The Hunna exploded onto the scene in October last year and quickly became one of the hottest act on the planet. But it wasn’t a simple and easy journey for the four-piece – years of hard work and honing their craft was endured to get them to where they are now. Now the band are days away from their début album, 100, being released and the hype surrounding it in the UK and the States is absolutely electric. We grabbed a few words with lead singer Ryan Potter to find out more about what made The Hunna.
The legendary De La Soul are back 27 years after they released their ground-breaking debut 3 Feet High And Rising. Not only did it introduce the ‘skit’ (interlude) to hip-hop, their experimental hip-hop beats with unrelenting positive vibes helped save hip-hop music from its then ever-increasing gangster-rap posture. Over the past few years, the New York hip-hop pioneers have been building a steady resurgence back into the limelight – all starting with a feature on the 2005 Gorillaz mega hit ‘Feel Good Inc.’ to now being regarded as one of the must see live acts. Judging by the first two cuts released from and the Anonymous Nobody, in ‘Trainwreck’ and ‘Pain’, even in their 40s Posdnous, Dave and Maseo are still killing it.
With this their first studio album in 12 years, the trio have approached their ninth LP in an alternative way. For the past decade De La Soul have been acting as their own label, their own AOL imprint free of any interference from industry folk, and have consequently turned to Kickstarter to fund this project. After smashing their original goal of $110,000 in under 10 hours, the Long Island rappers went on to raise over $600,000 which all helped fund recording, mixing, marketing and pretty much everything – as well as features from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Pete Rock, David Byrne, Little Dragon and even Justin Hawkins to name just a few.
The queen of R&B, Jill Scott, starts the proceedings in a romantic fairy tale skit that brings and the Anonymous Nobody, to life with lush string arrangements and of course Jill’s graceful tones. This leads to the first track, ‘Royalty Capes’, perhaps a sly comment on De La Soul’s on-going issue with early contracts that state samples can only be used on vinyl and cassette – this has meant that they can’t put their early catalogue online and so don’t get any royalties from any of the unofficial streams and download content up on the net. However, the slick, jazzy back-beat takes the main attention, featuring an unorthodox 9 bar loop of rolling sax and bass that shows the continuous sophistication in De La Soul’s craft. ‘Pain’ is De La Soul at their best. The super smooth bounce of its simple funk laden lick could go on forever, with little musical oddities arriving throughout, keeping this summer jam forever fresh. And to top off one of the early stand outs on the album, legendary hip-hop OG Snoop Dogg adds his impeccable chill flow to the laid back groove. The mellow vibe continues with the odd but strangely inviting ‘Property Of Spitkicker.com’. Enlisting the help of fellow New York rapper Roc Marciano, both parties showcase their superb lyricism with the added inventiveness of a vocoder creating a melody atop of their voices that completes the muted rhythm on the understated jam.
A very strong beginning of the album is capped off nicely with the beautifully orchestrated ‘Memory Of..’ featuring Estelle’s angelic vocals and Pete Rock’s prowess. At the same time, this signifies the beginning of a lull in the album including an intense seven-minute rock epic with The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins in ‘Lord Intended’, the typically unconventional beat in ‘Snoopies’ featuring David Byrne, and the rather bland sounds of ‘Greyhounds’ with Usher. Though the tracks that came before are not totally offensive, and the Anonymous Nobody’s high standards are restored with the funky short ‘Sexy Bitch’ and the fantastically constructed ‘Trainwreck’.
Coming up to 30 years in the hip-hop game, De La Soul are still right at the top of their game and manage to find innovative ideas in a generation where “everything has been done”. My only gripe is that tracks with featured artists tend to take the form of their guest’s music – like the sublime Little Dragon track (‘Drawn’) where De La Soul come in 40 seconds from the end of the 5:34 song, or ‘Whoodeeni’ featuring 2 Chains, which is uncharacteristic of De La Soul’s style. This is by no means a bad thing, as it has opened up new territories for the trio to explore and prevail. Take ‘Here In After’ featuring Damon Albarn, a track that is so far away from De La Soul’s sound yet still holds the same quality that has been heard time and time again. Nevertheless, this isn’t an album that should be purely judged in its collaborations and ‘Nosed Up’ is a mighty fine example of this.
When thinking of the pressure and anticipation that shrouded and the Anonymous Nobody from the beginning of its Kickstart campaign, for the umpteenth time, De La Soul have created yet another humble masterpiece with a creativity that hasn’t been seen in their music in years. The production is so fresh and pleasing throughout that there must be a tour with a full live band following the album’s release – can someone please make this happen?!
The Creaking Chair is the brain child of Andrew AC Cooper. Their sound flows through psychedelic folk into a mellow 60s/70s rock that is surrounded by ideas of experimental electronica. Andrew’s hollowing yet arresting vocals lie above whimsical melodies that take a caressing hold of each ear they hit. I first saw The Creaking Chair do a support slot for The Wave Pictures at the Green Door Store, where they beguiled a captured audience, leaving a long lasting image. I put some questions to Andrew to find out more about him and the upcoming release of Pieceworker.
Over the years there have been a lot of great break up albums, for us the punters that is. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Beck’s Sea Change, Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel and The Weeknd House of Balloons immediately spring to mind. But there is a new one to add to that list. Rival Consoles’ Night Melody.
Before you start scratching your heads and thinking “Wait, how can an instrumental electronic album be added to this list of greats?” you need a bit of backstory and an open mind. When Rival Consoles, AKA Ryan Lee West, released his last album, Howl, he was going through a break up of a thirteen year long relationship. To get over this he threw himself into work. As the story goes he found himself staying up until silly o’clock writing music. The six songs that make up Night Melody are part of this process.
From the opening notes of ‘Pattern of the North’ you can feel a deep brooding melancholy lurking just below the surface. Jerky beats and twitchy bass keep the song moving forward while the synths convulse around us. ‘Johannesburg’, ‘Lone’ and final track ‘What Sorrow’ follow this blueprint too. Everything pulsates, clicks and blips, but deep in its core there are flourishes that show that all is not well in West’s heart. West puts it like this, “This record is very personal to me, and I hope it offers something for other people, as it helped me to make it and to listen to it. I'm not interested in making something sad or something happy. I want music to be bittersweet, like life containing moments of vibrant colour and hope as much as darkness and sadness."
Each track feels like it should be played at a different part of the night. ‘Pattern of the North’ is the kind of song you’d play while getting ready to go out, or is when you first get to the club. It isn’t a foot to the floor banger, or mind melting glitch fest, but somewhere in between. It hints at things to come, while never over stepping the boundaries of its jaunty rhythms. ‘Lone’ is the musical equivalent of getting a second, or third, wind at two in the morning. You feel drained and tired but from nowhere, BAM, you feel alive and raring to go. The title track, ‘Night Melody’, is the perfect song to be played while you are in a taxi going home. There is a mechanical feeling to the track that syncs up with lamp posts and parked cars as other homeward travellers pass you by in time with the clicks, blips and bass rushes.
On one hand Night Melody plays like a standard electronic album. It delivers a massive impact through minimal elements. Played at the right time on a night out and this would be flawless, but when you start to play it at home, or at work, you start to pick out these pangs of poignant mourning. It’s these elements that separate West from his peers and makes Night Melody one, if not the, strongest release in his impeccable back catalogue.
Congratulations to Skepta for winning the 2016 Hyundai Mercury Music Prize!
The Mercury Prize, this year sponsored by Hyundai, has been the staple of what defines the British and Irish music industry by shining a light on the acts that are shaping modern music. Renowned around the world, a spot on the shortlist can drastically move an act form being on the periphery of a glistening career to the very forefront. Not only do you get to be on an exclusive list which acknowledges your musical merit, you have the chance to multiply your income (in an industry which we all know is getting harder and harder to make a living in) through the subsequent album sales and extended tours, which arise from purely receiving a nomination. Then if you clinch the top spot you get a £25,000 cheque, as well as the acknowledgement of being the very best in British and Irish music for the year.
For the first time in its 24 years, the format of the awards has been changed. In past times a panel of musicians, music presenters, producers, journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the music industry put together a list of six albums that have been put forward by labels, which are then judged by the respective panel on the day of the awards. This year the panel have put forward twelve albums that will be whittled done to six via an online vote, which will then be judged by the panel on the day of the awards. Whether this will have a profound effect on the end result is yet to be seen, as worries that the acts with the biggest fan bases taking rule in the inaugural vote are already being voiced.
As per usual, a diverse and eclectic mix of music has been nominated – electropop, art rock, baroque pop, electronic R&B, grime, soul, post punk, pop and jazz. This year’s list is one of the more commercially successful in Mercury Prize’s history with the majority of albums having taken the UK number one spot or held itself in the Top 10. Only two acts have debut albums featured and, incredibly, half of the nominations have appeared on the shortlist before.
Here is a brief look at the albums up for the this years Mercury Prize award:
Imarhan are born out of the legacy created by Tinariwen, the West African band who have championed the Tuareg genre globally for more than 35 years. Imarhan disassemble the traditional ideas of Tuareg music by putting together calming and soulful rhythms that captivate instantly. Each track on their eponymous debut album is as passionate and complex as the last, holding a unique intimacy in their diverse melodies. Even after a single listen, there is no doubt you will be hocked on Imarhan's every note and as the band are bringing their new wave Tuareg sound to Brighton, we asked them some questions to find out more.
Wild Beasts are kind of a big deal now, and rightly so. They have done the hard graft that any aspiring band has to do if they want to make it in the big time. Starting out in 2002, Wild Beasts announced themselves with the brilliant 2008 debut Limbo, Panto (Domino Records), a startling, irrevocable indie rock that was followed up a year later by the truly sublime Two Dancers, which unfortunately missed out on a Mercury Prize in 2010 (won by The XX’s debut). The exposure, however, did rightly cement them as one of the UK’s leading bands and the albums that followed have all been met with the same anticipation and acclaim as the last.
Not many acts can release an album, only one album, 16 years ago and still create a major buzz when they decide to release their follow up over a decade later. With little to no movement from the electronic duo in that time, from an outsider’s point of view, it is madness that such a fuss is being made. However, their cult status is more than deserving – in fact they created a pioneering debut LP (Since I Left You) in 2000, an absolute global success that saw the Australian pair use an estimate of 3,500 samples over 18 genre-fusing tracks. An incredible feat from what is regarded as an important concept album that for many music lovers, like myself, was an hour-long education in music’s surreal possibilities. Like DJ Shadow’s debut 1996 album Endtroducing….. which showed us the potential of complete plunderphonics (the art of taking existing audio recording and altering them into a new composition) albeit in a hip-hop/trip-hop genre, Since I Left You sat all on its own by sounding like nothing else and yet being accessible to fans all around the world. Tracks such as ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ and ‘Since I Left You’ still stand the test of time, sounding as unique and innovative as the day they were released. And as an album, Since I Left You took you on an expansive journey from ecstatic highs to troublesome lows, always holding an emotional core that kept the vast amount of different styles and sounds a surprisingly intimate experience.
With rumours circling The Avalanches, reports from as early as 2002 saying they were in the process of making their second album, it’s definitely fair to say that they have built an astonishing amount of anticipation and expectation for the sophomore album. In 2006, their label Modular Recordings added fuel to the fire by issuing a press release stating, “It’s sounding like everything we dared not hope for, and so much more. They’ve made the records of their lives basically”, with the band taking to Twitter to direct followers to a mix-tape that, “may or may not be … by ♥ ?v?L?NCH∑≤ ♥” – this certainly made people hungry for what was coming. After not much else other than an update on The Avalanches website declaring that roughly forty tracks are being considered, acts such as Jennifer Herrema, Danny Brown and Ariel Pink announced in 2012 that they had worked with the band, finally affirming that the now much sort after album was actually in the process of being made.
So July 2016 saw the release of Wildflower, the album “we” have all been waiting for. How is it – an anti-climax? Well initial response is a double thumbs up, receiving an 82 on the much-respected Metacritic (a score that would have been higher if it wasn’t for the shallow writing of the NME). Wildflower starts in a familiar place with a sampled prelude opening the album before going into the celebratory ‘Because I’m Me’, perfectly mixing Honey Cone’s track ‘Want Ads’ and the joyful rhymes of Camp Lo that make the base of this track. Even the “marmite of all marmite” tracks, first single ‘Frankie Sinatra’, sounds better in the mist of The Avalanches’ 21-song kaleidoscopic musical collage. Love it or hate it, you are quickly won over by the boogie enforcing ‘Subway’ which certainly has the nostalgic feel of the disco-pop tracks from the first album.
Perhaps one of the best things about Wildflower is its flow – tracks effortlessly merge from one to the next, as if the majority of the album is meant to be one piece of music – going through ‘Going Home’ and into ‘If I Was A Folkstar’ in one glorious sweep. The latter, featuring Toro Y Moi, is one of the stand out tracks, being full of the Australian summer sun and their penchant for neo-psychedelia which repeatedly features. Fantasy and surrealism are never too far away in Wildflower and throughout the second half of the LP, the duo let loose ripples of nonsensical musical adventures. Each 1-2 minute track acts like stepping onto a plane in one country and getting off in another world of completely new sounds, visiting orchestrated paradise and playful cartoon soundscapes. The album comes to its end with a fanfare of positive energy, two beautifully bright tracks (‘Stepkids’ and ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’) to look forward to after an hour journey, that feels like 16 years, through innovative invention.
How many bands really have managed to come back with a new album after such a long time and not be met by walls of disappointment? Portishead with Portishead (1997) and Third (2008), Vashti Bunyan with Just Another Diamond Day (1971) and Lookaftering (2005), Aphex Twin with Drukqs (2001) and Syro (2014) – not many more great albums come to mind but without a doubt, Wildflower can be added to this list. It may lack the superb singles Since I Left You has and I doubt it will be in many peoples Best Of Year list, but The Avalanches have actually managed to make a follow up record that, stands on its own by sounding like nothing else, yet still staying remarkably cohesive throughout.
There is nothing better than finding some music or a band that make you go, “WOW, I didn’t expect anything like that!” Something that creates an eye-opening moment, a realisation that music can still surprise you. BadBadNotGood (BBNG) are said band that make you wonder, “how have I missed them up to now?” – not a bad thing but good, because life is all about surprises and this is definitely a good one.
Now releasing their fourth album, hence the title, the Canadian jazz group take influence from hip-hop in their compositions – a role-reversal for a genre that has lent its hand consistently in hip-hop’s evolution story – this does make BadBadNotGood’s jazz sound extremely accessible, opening unlikely ears and winning a new generation of fans that think a Kind Of Blue is just a colour. The band have had a long relationship with hip-hop, with Tyler, The Creator helping BadBadNotGood go viral at their beginnings in 2010 after uploading a YouTube video of a piece based on Odd Future’s music, then going on to record a live session with the rapper. Playing hip-hop covers, doing J Dilla tributes and contributing musical compositions for RZA’s (Wu-Tang Clan) film The Man With The Iron Fists all helped lead up to the Sour Soul LP which they recorded with Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan) in 2015, an album I have just recently got into and is fantastic!
There are three main differences with IV compared to BadBadNotGood’s previous releases; they have become a quartet rather than a trio by bringing in Leland Whitty (saxophone) who featured on BBNG2 as well as III. There are also vocals on some of the tracks, and they have a load of brilliant guest musicians collaborating with them. After a rather spooky and chilling opener, ‘And That, Too’, that doesn’t give anything away apart from the fact that Whitty and his sax was made for this band, ’Speaking Gently’ comes in to showcase why there is so much love for this band. Free jazz and hip-hop are a match made in heaven, and BadBadNotGood act as a musical cupid. Groove-heavy basslines and their rehearsed yet somehow still spontaneous feel make this an early highlight, proving BadBadNotGood are entering their halcyon days four albums in.
Up there with the very best tracks of 2016 so far ‘Time Moves Slow’ features the textured and sorrow filled vocals of Future Islands’ Sam Herring, creating an absolute heart-wrenching R&B number. Lyrics like “Running away is easy / It’s the living that’s hard / And loving you was easy / It was you leaving that scarred” in the songs chorus fills this emotion fuelled track with buckets full of hurt, matched perfectly with BadBadNotGood wistful jams that encapsulates the intense, soulful melancholy on show. Following on from ‘Confessions’ on III, ‘Confessions Pt II’ quickly takes you away from the sombre sounds before Colin Stetson delivers a feral bass sax lead that moulds into tame cathartic sonority by the song’s end. Having featured on Kaytranada’s debut LP (99.9%) this year, the now world-renowned Canadian electronic prodigy returned the favour with ‘Lavender’. With Kaytranada’s masterful drum patterns and musical knowhow on show alongside BadBadNotGood’s exquisite musicianship, this psych tinged track could show what is to come from this fitting collaboration, who have apparently recorded an album worth of unreleased tracks together already.
The spine to BadBadNotGood’s music has always been instrumental jazz and it is no different on IV, highlighted in the classic sounding ‘IV’ and the glorious album closer ‘Cashmere’. However, the addition of vocals certainly adds a new dimension to their sound which wasn’t necessarily needed but is a much welcomed fit. Charlotte Day Wilson’s woozy soul gospel vocals features on ‘In Your Eyes’, a track that would have stood strong with the very best vocal jazz stars of the 1940s and 1950s. In a complete comparison in styles – ‘Hyssop Of Love’ has a hip-hop beat Madlib or DJ Premier would be proud of, bringing in Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins to adhere his flow to the dreamy back beat. This is what you get with IV, tracks rarely cohere with nothing linking one song from the next but it will always sound damn good.
All it took was one listen of their debut single ‘Landslide’ to know I had to find out more about this Brighton band that had come out of absoulte nowhere. Fortunately, they were playing an unofficial opening show for The Great Escape Festival at the Green Door Store, their first headline gig, and they certainly announced themselves to the Brighton music scene – all the festival dignitaries who made it down early couldn’t quite believe the intense feral nature the band had on stage, it was brilliant! Loa Loa released their debut EP IX . V. V. VI on that same week which compliments what their live show is all about. We put some questions to the three piece to find out more about them.