Sunday, 14 September 2014

Track of the Day: 'Playing With Fire' by Redinho

The lead track from Redinho's debut album is a sleazy, funky track with an insistent groove and a Zapp-esque choros. It takes the autotuned vocal to a new level by adding the vocoder effect to creat something that sounds both classic and contemporary. the album is out at the end of the month and having taken three years to come together I'm expecting big things from it.

It says a lot for this record that the two 11 year-old boys who were in the car with me when I first heard this thought the voice was 'freaky' - and therefore loved it!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

New music: 'Songs of Innocence' by U2

So what do you reckon? A stroke of marketing genius, or an invasion of privacy and Orwellian nightmare? Whichever side of the fence you're on, you have to admire the sheer audacity and force if Apple and U2 combining to drop their new album into half a billion users iTunes accounts all at the same time last night. You also have to assume that U2 have either got 1) more money than they're ever going to be able to spend or 2) some sort of massive follow up tour planned, since they're never gonna be able to sell a single track from a record they've spent 4 years working on (although they have confirmed this morning that Apple bought it from them to give to us 'as a gift', so some money has changed hands for it).

On to the record itself then - what does 4 years and 5 producers (Dangermouse, Paul Epworth, Flood, Ryan Tedder & Declan Gaffney) get you? Musically it's fairly simple and uncluttered. The Edge has toned down his guitar effects, the drums and bass are gently insistent rather than bombastic, and overall there's the feel of a band who just wanted to write some engaging, open and uplifting songs. Likewise Bono has notched down the messianic tone of his lyrics, and while there are still a few references to miracles and pilgrims, these are mostly either autobiographical words about how and where the group grew up or straightforward love songs. This does mean that at times they sound more like Coldplay or, dare I say it, The Script, than U2 songs, but maybe that's the price you pay for finally accepting that you're never really gonna change the world when you're 'just a rock'n'roll band'.

Although due to the various producers involved there's not necessarily a cohesive thread or feel throughout the whole album, this probably results in a better listen overall. It really feels more like a collection of singles than an album, and it certainly contains some of the most radio-friendly and straightforward pop songs they've ever recorded. After a few listens my favourite so far is album closer 'The Troubles', which features guest vocals from Lykke Li and is a subtle and enigmatic way to finish the record.

If you're one of the anti-Bono brigade then I doubt very much that this album and its method of delivery are going to change your mind. But if you like the band or you're prepared to give them a fresh start then you might be surprised at what you discover. Ultimately I think that they've finally decided to grow old gracefully rather than attempting to keep up with 'the kids', and as a result have started a new chapter in their career (one which apparently might continue quite quickly with another record called 'Songs of Experience'). Bono might sing on here that "I get so many things I don't deserve" but maybe a fair hearing is something he's entitled to after so many years in the game.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Mean Love' by Sinkane

On his fourth full length album (the first for DFA Records) Ahmed Gallab shows that he's finally ready for the big time. With his confidence having been boosted by a starring roles in Luaka Bop's 'Atomic Bomb: Who is William Onyeabor?' live project, he's created a classy and stylish album that's full of brilliant touches. Effortlessly switching genres, from Afrobeat to funk to soul and back again, his voice is smoother than a silk negligee sliding down Kate Moss's freshly shaven legs.

With tracks harking back to the 70s and the 60s, this is still a thoroughly contemporary record that could only exist in the melting pot of today's cultures. Take 'Galley Boys' for example.It's got African rhythms, a reggae bassline, tons of pedal steel and a chorus melody similar too Primal Scream's 'Star'' Topped off with Ahmed's brilliant voice it all sounds so easy, but you know that sounding so laid-back is a hard thing to achieve.

It's the kind of record that you can play at any time of day or night, whatever mood you're in, and emerge feeling like a better person. Basically if you're at all fed up it'll put a smile on your face, and you could as easily dance to it as make love to it (or maybe even do one followed by the other?).

I reckon this album cements him as a major talent who'll not only continue to make his own great records but can have his pick of whichever artists he wants to work with in the future.

Currently on a whistle-stop tour to promote the album, Sinkane are back in the UK later in the year for some more dates, including one at Oslo in Hackney on December 1st which promises to banish the winter blues. I'll see you there!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Track of the Day: 'Hey Mami' by Sylvan Esso

According to Soundcloud this has been around for about a year, so maybe I'm a bit late to the party. But the first time I heard it was when Mary Anne Hobbs played it this morning, and I've been hypnotised by it ever since. I love how it starts out like a simple child's rhyme, one of those things they used to teach you to sing in a round at school, and then the electronics kick and it becomes a totally different animal.

If, like me until 12 hours ago, you've not heard of them before, Sylvan Esso are comprised of Amelia Meath from Mountain Man and Nick Sanborn (Made of Oak / Megafaun). Their album came out earlier this year (I'm off to check it out when I've finished writing this) and they're on tour in Europe in September and early October before heading back to the States at the end of that month).

Things that remind me of other things #2: 'Tough Love' by Jessie Ware & 'Little Red Corvette' by Prince

The very first time I heard this Jessie Ware track I knew I recognised the percussion sound.

It's not just the percussion though, the feel of the track is the same, there's the same sort of sultry vibe to both of them. BTW, it's pretty damm impossible to find 'Little Red Corvette; on the internet - the Purple One is a pretty litigious chap and I imagine he's quick to get them taken down. But I imagine everyone's heard and most people own it or know someone who does, so play the Jessie Ware and then go off and find Prince

Friday, 5 September 2014

Track of the Day: 'Onward' by Daedelus

So apparently the new records from Daedelus will be a concept album inspired by the Crimean War (the old war that is, not the new one that's erupted since he made the record). If it's difficult to imagine what that might sound like then it's even harder after listening to 'Onward', which is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of music I've heard for ages. I'm wondering whether the album itself will be similar to Apparat's 'Krieg und Frieden' soundtrack for War and Peace, as that's the sort of vibe I'm getting from this. The album's out on September 29th on the ever excellent Brainfeeder label.

Recommended music: 'Golden Skies' by Mono/Poly

The début album  from Mono/Poly on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label is a cosmic whirl of tinkered with and twinkling electronics, beats and ambience, which combine to create a pyschic soundscape where nothing is quite what it seems. Less jazzy that FlyLo's output, and less funky than Thundercat's (whose 'Heartbreaks + Setbacks was made with Mono/Poly) this is a trippier, more mellow flow of mostly instrumental music. In place it's not a million miles away from stuff like The Orb, while other parts are more like film soundtracks, and although there are a few dance beats in there for good measure this is more of a record to throw on and drift away to rather than to hit the floor to.

In places you could accuse it of being a bit to vague and unfocused but that's also part of its charm - Charles Dickerson (the rather sober-sounding guy behind Mono/Poly) is not afraind to try a load of things at once, knowing that most of them will work out.