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Johanna Warren: Chaotic Good (album review by Christa V.)

Warren’s songs clearly contain folk and pop influences, with lots of poetic lyrics, haunting vocals, and explicit emotions. This is best heard in “Twisted,” as her pain is practically palpable in her singing. Often tracks consist of her voice with either guitar or piano accompanying. It is rather sparse, but it works so well for her sound. Track 4, “Bed of Nails,” has a really interesting backing track that creates a unique sound and mood. It ends with a repetitive section that consists of an incredibly haunting build; I think that’s the best part of the album. Track 10, “Bones of Abandoned Futures,” is also incredible. It features swirling piano and vocals, and a lot of aspects Warren can pull off really well are highlighted and combined here. Favorite tracks: 1, 4, 10

Kid Cudi: "Man On The Moon III" Review - Michael Barnes

As promised earlier this year on “The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim”, the trilogy has continued. Kid Cudi has returned with the third installment in the “Man on the Moon” trilogy, titled “The Chosen”. To many people of my age, this is a big deal. Cudi rose to stardom with “Man on the Moon” as I entered middle school, “Pursuit of Happiness”, “Cudi Zone”, and “Up up & Away” were all go-tos during those formative years, I am certainly not alone in this experience, he is one of those generation-defining artists and, needless to say, means alot to myself and many others. He followed that debut album with an equally impactful sequel. Following those two releases, Cudi’s music took a pretty objective turn for the worse. “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven”, and “Passion Pain and Demon Slayin’” left me completely scratching my head, not because they were sonically different, but because there was such a clear dip in quality. Additionally, and likely not unrelated, Cudi went through some pretty significant and public battles with his mental health. After leaving the spotlight for a few years, he returned with Kanye West to deliver an absolute magnum opus for both of their careers, Kids See Ghosts. Kids See Ghosts was a huge moment for both Kanye and Cudi, but for Cudi it was a clear revitalization, a cathartic release that asserted he was back. More importantly, he has seemed much happier and calmer over the past few years and continues to promote dialogue on his struggles and the broader stigmas surrounding mental health. This coupled with the fact that the few singles he has released this year have been awesome made me very optimistic that “Man on the Moon 3” would be a return to form for Cudi from a solo project perspective. 

 

I can say with certainty that this is a good album. There is a balanced mix between classic sounds that we have come to expect from Cudi and him applying his psychedelic touch to the modernized and popular sounds in hip hop. The album opens on a high note with “Tequila shots”, a banger in which Cudi dips his toes into a trap sound that is present on tracks throughout the runtime. Shortly after comes another highlight: “She Knows This”, which samples “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”, I love pretty much anything with production as creative as this, but this song also is one of the strongest lyrically and features a ridiculous beat switch about 2 minutes in, definitely one of my favorites. Up to track 5, I have few gripes with this thing, but starting with “Damaged” the album hits a lull of 5 or 6 really boring tracks in a row. The middle of the album in bland and Cudi refrains from flexing his vocal prowess at all throughout this section. It should also be added that track 8, “Show Out” should not be on this album, with features from Pop Smoke (posthumous) and British rapper Skepta, this is a complete interruption from any continuity sonically and thematically that the album had up to this point, it seems completely rushed and thrown together and I fail to see how it fits on this album at all. 

 

Luckily, the tail end of this album makes the whole listen worth it. “The Void”, “Lovin’ Me”, and “4 Da Kidz” are some of Cudi’s best songs to date, and are the most notable examples of his vulnerability and emotion that have become a trademark of his music over the past decade. I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing Phoebe Bridgers feature on “Lovin’ Me”, which came about through an impromptu Twitter interaction. These two complement each other perfectly, it’s a match I didn’t know I needed but now I’m in desperate need of more from them. 

 

Thematically, this album covers quite a bit of ground. It ranges from braggadocious bangers, to reflections of his lowest times, to fearful songs about entering those states again, to hopeful melodies of better days ahead. The wide variety of what we get on this album mirrors the intense shifts in mental health that Cudi has suffered from over the decade, but reflecting on himself in this manner is undoubtedly a sign that he is becoming more and more comfortable and in control of his mental health. This album certainly is a long overdue return to form; Cudi was able to put together something here that connected with me unlike anything from him since 2010. 

 

- Michael Barnes 

Rating: 6.5/10 

Fav Songs: Tequila Shots, She Knows This, The Void, Lovin’ Me, 4 Da Kidz

 

Once and Future Band: Deleted Scenes (album review by Christa V.)

Once and Future Band is a prog rock quartet with clear 70s influences. There are killer guitar solos (“Problem Addict”), and plenty of synth melodies(“Several Bullets” and “Deleted Scenes”). Multiple tracks also feature a horn section, giving it a jazzy feel (“Freaks” and “The End and the Beginning”). Abouthalf of the album consists of instrumental tracks (songs 2, 4, 6, and 9) while the rest range from total bops like “Andromeda” to a more relaxed feel in“Airplane.” The instrumental tracks (other than 9) would be great for talking over. The last track, “The End and the Beginning,” is an incredible song. It isentirely instrumental, starting with a chill piano solo and steadily building in intensity until about the 6 minute mark. There it shudders to a halt and recapitulates the beginning. Very cool album, definitely some gems in here. Favorite tracks: 1, 5, 9

Nyege Nyege 2020 (online festival review by Paul S.)

Kampala, Uganda's Nyege Nyege collective hosts an annual festival showcasing experimental and electronic music from throughout Africa and the diaspora, as well as other innovative sounds and artists from around the world. This year, the entire festival was streamed online for free, including tons of live performances, club DJ sets, and exclusive audio-visual presentations. I spent basically the whole weekend watching as much as I could, and I didn't see nearly everything. Most of it can be found archived on the Nyege Nyege website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also, the collective runs the labels Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala, and everything they release is a must-listen. 

Anyway, about this year's festival. The opening ceremony featured DJ Kampire and friends rowing out to a small island in the middle of the Nile and throwing an Afro-house party. Another early highlight was a fantastic set by Turkana inside the Nyege Nyege studios which had been turned into a club for the festival. On the more experimental tip, Dis Fig's hair-raising set was closer to death industrial than her bootleg club edits or her recent ambient dub album with The Bug. Duma's brief video is somewhere between metal, industrial, and gabber, and it ends up turning into a sort of mini zombie rave. A few videos showcased traditional Ugandan musicians and dancers, including Kadodi Group and Basokakwavula Group, and these are enlightening documents. I'm surprised there wasn't more singeli this year, other than this one show with Makaveli and MC Anti Virus, which really takes off near the end. There was a huge spotlight on the gqom scene originating from Durban, South Africa, with videos of genre pioneers DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Phelimuncasi, and others. Lisbon's trailblazing Príncipe Discos label was represented by RS Produções, who shot their set in an abandoned pool, and Blacksea Não Maya. There was also an excellent Egyptian showcase with artists such as ZULI, Gahallah, and 3PHAZ.

One of my favorite showcases was the Never Normal Dance Show hosted by the label's owner, the wonderful Suzi Analogue. Starting with a brief set from Detroit's own Waajeed, the showcase's subsequent performers touch on hip-hop, jungle, footwork, R&B, and much more. X.nte and Elevation both absolutely crush, but for me the highlight has to be the lengthy set from No Eyes, which rivals any basement noise/breakcore set I saw when I was in college. Just unbelievable. And of course Suzi does an amazing set as well, including a ferocious version of her recent tune "PPL PWR".

A few other must-mentions include the absolutely mindblowing animated epic from Indonesia's Gabber Modus Operandi. And Slikback... how do I even describe what he does? He's just astounding and this is just an hour of fire. And the always charming DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess recorded a set in her apartment, demonstrating her innovative mixing techniques using multiple turntables and reel-to-reels, but also incorporating video footage of her past visits to the festival, serving as a sort of travelogue. 

I know I linked to a lot of content here and you're not going to have time to watch and listen to everything, but there's a lot worth exploring if you're interested. I'm missing festivals and traveling in general, but attending Nyege Nyege in the future would be a dream come true.

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

The Necks: Three (album review by Christa V.)

The Necks are an Australian avant-garde jazz trio well-loved by their cult following. This album consists of exactly three tracks, each a little over 20minutes long. All of them sound like organized chaos in that the majority of the music consists of things rattling in a very rhythmic fashion to create the beat.The first track is a great example of this, but also has a piano melody floating on top of the chaos. The second is the most sparse of the three and features more shimmery percussion and ethereal tones. Finally the last track closes with more jangling similar to the opening, but the piano takes a more percussive role while those ethereal tones become the melody. Well worth a listen! 

Priscila Flores reviews Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo

Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)

 

After releasing a brief EP in April, Colombian American artist Kali Uchis welcomes the end of 2020 with the release of her second studio album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), translating to Without Fear (of Love and Other Demons). Unlike her previous projects dominated by tracks in English, Uchis sings her second album almost entirely in Spanish with most songs elegantly combining the two languages. After a few listens, I’ve found this to be the Spanglish album of my bilingual dreams.

 

From the start, Uchis establishes her second full-length album as an introspective journey filled with vocals dripping of rich Colombian coffee. Sin Miedo opens up with “la luna enamorada”, a passionate rendition of a popular Cuban song in the 1960s that introduces the album by absorbing the listener into the night sky as it rains pink stars. Like this introductory track, Sin Miedo explores Uchis’s experiences and perceptions of love through an honest lens. 

 

Uchis confidently recognizes her value as an individual, not as determined by her romantic endeavors. Through the energetic, hip-hop influenced song “¡aquí yo mando!”, Uchis exudes this newfound confidence while establishing her dominance in any relationship. This track also features rapper Rico Nasty whose assertive vocals mirror the dominant attitudes these women demonstrate. Within the sensual track “aguardiente y limón”, Uchis holds onto this confidence with the recognition that her displays of passion are irresistible and her partners are lucky to indulge in her sweetness. 

As Sin Miedo progresses, the influence of new age reggaeton becomes increasingly prevalent. Uchis uniquely combines this popular genre with her soulful style in “no eres tu(soy yo)”. The songs “te pongo mal(préndelo)” and “la luz(Fin)” more closely resemble the typical reggaeton sound, ending the album on a dance-worthy high note. 

 

The listening experience of this album almost felt like Uchis took the plot of a telenovela and transcribed it in the form of a soundtrack. Yet, it also makes me feel like I’m floating in a sea of cosmic glitter. 

 

Top 5 tracks: 

la luna enamorada

aquardiente y limón

¡aquí yo mando!

quiero sentirme bien

telepatía

 

~Priscila Flores~

 

Cesspool Presents, Grief Barbie: You Could Have Lived With Us

Album review by Victoria A.

Cesspool is an institution in the NYC experimental scene, churning out danceable smears of sound at parties and clubs for 10 years. They base their sound in artifice, taking instruments and the human voice and reprogramming them to the effect of running something through google translate 100 times until unrecognizable. The "they" of Cesspool became a "she" after the sudden and tragic death of one of the members. Out of that horror came Grief Barbie. It is a raw, devastating, and still weirdly danceable exploration of grief, friendship, guilt, queerness, and sisterhood that elevates experimental music to emotional heights rarely achieved. If you like electro, noise, or just albums by sad girls about death, it is worth a listen.

Benjamin Boone with the Ghana Jazz Collective: Joy

Album review by Christa V.

Benjamin Boone is a saxophonist and a composer who recorded this album while living in Ghana for a year on a Fulbright scholarship. Tracks 1, 3, 5, and 6are all his original compositions. The entire record is incredibly energetic and full of life, definitely makes you want to get up and dance! I particularly loved“Maiden Voyage” for the great bass line underneath the sustained notes in the melody, and “The 233 Jazz Bar” for its funk influences. Track 6 features anexcellent female vocalist, and the song sounds more like a pop song than jazz which is an interesting touch of variety in a very jazzy record. And the finalsong, “Joy,” has a beautiful melody, very happy and dance-y, a perfect way to close it out!  Favorite tracks: 2, 3, 5, 7

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