Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, goodnight, and welcome to another episode of Review Rundown, Everything Is Noise‘s ten albums, reviewed succinctly by five writers feature. Unfortunately this week due to time constraints, we’re down to nine, but next time we will be back to full strength! We have albums for the summer sun, for a windy night in the woods, and some to be played loud as fuck when nobody is home. This week we have for your listening pleasure – WAIT, Joona Samuel, stonefromthesky, Daniel Caesar, Mr Hudson, WarmRain, K. Flay, Big K.R.I.T, and Black to Comm.
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This album does one of my favorite things ever – it takes a genre of music that I am familiar and comfortable with and does something entirely different with it. IDM is one of my favorite genres, and has been for nearly a decade. Most of the music you find in the IDM scene is pretty unique, and a lot of the artists I know of have a fairly distinct sound. stonefromthesky is a new example of this trend, as I can easily say I have never heard electronic music quite like this.
Combining heavy, undulating synths with more airy and high range synths creates a stark dichotomy that plays around the soundscape nicely. Where the diversity really comes through is with tons of industrial influence, which is a new twist on IDM that I am all for. The music of Schema Theory comes across as incredibly raw, without the production quality of the album suffering in the slightest.
Most of the tracks follow the template of a simplistic, but strong melody being the core, with all the effects branching outward from that. If the track deviates from it, it almost always comes back to it. “Future Territory” is a great example of this, with the melody tapering off into a really ambient moment before very slowly seeping back into the mix with a completely different backdrop to accompany it. Schema Theory is a great little EP if you are looking for some nice electronic music that breaks the mold without getting too wild.
I’m going to just say it from the start: Daniel Caesar is amazing. This man has such a powerful and beautiful voice, lending it to just about any piece of music is going to make it magical. Case Study 01 is another stellar outpouring of sensual and sexy R&B, which he has been on top of for years now. If you like your music silky smooth and brimming with passion and emotion, get on this album now!
Case Study 01 has some of my favorite features of 2019, and definitely my favorite features from Daniel Caesar to date. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of how unexpectedly good a couple of these features are. The two biggest head-turners to me were the inclusion of Pharrell Williams and John Mayer himself. “Frontal Lobe Musik” is standing out as one of my favorite tracks of the year, and Pharrell’s feature on it has a lot to do with that. He lends his voice very well to this style of music.
Mayer’s feature is definitely the most shocking to me. The insanely prolific singer/songwriter lends some beautiful guitar playing to “Superposition”, which is another instant favorite for me. The bass in this track is especially infectious, and Caesar’s vocals are out of this world. Add in a Jacob Collier feature on “Restore the Feeling”, and I’m 100% sold on Case Study 01. I’m sure you will be, too, once you hear it!
When The Machine Stops is Mr Hudson‘s third full-length, ten years after his second offering Straight No Chaser. Mr Hudson is a vocalist and producer who also plays guitar and piano. One fun fact about him is that he was a prominent composer on Kanye West‘s 808s & Heartbreak. When The Machine Stops is in the same style as 808s & Heartbreak – Mr Hudson uses a bunch of vocal effects including autotune, and the record is pretty dark thematically dealing with breakups.
Honestly, every song is a banger on this album! The majority of the album is comprised of down tempo R&B songs and then some faster trap-styled songs. “Tesla”, being the straight up trap jam, definitely the best beat on the record. When The Machine Stops goes down smooth, eleven songs clocking in at just over thirty minutes. Mr Hudson has many memorable hooks that will stay in your skull for hours.
One of my favorite tracks is “What Do We Do Now?” which has clever vocals such as ‘Don’t give me sayonara/Just give me cyanide‘. The last song is a beautifully depressing number called “Closing Time”, which has a spoken word interlude at the end that puts a giant smile on your face.
Back Above The Clouds is WarmRain‘s debut album. They had so much music to introduce to us that Back Above The Clouds is fifteen songs and over an hour-and-a-half worth of music. The songs are all about seven minutes long, which is always exciting for fans of prog. WarmRain have a very British prog rock sound in the likes of Pink Floyd and Steven Wilson.
Back Above The Clouds is a concept album about coping mechanisms to deal with loss. The protagonist in the project kept journals documenting their thoughts and feelings, and the songs are based off of that. Other than Floyd and Wilson mentioned before, musically I hear hints of Anathema, Riverside, and also the acoustic parts of Opeth. Most of the songs are led by the acoustic guitar. Yes, there are also electric guitars, but it is a slower paced record comprised mostly of ballads. The closest comparison for Leon Russel’s vocals would be Steven Wilson, which goes perfectly with depressing and slow prog rock.
Also sprinkled in Back Above The Clouds is an amazing cover of “Here Comes The Rain Again” by Eurythmics. Though this is WarmRain‘s debut album, they have been working on this since the beginning of the decade, so it is very polished and emotional. A very beautiful 90-minute piece of prog rock!
Pop is one of those genres whose quality can seldom be predicted. It seems now more than ever, you can never really be sure what to expect when you give a pop record a spin.
Enter lo-fi pop phenomenon K. Flay, who’s back with her third album Solutions. While largely trading in the more abrasive sounds of her last record – 2017’s Every Where is Some Where – for a snappier sonic palette, Solutions is no less eclectic.
Opener “I Like Myself (Most of the Time)” wastes no time making a statement that things have changed. No longer are bluesy beats and punk aggression merged through a minimalist hip-pop lens. This album emphasizes fuller production, deep basslines, and a splash of shoegaze… with mixed results.
Tracks like “Bad Vibes” are the most familiar, with buzzing guitar lines creeping in over rapped vocals like a candied version of something you’d hear from latter day Nine Inch Nails. “Ice Cream” and “Not in California” have a dreamy, very 90s wall of sound thing going on, and it works well. It’s in the less adventurous moments like the Imagine Dragons-lite stomp of “Nervous” where momentum is lost, and K. Flay is at her weakest.
Solutions is a fun album. While it sorely misses the darker inflections of its predecessor, the occasional shoegaze elements and seriously catchy vocal flows make this a record worth your time.
K.R.I.T. Iz Here embodies the difference between a solid rap album and a solid rap album that’s also an all-out showcase of modern hip-hop. It’s not unusual for a rap record to feature collaborations, or even a vast wealth of them, but Big K.R.I.T utilises the contributions of peers to maximum effect. Within his passion-driven hip-hop opus, everyone is at their best.
The record is an immersive umbrella of food for thought. Being so epic in its own right means it’s easy to get lost in it all, and it may take a few listens to fully jump on board with the varying degree of styles and emotional context. You can however guarantee a fully fleshed-out experience. Slick mixing and incredible vocals operate on numerous levels of depth which makes for an experience so vast, that it’s virtually impossible to walk away after only one listen.
As you can probably also imagine, K.R.I.T equals grit. Life isn’t easy and neither is being a successful rapper in the modern stomping ground, and all of this is conveyed amply in the record. The tribulations of life in general are here for absorption, in an all-out substantial and highly relatable package.
Before After is not as sickeningly scary as Black to Comm’s recent masterpiece Seven Horses for Seven Kings, but it still packs a hefty wallop of weird. It’s the amalgamation of eight separate single tracks, guaranteed to lasso you kicking and screaming from your musical comfort zone.
It is, admittedly, still pretty damn creepy in places, but it’s other things too, all of which reside on the utmost periphery of sensibility. Before After is your Disneyland tour of warped soundscapes, fleeting optimism, and insubstantial constructs of otherworldly conceptions, the origins of which we’ll never fully understand.
On a technical level, the stranger it gets, the more wonderful it becomes. Black to Comm provide one of those surreal experiences where everything is thrown indiscriminately against the wall, yet they possess the musical ingenuity to make it all work. They know how to unsettle you and they know how to pull on your heartstrings. They display the hallmarks of a great regular project but, to their credit, regular just does not cut it. How they achieve the desired effect is a mystery, but being privy to the ride is a valuable experience which everyone should dare to take at least once. You can love it or not love it, but don’t take it for granted!
You don’t need to look much further than the record label to understand what kind of album is on your platter here. Art As Cartharsis released Joona Samuel‘s debut EP the other week, and from the very off I was encapsulated. The Bandcamp tags sum up the variety you should expect – post-rock, jazz, experimental and prog. The album leans heaviest on the jazz elements, yet The Act Of Disintegration is so much more than that. Each time you begin to get comfortable with a sound, it is replaced by a wholly different element of noise, making this an extremely enjoyable listening experience.
The album kicks off in a dreamy fashion, before quickly moving in a post-rock driven direction akin to label-mates Coast‘s records. A dark, broody atmosphere overwhelms the mix, despite the best efforts of the wind and horn instruments to wrest control back towards the dreamier influences exhibited in the first 30 seconds. This theme prevails through most of the EP, with burst of light music quickly consumed by darkness, a constant power play on offer. The experimental aspects drop in and out, with electronic layers used to create a mix that completely envelopes the listener at points, and slowing the pace right down in others with avant-garde elements used aplenty.
Some of the sounds are striking, others are soothing, making this a roller coaster of emotions – something I adore in albums. Please pick up this exciting record for consumption.
WAIT‘s debut EP has seemingly gone under the radar, despite being the brainchild of members from Exist and Defeated Sanity. This ripsnorting 24-minute journey force-feeds you progressive death metal at galeforce speeds, setting up major anticipation for the full-length record WAIT are promising. We Are In Transit is definitely a stand-out this year, encapsulating all the best bits of the progressive metal scene and adding lavish amounts of savagery to it. The way the album is mixed brings an organic and real tone to the music, the band steering clear of overproduced metal and giving us a raw experience.
The album tears onto your speakers, with WAIT not hanging around before unleashing hell upon you. Each song channels this heaviness throughout, with chunky grooves a fundamental of the record. The band also dive right into prog rock motions, which contain soaring solos and hypnotising chugs, before smashing right back into their awesome blend of death metal.
In “Mushroom Song” you’ll find elements of theatrical progressive metal, before the band tear into a Textures-esque groove which spins your head round and round. Vocals are on a similar wavelength to Textures, too – the cleans that is. However, they sound very strangely produced at moments, sticking out from the mix like a sore thumb. That being said, that’s the only criticism in a very exciting EP. Get stuck into it.