Lil B - Black Ken:
Y’all knew I had to add this album before the end of September! Lil B is back from a two-year hiatus and boy is he cookin’. Black Ken has been delivered from based heaven, with a total of 27 dope tracks entirely mixed and produced by Lil B himself. This mixtape is pure funk baby, reminiscent of the good old days of the hyphy movement in the rolling hills of Berkeley, California and the greater Bay Area.
Lucky for you I listened to the entire 1 hour and 39 minute project, even the skits, in one sitting so you didn’t have to. With that being said, you’re gonna want to listen to the whole damn thing. I was immediately locked in with “Still Run It,” in which he lays down the law that hip hop is back and better than ever before sliding into a tough guy piano riff in “Bad Mf.” Every track gets better than the last, with the tape ending with “Live from the Island-Hawaii,” which pretty much explains itself, giving a whole new meaning to island time. I am particularly partial to the middle of the album, beginning with a skit of Lil B and a pal discussing the need to go to San Jose before traveling to Mexico right before transitioning into the most fun part of the album with “Zam Bose (In San Jose)” and “Go Señorita Go.”
I truly do not know what else I can say about this glorious masterpiece, as Black Ken embodies everything I love about hip hop: 808 beats, funky bass lines, and a fine line between ignorance and wisdom. TYBG BABY! NATASHA
RIYL: too based to compare
Recommended Tracks: 3, 4, 8, 13, 15-17, 22, 27
Jordan Rakei - Wallflower:
So Jordan Rakei’s music has always been beautifully soulful, while simultaneously achieving harmonic density, striking lyrical conceptuality, and truculent levels of groove. If you’re not already familiar with his music, do yourself a favor and check out his 2014 EP Groove Curse, as well as last year’s full-length release Cloak (tied with the Dave King Trucking Company for my favorite album of 2016). While I’m not sure that Wallflower is quite on par with the meditative hopefulness of Cloak, it is absolutely an album worth checking out, if only for the genius transition from the first track to the second, and the squaminous rhythms of “Sorceress” and “Nerve.”
One consequence of the internet revolution is the diminished importance of physical location. Classes can be attended virtually, live-streams of concerts have become increasingly popular, and with Virtual Reality technology ever improving, our society will undoubtedly be spending more and more time experiencing life through screens. Similarly, texting, email, video chatting, etc. have allowed long distance communication to become easier, more instantaneous, and more complete than ever before. While many have decried the negative impacts of technology, in making humans less emotionally connected despite being more electrically connected, I would urge these decriers to avoid passing judgement so swiftly.
Nothing reminds one of the importance of physical location more immediately than being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strange buildings, strange people (could even call them strangers lol), and possibly even a strange language; the unfamiliarity can be a bit overwhelming. In such circumstances, technology can connect you back to the familiar, allowing your mind to travel on a journey separate from your physical self, much in the same way as a good movie or book. That said, while occupying a familiar mental space can provide respite from physical unfamiliarity, it is impossible for technology to ever fully recreate a physical experience. Seeing the Grand Canyon through pictures, or video, or even through a state-of-the-art VR headset, will never fully replace the experience of actually going there, of breathing in the clean air of the Kaibab Forest, of seeing the exact reflection of the sun’s rays off the red-orange rocks. So try to maintain a balance: use your technology as needed, but still try to partake in as many physical experiences as possible; even if not every place is the Grand Canyon, there’s still some pretty cool shit out there. JATIN
RIYL: D’angelo, Radiohead, Hiatus Kaiyote
Recommended Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 6
Un Blonde - Good Will Come to You:
Last year, in the dead of summer, for a very brief moment, multi-instrumentalist Jean-Sebastien Audet graced our streaming platforms and iPods with his latest work as Un Blonde called Good Will Come To You.
It was a beautiful album that demonstrated his progress as an artist. In contrast with WATER THE NEXT DAY, one of his earlier works released in 2015, there is comparatively a lot less going on sonically. WATER THE NEXT DAY took influence from trap music (hi hats, layered synths, strings) in order to disjointedly complement Audet’s beautiful voice. Elements of gospel, soul, and confessional lyricism were present, but they were competing with a more chaotic soundscape. I would have likened it to an abstract, black James Blake.
Audet doesn’t like to leave a second of the track silent: his breathless voice lingers near the end of gospel chords, and when his breathe can’t last we are comforted by a beachy soundscape: the waves crashing, seagulls crying, burr burr. Sometimes, rather than take a breath before the next note, Audet will bend the pitch to arrive at the next thought in his song. Audet is very talented at guitar: on the third track “Open Sesame” I’m hearing some serious noodling influences from John McLaughlin on Bitches Brew.
But most importantly, this is a sleepy-time album! An album for soft moments and softer pillows. Every song save one is a potential lullaby. The continuity of calm can honestly become grating: remember what I said about the Audet’s lingering voice. Despite this potential tediousness, the sound is uniquely his, and it’s gorgeous: acoustic, ambient gospel. Good Will Come to You will touch the lovers and dreamers out there, or make one out of you. AUSTIN
RIYL: Sandy Bull, John Fahey, The Notre Dame Folk Choir
Recommended Tracks: 3, 6, 9, 12, 16
Special Request - Curtain Twitcher EP:
Like this EP, this review is short, direct and to the point.
Special Request (aka Paul Woolford) has been at the intersection of almost all forms of electronic music since his arrival on the scene in 2012. He has both courted Houndstooth (a label run by Fabric operator Rob Booth) and XL Recordings for his trademark releases Soul Music and his Modern Warfare EP series. His styles blend from strictly 4x4 techno to deep house to heavily junglist (as heard on his remix of Tessela’s Hackney Parrot) and beyond. Woolford’s releases are characterized by a dancefloor–focus and pure, raw energy, and his trademark style are highly evident on Curtain Twitcher EP.
It appears as though Woolford has integrated the TB-303 incredibly well with his brand of techno; where others might have increased the “cheese” factor of the track in order to accommodate the wobbles of acid house, he builds the tracks around it to create o“Curtain Twitcher” starts off the EP with acid twinges and peaks on Hoover basslines, while the track twists and squelches upon itself. “Emutraxx” continues the acidic focus, bringing the 303 to the main focus of the track while "Trippethylophosphazene" blends a house drum break with the acid basslines in a juxtaposition that manages to be surprisingly novel. "No Phone Calls" begins as a surprisingly standard house track, but as soon as the bassline hits, it changes around completely, as per usual.
Won’t lie to you though – Peder Mannerfelt’s remix of "Real" is the standout track on this EP. It wastes no time getting to its point; a jungly break stopping and starting over a dark synthline serves to captivate and ensare you into Mannefelt’s separate interpretation of the track. It’s dark, anxious and heart-pumpingly engrossing all the way until the end. SEAN
RIYL: Tessela, Hodge, Truss, UK Techno, acid house, jungle breaks.
Recommended Tracks: 3, 5, 6