ALBUM REVIEW: Wav-Legion II by Bonnie Legion & wav-Dr.

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www.wav-legion.com

This artistic project has a fascinating and very modern genesis. Bonnie Legion has been a multi-genre recording artist for over a decade and in late 2018 she connected with the Canadian producer, songwriter and musician wav-Dr.

Their first collaborative track was Heavy Weight and this led to a full length album, Wav-Legion, which fused electronica with real instrumentation and was released at the start of 2019. This highly eclectic duo encompass several genres including pop, rock, hip hop, electronica and soul.

Hot on the heels of their debut album comes this epic sixteen track album just a few months later. It gets off to a fine start with the super catchy and acerbic Escape The Mundane (ft. Miss Efemby).

Blending a pumping four-to-the-floor dance beat with strummed acoustic guitar, the lyrics depict quotidian life and trying to transcend it: “Clock ticks slowly, a quarter to insane, I go around in circles on the road of the mundane.” The music’s momentum is so strong you hardly notice its lengthy duration, breaking down and building up around the halfway mark with some nifty lead guitar work.

Fear of Flying is equally good, a mid-paced mash up of electronica, dubstep, hip-hop and pop with another great hook and lead vocal performance from Bonnie Legion. The loose, funky beat is pure hip-hop, melded with smoky Rhodes electric piano along with both acoustic and electric guitar. This provides the bedrock for a fantastic vocal arrangement, layered with backing harmonies. A potential single.

Money Time Life is more minimal, a languid RnB beat and eerie synths setting the scene for a haunting lead vocal from Bonnie, interspersed with spoken male vocals (presumably wav-Dr.) intoning the unsettling title hook: “They want your money, your time, your life….”. Fourth track The Wave It Rides is a similar tempo but with a more intricate, tribal sounding beat. This is fused with disco bass, funk guitar and some quirky vocal effects. Very inventive and pleasingly impossible to categorise.

Flip Side maintains the mellow vibe, this one with an understated but deceptively catchy hook (“See you on the flip side…”) that blends the two members’ vocal styles perfectly. The lyrics are deliciously dark and subtly apocalyptic: “Let’s watch the world as it’s burning down, fingertips gonna touch the sky when its coming down….”.

Directions is rather more upbeat, a sassy and fiesty vocal performance from Bonnie that brought to mind the equally eclectic St. Vincent (Annie Clark). As usual, the lyrics are full of wit and pithy observations on life: “Everybody’s got the truth, I say it’s yet to be found….”. Fantastic track and another potential single.

Layered Intentions brings back the hip hop vibe with a slinky, shuffling beat, interspersed with funky Rhodes piano. It’s another standout performance from Bonnie Legion, who shows a rhythmic dexterity of delivery that would rival the finest rappers out there. The whole album is cutting edge but this track feels like it really has its finger on the pulse, stylistically.

The superbly grimy Money Crime seems to emerge from the slipstream of the previous track, taking it to another level with a more soulful pop vibe and a killer hook. Yet another good choice as a single.

Ninth track You Up is quirky rock-infused electronica with wav-Dr. taking over the majority of the vocal duties, which adds further contrast and variety to the sound. The message is defiant and empowering: “Don’t let them keep you down, don’t let them fuck you up, you’re only on the ground, I’m here to pick you up….”.

Hello City is another great track with an important message to impart about the homeless along with its genius title hook: “Some of them are sick and wounded, some are always high, but if you were out in that cold alone you would long to fly…”.

Soldier is another masterful fusion of pop, RnB, dubstep, EDM and rock that starts out sparse and unfolds into a very clever arrangement that builds up until the very end. Lyrically, it’s affecting; it depicts a troubled, complex relationship with someone who has issues but who’s also the source of encouragement and support (“Girl, you’re a soldier…onward, soldier“).

How Bad is one of the album’s most pop moments with a huge title hook that soon latches in the memory. Of course, there’s all sorts of smart genre fusion going on underneath the poppy hook, making it the most modern, cutting edge pop music out there.

Missing It is more proof of this, a relatable song about the realities, contradictions and complexities of human relationships. Musically, it throws together subtle country-style guitar with chugging funk/reggae guitar along speaker-rumbling synth bass and a restless, insistent beat. Once again their combined vocals hit the yin/yang bullseye, captured by the haunting title refrain.

Hynoptise is one of the album’s most earthy and sensual songs with a seductive rhythm and an alluring ‘come hither’ vocal from Bonnie.  The result in an intoxicating, exotic sounding piece of pop that is perhaps the most commercial and accessible track here, with lyrics that get right to the point: “Hypnotise my mind baby straight to heaven …..let the smoke rise“.

The album’s final two tracks maintain the remarkably consistent quality, with Kinetic being another pop gem featuring a fantastic second section based around the tribal mantra “Let it bring down fire and lightning“. It’s another fine example of how they breathe new life into what many perceive as a stale format.

Last track Stop Thinking (featuring Robert P. Kreitz II as feature producer) is both one of the most experimental and quirky yet infectious and addictive songs on the album. As if the Black Eyed Peas had dropped acid and gained an imagination, the track is driven by disorientating and wild synth sounds, constantly morphing underneath the dynamite vocal melody. A hugely entertaining note to end on.

Overall, this is an outstanding modern pop album that fuses a bewildering range of genres together seamlessly and reinvents what pop music actually is in the process. The sustained inventiveness and creativity across sixteen tracks, along with consistently strong lyrics and melodies, make Bonnie Legion and wav-Dr. a musical force to be reckoned with. Balancing originality and eclecticism with peerless pop nous, their commercial potential is enormous as is their creative potential for the future. Ones to watch, for sure.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10       

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: In Love by TheKunig

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TheKunig is the artistic moniker of electronica producer, musician and looper Micky C who hails from Derby, England. Specifically, his production skills include drum loops, sequencers, synths and bass. Under this moniker he has released several albums since 2015 including On The Canvas, Urban Album, Kunigunda, Coulda Tried Harder and his most recent album, Bloodline, released in March 2019. His music has been featured many times on one of the UK’s most prominent and important shows for breaking new artists, BBC Introducing.

This song, In Love, is an uptempo electronica/RnB track with a dubstep influence featuring a fine female vocalist, who gives a strong lead vocal performance. Beginning with an insistent riff set to a soft four-to-the-floor kick, the track soon bursts into life with a meaty, colossal-sounding beat augmented by a raw dubstep-tinged synth bass. This provides the sonic bedrock for a first rate vocal melody that works perfectly in tandem with the musical backdrop.

The track’s arrangement is very well constructed, managing to be catchy and memorable without being overly repetitive and maintaining its infectious energy to the very end. The vocals are enriched with some perfectly executed backing harmonies and the combination of a killer lead melody melded to a brilliant beat and bassline brought to mind The Weeknd’s modern classic Can’t Feel My Face.

Overall, this is a superb release from TheKunig, blending eclectic styles in a cohesive and masterly way. With cutting edge, modern sounding production combined with an irresistible vocal melody, In Love manages to balance being both perfect for mainstream radio as well as guaranteed to go down a storm in the clubs. After building up momentum for the last few years, In Love deserves to be the track that truly catapults TheKunig into the upper echelons of the charts.

 

VERDICT= 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Why Can’t You? by Celiane The Voice

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https://celianethevoice.bandcamp.com/

Celiane The Voice could be roughly described as an R&B/pop singer and songwriter, but her music encompasses a broad range of influences including soul, Latin pop, Broadway music, dubstep and hip-hopera. She surmises her own style as electronica hip-hopera. Hailing from the Bay Area, California, she cites equally diverse influences on her music such as the late, great Amy Winehouse, Origa, Tina Quo, Adele and Pharrell Williams, to name but a few.

This song, Why Can’t You?, was written and performed by Celiane herself and produced by Bill Williams. Musically, it’s an infectious fusion of dubstep, classical, R&B, hip hop and pop which showcases Celiane’s eclectic musical versatility. Starting with moody synth strings along with beautiful harp and woodwinds, it then bursts into a hard hitting Skrillex-style dubstep beat and a gut-punching saw-wave synth.

For the verse, Celiane enters with an immediating captivating vocal performance, the music switching to a more R&B/soul vibe. Her voice is charismatic and commanding, which acts as a cohesive glue on the music’s disparate elements, giving the track its sonic identity. It also features some breathtaking harmonies on the memorable chorus, augmented by a melodic piano motif.

Lyrically, it addresses a relationship where one partner is unable to appreciate the other’s emotional commitment, devotion and love: “I love you, do you know what that means? It means I will do anything, it means I will lay down my life….”. After the second chorus it breaks down to another excellent section built around a vocal refrain before the chorus returns, but with a totally different beat! The continual musical metamorphosing across the track’s five minute duration is breathtaking.

Overall, this is a remarkable single by an artist who seamlessly combines disparate musical genres into one organic whole, underpinned by a strong understanding of traditional songwriting values. The result is something both commercial yet quirky and highly original, with a sonic surprise around every corner. Celiane The Voice has emerged fully formed as an artist with a unique style, and Why Can’t You? deserves to be recognized as both a great song and a hugely inventive piece of composition and cutting edge production.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Chutney Chasers by aVIE

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aVIE is an RnB/electronica artist hailing from Houston. He had an itinerant childhood, which is partly the reason for the eclectic range of styles and genres that have influenced his music. He describes his music as Psychedelic/Punk RnB, which is accurate but he also incorporates dubstep, DnB and trap into his musical vision. He regards his influences as The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Radiohead, amongst others.

This EP, Chutney Chasers, is his debut release and he describes the EP as a “story of a young colored man’s struggle with exotification, identity, addiction, anxiety and role”. It starts with the title track, a languid yet intense concoction of falsetto lead vocals with aVIE’s smooth-as-honey rapping style. Not many artists can claim such versatility as both singer and emcee, and aVIE’s gifts are the equal of similar artists like Frank Ocean. A fine start to the EP.

Tapwater shows another side to his oeuvre, starting out as fairly conventional RnB before developing into a fantastic hybrid of dubstep and DnB, with aVIE delivering his skills as a rapper once more for good measure. This is cutting edge 21st century pop, a futuristic meld of modern styles which aVIE pulls off effortlessly. The Self is another contrast, a hymnal, reflective track with some almost angelic lead vocals counter pointed with distorted spoken word sections.

New Feathers is another excellent track which again shows the influence of Frank Ocean. It’s exquisitely produced RnB with avant garde touches that lift it out of conventionality. Lyrically, it’s an inspiring song about personal transformation: “I’m cleaning the system, creating religion….”. A potential single.

Midnight Oil further consolidates his essential signature sound, an intoxicating melee of skittish rhythms and inventive production touches that somehow remains cohesive. The final Take Care is a beautifully melancholy acoustic ballad, beginning with strummed acoustic guitar and aVIE’s tender lead vocals, containing some troubled lyrics: “I’m drowning in alcohol…”. It builds gradually into a dark epic, reaching a cathartic climax at the end. A beautifully crafted and performed finale to the EP.

Overall, this is an absolute slam dunk of an EP by an artist who is fresh on the scene but whose artistic identity and style is fully formed. With soul searching, intelligent lyrics set to music of eclectic style, emotional depth and restless invention, aVIE has a lot to offer the music world and I expect Chutney Chasers to make a strong impact. I also predict that aVIE is going to be the next big thing in RnB, he’s simply destined for the world stage.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Other Worlds by Drone Flesh

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Drone Flesh is an electronic artist/producer hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. His music is a unique hybrid of electro, house and dubstep or complextro, as he describes it. His primary musical interest is in “exploring different genres of bass heavy music that does not fit into a drawer”. He has already released several tracks including Do Not Touch, Risk Everything, Big Bad Bass and Petrified, to which I gave a very positive review in 2015.

In the intervening years he has developed and refined his style further, creating a futuristic sounding hybrid consisting of techno’s precise beats, dubstep’s punch and vitality and the sophistication of complextro. His musical raison d’etre is best surmised by himself: “Drone Flesh ignores the rules, controls the madness and turns the chaos into complexity.” This is very much self-evident on this four track EP, Other Worlds.

Opening track Be Yourself throws you into the deep end straight away, the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. Pounding four to the floor kick drum competes with syncopated filter effects and tension-building risers before bursting into a full beat driven by a pulsating low end synth bass.

It goes into an excellent percussive section around the 1.30 mark that made think of The KLF’s acid house classic What Time Is Love? It has a similar sense of euphoria and momentum, maintaining the energy till the end. A barnstorming start to the EP and surely a hit waiting to happen on the dancefloor.

Second track Ride The Waves maintains the feverish intensity of Be Yourself, again propelled by a slick synth bass and a colossal, equally dubstep-inspired beat. It takes the essential sound of Deadmau5 and sends it into space, with interesting results on re-entry. Indeed, things takes a rather psychedelic turn around the halfway mark, before returning to its hard hitting roots.

It should be mentioned how Drone Flesh has raised the standard of his production to a fine pitch. Whilst his music always had a vitality and force, he has raised the bar even higher so that his beats and melodies burst from the speakers like Skrillex on PCP.

That’s actually a very adequate description of third track Hey, which is a joyous explosion of riotous rhythms and distorted, angular synth melodies. This one has a synth riff best described as mindblowing, incorporating vocal samples and sound effects with highly intoxicating and enjoyable results.

The title track of the EP is also the finale, accompanied by a video that’s well worth watching. It’s a slightly more mellow track than the rest, yet still hard hitting. The sonic textures again border on Dali-esque, with a cornucopia of chaotic sounds and melodies combining and synergizing. This is perhaps Drone Flesh in his purest form, ripping up the traditional rules and genres then morphing it all together to create something genuinely original. An apt way to complete the musical journey.

Overall, this is an inventive EP from an artist who has blended electronic genres in a way I’ve not heard anyone else doing, let alone with such panache and style. Owing to the danceable nature of the music, it has the potential to spread like wildfire in the clubs. Drone Flesh shows that the world of EDM is still full of exciting and barely explored sonic territory, and he is leading the way to something new.

 

VERDICT =  9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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Watch the video for Other Worlds here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: A Fighter’s Heart (part 2) by Untitled Art

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Untitled Art is an EDM project based in Florida. It’s the musical brainchild of singer songwriter David Sempier, assisted by producer/partner James Linton. While he chooses to remain as enigmatic as the band’s moniker, the small amount of music Untitled Art have released in their short duration has had a strong impact on music listeners and critics alike.

Their music is a fascinating and unexpectedly original concoction of electronica, dubstep, alternative rock, psychedelia and indie. They employ semi-traditional song structures with the most modern electronic styles, comparable to what New Order and The Prodigy did in the 80’s and 90’s.

Their first release, Philly To Long Branch (Part 2), blended the energy and sound of dubstep (warped and morphing sawtooth synths and blistering drum sounds) with alt. rock guitars and vocals, along with trippy, blissed out psychedelic sections (the latter featuring on the remix). This eclectic concoction made a big splash, garnering tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

Aside from their original sound that’s bang at the cutting edge of modern genres, a key component of their musical personality is David Sempier’s distinctive vocals. With a tone mildly reminiscent of Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, but with much more power and range, he gives the music an anthemic aspect that bodes well for their potential exposure on the festival circuit.

All these elements are in place on their latest release, A Fighter’s Heart (part 2). It’s a more aggressive, yet at the same time more accessible track, than their first release, with a plethora of naggingly catchy hooks (“I’m a fighter with a fighter’s heart now“, something you can imagine being chanted by thousands”).

The production is superb, with punchy, intricate synths melded to a brutal kick and snare sound that will work just as well on the dancefloor as at a festival. It breaks down and builds up like a great dance record, yet works just as a great EDM/alternative pop record.

Overall, Untitled Art have managed to forge the perfect balance between EDM/dubstep and the anthemic, emotive elements of alternative/punk rock to create their own fututuristic hybrid sound. In David Sempier, they have a vocalist that gives their music power and personality aided by cutting edge production,  so their appeal stretches right across the musical spectrum. In short, I’m putting Untitled Art at the top of my list as the ‘next big thing’ and A Fighter’s Heart Part 2 could be the song that catapults them into the stratosphere

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Hands Up by Sound Beach ft. Alaska MC

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Sound Beach is a DJ and producer hailing from Seville in Spain. He started out by DJing for friends and then putting on raves in various venues of Seville. He was then given the opportunity to play various festivals including Seville Fair Festival, Soul Breaks and the Foam Break Festival in Cadiz. He was also the finalist in DJ competitions like Tear Nation 2012 and King Of The Beats.

This track, Hands Up, is an uptempo electro dubstep track that starts with a pounding kick and snare dubstep beat. Alaska MC lays down a spoken word ad lib that gets your attention immediately. We hear a swirling synth riff in the background before chords come in for the instantly catchy chorus hook: “Put your hands up, wanna see those hands up, gotta get them hands up…”.

About a minute and a half into the track we hear some Skrillex-style synth growls which is a common feature in dubstep and adds to the excitement. It breaks down around the three minute mark for a long, very effective build up which makes the beat all the powerful when it kicks back in. Even though it’s a long track at six minutes, it maintains its energy and momentum to the end.

Overall, this is a blazing dubstep track that will go down a storm in the clubs, but is also just enjoyable to listen to. It will be a happy addition to any DJ set and definitely has the potential to be a hit with its addictive chorus hook. Also well worth checking out is the hip hop/trap remix produced by JC from the US.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10