After the flurry of big name releases at the end of March and the beginning of April, it appears that the rest of the Internet has resigned to calling these weeks a dry spell for music. True, the sexy names had their turn at the plate and delivered. The meat of April gave us a polarizing Young Thug album and calendar fodder. Months like these are often the most fun because there aren’t many albums that reach an obvious consensus. Even the previously mentioned big dogs in this paragraph have had mixed reviews either from critics or fans. As it turns out, there was plenty of great music to go around last month. I’m sure there’s even a few of these that you could turn loose at a party (Hint: not the Chaos Echoes album).
Odds and Ends April 2015:
Last year, Richard James came from out of his hole, releasing a lost album, a critically acclaimed album, an EP, and countless SoundCloud loosies in under a year’s time. The return of James’ Aphex Twin moniker made it clear that he’s an Indie stand-in for the wide world of Warp for kids that want to one-up Kid A worshippers. Since Warp’s 90s heyday, Tom Jenkinson’s accomplishments as Squarepusher have been noticed but hardly acknowledged. He stuck around, taking a radical approach every time out, from 2001’s psychedelic “Go Plastic” to the his mid-00s mutations of the live band sound he worked with on 1998’s Music Is Rotted One Note. His latest, Damogen Furies, sounds as digital as ever, occupying a grey area between DMs I and E. Aphex can’t touch him right now. Neither can Autechre or Jan St. Werner.
If we’re talking about Chicago emcees in the last five years, the conversation starts with these four: Mick Jenkins, Tree, Vic Spencer, and Sasha Go Hard. Evidence is in each of their latest releases. In the case of Sasha Go Hard, Nutty World 2 is the product of a tough rapper primed to take over the world in a post-“eat the booty like groceries” world. She has more the enough tools to transition from mixtapes to albums. With the right producer(s), it would be a seamless one. She overemphasizes that she’s not missing any meals without a deal, which suggests that move will not be happening anytime soon.
Like the first release in the Commissions series, this was a Record Store Day release. The three tracks run a half-hour, and come off more dexterous than his overtly political albums. The drill-n-bass of “Bullet Hell Abstraction I” borrows from the achievements of U.K. acid-house more than it borrows from Tom Jenkinson and Gerald Simpson. But it’s the closer, “Suite From Magnetic Rose” that ranks amongst his most precious tracks. The Commissions series may not prove anything Daniel Lopatin’s albums and collaborations have not, but they are definitely good buys and a reminder of his elite standing among the current wave of producers.
A dive into iLoveMakonnen’s bandcamp page will expose his rap game Ariel Pink act in its nascent state. Last spring’s Drink More Water 3, “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” was a shell of what it would be by the time he was releasing under Drake’s oVo label by the end of the year. The fourth installment of the mixtape series included a goofy freestyle called “Whip It”. The remix appears on last month’s Drink More Water 5 and Makonnen sounds much less awkward than he did a year ago. Like his eponymous EP last fall, the beats sound like the producers were paid to make them. Said remix is his best song, and if there’s any doubt that this subject matter couldn’t be any further from Devo’s Gravity Rainbow-inspired song of the same name, trap-stars Migos lend their raps without getting in the way.
Rome Fortune appears on “No Ma’am” and “True Thang” and the duo are still undefeated together. Fortune has hinted to me that a collaborative project between the two is in the work, which should come as no surprise, as he has three releases to his name since last September.
Spanish Harlem’s Bodega BAMZ is the latest of a rich crop of New York emcees to bubble to the surface. A more traditional emcee (not in a Joey Bada$$ way, either) that can share space with the city’s best oddballs, Bodega BAMZ is a disciple of A$AP Yams. Sidewalk Exec proves that Yams never steered us wrong. This guy can rap his ass off and appears to have a grip on the business side of the equation. He’s not going away anytime soon.
Ilyas Ahmed – I Am All Your Own: A brief exercise in 12-string and electric guitars from one of Liz Harris’ (Grouper) most excellent collaborators.
The Sonics – This Is The Sonics: If you’re familiar with the seminal garage rock band, you’ll know what to expect on their first album since the 60s. You won’t be disappointed, either.
Colleen – Captain of None: Cécile Schott’s first album for Thrill Jockey is a love letter to dub music, which makes it an oddball in her discography. It’s the best thing the label has put out this year and a highlight in Colleen’s stellar catalog. Her recent mix for FACT is a must-hear companion piece.
Donato Dozzy / Anna Caragnano – Sintetizzatrice: – The vocal ambient stuff is a departure from the ambient techno Dozzy has mastered. One may wonder what Rome-based singer Anna Caragnano might sound like over the soundscapes of Dozzy’s classic work with Voices From The Lake.
Dae Jones – Any Given SunDae: Hooks abound in this offering from yet another wildly talented Chicago emcee. The remix to “Alright” is the best song you’ll hear all month.
Chaos Echoes – Transient: At their best,French death metal outfit Chaos Echoes is worthy of Magma comparisons and at their worst, it’s a glorious mess. That’s the best kind of mess, and if they put everything together, the sky is the limit.