October was a busy month at Bearded Gentlemen Music. We threw together an awesome Halloween playlist and covered a vast musical terrain that included older favorites like Weezer and Melvins, resurgent rockers Finch, veterans like Grouper and Caribou and artists like Iceage, Flying Lotus, and Run The Jewels who are bringing something new and/or interesting to the musical landscape. The reality is that we’re a staff comprised of music lifers with limited time and money and even if those two things were infinite, trying to cover everything would be futile.
Odds and Ends, a monthly column devoted to mentioning more than a handful of albums that warranted attention from the previous month, helps widen that reach a little bit. Below is a list of eight solid albums, mixtapes, EPs etc. from the month of October that are most definitely worth a listen.
Odds and Ends: October 2014
Gajah – Hands of Gold Are Always Cold
Acid Reign were never considered a seminal L.A. hip-hop act on a wide scale and while there are corners of the Internet ready to make that claim, this website is not one of those places. However, the group’s bio reads like a New York jazz player’s sans the part about what college the players teach at on their downtime. This is to say they’ve shared stages with underground hip-hop history.
That Acid Reign, which Gajah is a part of, emerged from Project Blowed is not surprising considering what is to be heard on his third solo album, Hands of Gold Are Always Cold. Gajah’s double and triple time flows and five-dollar lyrics are boilerplate Project Blowed, but his R.A. The Rugged Man’s inflection meets Rob Sonic’s tenacity sets him apart from the group. With this in mind, it’s not a stretch to figure out why he sounds so at home over New York indie-rap auteur Uncommon Nasa’s production. It’s an album that never really finds much time to calm down, which isn’t true about many other of the albums filed under “Solid Indie Rap Releases Over The Last Couple Of Years” and it’s all the more refreshing for it.
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Rome Fortune – Small VVorld
With end of the year list season rapidly approaching, it has been neat to find Atlanta’s Rome Fortune finding favor with critics, even if his Beautiful Pimp series left a bit to be desired. Small VVorld sees Rome Fortune slowly realizing that potential with a little help from friends, calling on several features from OG Maco and a few beats by syrupy Baton Rouge beatsmith SuicideYear. That the killer introspection and superb downbeat production from Beautiful Pimp and Beautiful Pimp 2 are present on this 10-track EP show that a more assured Rome Fortune is committed to his central premise even when he tweaks the template. The bangers that populate Small VVorld’s midsection are a cherry on top. There’s that dandy number that uses the 5-second rule as the protocol to eating a stripper’s ass, but the real highlight is the iLoveMakonnen assisted “Friends Maybe.”
Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
Sometimes the majors get it right. Coming off of a pretty good mixtape (Shyne Coldchain pt. 2), Staples may have had an EP worth of good material in the tank and that’s what Def Jam released. Vince Staples is a lyricist at his core and that has always shone through and Hell Can Wait plays to his strengths, while providing solid the one thing Staples has been missing on his previous projects—consistent production. Singles such as “Hands Up” and “Blue Suede” rank among the top in rap this year.
Blut Aus Nord – Memorial Vetusta III — Saturnian Poetry
Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval has an infatuation with numerology. It’s a fascinating read and definitely an essential part to getting to know the work of the French black metal band, which is alarmingly consistent. Saturnian Poetry, the conclusion to the Memoria Vetusta trilogy and follow up to the band’s 2012 effort 777 – Cosmosophy, doesn’t buck that trend, showcasing a blistering array of atmospheric black metal tracks, Saturnian Poetry bests 2009’s Dialogue With The Stars by finding a way to get to the point without skimping on the atmosphere. Vindsval, you did it again!
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Objekt – Flatland
Berlin producer Objekt’s take on dark techno will never be confused for anything Four Tet or Arca have put out this decade. Instead, his debut full-length, Flatland, is unapologetic machine music. Still, it’s as danceable of an electronic album as any that are being discussed, siphoning elements of Midwest techno, such as drum timbres to come up with tracks like “Ratchet” and “Dogma.” Objekt finds a way to resist pigeonholing himself within the broader spectrum of techno by making something that’s downbeat and minimal as well as grimy and persistent.
DJ Quik – The Midnight Life
At the beginning of legendary Compton producer and rapper DJ Quik’s ninth solo album, The Midnight Life, he says that hip-hop needs a banjo. That it’s the setup for the inclusion of banjo in “That N****’z Crazy” is a tad bombastic, but that DJ Quik makes it work behind the boards shows what he’s been doing his entire career with esoteric instruments, but more importantly, the sentiment distracts from the vitriol he spews lyrically. Not unlike Flying Lotus, DJ Quik has grown fond of the use of session musicians and it might explain why he has three really good albums in the last six years (2009’s BlaQKout with Kurupt, 2011’s The Book of David and The Midnight Life).
What will keep The Midnight Life from consideration as one of the elite rap releases this year is the air of “just another” solid DJ Quik records. While there are plenty of rich facets to the production and DJ Quik being the undersold lyricist that he is often advertised as, there isn’t much that sets this record over the top. It’s a very pleasant rap album and definitely worth its place in the DJ Quik cannon, but where The Book of David was a late career gem, The Midnight Life was a mild reminder that a hip-hop legend put out an enjoyable release.
Pharmakon – Bestial Burden
The entire context of Pharmakon’s album Bestial Burden was that the Brooklyn noise artist known on her birth certificate as Margaret Chardiet almost died.
It’s a convenient narrative that Bestial Burden provides, as it is almost inescapable in her music, much like the album’s organ-riddled cover art. The piercing, invasive noise of her excellent 2013 EP Abandon is now a house of horrors reminiscent of Dutch noise act Gnaw Their Tongues’ most depraved. While Chardiet never comes anywhere close to the cartoonish layering of the Gnaw Their Tongues project, the unrelenting darkness is the same. Bestial Burden is a ferocious and well-paced album. In a time where newer noise bands give off the appearance of a one off experiment performed by fetishist hacks in major American cities, Pharmakon is a horse worth betting on.
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Black Milk – If There’s A Hell Below
Michigan producer and rapper Black Milk has put out quite a few quality releases, but never the through and through mind-bending Detroit rap opus that he’s capable of, but he came very close on last year’s No Poison No Paradise and he’s still making a run at it on the scaled down If There’s A Hell Below. Like any Detroit hip-hop producer worth their salt in a post-Dilla world, Black Milk has his own niche, but a sound that figuratively screams, “Detroit!” More so than No Poison, No Paradise or even Tronic, Black Milk is a very collected rapper, staying in the pocket on tracks like the Pete Rock featuring “Quarter Water” and especially “Detroit’s New Dance Party.” The guests hit for a high average on this album, but none hit it out of the park like Bun B over one of Black Milk’s more soulful numbers on “Gold Piece”. The highlights justify inclusion on most any hip-hop in 2014 list.
Unfortunately, filler holds If There’s A Hell Below back a little more than it should have been. Songs clocking well over four and a half minutes are not always going to go over well for Black Milk. I would venture to say that No Poison, No Paradise was revered as it was because it never overstayed its welcome. If There’s A Hell Below does overstay its welcome and if Milk were to take the 6 best songs from this album and the 4 best songs from his March EP Glitches In The Break, he’d have an album that’s quick, but never short on storytelling, laughs, seething rage, sorrow, excellent production, and really good guest features. Considering that Black Milk did release 10 good songs this year, I’m just nitpicking by pointing that there was a lack of quality control on his part.
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