Saturday, 14 May 2016

Underworld - Barbara, Barbara We Face A Shining Future

Underworld - Barbara, Barbara We Face A Shining Future

Right I'm really spoiling you with another album that was released in the last month or so but don't worry I'll be back to listening to older stuff soon enough...
Underworld release their 7th studio album and true to their ethos it's not what you'd expect from the main stage headliners. 
I was a relative newcomer to their album work, I only really knew the handful of "hands in the air" trademark arpeggiated synths which they seem to have one or two per album (listen to their live album Everything, Everything - quite possibly the best live album ever released) and to my unappreciative ear back then, just some oddball album fillers. It was only when I picked up Beaucoup Fish in a charity shop a few months ago that I properly listened to one of their older albums right the way through and got a proper understanding of what they were about. 
Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future (apparently one of the last things Rick Smith's father said to his mother before he died) opens with I Exhale, a simple, moping drum beat which leads into distressed synths and electric guitars followed by Karl Hyde's nonsensical lyrics. The track meanders really nicely over the course of 8 minutes with various distorted synths and samples. 
If Rah picks up with I Exhale left off, with another slower beat with more off the wall vocals. This plods along until around the 3 minute mark when the first sign of the synths Underworld are known for pop into the mix. There's a breakdown which builds up really nicely and kicks back in for the climax of the track - really looking forward to hearing this at Forbidden Fruit this June.
Low Burn then kicks in, this song could have easily finished out the album, its a 4/4 kick and could have been produced by them anytime over the past 15-20 years. It has that epic* end of set feeling that puts you in a trance, you can just imagine closing your eyes and getting lost in it.
Santiago Cuatro is the interlude track, a Spanish Guitar freestyle over some synths - they insist on putting one of these weird tracks on all their albums, at least on Barking they had the decency to make it the final track on the cd so you could just take it out when it came on. 
Motorhome is just a track to ease you back in the room after the snorefest of the previous song.
Ova Nova then picks things up again back into familar Underworld territory while Nylon Strung finishes the album off with 7 minutes of glorious house music.

It's only 7 tracks long but all of them (barring the skippable Santiago Cuatro) are on average 6/7 minutes long and when you're listening to them, don't feel that long at all. 

Standout track - If Rah

Overall 8/10

*I dont mean epic in the 16 year old teenager type of way, I mean it in the true sense of the word!!

Baauer - Aa

Baauer - Aa

I think its kind of fitting that my first review is an album that I've been waiting for since around the time I first started thinking of writing a blog. I watched a video about a year and a half ago following Baauer around recording samples which really got me excited about the album - then I didn't hear anything for about a year!
The album was released at the beginning of May this year and I think the wait was definitely worth it. The weird thing about the album is that when its broken down into its individual parts I seem to have a few negative things to say about it, but listened from start to finish it really delivers.
It opens with Church, a pretty boring soundscape type track which is fine and then blasts straight into GoGo! which really typifies Baauer's sound. A full on trap/bass wall of sound with a trademark off beat "drop" with pitched kick drums and a vicious saw tooth bassline. Probably the best track on the album for me.
The following 2 tracks are Body and Pinku, both decent housey type songs, with real summery vibes. Things get back on track with Sow, similar in style to GoGo!, a heads down trap banger with a strange vocal sample and a simple but effective beat underneath it. 
Day Ones keeps the agression going nicely, this was the debut track promo'd with vocals from 19 year old Lewisham grime newcomer Novelist and New Yorks Leikeli47. Its great to see a nod to how well grime is respected in the States - even though Leikeli gets the lionshare of mic time. Loads of shouty vocals over massive synths.
Next up is a mid way interlude called Good & Bad followed by Way From Me which builds into the second half of the album smoothly.
MIA makes an appearance on Temple, similar to Sow, Baauer doesnt try to hog the limelight here, lets MIA and G Dragon do their thing with a really solid but simple track.
Make It Bang flirts with EDM ideas, a bit of a 4/4 beat with aggressive main stage synths - not a great song at all in my opinion but there are some good ideas in there, it was just executed with a U.S. festival in mind.
Kung Fu is a calling card to all rappers showcasing Baauer's ability to produce really top class hip-hop/trap music for people to rap over - again he keeps it simple and doesn't try to do anything too complicated - he just lets the vocalists get to it.
Church Reprise really is a disappointing number, he drafts in Glasgow's Rustie for this, arguably two of the best bass/trap producers around right now get in a studio together and they come out with this - a nothing song, just some synths and electric guitars for a minute and a half.
It then closes with a near song, it sounds like Baauer started a track, had a pretty decent idea for it and when the record company came knocking for the finished album he just threw this on at the end.

With no tracks longer than 4 minutes (the longest one is 3:32) and 4 songs less than 2 minutes long it would be easy to feel short changed but for some reason it still is a really good album. The good (longer) songs outweigh the couple of non-tracks and hopefully if he gets Rustie in the studio again they will make a track that actually has some beats in it!


Standout track - GoGo!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Intro - Traffic Jams

I've decided to start a blog, well I decided this about 2 years ago but being the quintessential procrastinator that I am, I've only got around to it now. 
The idea is to blog about what albums I have been listening to in my car on my commute to work. Generally there won't be much in the way of new stuff, I do most of my digging in charity shops, Dealz and second hand music shops. I also occasionally splurge on Amazon and pick up old stuff on the cheap. I'll try and write a coherent few lines on each of CDs and stick up a link to the best track on it or a track that typifies the tone of the album. 
I will also be reviewing/blogging about new essential albums that I pick up along the way.

I mainly listen to electronic dance music and hip-hop but am not confined to any particular style - if it's good I'll give it a try.

Recently I have been listening to a lot of UK/London urban stuff like grime, drum & bass etc. but that could change next week! If the bass rattles the speakers I'm usually a fan.

I'll also hopefully be posting some mixes that I will have done at home, the plan in January was to do one a month for the year, trying to pull together a different style each time and post to Mixcloud but at the moment I have only uploaded one, with a bit of luck this blog will put me under pressure to get the finger out and get them done - I'm only 4 mixes behind at the moment!

Here is a link to my Mixcloud page with all my mixes

As ever with anything like this, comments are appreciated and general abuse is expected so feel free to let me know what you think or even if you have any suggestions of stuff you think I might like.