Burial : Rival Dealer

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If there is to be a time where it is universally acceptable for any music website to step out of it’s self-imposed genre restrictions it should be to speak on a new Burial release. The man transcends genre and makes music that is 98% mood and  2% flat out enjoyment whilst remaining 100% a mystery.  It doesn’t matter who Burial is for the same reason it doesn’t matter what DOOM looks like these days; if he was an electrician from Lowestoft Tweeting every day about his beans on toast and giving interviews to NME the music just wouldn’t have the same power; a power it has carried at it’s core through every release in his catalogue. After the Four Tet rumours a few years ago, and the William Bevan Myspace hype, people are finally letting the music speak for itself; and on Rival Dealer it speaks clearly and confidently of change.

His style has expanded and warped incrementally on each new release over the last few years; always keeping a dark, atmospheric street sound that sits somewhere between uncomfortable and satisfyingly brooding. His wildly varying song length that toys with light melody juxtaposed with stark static shocks has always made for compelling listening; and when he plunders the depths of Davy Jones digital locker to unearth some seriously heavy low frequencies  that would make a brown note need a fresh pair; you know you’re in for some serious musical experiences with any new Burial release. In the past he’s dropped Two deservedly lauded LP’s with his eponymous début and the essential follow-up Untrue, and last year’s excellent Truant/Rough Sleeper EP somehow sounded even more like a cityscape at night than his previous works. Yasiin Bey’s “I can feel the city breathing, chest heaving, against the flesh of the evening” is the only phrase that comes close when trying to describe a sound that’s so thick it’s like a future-garage fog. This year he’s taken the perceived parameters that confine his sound and obliterated them; making music for the first time that sounds happy. That’s right, HAPPY, not a word most would link to Burial. Rival Dealer only offers a small slither of light in an otherwise predominantly despondent discography, but it’s upbeat vibes, gleaming keyboard melodies, uplifting vocal samples and inspiring quotes all make this new Burial experience something worth dedicating your full attention to. It’s rare to find music rooted in the past, yet presented in future tense that isn’t relying on throwback appeal to move units.  

The title track is my favourite new song the producer has released in years; it tumultuously rolls at breakneck pace, billowing smoky,  industrial sounds that steamroller ahead insuppressibly. It’s even structured relatively ‘normally’, and doesn’t suffer from his tendency to purposely end ideas prematurely, as is the case with some of his other Ten minute overtures.  That’s not to say he’s sticking to the script for the songs duration; in the first 7 minutes he keeps every new musical avenue he takes you down rooted within the loosely defined realm established with the initial rhythm, but surreptitiously guides the track  onto an even more claustrophobic and labyrinthine course. His use of female vocal melody is upfront and more satisfying than ever, and he manages to tick all boxes that define his past greats without boxing himself in. Trance-like ambience and light melody lift and build the musical space once the first rhythm melts into some jazzy lines; then the whole track begins a slow amble towards it’s demise, like slowly wading into a sonic sea to willingly submit to the current.

Hiders begins the real sense of movement within the music; opening with huge piano chords straight out of a heavily hairsprayed 80’s rom-com prom scene finale. The presence of fresh influence becomes undeniable when the beat fully kicks in; with it’s unashamed flair and vivid disco imagery you’d be hard pressed not to daydream about shellsuits or be reminded of what the Drive soundtrack could’ve sounded like in less cheesy hands. The tom sounds and drum rolls echo the pomposity of the era it derives influence from, and Burial’s confidence in his more exploratory endeavours leaves the last track wide open as to where he might take the EP next.

Fans of his self-titled LP will recognize the Indian-influenced essence of U Hurt Me on the final track Come Down To Me; he quickly sheds his previous preoccupation with dwelling musically in the dumps and turns his trademark overcast sound into a glimmering ray of hope. Synth lines delicately lift the mood with pop inspired autotuned vocals and a bell pattern that captures the film scores-of-yesteryear feel. As the piece moves and moods change, he reaches back into the doldrums and digs out some shadowy samples and a distorted bass sound that brings his machine-influenced percussive patterns with it. By the time the winding sitar shifts back into an insidious version of the main theme the song’s fully sounding like the best Nightmare On Elm Street remake soundtrack you’ve never heard. The second movement is even more triumphant, conga patterns, delicate female vocals, euphoric synths and choir harmonies give it more of  a kinship with world music than it’s more grimey underground counterparts in the garage and dub scene, and it’s crescendo ends the EP on a high note; after a highly interesting 28 minutes with one of modern music’s most enigmatic producers.

Kode 9’s Hyperdub label will distribute the EP on Vinyl, CD and MP3 on December the 16th; If you don’t have massive speakers or headphones go and buy some; then buy Rival Dealer.

4/5

Peace.

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Ramson Badbonez : A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch

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I first heard about Charlie Mac’s dope production skills when Chester P posted about his Instrumentals Vol 3 tape earlier this year. The Task Force MC would also be responsible for much of the country hearing about Ramson Badbonez for the first time back when he was only 14, as he was given the opportunity to spit on Louiz Slipperz £10 Bag series. After the backing from Task Force the young MC really went to work, spitting furiously for years on mixtape after quality mixtape, featuring on every youtube channel that was reppin British Hip Hop at the time, destroying mics at radio shows, and finally releasing his debut album Bad Influence last year.

This year he’s still grindin’ hard; linking with High Focus Records to finally find the business backing his talent deserves, and opening his rhymes up to a much wider audience internationally through HF’s ever-expanding fanbase. Fliptrix has been shoutin’ him out and playing shows with him for time now, and even though heads know his flow is unstoppable; he’s been under a lot of people’s radar for too long. A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch is about to change that. For the first time his music has become more accessible; largely due to Charlie Mac, who’s diverse production style allows Badbonez to extend his range, and spray his bars with more structure than before. This is the closest the UK has gotten to a fully catchy, hook-heavy, street banger in years. British rappers have been making niche music for underground listeners for so long, albums that sound this big and easily translatable weren’t something I expected to come along so soon, especially not from one of the most aggy, unapologetically underground MCs the country has produced in recent times. Despite the album’s memorable appeal, Badbonez still verbally decapitates any competition within radius, and brings that raw poetry straight from the pavement, speaking on his experience through the eyes of his colourful caricature of a protagonist.

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The album begins as dark as the winter months that inspire it; Badbonez fills Oscar’s shoes and relates tales of tough living through a wide sociological scope on a dreary beat that hits hard. In Da Blitz Time comes out aggressive “Straight from the back alleys & trash cans of no hope”; The verses are gutter, the scratches are fierce and the beat’s rough with a throwback swagger that grooves hard. Whateva Da Weatha has it all. I’m talkin Dre levels of beat making on display with neatly cut piano samples and epic string accents to match; Ramson employs a lyrical manoeuvre seldom heard and perfectly starts and ends his words to the stops and starts Charlie’s sample’s make. Beats like this are what the tongue-in-cheek confidence of Mystro’s flow was made for, he drops a standardly accomplished verse with as much effortless style as you’d expect. Gadget’s hook is huge, and the additional strings give the chorus a vintage soul feel despite the G’d up nature of the content. I duno where Gadget has been hiding but he and Rag N Bone Man need to make an album over Leafy beats immediately.

On any other album Scruffy,Bummy,Hungry would be stand out; on an album this packed with first-rate tunes it’s falls kinda flat. Baxter & JokerStarr’s bars fit the style but are limited by their inability to really convey message, or form a lasting impression with their content. April Fool’s Day is another modern stormer that owes much of it’s strength to Charlie Mac; the beat’s perfect for Badbonez to bring out his belligerent best, giving you an insight into shottin’ as Oscar continues his 365 day span struggling through Britain’s underbelly with some memorable bars; “I’m sayin, fuck a job vacancy, I’m up early in the morning slot, blazin’ trees on the block making P’s”. M.A.B from Three Headed Beast provides a solid, heartfelt verse and the chorus hook that Balance carries well sits nicely but is too convoluted and minor to possess any real staying power; as far as good new Hip Hop goes though; if you’re not swinging your arms about like Meth in Rhyme & Reason by the time both MCs trade lines on the third verse you might just be in the wrong corner of the internet.

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As the summer months brighten up and we find Oscar in the month of May as he still receives no respite from the hardships of modern living. Dealing with his day to day by selecting his poison from a buffet of intoxicants, and zoning to 90’s Hip Hop on Just Da Way It Is. His bars are littered with allusions to Hip Hop’s greatest albums and Mac’s great use of atmospheric elements and some lyric cuts straight from the classics vault make it another banger. Foul Moods is up there with the albums best; not even Ramson lyrically throwing pints of piss at racists, hookers and street violence can dampen the mellow vibe the carefree beat brings; it could have benefited from a switch-up in content, but Badbonez is stickin to the script he wrote for Oscar, and is obviously aware that straying conceptually would detract from the album’s cohesion.

Chains & Whips adds some much needed variety in theme and some dope verses with it; Ramson spits nothin but truth; after his uplifting verse on Twizzy collab ‘The Essence’ earlier this year, this return to a more insightful flow is welcome; “Ancestors hang helpless from their 24 carat gold or platinum chain, all to keep the masses wealthy, ghosts and hopelessness, ford focus’s, most the shit you own is that length of rope to choke you with.” Genesis Elijah goes in just as hard; he’s been on fire this year, and his scorching course continues as he references the revolutionary actions of Nat Turner and Malcolm Little. His wise words carry historical weight, and find correlation between the modern banking system and the Middle Passage’s lucrative human trade; “The Bank Of England was built on the slave trade, for six straight centuries, not a penny they paid back, for the free labour or the profits they made, now the names have changed but it’s basically the same game.” 

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As Oscar’s 365 day epoch nears it’s twilight, the autumn months bring  some last rays of optimism before the album sinks back into the cold sting of winter. The addition of Rag N Bone Man’s distinctive voice on the title track adds a depth that otherwise might be missing from the bare bones of the simple beat. Ramson’s verse is much of the same conceptually but also once again provides top class lyricism from the seasoned writer. As usual Fliptrix’s verse shines brightly amongst the otherwise dark vibrations on the track. His accounts of the rough side of life are lifted by his ever-present sense of optimism, and his parting message is a testament to his spiritual strength. As soon as I heard Desperation I knew the album was guna be something special, Ramson hammers out words with feel over a chilled beat that holds a more positive message than a lot of the content carries lyrically. Even after repeated listens, it still stands as one of the album’s best tracks; not to mention one of the nicest High Focus videos to date.

 

December swings around and Let The Others Know finds a nice closing point that’s bang in the middle of the Mac and Badbonez’ style; it’s got real soul and warmth that Ramson’s lyrics provide with an edge. Oscar’s year ends the same way it began, living on the breadline in Britain’s backstreets trying to get by; and although the character’s story didn’t arc as much as it stayed in one spot and documented a point of view; it did provide an entertainingly accurate snapshot of inner city life from a perspective that is too often marginalised or disregarded. If you’re looking for an underground Hip Hop record with polished production, ill scratches of some classic lyrics, consistently adept lyricism and some banging tracks look no further; but if like me, your prefer your musical choices to elucidate on fresh topics with content you can return to and glean new information from as your perspective grows, you may be slightly let down. By the halfway point the album begins to hit a wall as Badbonez topics are limited to his immediate experience as relayed through Oscar. Concept albums are an idea you rarely come across in Hip Hop, and although A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch works well initially; its tight concept limits it’s appeal in the long run.

Check out Oscar’s council estate chronicles for yourself  here

3/5.

Peace.

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Blue Chips 2.

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Let me begin baby, my name is Bronsolino, all I see is C notes, silk shirts at the casino.”

 If you copped the tape you already know; Blue Chips 2 is as luxuriously top class as the name suggests. I feel like I need a golden keyboard just to write this. It’s the audible equivalent of soaking up a seafront view from a 5 star balcony after a night of excess, wearing only a silk robe to feel the warm morning breeze buffer your balls. Bronson’s a king at hilariously overblown swank, he’s been regaling his fans with tales of upper class ass and the glamour and glitz of newfound rap stardom for a while now, and on this sequel to one of last year’s best mixtapes he’s upped the ante and gone all in. Brooklyn-based production team Party Supplies live up to their name once again, and bring Nineteen glossy tracks that glow like neon tits in the night outside a cheap strip bar. The tape could easily be the soundtrack to a Scarface remake; and is as overblown and enjoyable as Tony’s escapades; and plays like an alternate version where De Palma cut out all the plot and cut the ‘she’s on fire’ scene for all it’s smooth talking lines with the part when Tony loses his shit, gives that douchebag the thousand yard stare and slaps Gina for trickin’ in the toilet.

The clear New York sound lyrically and sonically bring heaps of unmistakeable identity. As do the cameos from his boy Big Body, a guy who refines shit talking as an art, and harks back to the era of Pain In Da Ass, Big Noyd and Raek and Ghost’s convo on sharks. Skits have been largely absent in a lot of newer rap, so the use of them sparingly on the tape adds to the classic East Coast feel. Some of the beats are so well known it and cheesy it was hard to picture rap over them until Bronson just did it; Pepe Lopez works well with his party loving persona and baller lines, and Contemporary Man packs in more Eighties pop classics than your Auntie’s attic, and still sounds cohesive. A song selection straight from Patrick Bateman’s personal favourites shouldn’t work this well on a rap tape, and definitely shouldn’t sound this cool, but Blue Chips 2 isn’t really about not trying new ways to make things as baller as possible. When Party Supplies are sampling Charlie Sheen ‘bangin 7 gram rocks‘ and pulling it off ridiculously well, you know they’re running their A game, and at this point Bronson can take any beat and spit shine it with glamorous street slang without breaking one bead of sweat.

The beats aren’t all as sleek and velvety; they balance things out with some street anthems with a 70’s shine, flipping disco samples to take them from the vibrant shimmer of the dancefloor to something straight out of the smokey back alleys behind the club. Silverado starts things off hard, Practice is so smooth it’s creamy, while Flip Ya matches the MC’s style perfectly; with Bronson sounding thoroughly at home amongst it’s seductive horn swells; “I snap the button on the driving gloves, pointy shoe like Aladdin on a flying rug.” It Concerns Me sounds like a car chase with the law through Queens, and makes me wana grow a moustache and roll over the hood of a Camaro in a brown leather trench coat. The piano loop’s so catchy I keep finding myself humming it staring into space and forgetting what the fuck I’m up to, and Bronson’s above and beyond with the lavish lines on this one; “I’m on the boat smokin’ gold dust, I’ll marry your niece, catch me out in Paris with fleece, shoot the back of your knees, Gary Sinise, speaking Arabic in Greece, grown men turning keys to cheese, as I water-ski Belize.”

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This picture has nothing to do with Blue Chips 2 specifically, it’s just fucking amazing.

His pen game is extra terrestrial, and he’s still pre-major label debut so he’s only warming up; dropping lines like ‘Bought my b—- a present, hope i don’t spoil it, ‘what is it baby?’ ….face to face toilets’  just for fun. There’s not another rapper out who’s writing boasts that stick in your head as prolifically as Bronson; I keep finding myself reciting lines and laughing to myself like 2013 versions of ‘say the titties is out‘. He takes reference from everything; covering fictional ball players from 90’s teen soaps, exquisite seafood recipes, hitting trees and women in different time zones, and the Queens streets that birthed his style. Still the most gangsta line on the album for anyone that knows about cooking is ‘always season rice’; that’s the truth.

Their take on J Swift’s iconic instrumental for Fatlip’s crew on Through The Eyes Of A G is even more chilled and weeded out  then the original. The oriental influence on The Don’s Cheek breaks up the unmistakeably American sound nicely, as do the beats on mellow bangers Rolling Thunder and Twin Peugots. Still the stand out song is 9.24.13. As with it’s counterpart on the prequel, the song’s mistakes make up it’s personality; and lines like ‘your chance is thin like the moustache of Puerto Ricans’ and the whole bit about the car are so hilariously entertaining it’s crazy.

For anyone looking for some respite from the more serious side of Hip Hop, Blue Chips 2 is the finest release this year. Bronson’s laid out an instruction manual on being a 21st century G, so the next time you need to stash weight inside games consoles (or dogs), select the finest buds or combine flavours to make succulent dishes he’s got you covered. He also covers some sexist shit in the way that the baller persona demands and comes across derogatory, even though I doubt he actually is in his day to day life. Hopefully that’ll take a back seat in the future and next time he’ll rap about asses, assholes, and shit 98% less; but right now it’s all forgiveable for the sheer enjoyment he brings to the game. The whole time I was listening to Blue Chips 2  I felt like all I could see was diamonds and palm trees, and even though I desperately wanted to rant on how they were meaningless exports of exploited countries I was just enjoying the luxury too much to care; when you hear a man having that much fun in his music, you can’t help but join in.

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I feel like Bronson’s guna go down in the East Coast history books as a legend like Pun; not because  he’s lyrically at that level yet or for the more obvious comparison; but because his larger-than-life persona, comfortability in his own skin and love for life and Hip Hop are unmatched right now. It’s been a while since the American rap scene has had big heart and big character to back up the bragging and boasting that comprises much of it’s content, it’s also been time since a rapper has emerged and been deemed talented by fans of real Hip Hop, not placed on a mantle because industry insiders said he had skill. Bronson has and will continue to outshine everyone in mainstream rap because he’s taken the words ‘do you’ and built a promising, exciting and endlessly entertaining career out of them, and this new mixtape reaffirms that. 

Get involved here.

4/5.

Peace.

Klaus Layer : The Adventures Of Captain Crook

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Redef Records continue to put out high quality Hip Hop with that Golden Era Boom Bap feel with the new Klaus Layer release. The German producer has combined his love for old cinema, surrealist art and 90’s Hip Hop to make a beat tape that sounds natural and unforced; his samples are clear, his beats thump with that airy MPC sound and his composition allows your mind to wander within each track as he inconspicuously builds the mood. All Of The Time gets your head nodding from the outset as flute harmonies make up the refrain and clever use of group vocals fill the low end. The song moves quickly from section to section, keeping it simple with the main elements then getting more technical on his percussive lines; the shakers and hi-hats alone could form another wholly interesting song.

Company is the zag amidst the two zigs tracks One and Three provide with their more classic sound. On this more meandering number, Klaus wades his way through a deep lake of sound and paddles about down the bottom for the song’s duration. Every sample has an electric warmth that is washed over by an aqueous tide that makes you feel like you’re scuba diving with Pete Rock. The drums are harder than on the first track and employ that time-honoured pattern of the boom and the bap to back up the more experimental sampling. It’s a cool change of feel with some shrewd placement.

Into A Sky employs more traditional instrumentation; smooth horns ride soft piano loops, and the echo of the snare plus a lot of swing equals another solid song. Again the producer perfectly captures a sound that has been mimicked to the point of parody, but never fails to be enjoyable when executed well. Blu seems to been going through a transitory period recently, his flows on the new EP with Nottz and again on Klaus’s Illest In Charge are more assertive and cocky, and his new tone is more in line with the raspier side of Kendrick than the mellow cool of Q Tip. He spends most of his verse talking about flashy shit in a grating tone, making the instrumental at the end a more chilled listen. In My Mind delves into 60’s rock psychedelia with relish to bring things back on track and re-expand the musical horizons Klaus is reaching for, ending the first side of his new tape on a strong note, even if it is a bit muddier than his other samples .

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Side 2 starts strong with Truly‘s minimal drum breaks, old school bass lines and nebulous trumpet stabs as they fade in and out, vibrating against the gloom he’s creating; this is the type of song that the cassette player combo was meant for; zoning out, riding a night bus through the city to these sounds. Any DOOM fans will recognize the sample on Touch,  and no doubt it takes balls to flip something so dear to many underground heads; when it came on I had to stop what I was doing and wait like; ‘Alright then, what you got?’ He didn’t disappoint. The drum sound speaks volumes about how he was coming at this one, he’s swinging for the fences with an aggressive take on the source material that’s a great listen. 

Things stay funky but on a calmer tip with Slow It Down. His vocal chops and ear for good melody are brought into focus again by some really nice selections, the expert use of vocal lines especially setting The Adventures Of Captain Crook apart from it’s contemporaries. Many people go as far as to find a loop and some drums; less find vocals that match a mood being created then arrange many elements to form a full sound. The second vocal track Come Back is one of the catchiest beats on the tape, the horns and scratches of the chorus easily compensating for the song falling slightly flat once more on lyrical content, although the bars do carry a lot of style. Klaus’s new tape is perfect listening to kick back or travel to, and now with Damu and Redef behind him, the man formerly known as Captain Crook is set to continue onto new musical heights.

You can buy the album on Cassette, Vinyl or CD here. Or grab a free digital download here.

4/5.

Peace.