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

 

Listen here:

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ALBUM REVIEW: Sun King Eternal Peace by The Sun King

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The Sun King is the artistic brainchild of Maxwell Page Fairchild (a.k.a. Malachi Navi Wahy). He is a singer/songwriter, rapper, performer and producer who grew up in Los Angeles, but now lives in New Jersey. He started singing and rapping from an early age, which developed into writing poetry. Having endured mental health and depression issues in High School, he found solace in making music. He describes The Sun King’s music as Psychedelic R&B, Experimental Chorale Music and alt. acoustic/a capella, all of which apply and more.

This album, Sun King Eternal Peace, is a musical odyssey that spans twenty seven tracks and shows the depth and range of his artistry. Opening track Post Falsehood is a good introduction to the inimitable style of the music, which defies simple genre classification. It’s fundamentally based around Fairchild’s remarkably adept vocals, which are richly layered in ‘call and response’ style a capella gospel-tinged harmonies, with world percussion and elements of R&B thrown into the mix.

The real roots of the music seem based in gospel spirituals, which traditionally conveyed a Christian message. Fairchild has developed his own unique spiritual philosophy, however, and The Sun King is but one of several musical personas he explores. His positive, spiritual side is what the music of The Sun King is about, named after the song on the Beatle’s classic album Abbey Road.

Although twenty seven tracks must sound daunting to a generation where the album as an art form is dwindling, many of the tracks are brief and succinct. They usually contain refrains that capture some life lesson learned, which can range from the poetic and profound (“Storms will pass and disintegrate, troubled winds aren’t meant to stay” from Post Falsehood) to the more quotidian and humorous (“Girls with tattoos are dangerous, they might rip your heart straight from your chest“).

This mixture of the sacred and profane, the serious and playful, is not easy to do convincingly, yet Fairchild gets the balance just right. Those looking for depth will find it; the whole project is full of alchemical symbolism and Jungian concepts, and he shares an obsession with the number three like many artists before him, going back to Dante. Indeed, the symbolism of the sun and the king is central to alchemy, which Jung saw as an allegory for spiritual transformation.

He also mixes the personal with the political; Divide and Conquer lays it out straight on our current political climate: “We are being manipulated every single day, my friends…”, contrasted with the following, “Just be the person that you are” from You Are-Be. His utopian message is made manifest in False Dichotomy: “You’re my sister, you’re my brother, there is no such thing as color...”.

His humour comes to the fore once more with What’s Pot? While some might perceive the mantra “You must experience the cannabis now…” as encouraging hedonism, to me it seems he is encouraging use of psychotropics as a means of experiencing the transcendent and it’s an apposite message now that cannabis is finally becoming legalized and accepted.

Lone Lee, NJ is a funny, poignant track that’s lyrically based on The Beach Boys’ classic California Girls, while the lovely Gentle Tiger, Beautiful Lioness is the closest thing to a traditional love song on the album. The imagery of Jesus Christ and the devil are used to powerful effect in the following Knowing of The Son and 6 O’ Clock & Never Late. The latter is a metaphor, the devil representing fear and being a slave to it.

Overcoming fear with love is central to The Sun King’s artistic vision, Isolated (ft. Jimmy Carter) being a good example. Jimmy Carter is another of Fairchild’s alter egos, this one the yang to the yin of The Sun King. This is the persona he uses when he wants to express something other than the positive messages of The Sun King, and he delivers a succinct, impressive rap in a flowing, eloquent style on this track.

Pussy Galore is a brutally honest confession about his former hedonism, and how he’s found his way through that to a purer path. Elevate From Fall is a touching track about vulnerability and having to put your heart on the line: “My dreams tell me to tell you how I feel, but I’m so resenting of the bridge, it burns in the case you don’t reciprocate…”.

The symbolism of ice and fire emerge on Freeze To Death II: The Ice Cracks and Feel The Burn, the former about emotional coldness with the latter about the consequences of letting fear overcome you: “My biggest fear had made its mark, I blew the light out and thus birthed the dark…”. The cleverly titled Run to No One, Run to Know 1 has the Sun King finding his other half: “And there I saw her in the corner of my eye, my Queen so high.…”.

Get It Darling is one of the simplest tracks lyrically, but its effervescent, irresistible positivity continues into Walking/baby Reprise: “Music is my medicine and Mother Nature’s got me so well….”. This inspiring, holistic ‘back to nature’ message is perfect for an era that is drowning in the excesses of materialism. Place This Hand shows how this music is partly rooted in the Gregorian chants of early church music, but updated for the modern age.

The final tracks Sun Prince and Sun King Opus x-xviii complete the spiritual journey, the first reminding us, “Be glad that you are free, free to change your mind….”, and the latter bringing us back to the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage at the heart of alchemy: “So I ask you, my Queen, do you have a voice to sing?“. It’s the perfect line to finish on, forging the masculine with the feminine through the redemptive power of music.

Overall, this is an absolute tour de force of an album that takes the listener on an emotional journey that runs the gamut of the human condition. It’s a work of artistic authenticity and integrity, honesty and vulnerability. The pay off is a piece of work that succeeds on several levels, whilst transforming traditional musical forms/styles and reinventing them in his own artistic vision. Essentially, this is art that’s a much needed spiritual salve for our troubled times, deserving not just critical recognition but a large, appreciative audience.

 

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to the album HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: Boonie Mayfield presents Solomon Vaughn

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Boonie Mayfield (a.k.a. Solomon Vaughn) is a composer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, rapper and producer hailing from Colorado, USA. Although his music could be loosely defined as hip-hop, his music encompasses many genres including funk, soul, jazz, blues and progressive rock, just to cover a few. He cites a huge range of musical influences though, overall, he is most similar to hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Frank Ocean.

He initially rose to internet stardom through making live hip-hop beats on an MPC 1000 (which he did from 2007-2012). However, as he began to develop as an artist and producer, he found that he was leaving his initial audience behind and decided he had to tread his own path. His interest in diverse musical genres contributed to this eclectic album, which he also produced himself.

Opening track Brothafromanothmotha (feat. Shane Keith) references his past, with a spoken-word monologue over jazzy piano. The Wonder Years is a suitably laid back ode to good times (via herb-based recreation) which showcases his smooth, flowing lyrical style. The third track, Driven (No Limits), has an irresistible hook and a summery vibe that marks it out as a potential single, featuring the brilliant diss line “Popeyes with no spinach…“!

Haterade is another track with a monstrously catchy chorus hook, lyrically a humorous riposte to dealing with the negative people you encounter when trying to make it in the music industry. Audiopium (feat. Jordan Craft) is a slinky piece of hip-hop that proposes the idea this music is an addictive drug in itself, whilst the blissed out psychedelia of the seven-minute Mile Hi certainly makes you feeling like someone has spiked your drink with LSD.

The album then takes a playful turn with Blade Brown and On The One, with amusing skits interspersing the music (including the wonderfully titled Titty Milk N’ Cookies). Things get more serious with Everything (Superficial Lovers), which is a real album highlight, a brutal take-down of shallow relationships based on materialism. Can-O-Dam (feat. ILL University) is also excellent, sounding like Run DMC backed by The White Stripes, with some great lines (“you’re looking so far out I should send a telegram..”).

Foya is a short but sweet interlude, whilst Glad I Found You (feat. Glane May) is a delightfully unconventional love duet (“I swear tonight you’re getting on my f—in’ nerves…”) that shows his Stevie Wonder/Motown influence. Sloppy Seconds is endearingly daft, with a musical backing that sounds like a stoned prog rock band covering Dear Prudence by The Beatles. Closure (Forever I Go) is the perfect finale, a soulful, emotionally honest track about finishing the album itself (“I feel like I’ve lifted a weight off, I’m ready to go hit the stage…”)

Overall, this is a high class, truly innovative hip-hop album that sets the bar for other artist/producers in his field and, to me, it is every bit as good as the Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar records that are currently defining the zeitgeist. In fact, its humour and sonic inventiveness is comparable with De La Soul’s classic album 3 Feet High And Rising, which is often cited as rap’s Sgt. Pepper. With such a wide array of influences, his sound will stay fresh and he will continue to grow as an artist, gaining a large, devoted following in time.
 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 9 out of 10