Album Round-Upby Mahala / 11.11.2011
Here at Mahala albums stack up exponentially, digitally and on CD. Often they’re not exactly worth a full review but definitely worth a mention. Occasionally we will compile a selection of music you should know about, either as a recommendation or a warning.
Gods/ Down I Go/ MB
Down I Go, from the UK, are a bunch of wankers – they release, perhaps, their best, most mature and accessible to a wider audience record and break-up the moment it drops. This sad occasion will drift by mostly unnoticed on South African shores, where the number of laser-swallowing disco-raptors, who have procreated to Down I Go’s previous spazzoid offerings, hovers in the vicinity of a couple of dozen. Which is a shame really, because local, so-called, experimental acts could learn a lot from Gods, both from the music and the tongue-in-cheek tour-de-force that is the “Poseidon” music video. Who says you need a budget and a RED to produce quality?
While it is hard to pin-down Down I Go’s sound, the Gods EP flirts far less with chaos and math than any of their previous five – if you count the various EPs – albums. The schizophrenic songwriting that defined the band is still there, but this time it is polished into something more than the glorious minute-long bursts of madness we had on This Is Dinocore and This Is Disastercore. “Poseidon”, the mighty “single”, is built upon a solid groove, a hook that underlies both the chorus and the verses, and climaxes in an ingenious combination of horns and gang vocals. While “Atlas” surprises with a blend of trademark Down I Go torn screams and almost pop-tinged falsettos, and “Icarus” combines sludgy dissonance with gruff melody, the Gods EP belongs to the opener, “Demeter”. The track has everything a fan of heavy, experimental music could want – feverish explosions of crazy, cock-slapping bass, sexual wailing that slips into growls with unnoticeable ease and the trance-inducing soft ending. The real problem is – how many children does one have to sacrifice to Zeus, or any of the other Olympian deities, to get Down I Go to continue making music?
Stade 2/ Mr.Oizo/ TK
The fourth album by Mr.Oizo entitled Stade 2 (Stage 2 for the francophobes) is a trip into the glitched out mind of French producer Quentin Dupieux. This album, like the majority of his productions, seems to occupy a space somewhere between Daft Punk and Aphex Twin. It doesn’t really matter what genre this is though, as he says in the intro “I just recorded some new stuff. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I love it.” It isn’t boring, formulaic dance music, rather it is more like schizophrenic synthesis. You really need to listen to the album a few times before you start noticing the subtle details which add elements such as funk over what initially sounds like random noise. “Douche Beat” and “France7” both stand-out although the album is full of great tracks. This is Mr.Oizo as you know (and love) him. Stade 2 is out today, 11/11/11.
House Anthems X/ Various/ TM
Despite it surrounding every living, breathing space in the small town of Maseru where I’m from, House music has never been a favourite of mine. There may be compilations I like, productions I admire, even the odd documentary which I find fascinating, but it is, by and large, not for me. It is with this very negative sentiment that I approach House Anthems, a two-disc compilation split into “Commercial hits” (mixed by Kevin Grenfell) and “Club Bangers” (mixed by Justin Vee). Vestiges of Le Club and 206 colour the edges of Kevin Grenfell’s set. His selection punts Ron May against Crazy White Boy in a field where Snoop Dogg and David Guetta comfortably co-exist behind Ray Charles’ glasses. On the other side, Justin Vee pulls club bangers from the rut: his range extends from Adamski to Stefano Noerini. A well-compiled set from two deejays with formidable years of experience. Still, I am not moved.
Biophilia/ Bjork/ AM
With the release of 2007’s Volta, it seemed worryingly more probable that Bjork, once the reigning queen of weird, was becoming obsolete. Her sound was uncertain and grating, over-produced and bursting with nonsensical lyrics. Putting aside her much debated, unusual release style (a delicately animated iPad app, complete with David Attenborough narration to accompany the music) Biophilia thankfully sees Bjork back with a bang. It’s a blend of the flirtatious pop of 1995’s Post and the sombre, meditative and wildly under appreciated Vespertine (2002) rolled together to become a reflective, vulnerable musing on Bjork as a musician. The more abrasive tracks on the album, such as “Hollow”, “Thunderbolt” and “Dark Matter” are also the weakest; like tracks that didn’t make the cut on Volta. They sound as though they have been stretched to their limit and end up sounding discordant. To remedy these are also some of Bjork’s best songs since Vespertine. “Moon” and “Virus” are shuddering music-box melodies whose lyrics consider strange love stories within nature. “Crystalline”, the album’s first single, and “Sacrifice” sound like they could have been on her 1997 album, “Homogenic”, complete with strings and innovative beat experimentation. Though certainly not her best album, it is perhaps the best at encompassing Bjork’s varying styles over her expansive career. From her first solo album of frisky 90s pop (Debut, 1993) to her experimental acappella foray, (Medulla, 2004) Biophilia samples elements from all walks of her sound.
Metals/ Feist/ KM
If Feist’s sophomore album The Reminder was the younger eclectic boisterous sister, enamoured with romance, then her third album Metals would be the quiet, more mature intuitive older sister. Full of sensitivity and evoking the quiet intimacy of a quiet reading room near thundering ocean waves, soft whispers between lovers in bed and silent thoughts in the darkness of night, Metals evokes intensity, romance as it does quasi-melodrama and dare I say the contemporary tragedy of emotional misunderstanding, loneliness and loss. Metals shies away from being overtly emo with its whimsical instrumental arrangement, eclectic musical influences, a pulsating post-blues feel and Feist’s light yet crisp voice that adds layered irony to the album and its interpretation. The album opens with the upbeat The Bad in Each other, which chronicles the lack of comprehension a woman and a man face in a relationship. As a drum adds a catchy bass thump to the song and a guitar adds an upbeat country-esque twang, Feist sings about how ‘we had the same feelings at opposite times’, both with an emotional awareness that can be read as the bliss and peace that comes with experience, or as a lamenting of past loss. In the song Caught in a long wind, Feist yearns for a little bird to come and unlock the lock inside her, a metaphor for entrapment and a yearning to break away from it. Most of the songs on Metals come across as a little sad but it’s a surprising kind of belle tristesse that you don’t weep at, but that you find comfort in. Fans of “The Reminder” will enjoy tracks like “How come you never go there”, “A commotion”, “Anti-Pioneer”, that are reminiscent of “Limit to your Love”, “Honey Honey”. Feist’s music has matured in this album without losing any of its original eclectic musical appeal. Definitely worth listening to, especially if you were a fan of The Reminder.
MB – Max Barashenkov
TK – Themba Kriger
TM – Ts’eliso Monaheng
AM – Ashleigh McCulloch
KM – Kudi Maradzika