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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

Splice Today: GLC – Love, Life, & Loyalty

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Here’s how most rap albums are put together these days. Producers give a rapper tons of beats and the rapper pick the ones he likes and then raps over them and then ideally, if the right beat and the right rap meet, there’s a song for the album. Then, as the rapper records more and more songs, some sort of flow or concept develops and then, the rapper sequences and re-sequences tracks depending on that concept/flow. And the whole time the rapper’s developing a concept/flow, the rapper’s probably recording more and more songs, which can or cannot derail or at least, shift said concept/flow. GLC’s Love, Life, & Loyalty is a rap album made in that vein, only the guy forgot to take into consideration the passing of time, the changing of trends, and new talent. Like dude is holding on way too tight to all the connections he had a few years ago and it’s a bummer. I don’t feel bad writing this review but I do feel bad.

Along with fellow wizened, Kanye West crony Consequence, GLC expanded the middle-class travails of College Dropout, adding a more lived-in, less petulant point of view to work-a-day anthem “Spaceship.” Consequence rapped about going from guest-spots on Tribe Called Quest’s Beats, Rhymes, and Life to working a day job, while GLC injected a knowing, street dude perspective into the decidedly suburban song, ending his verse with a regret-filled couplet: “Should’ve finished school like my niece / Then I wouldn’t have to use my piece.”

As West’s profile continued to rise, GLC and Consequence remained defiantly down-to-earth. Consequence’s 2007 debut, Don’t Quit Your Day Job! stretched “Spaceship”’s conceit over an entire album and that same year, GLC released “I Ain’t Even On Yet” a song that cleverly ran through a list of luxuries his relative rap fame afforded him, punctuating the boasts with “and I ain’t even on yet”—a half-modest reminder that he wasn’t yet a superstar…

Written by Brandon

October 27th, 2010 at 5:26 am

Splice Today: Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself

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This is my first “write lovingly about a record but don’t actually describe the music all that much” review, but it’s really the concept and emotions behind Living With Yourself that make is so good anyway. The genius here is that McGuire has totally loaded-up his instrumental music with context without the record toppling over. So there are just all these completely relatable caves of meaning behind really beautiful, bittersweet instrumental music. To me, it’s like anti-chillwave in the sense that it isn’t about sitting around, hanging out, or a half-guilty contemplation of “a life of leisure,” it’s about asserting the very specific problems that arise from growing up suburban, to a family that loved you a whole lot, and maybe a little too much.

Ambient guitarist Mark McGuire releases dozens of cassettes and CD-Rs each year, but he’s calling Living With Yourself his “first record.” Though his basic approach to composition (endless loops of super-clean guitar that build to a cathartic though not exactly epic climax) hasn’t changed much, this is his first release on an above ground label (Austrian noise/electronic behemoth Editions Mego) and this time around, he’s wrapped his wandering instrumentals around a brilliant, very touching conceit.

Living With Yourself is about experience, and the way in which the building-up, inevitable breaking down, and occasional rebuilding of relationships permanently alters the lives of everyone involved, whether they like it or not. McGuire investigates this through contemplative guitar work adorned with cryptic, pointed references to family, friends, and lovers: proper nouns in the song titles, the family photos on the album cover, the audio from home movies that preface the first and last track…

Written by Brandon

October 14th, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Splice Today: DJ Nate – Da Trak Genious


This review of Chicago footwork producer DJ Nate’s Da Trak Genious was written at pretty much the same time as that Flocka piece from yesterday, so they certainly share ideas and also probably some wonky music-crit adjectives, but I’m trying to develop a dark, dance music thesis about all this stuff, alright?

Twenty-year-old Chicago producer DJ Nate makes footwork music, an even wilder, faster, and out-there extension of juke—itself an A.D.D update on house, the Windy City’s mammoth contribution to dance music. Da Trak Genious compiles 25 of Nate’s tracks, unmixed, but sequenced brilliantly, providing a considerable introduction to this fairly under-the-radar style. That style? A 160-beats-per minute rush of syncopated drums and finely chopped, hyper-manipulated samples…

Written by Brandon

October 7th, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Splice Today: Neurosis – Live At Roadburn 2007

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Here’s a review I did of Neurosis’ Live At Roadburn 2007 and the re-release of 1993’s Enemy Of The Sun. Struggled with explaining how and why the group is so much better than all the stuff they’ve influenced but I think I did an okay job, while also getting in some unnecessarily catty digs at bands that stick in my crawl. Dunno, just seems like Neurosis are the sort of band that once you heard them, it’d be tough to return to all this wandering, build-up-then-explode “post-metal,” you know?

Before metal got all mannered and started circling the drain of drone, getting all respectable, and soundtracking Jim Jarmusch movies, Oakland hardcore/metal contingent Neurosis stood alone in stretching out, slowing up, and lurching forward the core dynamics of heavy rock. And sorry bro, but none of the copycats and third-generation in-quotes catharsis builders that have come since really compare. The release of a live album, Live at Roadburn 2007, and the re-release 1993’s Enemy of the Sun make that painfully clear…

Written by Brandon

September 29th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Splice Today, metal

Splice Today: “The Madness of Dappa Dan Midas”

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The work of usually exuberant Baltimore rapper Dappa Dan Midas has lately taken an ugly, existential turn. Though the former battle rapper’s always displayed a mean streak—perhaps best seen in his recent tussle with A-Class—Midas’ M.O is usually playful humor mixed with unmatchable intensity. Joyful, pummeling tracks like “Push Start” off his Live From the Arcade EP and his role in Mania Music Group—as the equally furious but far less serious foil to Kane Mayfield, Ron G., and Milly July—show a rapper with a deep understanding of craft and the rare ability to entertain. Midas might sport a mohawk and rock an outfit that’s one part Urban Outfitters and one part Plato’s Closet thrift finds, but he’d absolutely murder any track handed over to him. In a city of rappers still dredging up references to The Wire for street credibility, Midas stands out for choosing skill and enthusiasm over mean-mugging…

Written by Brandon

September 21st, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Splice Today: UllNevaNo’s The Color Brown

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Reviewed Baltimore rapper UllNevaNo’s mixtape, The Color Brown where he raps over beats from Kev Brown. He did the same thing with Evidence beats for last year’s The Color Purple, but this project’s better all around and feels like a really solid rap release in the key of underground hip-hop, but with enough rough edges and strange asides to make it really stand-out. You can download it for free over at Under Sound Music’s website.

Most rappers on the come-up do just about anything to create the illusion of an industry co-sign. They’ll stick a verse in the middle of a radio hit and hype it up as a “remix.” They’ll sample a popular rapper for a hook and when they blast it out to the blogs, credit the song as “featuring” that popular rapper. So, when Baltimore-based, San Bernardino-bred rapper UllNevaNo tells listeners that he has “no relationship with [D.C. beatmaker] Kev Brown,” on a mixtape consisting entirely of raps over Kev Brown’s instrumentals, it’s a sobering dose of sincerity–and precisely the kind of cagey honesty that permeates much of The Color Brown.

UllNevaNo exhibits the expected verbal dexterity (the mission statement-like “Bright Sound,” the concentrated lyrical exercise “Serious To None”) but he offers up something a bit more rarefied and unpredictable too. He can be playful (the “riding the Metro sucks” rap-rant “Tune Em’ Out,” the old school pro wrestling references in his rhymes) and at times, disarmingly emotional. Coming right after the contemplative “Reconsider It,” there’s the relationship rap, “Someday,” a tangle of diary-like confessions (“I don’t even know what to say/I wrote this verse and thought about you today”) and nerdy, needy pontificating (“There’s too much technology, not to stay in contact,” he tells his ex from five years ago). When UllNevaNo wonders aloud if the girl still has the mix CD he made for her all those years ago, and a depressed guitar sample rises out of Kev Brown’s foggy beat, punctuating the sentiment, it’s one of the most touching, bittersweet moments in rap this year…

Written by Brandon

August 12th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Baltimore, Splice Today

Splice Today: Lower Dens’ Twin-Hand Movement

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Here’s my review of Lower Dens’ Twin-Hand Movement, which is a really confusing, great album that’s really hard to write about, so I just took the detached, “try to explain” it route but there’s a ton of stuff I’m missing. And that’s always the case with reviews of any length but especially here. I actually think both of these pieces (“Blue and Silver” track review, Twin-Hand Movement review) by City Paper’s Michael Byrne kinda wrestle with it better than I, but still, there’s something missing there too, so you should probably just listen to the record yourself.

In an indie rock climate currently consumed by schticky eclecticism, Baltimore’s Lower Dens stand out for confidently and provocatively mining entry-level indie influences: the deliberate chug of the Velvet Underground, Cat Power in her noisy naïf phase, Joy Division’s disco-punk in a dungeon style. But Jana Hunter and her band don’t simply regurgitate underground rock classics; they approach these intermediate sounds from odd angles.

Two damaged, garage-rock instrumentals (“Holy Water” and “Completely Golden”) sandwich “I Get Nervous,” a confused, touching, almost love song (“Baby, I get nervous/Just being in your service”). “Rosie” noodles around for more than a minute before bass and drums enter the mix and once they do, Hunter’s hesitant vocals frantically climb through the group’s hazy, mass of sound. “Plastic and Powder” is a dubby, No-Wave-tinged composition stretched to its breaking point, building up, then simmering down to Fripp & Eno-like globs of ambient noise. It’s a beautiful moment on an otherwise nervous and jittery album…

Written by Brandon

August 5th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Splice Today: Your Guide to Blaqstarr’s Contributions to /\/\/\Y/\

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Until recently, Blaqstarr’s been pretty quiet–save for “Choke Hold” and “Temperature’s Rising”, two dusted kinda-Club tracks that only popped up on YouTube (one has since been removed) and the only interesting thing on Talib Kweli’s tight-pants rap attempt, Idle Warship. Then this Spring, now signed to M.I.A’s NEET label (also home to Baltimore’s Rye Rye), Blaqstarr released “Oh My Darling”, a strange, brooding dance song with Club music informing it rather than acting as its be-all and end-all.

And for those worried he’d gone relatively “pop”, they should be reminded that there wasn’t even necessarily a father to his Club sound—along with Say Wut, he completely shifted the style of Baltimore Club—but still, he also dropped a brilliant “raw version” of “Oh My Darling” that sends Frank Ski’s “Doo Doo Brown” through distorted guitar and grabs liberally from Scottie B’s classic “Niggaz Fightin” before it becomes a fog of echoing vocals and shuffling drums. It was par for the course for Blaqstarr, taking a weird R & B record and turning it into a stuttering Club epic—the only difference was, the weird R & B record was his too.

And he produced the best songs on the new M.I.A record. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest Blaq’s influence on /\/\/\Y/\ goes beyond the songs he had a clear hand in. The whole record sounds like Blaqstarr’s weird insular dance music–I think it’s why some people say the record’s “half-baked” or whatever.

Perhaps, the only genuinely lasting byproduct of the early to mid-2000s out-of-town embrace of Baltimore Club music is Blaqstarr’s slow-growing success outside his city. Though it’s not the leap from local hero to the next Timbaland so many Club producers seem to seek—it’s not even DJ Class’ temporarily raised profile with last year’s “I’m the Shit”–Blaqstarr is the best example of Baltimore Club producer leaving the city and doing something. I took a look at his contributions to the new M.I.A over at Splice Today:

On M.I.A’s last album Kala, Baltimore’s Blaqstarr produced “The Turn” and allowed producer Switch to turn Club classic “Hands Up Thumbs Down” into “World Town”. Now, Blaqstarr’s behind the two best tracks on /\/\/\Y/\ (“XXXO” and “It Iz What It Iz”) as well as every bonus track on the “deluxe edition.” While the 1000th think piece on M.I.A’s latest shows up in your RSS feed, I thought I’d narrow the focus a bit and look at the contributions of a Baltimore Club game-changer.

Written by Brandon

July 15th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Splice Today: Wavves’ King of the Beach


Reviewed the “new” Wavves album and well, I’m still parsing this one out. It’s not a masterpiece or a big seachange for the band and it isn’t a sign of maturation or sophistication. But it’s not a poor album or a sell-out record either. It’s just as decent Wavves album that’s super fun to listen to, but full of the same tricks as his other releases–and indeed, if you want relatively clean-sounding poppy Wavves, go find those TNDRNSS demos–and way less interesting. Additionally, I was trying to reject this absurd notion suggested by Pitchfork and that New York Observer piece that this is Nathan Williams’ statement record–that he is “king of the beach”, king of the sun-baked garage rockers and chillwavers–because yo, that’s super low-stakes and well, he made a record as poppy and light as Beach Fossils or whoever. Lastly, comparing Williams to a rapper and gasp, close-reading his lyrics was something I did back when the only hype about the guy was, “Why is there hype about this guy?!”. Check out my indecisive review below.

This is a review of the new Wavves album, but it’s also review of Wavves the person/dude/persona too, because, how couldn’t it be? Wavves mastermind Nathan Williams spent the time between last year’s noisy, sad-sack, surf punk opus Wavvves, and King of the Beach, his new, relatively clean-sounding, self-loathing, pop punk opus, overloading his music with context…

Written by Brandon

July 8th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Splice Today, Wavves