SINGLE REVIEW: Buss Di Bassline by Audiovascula

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Audiovascula is an EDM/reggae/dancehall artist hailing from the City of Montego Bay, Jamaica. He grew up in a musical environment, even hearing 12 feet speakers pounding on the concrete walls of his room. This made a major impact on him and his music is an exotic hybrid of reggae and dancehall, currently huge, as well as a big hip-hop influence, R&B, pop and various genres of EDM.

This track, Buss Di Bassline, is a perfect showcase of his unique sound. Starting out sounding like a standard EDM track with fizzy synths, it then surprises the listener with a loping hip-hop beat that brought to mind James Brown’s classic Funky Drummer sample. Audiovascula’s inimitable vocal style then grabs your attention, with an arresting performance of controlled rhythmical flow.

The track is hugely catchy, managing to combine the vital energy of hip-hop with the more laid back style of reggae and dancehall. In terms of vocal style, the only reference point that immediately springs to mind is Shabba Ranks, though Audiovascula is really a true original. The deep dub bass will hit even harder in a club environment, and I can see this becoming a huge hit on the dancefloors.

Overall, this is an artist with his finger on the pulse musically, and this track will surf the wave of popularity that reggae/dancehall flavoured EDM is currently enjoying. Having his own distinctive vocal delivery will help him further stand out from the crowd, but the music itself is original and massively addictive. Audiovascula and Buss Di Bassline could be spreading like wildfire this summer.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Don’t Leave Me by Brandon Wolf Hill

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https://www.facebook.com/BrandonWolfHill/

Brandon Wolf Hill is an alternative hip-hop artist and producer hailing from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He began his journey in the music industry in 2016 and has so far released two albums. His debut album Wolf Heart was released that year , followed up with 2017’s Wolf. This prolific artist has also released several singles and EPs, with his Alien EP released this year featuring his most well-known track, Hold Up.

This track, Don’t Leave Me, is what I’d describe as an alt. country ballad/hip hop fusion. Starting with a haunting, sparse guitar figure and a simple but effective beat, Brandon lays down a melancholy vocal refrain about losing someone: “Why do you make me feel like I’m alone? Where did you go when I needed you the most?”

For the verse, he switches to rapping, and it becomes clear the subject matter of the song has died, giving the track a sombre but powerful emotional depth: “I visited your grave, I wish you would have stayed….”

Brandon has a clear and succinct lyrical delivery which contrasts well with the sung passages. Although the song is essentially about mourning the loss of a loved one, the lyrics end on a positive note: “The world will keep on moving, promise you I’ll keep pushing, watch me I’ll be different, living life by every second.

Overall, this is a poignant and affecting track from a versatile artist who fuses genres in a fresh and innovative way, similar to an artist like Beck, and it shows he can write from a deep and honest emotional place. This approach is fairly unique in the world of hip hop, and having his own artistic style and sound will help him stand out from the crowd. I expect that more material of this quality will mean he develops a sizeable fanbase and standing in the hip-hop world.

 

 

VERDICT =  8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Tom Rawling’s Old Ladies Peep Show by Brad Geiger

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http://www.bradgeigermusic.com

Brad Geiger is a composer and musician from Los Angeles. Growing up, he lived in seven different towns and this itinerant life continue into adulthood. He spent years travelling across Europe and Australia, living three years overseas. He sees himself as a product of the L.A. indie/DIY scene and is also an author. In fact, this concept album is based on the fictional ancestors of characters featured in his fourth book, An Encyclopedia Of Time Traveling Criminals.

While this may sound like an unusual genesis for an album, the music contained in these eleven tracks is also rather unusual. It’s an extremely unique hybrid of rock, jazz, classical , hip hop and electronica, which has several similarities with progressive rock. But whereas prog-rock is well known for its musically epic proportions and lengthy instrumental solos, Geiger’s music is constructed and performed with the tight discipline and structure of classical music.

This is immediately manifest in the album’s opening track, Tom Rawling’s Old Ladies Peep Show Intro. Based around a jazzy, unpredictable chord progression, the track is built around swirling patterns of a clean sounding, almost jazz guitar-like synth, performed with metronomic accuracy.

It brings to mind the rock/jazz fusion of Frank Zappa who also incorporated classical elements into his music, but Geiger’s style is more symphonic and there is not a note wasted or out of place. It serves as a good introduction to both his inimitable idiosyncrasies as a composer, and to this album.

From then on, the track titles refer to the ancestors of character’s in his book, with the second track entitled Eleanor O’ Grady Rawling. This one shows the more electronic influence in his music, and how his gift for melody is juxtaposed against unexpected left turns in the music. This track develops a brooding intensity as it progresses, as swirling synths compete for attention, interacting in intricate ways.

Third track Alicia Poole O’Reilly takes the electronica style even further with a heavily dubstep-influenced sound of pounding kicks and snares, skittish, complex hi hat rhythms and edgy synths. It’s perhaps the most cutting edge, modern sounding composition here and the drum programming towards the end is superb. It’s brief at around ninety seconds but packs quite a punch.

The fourth track Alicia Poole O’ Reilly is rather more sparse and sombre in tone. A simple but plaintive piano and string melody is contrasted by a very intricate, hip hop influenced rhythm full of syncopations and triplets which gives the music a sophistication that will stand up to repeated listens. A lot of electronica fans will find much to enjoy here with this track, in particular.

Monica Duff Gallagher is another contrast, with a much more upbeat tone and ascending melody with a relatively simpler beat. The insistent way the melody is repeated brought to mind minimalist classical composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass (something akin to Koyaanisqatsi), incorporated into the electronic realm, of course.

Sixth track Rebecca Holt Smith feels like the closest to what you might call mainstream EDM, with a pounding beat that would work on the dancefloor. The synth melodies have an anthemic quality that the leading DJ/producers would be proud to call their own, though the music builds in a more intelligent way than you would find on a standard EDM record.

Angela Meaney O’ Brien is my personal favourite on the album, an intense rollercoaster ride of electronica, thrust along by dizzying synth melodies and an insistent, addictive beat. The way the music progressed reminded me of artists like Jean-Michel Jarre and the wondrous keyboard playing of Rick Wakeman.

Prog-rock fans will particularly love this. Eighth track Kelsey Cohen Powell is a distinct contrast, with a slinky laid back beat and a languid, reflective main melody. The drumming on this is excellent, with a nice groove. You could imagine future hip hop artists wanting to sample it.

Peggy Gallagher is the epic on the album at over five minutes. It starts out in a dubstep style, with a blistering beat featuring rapid-fire kick drum patterns. As it progresses, it wanders into somewhat more ambient, expansive and exploratory territory. The synth sounds start to become more distant and dreamy sounding, and there’s something about the main melody that made me think of Kraftwerk. A fascinating fusion of styles.

Molly Powell O’ Brien sounds almost like a continuation of the previous track, which is fairly common for a concept album, adding to the cohesiveness of the whole. The synth sounds on this one are rather more ‘choral’ in parts, for want of a better word. Another fine track that maintains the compositional high standard of the rest of the album.

Final track Margaret Ann O’Brien Gallagher has a certain emotional poignancy in its main melody, aided by a serene tempo. It has a kind of cinematic effect, akin to a final scene fade out, and I’d imagine probably correlates to an emotional aspect or scene in the book. There’s a nice handling of the music here, with multiple melodies interweaving, and it ends the album with a sense of understated drama.

Overall, this is an enjoyably innovative, quirky and imaginative album, all the more praiseworthy for being released in an era where the album format is a dying art. Fortunately, real artists always find a way and are prepared to go against the grain. It certainly requires a high degree of compositional skill to create an instrumental album that sustains the listeners interest throughout, as Geiger achieves here. While it’s a fine album in its own right, it intrigues the listener to know more about this multimedia project, and I look forward to further work in whatever form.

 

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: The Meditation by ReachingNOVA ft. Amnel Holguin

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ReachingNOVA is a hip hop artist hailing from the Bronx, New York. His style of hip hop is to combine the melodic sound of contemporary rap with the hard hitting lyrical approach of the era he refers to as the “Golden Age” of hip hop. He cites legends like Biggie Smalls and more modern stars like Kanye West and Drake as influences. He has so far released two albums, both in 2017, It’s About Time and It Was What It Was. These were met with a very positive response and his fanbase has grown exponentially.

This track, The Meditation, features the vocal talents of Amnel Holguin. It’s a laid back, highly philosophical and reflective track that features some deep, soul searching lyrics. It’s a refreshing contrast to the bling culture brand of hip hop and ReachingNOVA has a distinctive rapping style that’s clear and authoritative.

The lyrics are full of wisdom borne of experience: “Same mistakes bring the same lessons…”. Rather than glamorizing youth and beauty like many hip hop artists, he instead chooses to celebrate what we can learn from our elders: “Grandma had raised me up on her wisdom…” Amnel’s smooth as honey vocals are the perfect counterpoint to ReachingNOVA’s spoken word delivery on the powerful and memorable chorus, and they combine in tandem at certain points to great effect.

Overall, this is a highly intelligent and mature track from a hip hop artist who is using his art to pass on the wisdom that it’s the spiritual qualities in a person that truly matter. Amnel Holguin puts in a fantastic vocal performance that raises the bar even higher, and the production quality is flawless. The Meditation definitely deserves to make a strong impact on the hip hop scene as ReachingNOVA is an artist with something important to say.

 

 

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Glue by D.Ni.L.

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D.Ni.L. is a 33 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and Emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough. These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction.

This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm as part of the band (who I recently reviewed). As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar influenced Suicide In Sips. He regards Deftones and early Manic Street Preachers as his inspirations, and these rock influences are apparent on this single Glue. It’s the first track to be taken from his EP The Boy Inside.

D.Ni.L. has an intense and direct lyrical and rapping style that gives his music a force which brought to mind hip hop rapper/singer Plan B, who also mixed hip hop with rock on hit songs like Stay Too Long and Prayin’. While Plan B certainly keeps it real, D.Ni.L. has an edgier sound, with hard hitting guitars reminiscent of Royal Blood combined with atmospheric synths, providing the perfect backdrop for his rhymes.

Lyrically, it’s a celebration of his increased creativity after achieving abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Over a brilliant guitar riff that Muse would be happy to call their own, D.Ni.L. bares his soul with admirable honesty: “Gonna be someone I’m proud of when I’m older, I might not have the uniform but I’m still a soldier”. It’s that stoic and positive attitude that defines D.Ni.L. as an important role model, particularly for those who have faced major issues in life.

Overall, this is a hugely inspiring fusion of hip hop and rock that shows how personal struggle and overcoming problems can result in creating art that has an emotional power and vitality lacking from most of what you will hear in the mainstream. D.Ni.L. is a hugely talented rapper and musician, injecting new creative energy into an art form that is having more influence and success than ever. D.Ni.L deserves to share in that success and this brilliant track should open many doors.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: This Will All Be A Memory by Earl The Monarch

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Earl The Monarch is a hip hop artist who was born in Dallas, Texas but moved to Port Arthur at an early age. He began writing music while young, growing up listening to DMX, Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His experiences with depression as he got older were also a factor in his artistic development, and he cites music as the reason he got through it.

He released his first mixtape in 2012 under the moniker ‘O.E.’, Insomnia: The Life & Times. He released the sequel in 2013, Insomnia: Dreamin’ of Nightmares. This became a proper album release in 2015 and he switched his moniker from O.E. to Earl The Monarch, putting out his first album under this name in 2017, Pain On The Rocks.

This album, This Will All Be A Memory, contains twelve tracks (and a bonus track) and it’s clear that Earl isn’t interested in the bravado act of the stereotypical hip hop artist. Opening track One Day (Memories) ft. Elan Noelle makes this apparent, with a laid back groove and an upbeat vibe combined with serious lyrics: “Rapping’s all I ever had, please don’t take it as a game….”.

Hold Ya Head ft. Elan Noelle, released as a single, is also refreshing. Earl expresses compassion and understanding towards a woman in a bad relationship, with a lyrical depth that most rappers can’t compete with. Faded (ft. DC of 2TM, Kontagious and Xavier The Great) is another emotionally deep track, the hook running “I’m faded, I’m lost on this road and I’m praying that I make it back home…“. The verses tell of his struggle to make a living from his music.

BloodHound Interlude addresses the problem of violence and how it’s glamorized in the hip hop world: “Murder in cold blood, all he needed was help….you take a damn father from his son…“. A short but very powerful track. Tank on E ft. Thurnis Vick is an excellent cut that showcases the lyrical fluency and rapid-fire delivery of Earl in full flow, as good as his rapping heroes.

The official closing track Reminisce/Outro is a fine way to finish, as he reflects on getting through hard times. The outro delivers his central positive message: “I just wanna be there for anybody…if I can brighten somebody’s day or help somebody out just with music, I’ll do everything in my power…”.

Overall, this is a first rate piece of performance and production from an artist who has a more spiritual approach to hip hop than most of his contemporaries, while still very much keeping it real. He combines hard hitting lyrics with well crafted melodic hooks, which should mean his important positive message reaches a lot of people. Hopefully, Earl The Monarch will be helping people with his music for a long time to come.

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

ALBUM REVIEW: Unhappy Gilmore 3.5 by Ogre Man

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Ogre Man (a.k.a. Earl Ray Da Ogre, Demented Da Ogre) is a hip hop artist hailing from Dallas, Texas. He is part of a group known as Dallas Zu. He was initially known as a ‘horror core’ rapper but has evolved into a multi-style lyricist. This mixtape is an extension of his Unhappy Gilmore trilogy and is his first release for a while. It consists of fourteen tracks, and contains guest appearances from several of his hip hop cohorts.

He has a hard-hitting rapping style that brought to mind the compelling and aggressive delivery of the legendary Chuck D from seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy. This mixtape has been produced by C.G. for Manipulative Music, and his role seems similar to that of Terminator X in P. E. It also features DJ Cayne, who makes his presence known during intros between tracks with skits.

The mixtape starts with Intro, which sets a party vibe before it bursts into The Industry’s Problem. The track cleverly uses a sample of a guitar riff from Korn’s Freak On A Leash, Ogre Man delivering a powerful and intense performance, depicting his outsider status as an artist considered too dangerous and subversive by the music industry.

The combination of a rock riff with a strong rapping style is highly effective and brought to mind She Watch Channel Zero from P.E.’s classic album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Ogre Man sounds genuinely menacing when he intones, “I’m the one they tried to hold back, and for that I will show no slack…..”.

Second track You Must Think features fellow rappers #Skoundrellife, Killa Killeon, Chase Pat and Mz. Trinity. They are all superb rappers with very individual styles that complement each other. It features a slinky glitch-hop beat and an instantly memorable  hook, baiting those who dare to call them fake or phony: “You must think we ain’t real, you must think we ain’t true…..”, and disses those who they believe are fake: “You say you’re a gangster but you sound like a pop star…..”.

Step In My Square (featuring Don Claude) is Ogre Man at his most incendiary, laying down the gauntlet for his detractors to diss him to his face and setting out his position in very clear terms: “If you’ve got a problem with me, step in my square…”. I’ts one of the most aggressive and direct tracks on the mixtape, and also one of the catchiest.

I Got Juice is another strong track, essentially an ode to his automobile. Like any good gangster rapper, he’s proud of his wheels and there’s almost a dry humour to the bravado of lines like, “Engine screams out murder every time I crank it, all you see is exhaust fumes as soon as I punch it, with 300 horses you don’t wanna face me, shaking that pavement, you don’t wanna race me.…”.

Like many hip-hop artists, Ogre Man enjoys the hedonistic side of life and this is reflected in several of the tracks. The slinky, laid-back groove is a nice contrast after the intensity of the first quarter of the mixtape and the orchestral sample really lifts the vibe. The following Know A Little Freak is more hardcore, Ogre laying down some graphic rhymes that that are not complicated by any ambiguity.

Ogre Of Lust, as the title implies, continues this theme with some ‘bad boy’ lyrics that shows Ogre can rival Eminem for controversial content. He makes Snoop Dogg look like M.C. Hammer. They are great tracks and some credit should go to producer C.G. for some skittish beats and clever use of samples and scratches.

Ninth track I Don’t Tricc (ft. Pharaoh Da Don) brings it back to street life, this one about money issues and how he feels he’s “a hustler till I die“. It’s a refreshingly blunt and honest track that has a suitably decadent musical vibe which wouldn’t sound out of place on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

Cipher III (ft. #Skoundrellife, Zulu) is fantastic; built around a funky 70’s style musical backing, Ogre and guests take turns laying down some rapid fire rhymes that brought to mind the best Eminem and Dr. Dre collaborations. This would be a great choice for a single, though some lyrics from Ogre Man are pretty hardcore on this one and might require a radio edit!

Eleven track We Do (The Stonecutters) is based on the song of the same name taken from the Simpsons, and it starts with a hilarious short clip of the show. The rhymes come thick and fast on this one, and sampling a song which is a thinly veiled expose on the Masons is inspired.

Ogre Man returns to his horror core roots on Saw VIII (ft. #Skoundrellife), the title coming from the torture porn franchise. Full of audio samples from horror films, the lyrics match them for graphic imagery and it makes for a gripping listen. The intricate intensity of the beat ramps up the tension nicely, and it’s a disturbing but powerful track overall.

My Basement takes things to an even darker place, and this really is the musical equivalent of the hugely popular Saw and Hostel horror films. It’s an extremely unnerving depiction of someone luring a woman to his basement. I’ll leave the details for the listener but this is a challenging piece of lyrical content, be warned.

The closing track Gun Powder (ft. #Skoundrellife) is an explosive way to complete this rollercoaster journey. It features great rapping performances from Ogre and #Skoundrellife, who spits some mind bending tongue twisters while Ogre Man keeps it as real as he has done across the whole album.

Some rappers like to accessorize gangster life without true experience, but Ogre Man is 100% the real deal. It features an amusing section of a spoken list of words that are offensive and rappers aren’t ‘allowed’ to use. A very apposite track considering both the crisis about guns and the spread of political correctness in America.

Overall, this is a shotgun blast of a mixture from Ogre Man. He shows he’s the baddest of the bad boys with just about every vice covered lyrically with great style and braggadocio, taking it to some shocking places. The collaborations are all excellent and work seamlessly in the flow of the mixtape. For the many who loved the outrageous and controversial style of Eminem, you are going to be hugely entertained by Ogre Man and his friends.

 

VERDICT: 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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