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Archive for November, 2010

Splice Today: Krieg – The Isolationist

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Not much to say. This record’s incredible. Go listen to it!

Unlike most United States black metal bands, New Jersey’s Krieg has no interest in getting past the bratty clatter of their second-wave Scandinavian influences. Songs don’t get symphonic, they’re not injected with overt nods to the avant-garde, and they sure as hell aren’t finding space for horns, dance rhythms, or whatever else is supposed to differentiate the experimental Americans from their conservative European forefathers. Krieg make raw, uncooked black metal: pummeling drums, buzzing scuzzy wall of noise guitars, and pained depressed vocals…

Written by Brandon

November 9th, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Krieg, Splice Today, metal

In Defense Of The Neptunes.


There’s a new N*E*R*D record out, which means another chance to use that band’s crappiness to perpetuate the myth that The Neptunes have fallen off. The production duo’s decade-long, weirdly loved, ridiculously indulgent singer-songwriter rap project has little bearing on their supposed inability to make hits like they used to though. Presumably, Williams and Hugo no longer have to make bangers anymore, so they don’t. They spent way too long as worker-bee, radio-pleasing producers, and want to do other stuff now.

Also, their sound, that Neptunes sound, wouldn’t work on a mainstream level anymore. “Showin’ Out” from Til’ The Casket Drops is as potent as “Grindin” was in 2002, but “Grindin” wouldn’t be a hit in 2010 either, so what are they to do but follow their muse?

The still not exactly substantiated “break” between Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo also plays a part in the lowered respect of The Neptunes’ recent output. It’s clear that they occasionally work without one another and though their work is always credited as “produced by The Neptunes,” certain songwriting credits feature only one of their names (Williams only on Hell Hath No Fury and In My Mind, Hugo on most of Kenna’s work) and this leads to lots of speculation. Strangely, it’s resulted in a reconsideration of Williams’ appeal, suggesting that Hugo was the true mastermind, even though Williams continue to make sorta-hits, no one cares about Kenna, and the stuff where they’re undeniably working together, such as N*E*R*D, is laughed-off by the people who yearn for the days of “Virginia” or “Young’n (Holla Back)”.

Williams and Hugo also aren’t the most savvy spokesmen for their music and so, they don’t exactly control their context like other musicians. Hugo rarely talks, and Williams, even when he’s in “black Carl Sagan” mode, doesn’t really philosophize about his beats in interviews. There’s no clever prepping of listeners for sonic seachanges and they refuse to treat their work as capital-A art like Kanye West. The Neptunes unfortunately, arrived a little too early to explain away their mistakes or weird indulgences as “experimenting” (even N*E*RD was presented as their stadium rock-pop project), and they’re suffering for that now. The Neptunes’ sonic peer, in terms of importance and sophistication is Timbaland, and both production juggernauts belong to an earlier craftsman-like producers who understood that being a genius was just part of the game, not something you reminded people of in every interview. The sound was quietly tweaked over time.

And that’s exactly what The Neptunes have been doing since 2004 or so: Subtly steering their sound away from the “Superthug” model. The Neptunes have remained as willfully weird and focused in the second half of the 2000s as they were in the first, only The Neptunes “sound” became this lounge music-like, blissed-out, easy listening stuff full of empty-space cheez, which doesn’t sound all that different from the spacey, chillwave vibe that’s been celebrated in the rap underground over the past year.

The current, unfairly disparaged Neptunes sound begins with Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Anchored by Pharrell’s ridiculous croons and alternating between spare, almost nihilistic rhythms and on-some-other-shit, pulsing new-age synths, it’s the point where making music that ripped in a club stop being important to them. 2005’s “Can I Have It Like That,” the first single from Williams’ supremely underrated 2006 album, In My Mind is both an egregious derivation of “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and a much better song. Also: Beanie Sigel’s “Don’t Stop” and Twista’s “Lavish.” 2006 brought hard-hitting but hollow, pulsing, minimalism to Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury, “Partners For Life” from Diddy’s Press Play, and Pharrell’s solo album, In My Mind which Sean Fennessey of Pitchfork called “yacht rap”. Though he meant that as a dig, I think that’s exactly what Williams was going for: absurdly comfortable, laid-back hip-hop.

In 2007, The Neptunes found the only guy goofier and more Vegas ridiculous than they were: Robin Thicke. A few years later, the radio’s surrounded by Bruno Mars and Colin Munroe types. In 2008, they gave Madonna a ton of beats for her disastrous Hard Candy (that title embodies The Neptunes’ much-maligned, post-”Drop It Like It’s Hot” sound: tough but sweet) and Common some space-rap boom-bap on Universal Mind Control. The Neptunes in 2009 are best represented by Jay-Z’s “Ambitious,” a comfortable ending-credits slow jam, and Clipse’s “Popeye’s (Back By Popular Demand),” a jazzy-wazzy hard-hitting beat reaching for Lord Willin’ and not getting there but getting somewhere pretty cool anyways.

Currently making its rounds on Sirius/XM is Gucci Mane’s “Haterade” featuring Nicki Minaj. “Haterade” doesn’t even have much to do with the hard-pop of “Milkshake” or “Hot In Herre,” let alone “Superthug” but that’s a good thing. Pharrell croons Deepak Chopra-inspired loverman stuff over a glowing, glob of keys and synth pulses, and the snapping, clacking drums are there enough but spare enough for Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj to comfortably do their thing over. It’s a great song.

Written by Brandon

November 8th, 2010 at 4:08 am

Posted in Neptunes, Pharrell

How Big Is Your World? DJ Pierre – “In The Studio (2 Step)”

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On “In The Studio (2 Step),” DJ Pierre buries his club-ready chants of “two step” and “it’s that feel good music,” under layers of airy piano, dusted drum kicks, and some distortion blasts that’d make Salem jealous. The more prominent Pierre vocal though, has the Baltimore producer boasting that he’s “in the studio all night,” cleverly inverting the hundreds of club joints that celebrate being out until the wee hours of the night, living it up. The song’s about music production and sonically, there are even a few lo-fi nods to the fact that this is a recording. The synths that open the track are in-the-red. At the peak of the song, when all its shambling elements brilliantly lock-in for a tangled, catchy shuffle (seriously, the last minute of this track goes), Pierre sings wordless mumbles, which sound like rough, guide vocals to be turned to a hook later on. Messy studio chatter, complete with audio clipping ends the thing. To swipe Nick Sylvester’s idea, I’ll call this a song that knows it’s a record. These are extremely strange qualities for a club track though. Baltimore club is one of the most dogged and pragmatic genres out there, preferring in-the-box innovation over the glitchy, experimenting of Pierre’s work here. How can a track that begins with a burst of noise and ends with behind-the-scenes audio make its way into a club set? Does that even matter? Compliments to Pierre for making something as lawless as “In The Studio (2 Step).”

Written by Brandon

November 4th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Dat Gif & No Trivia present…PLEASANT EXPERIENC




Strategic vigilantes, social malcontents, and the internets’ number one purveyors of the low-brow aesthetic Dat Gif, have teamed-up with No Trivia, supreme defender of Chillwave, for the ultimate chillwave experience, mixed by FIFTHS. 3 Hours. 53 Songs.

Written by Brandon

November 1st, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Chillwave, mixtapes