Jam Baxter & Jon Phonics : Fresh Flesh

Fresh Flesh EP Front Cover

Since Jon Phonics dropped his essential Half Past Calm series of mixtapes his musical output hasn’t stopped evolving. His latest collaboration comes in the form of an EP with one of the UK’s most lyrically adept emcees; Jam Baxter, who’s been on a steady rise since penning intricate sixteens on his 2012 HF release The Gruesome Features. Together the pair have created four challenging new tunes, writing and recording Fresh Flesh over the last month with more raw hunger than the carnivorous cover art. After a psychedelic intro, the epic strains of the title track swell into an expansive soundscape for Baxter to traverse with ease; reciting impenetrable bars that require repeated listens to fathom. Rush bumps with a grim bassline punctuated by loose claps as Jon’s recent experiments in electronica inform his current take on boom bap; while Baxter’s sharp tongue slices the beat to ribbons as he circumnavigates the obvious through verses shrouded in metaphor.

 As this short but vast EP reaches it’s conclusion, electronic flourishes bubble from the depths to surf a tide of atmospheric synths on Eating; finding Baxter’s unpredictable bars mirrored by Jon’s volatile snares as the pair continue to push boundaries up until the last note. Uncompromisingly progressive throughout, Fresh Flesh is the perfect jump-off point for new fans looking for something unique, while offering an exciting taste of things to come from two of the country’s most forward-thinking artists.

The EP drops digitally on August the 20th, pre-order it via Itunes here.

Peace.

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Rag N Bone Man : Put That Soul On Me

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Rag N Bone Man deserves to be world-renowned; his 2013 collab with Leaf Dog was a heavy fusion of smouldering soul and syrupy vocals, Reuben’s Train was one of last year’s finest tracks, and after airplay from DJ Premier, Mistajam and Zane Lowe; the Rum Committee vocalist continues to scale new musical heights on his latest collaboration. Put That Soul On Me combines his smoked-out songwriting with beats from larger-than-life MC and skilled producer Dirty Dike; who creates a fresh, musically diverse backdrop for Rag N Bone’s urban blues. The introductory title track slinks out the speaker with lazy flute loops, clean shakers and splashy snares;  as Dike’s loose, natural feel allows room for some of the EP’s most memorable vocal patterns, and Rag N Bone’s cadence channels BB King and D.P.G. simultaneously.

Across The Sky wallows in an inebriated haze as Rag N Bone drip-feeds lines, draping words in a slow drawl over minimal horn loops and sparse drums that swing like Questlove on Voodoo; while My Business finds Ronnie Bosh dropping intricate rhymes on an ill jazz flip from his Contact Play affiliate, and after Rag N Bone’s gruff, reflective verses bloom into a huge, catchy chorus; he hits a few final falsetto’s that would have most modern R & B singers struggling. This unexpected release from High Focus is one of the finest you’ll hear this year; an enjoyable listen for anyone into Soul, Blues, Hip Hop or Gospel, from a humble vocalist that could be the UK’s answer to Bilal, and an established emcee that’s becoming a seriously accomplished producer.

Buy it digitally here, and physically here.

Peace.

High Focus 4th Birthday

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Is this you? Are you bored? Did your exciting plans for the weekend drift away like a fart on a breeze, leaving you feeling low and distracted? High Focus can remedy that; as this Friday they’ve assembled UK Hip Hop’s finest, taking their yearly wreck up to new hedonistic heights by expanding their line-up, and finding an even larger stage to destroy at London’s Brixton Electric. After years of hard work, releasing over twenty home-grown Hip Hop classics from some of the country’s foremost MC’s; High Focus are set to celebrate their fourth year in the game, with live sets from everyone at the label, and unmissable appearances by Klashnekoff, Jehst, Buggsy, Kashmere, Children Of The Damned, Onoe Caponoe and Pete Cannon.

If there’s one thing that’ll cure your boredom and break up that crushing British work-week mundanity, it’s spending a few hours battering your ear holes with nothing but dope lyrics and heavy beats courtesy of Fliptrix and co. It’s guna be huge!

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Rescue your weekend from the doldrums & help HF continue their boom-bap, born-day tradition by getting your ticket here.

Edward Scissortongue : The Theremin EP

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In 2012 Better Luck Next Life brought Edward Scissortongue’s distinctively dystopian vision to the fore of UK Hip Hop, with his upcoming High Focus release Theremin, his singular vision once again delivers a complete package. The washed-out hue of the artwork matches the filter on the promo vids, that in turn imitate the arid landscapes that characterise his content; which extends beyond the regular rap realms as he paints with unapologetically poetic words that drip with a penetrating sense of unease. The songs demand your attention, as he plumbs the mental depths to pen ominous lyrical landscapes around a chaotic central storyline.

Miles Courtney’s synth-heavy intro Take Readings plays like Brian Eno massaging Tangerine Dream in a seedy backroom sauna, with an Eighties-neon-buzz that makes me wish I’d bought the Sorceror soundtrack I came across last week. Teeth isn’t only one of Scissortongue’s best songs to date, it’s also grim enough to make Terry Gilliam tuck his head up his own bum to hide from the world. Forlorn melodies glide through the background to become sweeping orchestral epics on the entrancing mantra-like chorus, as Ed’s intricate bars bloom around Eon Ra’s initially minimal drums. The tune remains surprisingly catchy and hook-based, although it comes coated with a thin veneer of terror that makes it catchy like bubonic plague and hook-based like Tony Todd.

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The rhymes gather momentum and grow in complexity on The Wipeout Soundtrack; with Scissor almost clinging to his words as if they were about to reach Fahrenheit 451. A stark chorus from Bristol-based vocalist Toyface adds a graceful touch to the bitter balance Ed and BLNL-producer Lamplighter create; and when the bpm slows all three refract off each other to make for seriously interesting listening. Dirty Dike’s beat captures the mood of the EP perfectly on Theremin, with despondent tones that set an epic stage for Scissor to further his sombre story. His use of inventive imagery to lament the fall of man at the metal hands of cognizent machines is bleak beyond even what Water Tevis could fabricate; and without even so much as a sun-seared, bloating Californian governor to save us, the title track offers no silver lining.

Sumgii’s contorting trap percussion shapes the sallow strings of the prequel to escalate the tension on Theremin Pt. II, with Scissor relating the few remaining minutes of a survivor’s troubled life as he reminisces on the struggle that living became after interplanetary war claimed his family; ‘Visions of his quiet town, working in the orchards with his brothers ’til the androids killed his kin and tore the orchard down, a solo missionary sitting in this metal winter, carrying the flame, a lonely mortal on a tortured vista.’  Konchis propels The Calculator with electronic basslines, frosty high notes and clean, percussive drums as Ed’s dense wordplay reaches it’s zenith; ‘a big bang beginning couldn’t bring back the living, when the guillotine sharpened commences swinging, faster than hell for leather; I’ve dealt with every pasture that gave me tenure, but then the darkness enters’, then Lamplighter closes the EP with Cradle‘s mechanistic melodies.

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As you’d expect from a project named after a visually confusing musical instrument, this latest release from the Contact Play MC is hard to pin down. The unsettling ease with which Scissor spins his barren visions of the future coupled with the tangible menace that bubbles below Theremin‘s surface makes for edgy entertainment; but despite it’s grim content, the emphasis stays on creating something artistically interesting, sharing more in common with the light-hearted menace of Steve Buscemi’s character in Con Air than any overwrought attempt at evil your average black metal band is making. In fact, no one’s making music like Edward Scissortongue right now, his bleak rhymes serve up brain food for a hungry imagination, with an expansive scope and a talent for science fiction writing that somehow manages to sound cooler than ears made of ice cubes. Be sure to check him out alongside Jam Baxter, Mr Key, Lee Scott and more at the EP release party on May 3rd.

The Theremin EP is out Monday the 28th of April, get it straight from High Focus here, or on itunes here.

4/5

Peace