With hip-hop vocal samples and snare/hi-hat rolls aplenty, 20-year old Slam Skillet‘s “Rachis” EP seems to check all the pre-requisites of today’s electronic music production. Yet unlike most music by basement beatmakers, the first track, “Yukon,” begins with a bird-song sample that soon becomes a mainstay of this decidedly avian record. Olivier Messiaen he ain’t, but evolutionary biology major Slam Skillet – also known as Sam Stevens – has found unlikely Ableton inspiration in the outdoors.
“Yukon” continues with a filter sweep that brings in some rhythmic horn jabs and a heavily processed rap hook. With subtle but banging basslines and several funky synths used, the EP gives nod to Com Truise and the more dancefloor-ready sounds of Grenier. “Gemsbok/Chamois” stands out for its laidback Nujabes vibe, credited to the cabasa sound that keep the track shuffling along.
Stevens’ skill is in his ability to joyfully weave common and unexpected elements into a beat that makes you want to sit back, bob your head and watch the world go by. This is music made for headphones and spring days – so start vibing.
Tw0-and-a-half years ago when we first caught a whiff of Magic Man, the band was just a pair of college kids from starched-collar Northeastern universities jamming from their Macbooks. Today, the duo, formerly just elementary school buds Alex Caplow and Sam Lee, has grown to a quintet, fleshing out their sound and direction without losing any of the charm that made us fall in love with self-released debut, Real Life Color.
Magic Man as we know it now has relocated to (the musical mecca of?) Providence, Rhode Island and released new track “Paris” last week. When we last caught up, Caplow and Lee told us their debut LP was influenced by a trip to France. This time around, it looks like the pair are drawing from the same inspirations. Turning the City of Light into a metaphorical lover on “Paris”, Caplow develops an infectious hook that’s supplemented by synth blasts and a faded, but perfectly worked piano melody. Improving on production and recording quality since their last outing, Magic Man loses a bit of that novel DIY-quality felt on Real Life Color. But that’s not to say “Paris” is anything less genuine than older tracks like “Monster” and “Darling.” The energy and verve are still there, and keeping that in spite of change is a beautiful thing.
The BBC is officially cool again in my book. Yeah, I know they’ve been plagued with scandal for the past year, and the ugly kind. But yesterday, BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe announced to the world that he was the first person ever to get his hands on Phoenix’s newest single “Entertainment”, off of Bankrupt!, set to drop April 23. The track opens with maniacal synths, slows down just long enough to catch Thomas Mars’ placid vocals, and then continues its frenzied drive to conclusion. It’s crazy catchy, and seems to come from pretty much the same mold as its predecessors on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is fine by me. Not that anyone doubted this, but if the rest of the album sounds half as lively as the melody line on “Entertainment”, their Coachella set(s) will be the sonic equivalent of a solar flare.
Foals are a five piece band froBLAH BLAH BLAH THIS ALBUM IS AMAZING (Photo courtesy of foals.co.uk)
If you missed it, Foals released “Inhaler” and “My Number” as appetizers to get the world salivating, but now the main course has arrived. Holy Fire is a meaty stew of exactly what the world has been starving for: more Foals. Their standard recipe includes searing guitar, raw drums and layered rhythms, but the overall flavor is certainly more intense and intentional than their previous albums.
It is not hard to understand what makes Holy Fire a milestone in Foals’ portfolio. For the first time, they have managed to make their mathy rhythms a vehicle for their messages rather than the focus of the songs. Singer Yannis Philippakis and drummer Jack Bevans both have origins in the heavily instrumental math rock group The Edmund Fitzgerald. The unpolished songs from The Edmund Fitzgerald are a pure example of the style that drives Foals.
James Blake’s first new song in over a year is a gorgeous, grieving, blues-inflected ballad. If you think that description might fit every James Blake song post-CMYK, you’re not far wrong. “Retrograde” exhibits many trademark Blake sounds — the straining vocals over rousing piano chords, catchy melodies, wistful lyrics, all on top of rumbling bass and buzzing synths that kick in halfway through à la “Unluck.” Now, though, Blake’s sound is even more acoustic, substituting the vocal looping tomfoolery of his 2011 self-titled debut with good old fashioned harmonies, and paring down the beats to a kick drum and handclap. James Blake’s forthcoming album, Overgrown, is out April 8 via Republic.
Wildcat! Wildcat! are slowly adding to their arsenal. With only a single 7″, The Chief, to their name, the LA-based trio have been quick to test and release new material before they arrive at the promise-band promise land that is SXSW. “Please And Thank You” comes just in time. A compliment to their highly energetic releases “Mr. Quiche” and “The Chief,” their latest song is subdued, though without sacrificing their signature falsetto duets. Sparked by pipe organ samples, “Please And Thank You” feeds off a church-going vibe, building toward soaring chorus that’s supplemented by rim taps and vibraphone. Powerful, it shows that Wildcat! Wildcat! is by no means a one-trick pony, or cat. Whatever.
Wildcat! Wildcat!- Please And Thank You (download)
Is the album art the best part? (Photo courtesy of polydor.co.uk)
Delphic‘s new album Collections is set to drop on Jan. 28, just over three years since the release of Acolyte. Their debut album was full of exciting instrumentals and strong electronic songs which stood alone well, but fit nicely together. A lot can happen in three years.
Delphic have admitted that the title, Collections, is representative of the intentionally eclectic mix of songs, but none have the core elements that made them an exciting new band in 2010. Instead, they all have lethargic tempos, incessant vocals and no character. The mystery is not very deep; Delphic have said that hip hop and R&B have influenced them most recently. It would not be surprising if the album was entirely based on beats rejected by Clams Casino and played at half speed.