"I'm yours Glastonbury, I'm yours... But the question is R U MINE?" Alex Turner, Glastonbury Festival 2013

Monday marked the fifth day of my life in which I woke to the excitement of an Arctic Monkeys album release. Both the band and the publics'  perception of them has changed dramatically since that primitive 2006 work. Unlike the vast playground of potential greeting their initial adolescent dance-floor tunes, they now face an expectant fan-base of millions around the globe. And of course, with each subsequent release, questions have prodded and probed at the Monkeys, suggesting that they will never again reach the vertiginous heights of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

Fittingly, AM emerges with a rhetoric of Alex Turner’s own. Do I Wanna Know? emboldens exactly the brooding, mischievous and carnal style the band have favoured on recent records. The poetic verses that have surfaced throughout Turner’s eleven year mastery of the Monkeys’ vocals slip into earshot in the opening line as he croons ‘Have you got colour in your cheeks?’ over a lethargic but progressive bass line. His ability to produce lyrics of the most intriguing manner never fails throughout the dozen songs tabled in this release. Even more impressive is his fascinating reworking of John Cooper Clarke’s early 1980s poem I Wanna Be Yours, which seems to be so suited to the Sheffield man’s own musings that younger listeners can be forgiven for mistaking it to be fresh out of the North Midlands. As the last song, it re-emphasises the meticulous structure of each AM song, and the lyrical brilliance of their front man.

For those that, somewhat understandably, crave a return to the pulse racing, expeditious shout-alongs of days gone by, solace is found in the festival-scale belter, R U Mine? A tune that was first released more than 18 months ago, it represents the only real glimpse we get of the clamorous but adept drumming of Matt Helders. R U Mine? Is already firmly a crowd favourite in the live set, as this summer’s emphatic Glastonbury headlining act proved. At times, AM must frustrate those who were looking for something a bit more aggressive and upbeat, but followers just need to accept that the Arctic Monkeys will never better their all conquering debut. Instead of yearning for the old sounds, embrace the streamlined swagger of a band transformed by their association with Josh Homme and his American influence.

The album offers a comprehensive drop in tempo after the classic rock of the superb Arabella and the meandering I Want It All, which is equally as unconvincing as the flaccid No.1 Party Anthem. Fortunately, the joyful, piano inspired Snap Out of It, offers exactly that remedy to a listing middle order. It brightens up the record’s climax with an infectiously catchy hum-under-your breath harmony.

Britain’s favourite 21st century northern four-piece may just have contrived the most tightly polished and immaculately produced full-length release of their careers. That’s not always a good thing, but striving to recreate a distinctly sixties vibe, not least with the heavily greased hairdos and swanky leather jackets appears to be working for the sexualised musings of Alex Turner right now. 

Key Tracks: R U Mine?, Arabella, Snap Out Of It
For Fans of: Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon


New Tracks: Modern Life Is War- Fever Hunting

Reformed Iowa Hardcore heroes Modern Life Is War return with a specimen of straight- up, intelligent and beautifully melodic ferocity in the shape of "Fever Hunting." The track is the title track of their first post- break up album (released on August 6th via Jacob Bannon's Deathwish Inc.), and its an honest, rip- roaring return. The song has a beautiful, clear- cut but hard- hitting chord progression and grizzly, conviction fueled vocals as Jeffrey Eaton yells "The fever rages on, the fever rages on, the fever rages on... Inside my head," before pointing more angrily at an unnamed control freak that seems to be at the centre of the track's lyrical embodiment: "You can exploit everyone around you, you can call it the struggle to survive." It's simple, but it's also emotional, intelligent and catchy, so in essence it's everything the band does best.

Expect a review of "Fever Hunting" soon.

New Tracks: 65DaysofStatic- Prisms

65DaysofStatic are a Post- Rock group from Sheffield, and "Prisms" is a cut from their new album "Wild Light", which was released on Friday 13th September via Superball Music.

The track itself is astonishing. It starts off like IDM stalwarts Fuck Buttons meeting Four Tet on a lonely dancefloor, with its pugilistic stabs of glaze and soft two- step patter. Soon enough however it turns into a barn- storming mesh of pounding drums and minimal bleeps before gradually fulfilling guitar crescendos rise out of the haze to an all- at- once life affirming, distant and mesmerizing level. It ends on a fractious climax of glitchy, lingering electronics and and a glacial, lonesome piano melody.

Personally it's got me super- excited to hear "Wild Light" in full.

New Tracks: Deaf Havana- Kings Road Ghosts

Norfolk- based Alternative rockers Deaf Havana release their 3rd Studio album "Old Souls" today via BMG Rights Management (a testament to just how big of a deal they've become), and "Kings Road Ghosts" is a track that I heard previously via a Rock Sound sampler CD that I happened to pick up the other day.

Anyone who knows me will know that I've never been a fan of Deaf Havana, and musically this really isn't usually my cup of tea. However, "Kings Road Ghosts" stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. It's a beautifully orchestrated and melodic slice of Springsteen- esque rock and story telling that sees the band sound more mature than ever they have done in the past. It's instrumentally dense as its heavy chords are presided over by a distinctly Western twang, as well as a blue- collar piano inflection. Lyrically it taps into an emotion that many of us have felt and probably will feel as we transcend into the throws of adulthood. "This place isn't the same you see, and these streets don't feel like home to me" wails frontman James Veck- Gidolfi before asserting in the chorus "I miss the days when I knew I had a place." All of it crashes to an epic close with soaring keyboards lifting the song from it's country- punk allure slightly.

Ulver- Messe I.X- VI. X

Artist: Ulver, the Tromso Chamber Orchestra & the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra
Album: Messe I.X.- VI. X
Record Label: Jester Records

Norwegian experimentalists team up with some of the North's finest orchestras for a movement of film- score epicness

It's now been so long since Norwegian quintet Ulver can legitimately be considered a Black Metal group that it's a wonder they still get rushed under the same blanket as they did amidst their appearance in the first wave of BM bands in 1993. Over the course of their career they've delved heavily into the worlds of ambient, electronic and experimental music, something which seems to have become even more prevalent since the recruitment of Sunn0)))'s Daniel O' Sullivan. A symphonic arrangement commissioned for the Tromso Kulturhuset in the Norwegian town of the same name, "Messe I.X.- VI.X" sees Ulver team up with two of the North's most revered and talented orchestras, and the collusion that ensues often reaches high into the colossal shadows that Classical music often casts over all other genres.

The opener "As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon grapples with the ghost of a bloody past" immediately showcases worldly consciousness. It's sans lyrics, but as should be the case the music provides all the savage imagery necessary. Eerie, dark rumbling bass and spine- chilling keys accompany you through arid, vast deserts and scorching heat. Expansive, cavernous drones swoon in as the sound of machine gun rattle resounds in the distance. A mournful, despair- ridden violin joins, and from there the instrumentation swells and works in fabulous conjunction to depict the horror of the scene.

"Schri Schneider" marks a different tone in sound and character altogether. Glitzy, Boards of Canada- esque electronics bubble beneath the hazy violin progressions. Buzzing guitar feedback leads the foray into kaleidoscopic layers of synth arpeggios and bleeps.

"Glamour Box" builds from humble, skeletal beginnings into a cyclical fusion of repetitive bleep progressions and pensive, heart- swelling instrumentation. "Noche Oscura Del Alma" is dark enough to soundtrack the tragic final scene of Othello with its tainted, ominous violin melody. The song gets more and more disjointed, and gets unscrupulously uncomfortable towards the end as samples are thrown into the mix and the rumbling, evil flavour of the music takes a turn for the dramatic.

"Son of Man" and "Mother of Mercy" make up the vocal takes of the album, both melancholy in tone. "Son of Man" in particular has the character and narrative of a Medieval monk praying to God for sins committed, specifically "the murder of the innocents." "Messe..." is in equal turns a swelling, cacophonous, majestic and chilling piece of work that delivers plenty of different characters, stories and emotions within its 6- piece run time. Hearing this resound around the Tromso Kulturhuset will be a marvel for anyone who attends.

Key Tracks: Glamour Box, Schri Schneider, As Syrians Pour in, Lebanon grapples with the Ghost of a bloody Past
For Fans of: Clint Mansell, Alexander Tucker


Thursday, 12 September 2013

New Tracks: Arcade Fire- Reflektor

Canadian Art- Pop stalwarts Arcade Fire announced their return to the world a few days ago with two epic proportional maneuvers. First of all, they announced that their new album "Reflektor" will be a double LP. Then, they released the 7 and a half minute funk- a-thon title track as the debut single release from the album.

If you hadn't guessed already from the description above, "Reflektor" is a complete left turn in terms of sonic direction for the band. It's all disco drum beats, propulsive, samba- style percussion, funky bass and trumpets. It builds itself around a simple but effective groove that bounds its way along throughout the entire track. There are moments where the instrumentation swells and explodes in glistening soundscapes of huge proportions. Imagine the earthy electro- funk of LCD Soundsystem conjoining with the retro disco of some of Pulp's more languorous work, and that's what "Reflektor" sounds like.

It's an interesting new phase for the band, and it has got me very interested to see how this sound presents itself and progresses across the course of the album when it drops (however, I don't at all suspect it'll be entirely a disco affair). But Arcade Fire have both kept people guessing and launched their come back with a fine single. Anticipation is sure to be high.

"Reflektor" (the album) is due to be released on October 28th via  Arcade Fire music.

New Tracks: PW- Here With You

Young London rapper PW has released his new single "Here With You." It's a track that I can legitimately see being a big hit; it's poppy, light, and its stripped back but purposeful dancehall- inflected beat will go down well with those who like to Dance. However, I have to say that I don't enjoy the track in itself. It starts off with the poppy hook that's repeated as a chorus throughout the song, and the lyricism is distinctly cliched as PW raps "I want you to know, I think you're beautiful...". Lyrically the song is pretty cliched the whole way through, talking about heartache and romance in an openly- chart friendly and inoffensive manner. All that being said, the track is light, upbeat and catchy, and a perfect notion for those looking for feel good vibes rather than emotional and lyrical substance.

The Weeknd- Kiss Land

Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Kiss Land
Record Label: The Weeknd XO

A lack of new innovations means The Weeknd come off more dour than dark this time

Up until now, The Weeknd's cult success has grown to a point where they're almost at household name status amongst teenagers. Abel Tesfaye's over- debauched, low- life lyricism and tales of depraved heartbreak have tugged at the heart strings of many an indie persona, spurred on by the dark, cavernous production that forms most of his songs backbone. Maybe the fact that so far this formula hasn't encountered many deliberators has lead to Tesfaye seeing no real need or desire for change on "Kiss Land." But actually, variation is exactly what this album requires.

There are moments on "Kiss Land" where both the production and lyrics are memorable enough to strike home hard. The opener "Professional" sees Tesfaye expose the ordeal of losing a lover to the world of fame and success whilst entwining the emotional substance with a cynical glance at the industry over vast washes of hazy, floating synth. "So you're somebody now, but what's a somebody in a nobody town?" he asks of his songs' protagonist. "Love in the Sky" is the shortest moment here but sees Tesfayes falsetto fracture delicately as he indulges in his usual poetic depravity over warm, twangy guitar noodling and cavernous backing vocals.

However, it's not long before Tesfaye's conventional stance of weepy, lovelorn and drug- smothered self- flagellation starts to drag. The poor lyricism on "The Town" is cliched, and is combined with a Tesfaye who doesn't sound particularly moved by the whole ordeal. "Belong to the World", despite its pugilistic, noisy opening soon descends into another bout of falsetto whining. "Live For", featuring The Weeknd's biggest advocate of all, Drake, is fueled by debauchery and possesses a nagging hook that proclaims "This is the shit that I live for... This is the shit that I die for." "Wanderlust" essentially sees Tesfaye glorifying a one night stand and despite it's hefty, dance- friendly beat it barely manages to surpass boring.

"Kiss Land" sees the group's schtick finally starting to wear thin, but it's not as if they don't have the innovation to propel themselves down a new trajectory. Their formula of experimental r'n'b still works, and that's what keeps them grappling on to it, but by the sounds of this record, it won't (and shouldn't) be that way for much longer.

Key tracks: Professional, Love in the Sky
For fans of: Drake, AlunaGeorge


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Factory Floor- Factory Floor

Artist: Factory Floor
Album: Factory Floor
Record Label: DFA

Factory Floor are securing their place in the lineage of great Dance music

Since even before its release, London Industrial Dance trio Factory Floor's long- awaited, highly anticipated debut caused contention in certain sects of the blogosphere. About a week before its release on Monday, the Guardian posted an exclusive stream of the album. The result was about 35 comments, most of which comprised of people throwing words like "boring" and "lazy" around. It's Factory Floor's first release proper since their "Untitled" EP in 2010, and in between were a number of re- workings of their own tracks and obscure split 12". And here's the thing; Factory Floor's music is danceability stripped down to its absolute bare bones. Many of the tracks on this self- titled full- length revolve around a repeated electronic loop that lasts for the entire track, changing ever-so slightly every now and again and relying on ambidextrous percussive excursions and blistering grooves. But the thing is, in a safe sextet of hands like that of this band, it's absolutely engulfing.

The songs on "Factory Floor", despite the cynicism, are meticulously crafted and expertly pieced together demonstrations of minimally layered rhythm. Everything on this album, from Gabe Guernsey's ambidextrous drumming to Dominic Butler's revolving synth arpeggios and Nik Void's heavily effected vocals works to the affect of making you want to boogie like tomorrow is the end of the world.

The opener "Turn it Up" is a robotic, tuneless maneuver that asks "What is a good way to start?" before answering it's own question. A monotonous '80s Italo- House piano sample presents itself before a monstrous tribal groove intervenes and just grows and becomes more enveloping as it continues. "Here Again" is 8 minutes of impenetrable, bleep favouring funk, entailing the excellently intertwining aforementioned arpeggios and a myriad of percussive techniques that all conjoin to create an ever more irresistible epic.

"Fall Back" is a robust, tangy and punishing cut that infectious harks back to their "Untitled EP"- era instead of the lighter soundscapes indulged in most of the time on this record. Void's vocals up until now have largely been used as a tool, but here they strike a strangely sensual nerve as she intones sensually "Did you think you were going to fall higher... Higher... Higher...". It recalls the perverse weirdness of Throbbing Gristle's "Hot on the Heels of Love", a song which incidentally Void mentioned as one of "the sexiest tracks she owns" in a recent interview with The Quietus.

"Two" emphasises perfectly how Void's guitar playing couldn't be less conventional. Dissonant and tuneless, it sees her conjure up alienating, gritty effects and cavernous, echoing shudders, all in the name of extraordinary, organic improvisation. "Work Out" is the most diverse track in terms of melody. Butler's deep, squelchy synths worm patterns and grooves between rushes of grinding and spacious electro noise and kaleidoscopic percussive movements.

You just cannot argue with these grooves. They're mechanical in the sexiest sense, and un-fuckwithable in the most danceable sense. Forget "lazy"; Factory Floor are securing themselves a place in the lineage of great Dance Music.

Key tracks: Here Again, Fall Back, Work Out
For fans of: A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle


New Tracks: Cult of Luna- Light Chaser

Swedish Post- Metallers Cult of Luna surprised the Metal community a few days by announcing the release of a new EP entitled "Vertikal II", as well as posting a new song online in the form of "Light Chaser." "Vertikal II" is a 4 track EP and is due to be released on September 17th as a subsidiary of it's older brother, the full- length "Vertikal" released in January. The EP will contain three new tracks (written at the time that they were writing the full- length) and a remix of the 19- minute monster "Vicarious Redemption" from none other than Godflesh/ Jesu/ Techno Animal mastermind Justin K. Broadrick.

"Light Chaser" is a typically layered and textured affair, even if it does propose a more mellow vibe to much of that that was on "Vertikal." The song revolves around a hypnotic, meandering arpeggio that keeps its momentum for the whole song. As it builds it's joined shuddering, droney synths and washes of distorted guitar feedback swoon in and out, thickening the atmosphere. A pounding, marching beat propels the song along in typically groovy fashion, as stabs of keyboard add to the rhythm and different percussive and melodic elements join the foray. Johannes Perrson's vocals sound as huge and defiant as always, and get buried under an intrusive shudder towards the track's mid- section.

"Light Chaser" is an utterly captivating piece of work, and is a perfect sonic accompaniment as those chilly, dark winter nights draw in.

New Tracks: 5thHop- Child's Play Beat Tape

Atlanta, Georgia based production duo 5thHop have just released their fantastic beat tape "Child's Play." Featuring 8 tracks of ethereal beauty, this is a tape full of soul and hypnoticism. From the gorgeously hazy "Soul Ties" with its swelling harp and female vocal samples, through the Active Child "Play House"- sampling depth of "Feels Good" to the Just Blaze- esque southern- fried swagger of bonus track "Never Let Go", it's a dreamy, seamless listening experience that may not offer much in terms of variety, but offers a lot in terms of transportation to another mind. Fans of Clams Casino are sure to lap this up.

You can stream the tape on Soundcloud by following the link below.

Julia Holter- Loud City Song

Artist: Julia Holter
Album: Loud City Song
Record label: Domino

Holter's newly expansive sound is occasionally majestic but is sometimes too dull to resonate

With two of her previous releases, the full- length "Ekstasis" and the "Goddess Eyes EP", Julia Holter met Laurie Anderson in a dark alleyway and transformed her sonic excursions into tuneful if skeletal shards of barely- there beauty. On "Loud City Song" her sonic palette is transcended further into worlds surrounded of woodland lushness and peaceful eloquence, as well as old ties well met (see "Hello Stranger"). However, the problem with "Loud City Song" is that only a handful of tracks resonate with the depiction above.

"Maxim's I" contains gorgeous layers of softly but prominently handed keyboard chords and swelling, ethereal violins as Holter surrounds herself in nature. "Horns Surrounding Me" sees her breathlessly running from time itself ("Don't forget how young we are"), soundtracked by a cacophony of rising, dramatic horns. However, "Loud City Song's" theatrics aren't always pleasant on the ears. On "World" the arrangements are almost too spacious, and the song hangs about long after it's welcome. "Maxim's II" is a bombastic reprise of the opener, but melodically it's simply irritating.

Holter's newly organic imaginings are sometimes enchanting, but often times too dissonant or bare to really be captivating. However, wielding this new sonic territory in her hands she COULD form a masterpiece someday. Fingers crossed.

Key tracks: Horns Surrounding Me, This is a True heart, Maxim's I
For fans of: Scott Walker, Kate Bush, These New Puritans


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

New Tracks: Andy Stott- Anytime Soon

 "Anytime Soon" is UK purveyor of all things dark and electronic Andy Stott's contribution to the Adult Swim Singles program (as referred to in the Captain Murphy post earlier). As expected, it's a typically spine- tingling affair, even if it isn't one of Stott's most extravagant or textured pieces of work. At just over 8 minutes long it's a creeping shuffle of a track, propelled by an ominous tension- filled looped palm- muted guitar loop and a clicking, cavernous beat. As the song progresses it's joined various atmosphere- promoting rumbles and distant clangs, as well as a haunting female vocal sample that croons "the danger is in the thrill... The danger is in the dark" repeatedly. It's a track likely to send multiple shivers down your spine.

You can download "Anytime Soon", as well as the rest of this year's Adult Swim Singles program, for free via the link below:

New Tracks: Captain Murphy w/ Viktor Vaughn, Earl Sweatshirt & Thundercat- Between Villains

Captain Murphy, the elusive Hip Hop alter- ego of star Electronica producer Flying Lotus has teamed up with fellow rappers Viktor Vaughn and Earl Sweatshirt, as well as neo- jazz wizard Thundercat for the track "Between Villains", which is a contribution to the Adult Swim singles program this year. The track is distinctly dark, containing a deep rumbling, ominous bass line and a menacing snare crawl, which is then combined with chilling piano swells and lonesome notes and Thundercat's lightning plucked guitar melody. Lyrically Viktor Vaughn brings the unhinged, psychopathic humour ("I'm on a grassy knoll, everybody's got one your mom's is her asshole"), while Earl is more self- deprecating ("Don't press record, I hate my fucking voice"), and Murphy himself is as wordy, abstract and mysterious as always.

Ultimately it's a track that sees three MCs exporting their own personalities and ideas, and each of them coming off in equal measure deranged, clever, funny and talented. Pretty much everything you could want from a posse rap track, then.

You can download the track, as well as all other contributions to the Adult Swim program, for free here:

New Tracks: Eminem and Skream

Many of you will have heard it by now, but "Berzerk" is the first single to be released from Eminem's comeback album "The Marshall Mathers LP 2", which due to be released on November 5th via Aftermath records.

The title of his forthcoming LP alone suggests a diverted trajectory back to his pre- "Relapse" rawness and old- school tendencies, and that's exactly what Eminem would have you think too with lead- off single "Berzerk." Everything about the track screams a return to his former musical sojourns... Well, almost everything. The first verse is loaded with Beastie Boys samples and Golden Era- scratching. "Let's take it back to straight Hip Hop and start from scratch" imposes Em amidst a thunderous rock riff, a pounding groove and Public Enemy references.

It's a bombastic return, for sure. But there are hints here not only of Eminem clinging on to the mainstream acclaim that previously he didn't care about, but also of trying a little bit too hard. The chorus is minorly irritating as it sees Em's vocals climb to the absolute nether regions of his range, to the point where it's almost comical. The track also seems to sacrifice some of the esoteric wordplay we know Eminem capable of in favour of samples which eventually become over- bearing.

"Berzerk" is sure to be a party and live favourite, and maybe that's why Mathers released it as a single. It's a fists-in-the-air pop anthem with plenty of old- school tendencies, just lacking slightly in the wit and self- awareness of that time. Nevertheless, it promises vibrant and hard- hitting things for "The Marshall Mathers LP 2."

Dubstep icon Skream however really has undergone a change of pace and style on his newest single "Rollercoaster", which features Sam Frank on vocals. It's an unashamed throwback of deliriously funky, glisteningly retro House. In a post- "Random Access Memories" world it would be easy to be cynical and accuse Skream of jumping on the bandwagon. However, that critique is largely saved by the fact that "Rollercoaster" is a very fine tune indeed.

It's full of squelching synths and a thumping, groovy beat, bolstered up by a delectably groovy and organic bass line. Ridiculously cheesy, glacial '80s keyboard chords make an appearance in the chorus, and throughout the sex- panther guitar samples work to brilliantly tuneful effect. Frank's vocals add vital (if stylistically unremarkable) character to the track, before it closes on 2 and a half minutes of gloriously old- school self- indulgence.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Pixies- EP1

Artist: Pixies
Album: EP1
Record Label: Self- release

Legendary alt- rockers return via playing it safe, but there's enough to hope for a full- length here

You can't really blame Frank Black for taking it steady with the return of the Pixies, and to expect "Surfer Rosa's" maniacal genius straight from the off is ever so slightly naive. Black's solo career has seen him indulge in his own idiosyncracies since the demise of his game- changing grundge band, and given that "A Tout Le Monde" (Pixies' final full- length before their split) was the safest they'd ever played the rock game, the fact that "EP1" isn't so much of a revamped, re- energized Pixies in full crazy than a carefully trod four song work of promise shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

Nor is it a particularly bad move either. More outlandish tendencies can always be expected when dealing with Pixies, but Black and co. are warming up again, and they're running relatively fast on the tracks. Opener "Andro Queen" sees Black reveling in his love via his trademark estranged lyricism ("Andro Queen has lost her ring... Guess I'll just have to kiss her finger now") amidst a beautiful plod of atmosphere heavy guitar chords and a soulful acoustic background. "Another Toe" is disappointingly conventional, but the strong, glistening lead guitar melody in the post- chorus section revitalizes it a bit, as does the catchy riff.

The lead single "Indie Cindy" naturally took the world of Pixies fans by storm, and although it lacks vigour it encompasses some of the traits that always made Pixies such an enticing entity, with plenty of Black's weirdo, metaphorical ruminations married with Joey Santiago's creative guitar chaos. The moment that most captures their former glory though is the closer "What Goes Boom." Angular, aggressive and groove- heavy, it replicates some of their fine "Surfer Rosa"- era monstrosity, without being quite as prolific as much of that album.

It's not particularly exciting stuff by many standards. However almost all the songs on "EP1" contain glimpses and hints of the magic that Pixies once possessed. The release was limited to 5,000 copies either physically or digitally, and whilst it's not worth spending hours and pounds tracking down, it's listening that has us hoping for both more of the same but further expansion on a full- length.

Key Tracks: What Goes Boom, Andro Queen
For fans of: Yo La Tengo, Nirvana


Watain- The Wild Hunt

Artist: Watain
Album: The Wild Hunt
Record Label: Century Media

The Swedish Black Metal titans return with an album that "holds the world in the palm of its hand"

The universe is far too giant a thing for the human mind to understand. We think we understand, or we understand what we know about it. But such complexes are so vastly beyond human understanding that it only plays into the arrogance of our species' nature to assume such a thing. Another thing that comes seamlessly (and more positively) to human nature is the art of making music, and it would be far- fetched to suggest that, in the past, humans haven't tried to conjure up a sound to encompass or to attempt to depict the magnitude of the universe. An unsuspecting Brian Eno, Swans, a plethora of 19th century composers would maybe be prime culprits. But no one would point the finger at Swedish Black Metal legends Watain... until hearing "The Wild Hunt", perhaps.

Alas, the band's fifth full- length does not encapture the magnitude, vastness or unbeknownst of the entire universe, but it gives it a pretty good try. In doing so, it takes its place as a God- like entity, surveying the Earth from the darkness above and watching over mankind, but not with benevolence. It wields an iron fist that threatens to erase the Earth at any given moment, thus making the insignificance of the human race a true, literal reality. It's a record that holds the world in the palm of its hand.

The idea of being at the mercy of a Black Metal can conjure some pretty negative connotations, but in the case of "The Wild Hunt" it's summarised by the fact that the music does most of the talking. Opener "Night Vision" is like the still before the storm in a desolate French market town, soundtracked by ghostly guitars, weeping violins and pensive accordion melodies. Eventually the storm hits, and tremolo- picked destruction ensues. "De Profundis" veers between chaotic, blast beat- led dissonance and a hard- rocking, impenetrable groove. It's alienating and punishing, but also astonishingly accomplished. "Black Flames March" traverses from epic, sky- kissing tremolo soundscapes to an intensely dramatic smash- down and on to a mid- paced, atmosphere drenched gallop.

"All That May Bleed" brutalizes its way through with all the bone- shattering force of a ten- tonne battering ram and still remains monstrously groovy and creative through the thickness. "The Child Must Die" runs its course through a detonating myriad of melodic, rollicking grooves, as well as glistening solos and captivating fantastical lyricism (sample lyric: "The child of fire must die to be free").

"They Rode On" presents itself as the album's "November Rain" without being anywhere near as masturbatory. It's a slow- burning, atmosphere heavy ballad that's almost Swans- esque in its dusty roots and epic ascent, as well as it's "larger than life" mysticism and magnitude. "Igrem Veni Mittere" is a gorgeous amalgamation of lilting but strong arpeggios and crushing, mountainous solos and riffs, before descending into doom- laden apocalypse in its second half.

That Watain have shouldered all other Metal albums this year into the abyss via "The Wild Hunt" is not necessarily as surprising as you might think. They've always had the magnitude lesser bands can only dream of possessing, and there's always been an imperial force and understanding to their music that allows it to soar higher than their contemporaries. It's usual to feel insignificant when listening to Prokofiev, or Bach, but that's not a feeling commonly resounding outside of Classical Music. Well, Watain might have something to say about that, and rightly so.

Key Tracks: The Child Must Die, All That May Bleed, Black Flames March, Holocaust Dawn
For fans of: Marduk, Bathory


Carl Kavorkian- The Happiest Sad Face

Artist: Carl Kavorkian
Album: The Happiest Sad Face
Record Label: Cult Member Music

Carl Kavorkian may not be pushing that many boundaries, but this is experiemental Hip Hop in it's most immediate and often hardest hitting form

Upon first seeing the video for Carl Kavorkian's "Half Empty/ Half Full", the only solitary release from "The Happiest Sad Face", you'd probably be forgiven for sceptically shaking your head and wondering when the Death Grips- hounding noise brigade will ACTUALLY branch out. But Carl Kavorkian, just like "Half Full/ Half Empty", deserves much more than your scepticisim. "The Happiest Sad Face" is his second full- length album, and although it is both experimental and ambitious, it understands its place and crucially values content over any real desire to push the envelope. It's a record that, at its core, isn't remotely interested in fitting in to any kind of scene. It's a beast entirely unto itself.

From the beginning of proceedings producer Lou Cypher proves some expansive and bold production chops that are twinned with Kavorkian's fire- branded vitriol that runs clear in his lyricism throughout the whole album. "#3 Pavlov's Platter" is a spacey, gritty cut that sounds like a psychotically literate song from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's futuristic "Drokk" album of last year. "Laying Hands" sonically revolves around a gnarly, guttural beat as Kavorkian indulges in EL-P- esque character assasination with venomous accuracy, rapping "I think you're used to using, not drugs but humans, hold 'em up and put a torch to 'em."

"The Storm in my Brain" is a brutalising composition of pounding, distortion fuelled futuristic synths and a boom bap beat. It finds him at his most esoterically violent, interspersed with imagery endorsements comparing himself to things like a "wild black stallion running loose by the ocean." The fire gets more and more personal towards the end of the track as he raps: "You can feel her cold breath, the smells of blood on it, she's a fucking man eater and you can bet your unborn son on it."

"Waterlogged Derelict" exposes a promising amount of production ambition as it sits full of resounding synth washes, glacial, faded vocal samples and horns. "Live to Deaf" featuring Megabusive is literary braggadocia over minimal but brain- grabbing bleeps and a robust shuffle.

The album gets even more revealing in its final throes. "Father" is a touching ode to his absent parent and finds him mining the depths of his soul and re- appearing with stark self- ruminations like "the world has no table cup big enough to show me what it is I have to measure up to." "Prelude to a New Life" is a meticulously brutal, grizzly detailing of saying farewell to a loved one in their final moments.

"The Happiest Sad Face" doesn't push ,many boundaries, but that's not its purpose. Carl Kavorkian is making the music he wants to make, and there is plenty of thrilling lyrical ability and production creativity to make this a wholesome, worthwhile listening experience. This is experimental Hip- Hop in its most honest and immediate form.

Key Tracks: Laying Hands, The Storm in my Brain, Prelude to a New Life
For fans of: EL-P, Death Grips, Aesop Rock


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Waxing Lyrical: Me, talking about Vinyl

As some of you may have noticed, over the past few months a few independent Music bloggers on Youtube have started uploading videos of themselves talking about their Vinyl collections. Despite my own mightily lack lustre collection, I decided to do the same thing. Why? I'm not entirely sure to be honest. Partly out of boredom, partly because I thought it would be fun, and probably partly because I wanted to show off about all the amazing records I've got (not that I'm expecting many people to care).

Fundamentally, I love talking about music (even if, as the video proves, I'm not very good at it) and I love sharing the things I love with other people. One of the reasons I set up this site in the first place was to tell people about new music that I love. If I can introduce even just one person to something they really love as a product of what I do, then I'm a happy man.

I know that technically the video is a shambles. I've never used that camera before and was not aware of just how poor it would both look and sound. Maybe if I do more videos in the future I'll be able to find a way to rectify it. I'm also fully aware that I say "Um" way too much, but watching the video back I found I could zone it out after a while. Hopefully you can too, but I don't blame you if not.

Nevertheless, I had fun making this video and hopefully any vinyl enthusiasts watching this found it interesting too. Any feedback is welcome, and please be brutal. I don't want to embarrass myself by doing another one of these if it's really that bad.

Thanks for the time. I should add here that I have reviews of the new records by Carl Kavorkian, Watain and Pixies ready and raring to go, they'll be posted tomorrow. Until then,


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Rod Serling, realism and self- respect: An interview with Uncommon Nasa

Earlier this year New York rapper, producer and label boss Uncommon Nasa released one of my favourite Hip- Hop LPs of the year so far by the guise of "Land of the Way it Is." A both personally cathartic and sociologically conscious affair, it's an album that sees Nasa voyage across the lyrical theme board from tough upbringings to worldly ignorance and self- respect. It's also an album that sees his production expand to become epic, hard hitting yet reserved where necessary.

In this interview Nasa talks about the more technical side of the industry he works in (including his time working as an engineer for Company Flow and Cannibal Ox), as well as literary influences, the pros and cons of running a label and the kind of righteous attitude that it's often hard but also important to maintain when in the music industry. There's also an exclusive spotify playlist, compiled by the man himself, linked at the bottom.

1. I hope you're well. How has the aftermath of the release of "Land of the Way it Is" been? Have you been touring it much?

I'm setting up a tour now with the homies Sarcasmo for November.  We're gonna be hitting the North East hard along with some of the Mid-Atlantic.  Also  I'm setting up and beginning the process of getting some videos made.  I'll have a follow up EP called "New York Telephone" along before the years out.  I'm putting down for LOTWII for the long haul.  Really just getting started working this record, but the aftermath has been great.  Really impressed by the attention it's gotten and relieved by it frankly.

2. How are the new songs going down?

I'm in the process of rehearsing a few new songs from the record for the tour, a few of the songs that are on LOTWII I've been rocking for a little bit ahead of the release, so it's all pretty solid.  I wrote this record in order to perform it.  I guess I always keep that in mind, which is why most of my stuff is so chorus heavy, but I think this time out I got production that is better balanced between the creative and accessible.  So shows are always a fun time.

3. I've seen you mention The Mars Volta as being one of your favourite artists, and I can definitely hear hints of their progressive, spontaneous jam- style music in a lot of your production. Do you ever progress or change your songs when you perform them live?

I'll do some flips that make them different from the album.  Sometimes it's in editing songs together or kicking to remixes, but I eventually would love to get on the level of being able to play them out live.  Not sure if that's my bag in the live setting though, I like to deliver the songs as they are to a certain extent.  I guess that's contradictory in a way for someone that's a fan of a band like The Mars Volta.  I sort of do a lot of my jamming in a studio setting and then try to bring the best chops I can to the stage in order to replicate that.   A lot of my beats are played out and individually multi-tracked with no MIDI and most of my vocal takes are take all the way through verses.  If anything, I change up the delivery considerably on some songs when I do them live, like Twenty Two for instance.

4. I was interested to hear that you started off at the more technical end of the industry, recording stuff for Company Flow and Cannibal Ox. When did you start producing your own music?

I was pretty much producing that whole time as well, it all sort of came together at once.  I still mix and master records as an engineer now, and I was making beats and rapping then.  It's just a matter of timing for which of those disciplines comes to the forefront.  I was making beats prior to 1999, but that's when I got my MPC, so '99 is the exact answer I suppose.

5. In an interview with The Village Voice I saw you talk about your relationship with EL-P. Was he a kind of mentor to you in the early days?

Mentor is a strong word, but it was definitely a formative time for me as a musician.  I think going into working with him during that period as an engineer I had my own clear idea of what I wanted to do as a writer and as a producer and I've pretty much stuck to that after that up until now.  That said, watching that dude make beats from scratch on a regular basis and being able to mix down a grip of those beats seeing how the individual tracks broke down was a big help.  I was a fan of his work before working with him, so most of the ways he was making beats didn't surprise me, but having it broken down into particles right in front of you was a different level of understanding.  

6. You've noted the influence of Rod Serling as a key influence, and there's a very strong narrative style to a lot of your lyrics. Are there any other literary figures that have been important to you?

I'm often inspired by non-musicians in the arts than by musicians and Rod Serling is a great example of that.  I consider myself a writer first and foremost.  My goal is for my lyrics to pop off the page as much as on the mic.  I like a well written song more then anything, something makes you re-think things and gives you clear visual imagery.  That's what Rod did with the Twilight Zone and lots of other things he wrote, like the tele-play "Patterns".  If you haven't seen that, look it up on Youtube, find the original version (there are two online, both from the 50's).  What an incredible example of breaking down power structures at a time in the mid 50's when NO ONE was doing that.

As far as others, I read a lot of non-fiction.  The only fiction I read is in comics.  Jim Starlin is a huge influence on my work.  The way he makes all of his characters introspective and internal thinkers was big to me and so much more real then what other comic writers were doing when he came on the scene or even do now.  Jeff Lemire is a current writer that does some amazing things as well.  His consistent themes (whether in alternative or hero oriented books) of family bonds and how they can manipulate emotions is heavy as fuck.

7. Two songs on "Land of the...",  "Two days" and "My Ego's Big" seem like particularly lyrical, personal songs to me. Could you just divulge a little bit into what kind of picture you were trying to portray with them?

Those two songs in particular hit on similar themes and hit the overall message of the record directly on the head.  The album is about the struggle to be an artist in an era where you can't possibly do that full time.  This can be applied to any passion or artistic discipline for the listener.  Two Days describes just that, two commutes to work.  It starts with leaving the workplace, how the sun shines down on your happiness of being free to do what you want with your own time.  You can still hear the thunder striking for others still on the grind, but it doesn't matter because you're almost home.  Then the second verse is the morning commute, now the roles are reversed.  Now you're the one in the thunderstorm and darkness heading back to the grind once again.

My Ego's Big is a collaboration between myself with Aeon Grey and Elucid, Black-Tokyo on the beat.  The concept there is the fact that you need to keep a big ego and not let the work process and middle management brow beat you into thinking you might be some sort of failure.  It's about not letting the system hold you back from your full potential.  You have to go into work situations with the ideal that you simply don't need their bull shit, even if that isn't the case.  If you don't respect yourself, no one will.

8. You also run your own label in the form of Uncommon records. It seems like a real family and talent orientated environment. Are there any specific traits you look out for in MCs before you sign them? (excluding you thinking them a good MC)

I think it's about associating with talented people and always being super honest and up front with them, but also finding people that for lack of a better term, "get it".  I work with mature cats that understand this isn't the glamorous industry it used to be.  Even in the underground you deal with people that have certain ideals of what they think a label will bring.  For some they expect a bounty of gigs, a bushel of fame or to just not have to do jack shit for their own career anymore.  I can't handle that sort of attitude.  Signing with Uncommon is a partnership more than anything else.

The label is changing though, from this point on if I sign someone, I'm signing them to produce their record.  I need to start stretching my legs more as an artist and as a producer and show this era what I can do.  I've operated Uncommon for almost 10 years as an A & R styled label for Progressive Hip-Hop and that's produced what I think are some classic and timeless records.  But at this point, partly because of my own needs and partly because of where the business is going, I need to do me some more.

9. Is it hard to balance the business side of running the label with the passion you clearly have for the music your roster is putting out?

Yes and no.  I think for me when I started a label I never did it to straight up make money.  But I did start the label with the hope that I could make some money putting out the highest quality music I could find.  I want the artists to make money on their craft too.  I've never put out anything that I didn't think was economically sound as well as progressive, I'll put it to you that way.

10. What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Touring in November, dropping some videos going into next year even and finishing up this EP.  I'm also going to be producing several albums in 2014.  I'm already knee deep into projects with Gajah, JunClassic, Taiyamo Denku and about to start work with Duke01 and Pruven.  There are other things afoot as well, we'll see how it all works out, but I'm just trying to leave a legacy of quality from my hands.  Period.

"Land of the Way it is" is available to purchase now from both itunes and the Uncommon records store. 

Uncommon Nasa Spotify Mix

01. Billy Woods- Crocodile Tears
02. KA- Cold Facts
03. Quelle Chris (ft. Cavalier)- Old Friend
04. Cult Favorite- Technoccult
05. Teddy Faley- Skinned Knees
06. Brzowski- Friendly Fire
07. Uncommon Nasa- Two Days
08. ECID- So damn Einstein!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Most Read: August 2013

Here's a piece documenting the Top 10 most read posts on the site of last month. Thanks to Will J. Rogers and Gavin Topley for their contributions to the site. Also thanks to everyone else for reading and showing support and interest, and also a big thanks to Uncommon Nasa for his co- operation and interest. More on that tomorrow.

1. Hybrid Nightmares: Thrown to the Wolves
"Thrown to the Wolves" is 7 minutes of primal, raw and epic Black Metal that traverses through pummelling, slow moving areas into soaring, duelling guitar riffing into rollicking grooves and licks, as well as the occasional disco breakdown. It's an exceptional track that will recall the finest works of the likes of Satyricon and Darkthrone."

2. Uncommon Nasa- Land of the Way it Is
"Land of the Way it Is" is an example of a record that is evidently politically, socially and personally righteous, but Uncommon Nasa has no desire to shove his ideals down your throat. This is a record that sees him primarily clarifying his own mind, and if others can get in touch with the verdicts exposed then that's a bonus."

3. Rejjie Snow- Rejovich EP
"If Snow is reluctant to unveil himself via the internet, then "Rejovich" fills in holes that expose personal fears, ambitions and feelings. It's a textured start and, although it leaves him with plenty of worth to prove it's certainly enough to attain interest in what he does in the future."

4. Sadistik- Flowers for my Father
"Sadistik's lightning paced flow, fascination with the philosophical as well as well as his presumably self- destructive nature are things that were all laid bare on his 2008 LP "The Balancing Act." But there's an upsetting modicum in the mind which predicts that "Flowers For My Father" will be slept on by most of the world, including most Hip Hop fans. And that is it's only pitfall. Otherwise, it's a flawless piece of work."

5. Earl Sweatshirt- Doris
""Doris" is far removed from the Horror- Core of his debut release "Earl." Now at 19 years of age, we see a more mature, personal and complex Earl, which may have been expected, but fairly often he showcases lyrical wisdom and intellectual wordplay beyond his years. "

6. Jay-Z- Magna Carta Holy Grail
"For years now Jay has been revelling in his own legacy, so any braggadocia here comes as little surprise. But "Magna Carta..." is a record which Jay- Z uses once again as a platform to show off about how much money he's got whilst trying to stake a claim for even more. It wouldn't be so much of a problem if he was as lyrically and stylistically sharp as he once was ("Reasonable Doubt" had promise to boot), but "Magna Carta..." unfortunately feels perpetually half- arsed."

7. Lady Gaga- Applause
"As in your face as ever? You guessed it. Within slightly over three minutes', Gaga appears in the video with glimpses of resembling Lisa Minnelli; as well as successfully attempting to evoke Heath Ledger's Joker and become a black swan (not literally). Even if you aren't a fan of her work, it's definitely worth a view. But what are my thoughts on Radio Ga Ga's (I apologise) new song? Titled 'Applause', it may come across as slightly pushy. Other than that I was pleasantly surprised. " Will J. Rogers

8. The Vaccines- Melody Calling EP
"They're still leaps and bounds from doing anything truly original. But on this EP it sounds like they've been doing a lot more listening to The Lemonheads, Girls and The Dandy Warhols than they have The Kaiser Chiefs, and all the better for it; their transition is mostly gorgeous."

9. Savages- Silence Yourself
"There's no necessity to claim "Silence Yourself" a "Feminist" piece of work, nor to suggest that Savages are a primarily "Feminist" entity. But the virtues of womanhood ooze in sassy fashion from the record, so much so that it will be remarkable if the majority of songs here don't have you pumping your fist and yelling "WOMAN POWER!""

10. Billy Woods- Dour Candy
"Billy Woods is as self- depreciating, honest and realistic as ever on "Dour Candy." It's less consciously righteous than "History Will Absolve Me", but it's deliberately depraved and just as vivid and distinctly troubling. It's the kind of cold narrative that brings dark truths to light that Woods' prophetic qualities allow him to do so well."