Thursday, December 29, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Dec. 23-29

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. We made it to the last week of 2016! Included are some Psych Rock tracks, an IDM legend, and some throwaway Hip-Hop. 

King Gizzard - Nuclear Fusion

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard may soon be called one of the most prolific bands of Indie's latest generation, if their proclamations of five studio albums in 2017 comes to fruition. Now fans of the group may be declaring them that already, and they wouldn't be wrong, considering they have released nine albums in just four years, but they've never released more than two in a year, and with the prominent explosion of their latest LP Nonagon Infinity, it'll remain to be seen if they can pull off such a feat given a larger audience. To me however, the promise of five albums isn't so much a cause for excitement, but rather one of fear. If their general sound protrudes throughout these five, including the first, Feburary's Flying Microtonal Banana, then I can't see them accomplishing anything but bumbling under the weight of their own redundancy. That indication was given off the album's lead single, 'Rattlesnake,' which sounded directly ripped from Nonagon Infinity's vibe, which in and of itself was painfully one-dimensional.

However, hope has returned, albeit slightly, with the release of 'Nuclear Fusion.' I won't declare 'Nuclear Fusion' the best work I've heard from them, that title still goes to 'Mr. Beat,' but it is the very first instance in which their music and sound took itself in a separate direction. Maybe I judged too soon, as Nonagon Infinity was made to represent one solid idea ran through nine concurrent tracks, but 'Rattlesnake' confirmed, if only for a moment, that they lacked the talents to switch up what worked for them. 'Nuclear Fusion' is slow, a word that has never described King Gizzard before. It's patient, relaxed, and comes equip with a tone unlike anything heard on Nonagon Infinity. Lyrically, Stu Mackenzie still doesn't differentiate himself, but that's okay, because in a weird way, his own aesthetic brand still intrigues. In other words, his world hasn't been fully explored yet, so whether we're learning about the poisonous rattlesnakes out in the desert, or the nuclear factory spilling outwards, there's bound to be holes filled elsewhere with the incoming LP's.

Lil Ugly Mane - Selfish

So yeah, this now exists. A new Lil Ugly Mane single, not more than a year after the phenomenal Oblivion Access. You'd think that's nothing special, just a quick turnaround. That would, however, be ignoring the fact the ever elusive Lil Ugly Mane announced his retirement and that Oblivion Access would be his final album. Kinda puts a damper on the impact that album will have down the road. And while a single single wouldn't ruin the cherished memory of Oblivion Access, an entire album surely would, and that's apparently what we're getting from Lil Ugly Mane in the form of Bedwetter. Yup, that's the title. Eek. Today he dropped 'Selfish,' the lead single to that album with no release date. In it, Lil Ugly Mane attempts to merge his Memphis half and his Experimental half, doing so with ease. It's less memorable than the bulk of Oblivion Access, due mostly to some weak lyrics, but the crunchy, unusual beat and his personality more than makes up for it.

Even though Lil Ugly Mane has always been the unexpected type, this is the white kid who made a Memphis Rap classic after all with Mista Thug Isolation, there's nothing unexpected about 'Selfish.' Musically, the single finds the producer in a similar headspace as he was last year, with dark, dingy, ill-conceived beats that somehow work off their sheer misery. 'Selfish,' in actuality, may be one of the best examples of that, taking it to the extreme with a horribly out-of-tune piano laying the foundation. Reeks of the victorian style haunted house aesthetic. Tough to wrap your head around, and legitimately appreciate from an enjoyable standpoint, but Lil Ugly Mane makes it work. In fact, the dingy surface upon which this beat was made draws similarities to the Memphis Rap scene, something he hasn't been around for quite some time. Not Mista Thug Isolation mind you, but further back, to the days where music was built from basements with no formal training, lacking any traces of mixing or mastering. Despite the poor lyrics, that find Lil Ugly Mane using similar phrases and words to explain similar thought, 'Selfish' is still a rough gem.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - SB 04

Is it a single? No, not really. The latest release from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a 20-minute instrumental collage, entitled 'SB 04.' This implied there was more, and so, upon further investigation, I discovered that Ruban Nielson's group does more than provide heavily sedated Neo-Psychedelia nostalgia. This places the group in territory I'd never expect them to go, or even exist in. Multi-layered, that's for sure. Now the question remains, is Unknown Mortal Orchestra's experimental excess a floundering mess like, let's say, Xiu Xiu, or is there merit to be found within? I'd lean to the latter, although I can't say 'SB 04' is all that remarkable. It wasn't until about halfway through playing that I started to pay attention, which meant the music wasn't captivating enough on first listen. And when you got no vocalists forcing me to listen, you better have a certain alluring atmosphere to indulge me. This exists in 'SB 04,' mind you, but it doesn't appear until the 20-minute piece is about to conclude.

That last work, lasting for roughly three minutes, is a solid panorama of abstract ideas, so confounding that it's almost genre-less. Freeform Neo-Psychedelia, as UMO uses their guitars, full of reverb, and synthesizers to create moving portraits. In a certain sense, 'SB 04' is laid out similar to a film soundtrack, with pinpointed events occurring at certain intervals. You could call the project Ambient as a whole, but that would be a detriment to how many instrumental ideas are present. And with all those instrumental ideas, there's less of a focus on atmosphere and more a focus on musical intangibles. Interestingly enough, one very peculiar genre came to mind whilst listening to 'SB 04;' Vaporwave. I wouldn't dart so far in to definitively call it that, but the pieces are littered all about. Vaporwave has gone so far out over the cliff, collapsing under the weight of its own hyperbole, that 'SB 04' can almost seem like Vaporwave had the genre been taken seriously. There's splashes of old commercial samples thrown in, wirey electronics that spark up off the cuff, and farty melodies that sound not unlike an old 80's theme song for a weird, late night kids show. Honestly, I'll take it. Good stuff.

Big Sean - Moves

I spoke last week when I reviewed 'Living Single' about how Big Sean songs seemingly always come into my life and find a way in my loosies. My theory was that I needed some poor quality to offset the other five tracks where I was distinctly looking for something good. And what do you know, the same thing has happened again. This time around it's 'Moves,' yet another single from the newly announced I Decided LP, set to release early next year. Nothing thus far has risen my expectations above low, and 'Moves' doesn't change that one bit. Two years ago even, when Dark Sky Paradise came out, there was still merit to be found within Sean's music. A handful of songs on that LP I actually enjoyed. Yes, it was almost single-handedly because of the beats, but still. 'Moves' tries to be a banger but lingers far too long, isn't idiosyncratic in any way, and the beat is almost as uninspired as Big Sean is. Really the only thing worth retaining on 'Moves' is the short duration, cause any longer and I would have started to lose brain cells.

To me, what allows 'Moves' to be utterly forgettable is its necessity in the first place. Subconsciously I always find myself asking, "is this song necessary? Has it been done before? What new thing is being stated?" If those can't be answered, and for the majority of Trap and Pop that's the case, then there's no reason this song should exist. 'Moves' is that to a tee. Lyrically Big Sean is following patterns he's set out for years, refining them a tad, but not enough to find any discernible improvement. He still stumbles over his bars, the ones that are clearly forced into fitting, like puzzle pieces that don't exactly go in that place. 'Moves' also finds Sean rapping braggadociously, aka the single most redundant thing in all of Hip-Hop, so conceptually 'Moves' goes down the drain. And finally the production, which is handled by Fuse 100 of the 808 Mafia. There aren't any physical outliers to the quality at hand, everything does fit together, but take a step back, try to remove Sean's vocals, and you'll soon see just how banal 'Moves'' production really is. Can absolutely see a beat similar to this festering on someone's Soundcloud without, rightfully, garnering any attention.

Aphex Twin - tnodvood104

Wildly considered a hailing artist of the IDM genre, Aphex Twin has recently begun a resurgence into the music sphere, after being absent for well over a decade. For starters, he appeared back on the scene with 2014's Syro, deceiving in its title simplicity compared to the collapsed English and computer lettering found within. Syro was my first experience with Richard D. James, and while the project was alright, the descriptors many used to represent his work felt absent there. In many ways, the straight-forward IDM he ushered in caused immediate stagnation, as the mechanical instrumentation spread all across Syro felt lifeless. However, it only took one song, when trying out the universally praised Selected Ambient Works, to see where the worship was coming from. 'Xtal,' the album's stunning opener, wove robotic IDM through a freeform late night club scene, using soft cooing samples to offset the seemingly endless drums.

In some ways, I draw similarities from that track to 'tnodvood104,' his latest single released precariously on Soundcloud under the username "user18081971.' This guy can never not be cryptic huh? Anyways, even though it's largely subdued and not at the level of quality and clarity of 'Xtal,' a song going on being 26 years old now, 'tnodvood104' works under similar pretenses. Nimble percussion moves about the clang of rusty walls being smacked up against, all the while some stray synths signal the emptiness of this mechanical factory as the pieces begin to stir up noise. It takes two minutes for the track to reach its peak, and when it does, a haunting collage of female falsettos emerge. Their haunting in tone, of course, but also in their strange appearance alongside these otherwise mechanized sounds. The final manifestation is odd, yet in the slightest, almost morbid sense, alluring.

Meechy Darko - Gotta

Flatbush Zombies' debut album 3001: A Laced Odyssey came out this year, but you wouldn't have known that from how little press it garnered. Of their three main projects, it was easily the weakest and was brushed off by the community mere weeks after it dropped back in March. Not surprisingly, it failed to appear on any publications' end of year lists, and even I feel the score I gave it was a bit too high in retrospect. With a style wholly shtick-driven, a group like the Flatbush Zombies can't excel for too long, at least critically, and 3001 showed that that might've been the dropping off point. D.R.U.G.S. and BetterOffDead were really all we needed from the group, any more just feels like excess. 'Gotta,' a Meechy Darko solo track, is no different. And no, don't feel as if the solo stature will mean Darko will go off on his own, at least for now, the song was actually released by the other two members of the Flatbush Zombies, Erick Arc Elliott and Juice, to celebrate Darko's birthday. The former, and best member of the group when accounting for both producing and rapping, curated the beat here. Good thing too, cause I can't imagine Darko handling others' work.

'Gotta' doesn't falter with its production though, The Architect is still on his game, even if the track feels only semi fleshed out. While the drums, elaborate use of hi-hats, and multi-layered beat switch-ups are well and dandy, it's actually the vocal sample of a Caribbean singer in the chorus fusing with the beat that showcases some of his best work. So while the beat is of a passing grade, Darko's lyrical presence is not. Both him and Juice, who rightfully doesn't appear here, have always glided off their presence and charisma to me, so bonus points for still having that, but the weak content of having girls all around the world and the not-so clever use of marring those locations makes for a rather bland song. Ironically, it reminds me of The Sensei Blue's 'On The Map,' which I doubt Darko used to influence his song, but the similarities in content are there. The latter though, works off sheer goofiness. It's not meant to be taken seriously. Darko is, and the boasting really becomes irritating when there's no incentive for me to care about his past or current flings.

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