Review: Samuel is a rising star

INTRODUCTORY EP Falling Star showcases someone who’s sure to be a rising star, even if he’s not quite at his heavenly best yet.
Samuel’s short and sweet iniation is a production of electronic bleeps and bass which although serving a purpose, are only a launchpad for the artist’s vocal.
Because in the crowded constellation of soulful electronic artists, where the likes of Jamie Woon and James Blake shine bright, the raw yearning tone of Samuel’s voice should set him apart.
His pipes are rich and emotional, but with an unusual edge – at times he sounds like Frank Ocean, at others he finds unusual sounds, like the hints of Ezra Koenig I detect on Death Star Wonder.
Samuel should be a rising star, and this is a decent launchpad for him – he needs to add fuel to this with his full offering now.

Review: Late Pass is well Jel

ANTICON found Jel’s latest LP Late Pass sees the producer open with a title track featuring the repeated mantra “don’t get too comfortable”.
Which is odd, because Jel – real name Jeffery James Logan – sounds totally at ease with his sound here.
The beats are head-noddingly crisp, over sparse bass throbs, turntablist scratching and sampling, and a smattering of other instrumentation, plus now and then a little vocal.
But throughout nothing is forced or OTT, no particular sound dominates proceedings, no overpowering basslines or furious lyrical flows – it’s just a well produced, if short, collection of largely instrumental hip hop, and business as usual for Anticon.

Opinion: Disappointing Mercury Prize 2013 trying too hard

“TOKEN jazz, token folk, seven similar indie bands, two female singers, a ‘surprise’ pop inclusion; no electronica, no metal.”
That was my cynical, withering Mercury Prize 2013 shortlist prediction Tweet earlier today, followed closely by “I hope I’m wrong.”
Turned out I was wrong – but I’m not happy about it.
Because this year’s Mercury Prize could be the heaviest weighting towards electronic music yet – James Blake, Disclosure, and Jon Hopkins line-up alongside the more likely guitar-slinging lads like Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Jake Bugg etc.
But to me, this is a deliberate ploy towards electonica tokenism – an attempt to tackle one of the prize’s biggest criticisms, of the genre being overlooked.
This despite the fact that the likes of 4Hero, The Prodigy, Roni Size, Portishead, La Roux, Hot Chip etc have all featured before.
Now the relative glut of knob-twiddlers in 2013 this has left not room on the shortlist for the oft-ridiculed token jazz record, and token folk record.
Where are Lau? Or Melt Yourself Down?
One of the best things about this award is that it heralds the unheralded.
Elbow weren’t unknown when they won, but they were severely underrated – is David Bowie in their position right now, for instance?
And the unknown likes of Sweet Billy Pilgrim, or Polar Bear, or Portico Quartet would have been missed by so many people who now love these acts, were it not for their nominations – whereas the folkier acts this year, the likes of Villagers and Laura Marling, aren’t exactly under the radar.
It all leads to one of the most disappointing shortlists that I can remember.
And don’t get me started on their approach to metal music…

Review: Lorn heading deeper and darker than ever before

EDM artist Lorn already inhabits a bit of a shady corner of the scene – but new EP Debris sees him burrowing even further into his dark art.
On this release his trademark shady electronica is still clearly the work of Lorn, but it’s somehow more alienated, more haunting, and more arresting than ever before.
Here the beats have taken a back seat to the overall production, and it’s a genius step – the already otherworldly soundscapes have been jarred, smeared and enhanced by hours of experimentation in the studio, and the EP is all the more intense for him trashing his drum emphasis.
In the bumph that came with this review copy, Lorn himself says he took his original samples and “blended them with synths and guitars, ran them back and forth through tape, burned them through analog valves, recorded them playing inside of themselves”.
It shows.
Of course there are beats here still, clicks and stomps and deep rumblings and all, but on Debris Lorn seems to have stepped up and away from mere drumbeat creation – this is a dark and foreboding landscape I cannot wait to explore more of when the full LP drops.

Review: Good GAUDI holding back

AS HIS name, or rather the fact that he insists on capping up his name in full even though it’s a bit shouty, would suggest, GAUDI prefers to vibrate dancefloors with his electronica-reggae-world music hybrid sound, rather than float around chill-out rooms.
So on new album In Between Times, even the more relaxed tracks such as Subtle Obscurity are underpinned by a beat and bassline – although the strong dub influence here does keep the results from becoming a dirge.
However it’s this occasional dichotomy that holds the album back overall – GAUDI is clearly a man at his best when he’s being full on, and it’s no coincidence that the album’s standout track is probably I Start To Pray, where he shoehorns three guest acts, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, The Orb and Dennis ‘Dubmaster’ Bovell, onto the one track.
The tracks where he holds back, like Babylon Is Fallin where a subdued backing track is laced with a full-on vocal by Deadly Hunta, just sound like an artist with his foot on the brake.

Review: Ras G should prepare for take-off

ras g.jpg
RAS G, leader of the Afrikan Space Programme, claims to be from another planet, and you know what, I’m not gonna argue.
In this life, you’ll never reach the stars if you don’t aim for them, and the cosmic musician’s latest LP, Back On The Planet, is certainly full of this ambition.
The sound is an experimental one, a tacked together fusion of Hudson Mohawke-esque electronica, a scattering of hip hop beats, plus psychedelia, Afrobeat, dub, jazz, and much more – aiming to bridge the gap between black music’s past and future.
It’s a wide-ranging aim, which does result in a scattergun approach coming though, meaning at times the results are cosmic, at others the results are a bit too alien to my ears.

Review: Less is more with minimal Howes

MINIMAL house is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it – and normally it’s not really my taste in electronic jams.
But I’m more than happy to raise a toast to the work of Howes.
The 19-year-old’s soundscape on teaser EP TD-W700/Leazes is a sparse, computerised one – but there’s a life breathed into these bare beats.
The tracks are pounding but never repetitive, and these are illuminated by the use of reconstituted, reworked samples such as the French speaking on Asiko or the brooding bells behind the intro to Leazes.
A great way to break my house music fasting, I’m looking forward to tucking in to a full length LP.