Drolle – “It’s raining in your room”

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“These are the sounds of sitting alone in your bedroom late at night, rain dripping down just outside your window.”

I know that most of us can agree that falling asleep to the rain pitter-pattering outside is one of the most lovely, relaxing sounds to dose off to and it almost guarantees a restful night of sleep. We have gotten a little taste of stormy weather lately here in Pullman and I’m always hoping for more to come. Just as the title of this release sounds, “It’s raining in your room” does a fine job of recreating this wonderful feeling of calmness. This ambient drone music filled with stormy, rainy weather on top is the perfect soundtrack to those nights where you maybe think a just little too much if you know what I mean.

Drolle is a young artist from our neighbor state, Montana, and he wrote this during the very dry, hot summer while longing for rain. During the few times it did rain, he made sure to capture and record it which resulted in him using it in his music. As a personal album to him released at “the tail end of a difficult year” we as listeners are lucky to get to experience such emotions of someone we will probably never even have the pleasure of meeting… we just get to listen and experience for ourselves. He said that this album was heavily inspired by Ricky Eat Acid’s 2011 release April, and as a fan of his I knew that I would be interested in Drolle’s take on his work. The influence is there, but Drolle definitely has created something completely his own with the lo-fi and distorted, yet still soothing noise absorbing through your ears and into your brain.

Above you can stream this 5-track album for your listening pleasure. The first track features a poem that slides off into drone and rainy ambience for the reminder of the album. You can check out more of his stuff on his bandcamp and soundcloud.

-Erin

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Danny Brown – “ODB”

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There’s a certain state of mind you have to be in to really enjoy a Danny Brown song. Somewhere between a road rage-fueled car chase and a meth-induced nightmare lies the attitude Brown spits out on his music. It’s like Enter the Void meets Hustle & Flow, played back twice as fast.

“ODB”, the first single from his upcoming album OLD, is clever straight from the get-go. The title is a nice reference to the legendary Dirt McGirt, but Brown labels himself a more literal type of dirty old bastard. “But in the end I’m just a dirty old man / with a pill in my mouth and my dick in my hand” goes the inkling of a hook. Paul White’s syrupy, neo-psychedelic beat is exactly the kind of track Brown can run through like a knife, and the video’s terrifying neon-lit distortions only add to the druggy vibe. OLD, with collaborations from Purity Ring, Rustie, Freddie Gibbs and more, is said to be both his most aggressive and inscrutable work yet. Consider me officially on board this weird, weird hype train.

Adam

Crash of Rhinos – Knots

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Crash of Rhinos released their second LP through their bandcamp on July 22, 2013. I know this because since then I’ve listened to the album almost daily, often times more, the past 36 days have been filled with Knots and I’ve loved every second of it.

It all started when I luckily (or perhaps unlikely, given how much of my time it’s commanded) saw a Topshelf Records blog post hyping up the new album, CoR is from Derby, UK and Topshelf had signed the band for a US vinyl/CD release, while Big Scary Monsters and To Lose La Track were handling the UK and Italy releases respectively. Looking at the bandcamp tabs I saw “emo, indie, math rock, post hardcore, punk”. I liked what I saw, emo and punk are two genres I really love listening to when put together, and math rock is not a genre I’m well versed in but certainly one I’m intrigued by; Satisfied, I played the first track. On my first listen I was completely blown away, the album was a complete anomaly yet made total sense. I wasn’t quite able to put into words why it stood out so much, and how it felt very torn but together, but I loved it so I didn’t really care.

A months worth of listening later, I finally feel I can elaborate: Knots sounds like it was written through guidelines, as if the band met up together to record a song and the only beforehand practice they had before jumping in the studio was a group discussion about where they felt like the direction of the song wanted to go. However (and this is going to be harder for me to describe) the album doesn’t feel jumbled or out of sync, the album feels masterfully crafted, as if the band members are all on the same next-level wavelength. The album feels like a collaboration made by the best of friends (who all happen to be insanely talented musicians, some of the members of CoR also played for The Jesus Years, and The Little Explorer just to name a few).

Yeah okay the music sounds “whole” I get it, but is the music good? It’s amazing. Probably the best description of the album—and of the music of the band as a whole—can be found on their bandcamp page, which says “Five voices, 2 guitars, 2 basses and a drum kit.” I can not begin to stress enough how important “five voices” is, I just can’t. Listening to them all shouting and singing creates a truly wild mix of feelings; There are times where you’ll feel empowered, times you’ll feel scattered and off-balance, and times where you’ll feel violently unashamed, even when you know you have nothing to be ashamed about. That last one may seem like some interesting word choice, but really the only explanation I have for it is that maybe you’ll feel it too when you listen to Knots. The album features some really gorgeous guitar work too, CoR employs just enough math rock to leave you in awe of every riff, but not too much to take your attention away from the vocals and drums, which, by the way, will have you struggling against the urge to play the air kick drum.

Boy I certainly have talked this album up huh, thankfully you don’t have to take my word for it, you can find it at the Crash of Rhinos bandcamp, where you can stream the entire album!!! Additionally you can download their first LP absolutely free (which is also incredible by the way, definitely worth a listen or two (or three)) just click on Distal under the discography section. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Maya Jane Coles, Ikonika, & House in 2013

ImageThe world of electronic music is often evolving, with certain genres gaining significance as time goes on. While the last few years have had a heavy focus on dubstep and more bass heavy music, 2013 has proved to be a year that goes back to the roots of it all. House, with a particular emphasis on deep house, has seemed to be the go to genre so far in the world of electronic music.

It’s no surprise that after dubstep and EDM-at-large took center stage that something mellow would rise above. 2012 even hinted at the return to house with albums such as ƒIN by John Talabot, Pink by Four Tet, Personality by Scuba, Levon Vincent’s excellent addition to the Fabric mix series, and let’s not forget Disclosure’s meteoric rise. All these led up to what has been so far a great 2013 for house music. While there have been many amazing albums, EPs, and singles this year, two albums have stood out above the rest: Maya Jane Coles Comfort & Ikonika’s Aerotropolis.

Maya Jane Coles has been on the precipice of exploding in house music for the past few years with a string of EPs and singles as well as her edition to the DJ-KiCKS, but it’s really been Comfort that put her over the edge. The album’s crown jewel comes on “Everything”. The more mellowed out, danceable groove of “Everything” coupled with the vocals of Karin Park make for one of the summer’s best songs. The fun doesn’t stop there with just the lead single though. Many songs on Comfort are just as infectiously fun and feature many great guest vocalists including Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules & Love Affair, Tricky of Massive Attack, Caroline Pockson of Alpines, and Maya Jane Coles even graces the album with her own vocals. While at times the myriad of guest vocalists can muddle the album, overall every song feels perfect for the dance floor on a warm summer night. The London producer has finally proved she can be successful in long form after many DJs have hyped her for years.

Another London native, Sara Abdel-Hamid (better known as Ikonika), has been making waves with her new record, Aertropolis. While Ikonika made her name on influential Hyperdub Records with playful melodies, chiptune-esque sounds, a heavy low end, and as being one of the very few women to slip into the boys club that is dubstep, her new album turned away from the bleeps and wubs and towards a mellower, house driven sound. Lead single “Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)” shows the transformation that Ikonika has made. She’s still playful and never takes the music too seriously, but expands her horizons. “Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)” even includes vocalist (and a producer in her own right) Jessy Lanza, which becomes the first Ikonika song to feature vocals. While some songs on the album still show Ikonika’s experimental exploration like “Practice Beats” and “Completion V.3” this album has shown that dubstep’s own can make a shift towards other genres.

The crown jewel on top of these releases is the obvious one: these are two female DJ/producers. For a long time electronic music has been dominated by males. Female producers are starting to make a big splash whether it’s the more dance oriented with Maya Jane Coles, Ikonika, Nina Kraviz, Paula Temple, Helena Hauff, Sheela Rahman (under the aliases of Xosar or Bonquiqui) or the more experimental likes of Julia Holter, Grimes, Laurel Halo, Jessy Lanza, and Inga Copeland of Hype WIlliams. While deep hour may be taking over, female producers are making just as big of an impact.

Arca – &&&&&

I feel like I have some sort of Nostradamus-esque ability to predict who Kanye West will work with in the future. I feel like every time I start talking about or listening to an artist, they end up laying the foundation for another one of Kanye’s groundbreaking albums.

In 2004 I discovered Fiona Apple while spending a summer in Wisconsin at my grandmother’s house, splitting my time between working at a fireworks shop and reading about music online. A year later on Late Registration he’d work with Apple collaborator Jon Brion to make that album one of the defining sounds of the 2000’s. Cue similar tales with artists like Kid Cudi on 808s & Heartbreak, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Hudson Mohawke, Evian Christ, and Arca on Yeezus.

I haven’t been able to shut up about Arca since he dropped two incredible mixtapes last year on UNO NYCStretch 1 and Stretch 2. Both were seemingly genre-less amalgams of hip-hop, trap, bass, and glitch music. The Venezuelan-born, NYU-trained producer warped unidentifiable rap samples into a fascinating whirl of futuristic mindfuckery. Somewhere along the line Kanye heard Arca and recruited him to contribute production to four tracks on the recently released Yeezus. It’s been the perfect hype-builder for his debut mixtape on forward-thinking label Hippos in Tanks.

&&&&& is a 25 minute chaotic typhoon of completely new music from Arca, and a slight departure from his previous two tapes. Where the Stretch series was indebted to hip-hop, submerging itself within the distorted vocal sampling, &&&&& features significantly less vocals. Opening track “Knot” opens with probably the biggest bass punch you’ll hear all year – you can literally feel speaker cones being ripped apart with each blast. The eerie glitched melody that carries the song sounds like no instrument that exists on Earth, especially when pitched up to a high frequency whistle.

“Anaesthetic” is one of the first clear moments of vocal sampling, with a snappy sample demanding “dance motherfucker”. There’s a rubbery synth that billows up in between propulsive kick beats, but the whole thing is so erratic and spontaneous it feels like trying to predict the path of one of those spinning bumblebee firecrackers. “Mother” features a haunting saloon-type piano stumbling over ramshackle chords that lead into the Boards of Canada-ish “Hallucinogen”. None of this should work together, but it does phenomenally well.

The second half of the mix is significantly more mellow than the first. Even the stadium sized synths and futuristic trap beat of “Waste” crawl along at a languid, codeine-slowed pace. The last track on the album, “Obelisk”, echoes “Manners”, the soothing closer on Stretch 2. With an unrelenting machine-gun kick drum and a piano melody clearly sourced from an alien lullaby, it completes &&&&& with a sense of anxious joy.

This was supposed to be the big debut mixtape that would have rappers and producers knocking down Arca’s door to collaborate. But thanks to the unexpected foresight of Yeezy, Arca’s name is now forever associated with avant-garde. &&&&&, in all of its uncategorizable glory ends up being a courageous introduction to new fans, a logical step forward for old fans, and among the most forward-thinking albums released all year.

– Adam