Monday, 27 May 2019

Romare ‎– Love Songs: Part Two (2016)

Style: Future Jazz, House, Downtempo, Breakbeat
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ninja Tune

01.   Who To Love?
02.   All Night
03.   Je T'Aime
04.   Honey
05.   Come Close To Me
06.   Don't Stop
07.   Who Loves You?
08.   L.U.V
09.   New Love
10.   My Last Affair

In 2014, Romare – AKA producer Archie Fairhurst – released Love Songs: Part One, pasting Peggy Lee into stuttering, bass-heavy R&B and aping retro funk, jazz and blues. Although the result was timeless in the sense that it borrowed from multiple decades, the sense of curation made it feel fresh. And yet Romare’s presence didn’t feel entirely definite; Fairhurst even cribbed his stage name from an African American artist who died in the 80s. This sense of his being a conduit for larger concepts of race and identity – or maybe just a well-meaning cultural appropriator – carried on into 2015’s sample-heavy debut LP, Projections. But here the Londoner’s mission is less about recycling than creating his own psych-ish oddities: on Je T’aime, a slither of Truffaut or Godardish dialogue gives way to irregular ambience and 8-bit sounds, while Honey is bound together by gelatinous alien synths and a low-key jazz melody, with Fairhurst playing much of the instrumentation himself. Although Who Loves You sounds as if it could be a lost 70s underground disco cut, overall this collection provides more of a window on to Fairhurst’s own motivations, as he experiments around themes of love – from innocence to filth. 
Hannah J Davies / The Guardian

Romare ‎– Love Songs: Part One (2013)

Style: Ghetto, Bass Music, Hip Hop
Format: Vinyl
Label: Black Acre

1.   Your Love (You Give Me Fever)
2.   Jimi & Faye (Part 1)
3.   Taste Of Honey (From The City)
4.   Hey Now (When I Give You All My Lovin')

Mastered By – Beau
Written-By, Producer – A. Fairhurst, Romare

A year on from his Mediations On Afrocentrism EP, Romare returns to Black Acre with four frenetic and sample-heavy soul cuts. Paced by a stuttering footwork skip, samples of Peggy Lee's "Fever" loop throughout "Your Love (Give Me Fever)," before breaking out with a tearing sub-line. "Jimi & Faye (Part One)" sticks closer to his roots-orientated output by layering field recordings over tribal rattles, while "Taste Of Honey (From The City)" is a more floor-driven number comprising equal measures of '80s hip-hop and '70s afro-funk. Completing a decent package, "Hey Now (When I Give You All My Lovin’)" is a more blues-influenced inclusion that percussively trudges alongside a lamenting piano and flaring trumpet. 
James Lawrence / Resident Advisor

Rosalía ‎– El Mal Querer (2018)

Style: Flamenco
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sony Music

01.   Malamente (Cap.1: Augurio)
02.   Que No Salga La Luna (Cap.2: Boda)
03.   Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap.3: Celos)
04.   De Aquí No Sales (Cap.4: Disputa)
05.   Reniego (Cap.5: Lamento)
06.   Preso (Cap.6: Clausura)
07.   Bagdad (Cap.7: Liturgia)
08.   Di Mi Nombre (Cap.8: Éxtasis)
09.   Nana (Cap.9: Concepción)
10.   Maldición (Cap.10: Cordura)
11.   A Ningún Hombre (Cap.11: Poder)

Mastered By – Chris Athens
Mixed By – Jaycen Joshua
Producer – Rosalía
Producer, Arranged By – Pablo Díaz-Reixa

She is already a star in Spain, where flamenco is a big enough part of the pop landscape for the singer to have first encountered it in a Barcelona park, booming from the subwoofer-boosted stereos of tricked-out cars in the same way you might hear grime or drum’n’bass in the UK. The fact that a major label clearly thinks she can be a star here – and indeed in the US – is presumably down to the ongoing vogue for Latin-flavoured pop. If Luis Fonsi’s Despacito proved that a song primarily in Spanish can top the charts, then perhaps that’s indicative of a wider cultural shift, signalling the end of British audiences’ traditional inability to treat pop in any language that isn’t English as anything more than a source of novelty hits.

But even if it is, El Mal Querer is a rather more complex, interesting and left-field prospect than any of the Latin pop successes to date. At its most commercial – as on the flatly brilliant single Pienso en Tu Mirá (a gold-selling hit back in Rosalía’s homeland) or the early 2000s R&B-flavoured Bagdad – it offers a sparse, spectral version of the kind of super-smart pop that Christine and the Queens produce. The rhythm tracks are decorated with flamenco palmas, or hand-clapping, the arrangements are minimal wisps of electronics and bass, with the vocals front and centre.

Even at its most pop, the focus on Rosalía’s voice lends El Mal Querer a head-turning freshness. She can really sing – when she lets rip on the more traditional flamenco-styled Que No Salga la Luna or the a cappella closer A Ningún Hombre, it’s a pretty visceral experience – but her voice is audibly rooted in a different musical tradition to the usual styles in which pop vocalists perform. The standard set of tricks (post-Whitney extemporisation overload, sub-Winehouse aged soul, please-compare-me-to-Kate-Bush kooky swooping, etc) are all noticeable by their absence. Instead, her voice is powerful and gutsily emotive: her melismas sound more Middle Eastern than Mariah Carey.

In addition, swathes of El Mal Querer are noticeably more experimental than most current mainstream British or American pop artists would countenance. Rosalía co-produced the album with sometime Björk collaborator Pablo “El Guincho” Díaz-Reixa, and she has also recently been working with another Björk cohort, Venezuelan-born experimentalist Arca. That figures: there’s a similar sense of exploration and space here as you might find on a Björk album. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to picture the Icelandic singer doing her stuff over the high-drama string arrangement of Reniego. Nana sets Rosalía’s voice against a stark backdrop built entirely from sampled and Auto-Tuned vocals. Reniego mixes castanets with distorted snatches of voices and sound effects that may have been ripped from a kung-fu film; midway through it dies away into silence and an eerie little wordless vocal loop appears, fighting for space with Rosalía’s voice.

A crisp 30 minutes long, El Mal Querer is clearly intended to be a concept album – each track comes with a chapter number and subtitle – although without either a translation or any fluency in Spanish, what the concept may be remains a mystery. It doesn’t matter: this is music potent and adventurous enough to grip you without you understanding a word of what she’s actually singing. Whether it’s going to appeal to the kind of audience who have bought into the vogue for Latin pop thus far is another question: even at its most straightforward, it’s not terribly straightforward and it’s a very long way indeed from Despacito. Or anything else in the charts. But that’s its appeal. Whether it heralds the arrival of a new pop phenomenon or not, El Mal Querer is the calling card of a unique new talent. 
Alexis Petridis / The Guardian

Van Morrison ‎– Astral Weeks (1968)

Style: Classic Rock, Folk Rock, Acoustic
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Warner Bros. Records, Midi

         Part 1: In The Beginning
01.   Astral Weeks
02.   Beside You
03.   Sweet Thing
04.   Cyprus Avenue
        Part 2: Afterwards
05.   Young Lovers Do
06.   Madame George
07.   Ballerina
08.   Slim Slow Slider
        Bonus Tracks - Previously Unissued
09. Beside You (Take 1)
10.   Madame George (Take 4)
11. Ballerina (Long Version)
12. Slim Slow Slider (Long Version)

Arranged By, Conductor – Larry Fallon
Bass – Richard Davis
Drums – Connie Kay
Flute, Soprano Saxophone – John Payne
Guitar – Jay Berliner
Percussion, Vibraphone – Warren Smith, Jr.
Vocals, Guitar – Van Morrison
Written-By – Van Morrison
Producer – Lewis Merenstein

In 1968, Van Morrison was 22 years old and one album down, a Northern Irishman in New York, with a fledgling career built on garage rock, TB Sheets and Brown Eyed Girls. He was also involved in a contract dispute with his label, Bang Records, that prevented him from recording, and discouraged live venues from booking him.

In many ways Astral Weeks was born out of this frustration, and the accompanying financial anxiety, although little of that desperation seeps into the record; it is an album that sounds warm and rich and luxurious, and the urgency that runs through its eight songs has always seemed tethered to Morrison's desire to articulate something – a longing, a desire, an essence.

This is an album heavy with yearning, with an aching for the streets of Belfast, for the "gardens all misty and wet with rain", for being "conquered in a car seat". It marries folk and rock and blues and jazz and gospel, flute, harpsichord, vibraphone – to create these eight songs that don't so much play as wrap themselves around your legs, that get stuck beneath your fingernails.

Morrison himself described Astral Weeks as an opera of sorts, a story with definite characters, a song-cycle of "poetry and mythical musings channelled from my imagination". And so we find memories of viaducts and slipstreams, ferry boats and cadillacs and cherry wine, mingling with talk of Huddie Ledbetter and little red shoes. We find the bewitching Madame George, the ecstatic Sweet Thing, the great knee-deep tangle of reminiscence that made up Cyprus Avenue. It was one of those albums that seemed to be about everything and nothing, the past and the now, the vital and the fleeting, and that somehow stood quite complete in its vision.

It was Lester Bangs who put it best: "Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralysed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend," he wrote. "Maybe what it boiled down to is one moment's knowledge of the miracle of life."

It baffled many upon its release, listeners thrown by its strange rhythms and peculiar lyrics, but over the following decades it would acquire towering cult status. Much of this is down to this record's remarkable ability to prompt an overwhelming emotional response – the album's producer, Lewis Merenstein, has described how, upon hearing the title track, he began crying. "It just vibrated in my soul," he said.

This is an album I grew up with, and that embodies everything I love about Morrison's work – the great rich stew of it, the beguiling swarm of the music, lyrics that are proved on the pulses, a voice that sounds like rain against granite – dour and swarthy and half-grunted, barking and nickering its way through the "clicking, clacking of the high-heeled shoe". It stands to me as a masterpiece, a maverick, a quite extraordinary creation. 
Laura Barton / The Guardian

Flying Lotus ‎– Flamagra (2019)

Style: Abstract, Jazzy Hip-Hop, Fusion
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Warp Records

01.  Heroes
02.   Post Requisite
03.   Heroes In A Half Shell
04.   More
05.   Capillaries
06.   Burning Down The House
07.   Spontaneous
08.   Takashi
09.   Pilgrim Side Eye
10.   All Spies
11.   Yellow Belly
12.   Black Balloons Reprise
13.   Fire Is Coming
14.   Inside Your Home
15.   Actually Virtual
16.   Andromeda
17.   Remind U
18 .  Say Something
19.   Debbie Is Depressed
20.   Find Your Own Way Home
21.   The Climb
22.   Pygmy
23.   9 Carrots
24.   FF4
25.   Land Of Honey
26.   Thank U Malcolm
27.   Hot Oct.

Mastered By – Daddy Kev
Mixed By – Daddy Kev, Flying Lotus

 One of the most inventive forces in modern music, Steven ‘Flying Lotus’ Ellison’s last album ‘You’re Dead!’ fused hip-hop, jazz and electronica to boldly explore the idea that there’s a strange beauty in death. Yet as interesting as that record was, it felt a little too sporadic — a collection of fascinating sounds that didn’t necessarily add up to a satisfying whole. But that was five years ago, and new album ‘Flamagra’, a spaced-out funk epic that’s much more soothing than its predecessor, proves Ellison has grown as a producer. 
There’s something very J Dilla about tracks such as ‘Post Requisite’ and ‘Heroes in a Half Shell’, which both share the late producer’s ability to transport listeners into an alien world filled with bouncy hip-hop synths and calming transitions that kick in just as things get too intense. There’s a druggy swirl to this music, with the distorted first part of potent Anderson .Paak duet ‘More’ feeling like it’s filtering through a thick fog of weed smoke. The inventive beat switch, which brings in a bass guitar that cuts right through the beat, is a sleight-of-hand worthy of Frank Ocean and Travis Scott. It also makes you wish Flying Lotus had more of a hand in crafting .Paak’s last two underwhelming albums.

‘Takashi’ is dream-like, its psychedelic chimes creating a sense of pure escapism. But this calm is quickly replaced with urgency, thanks to the thrilling burst of electricity that is ‘All Spies’, an IDM track that sounds like the spaceship from Close Encounters (had the jingle-crafting martian on board been tripping on high-grade acid). Ellison is a master at shifting tone, and knows how to take listeners on an exhilarating journey that unites both calm and chaos. 
He also knows how to inject versatility; this is an album that consistently combines Dr. Dre‘s ‘2001’-esque sun-drenched bass and bold chord progression (particularly on the excellent ‘FF4’) with the kind of inward-looking funk (exemplified on ‘Debbie Is Depressed’) you’d expect to find on a vintage Sly And The Family Stone record. At times, it can feel like Flying Lotus is just showing off, but there’s something endearing about him playing music with confidence that says: I’m at the top of my game. This record is an amalgamation of everything Flying Lotus has ever learned as a musician – dating back to being an intern at Stones Throw all those years ago, through to the raw edge he brought to Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. It’s all welded together to create a piece of art that’s bursting with ideas that impressively compliment one another. 
High-profile guests include Solange, George Clinton, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Shabazz Palaces and David Lynch, who spouts trippy dialogue on ‘Fire Is Coming’ (which could easily be taken from the truly surrealistic latest season of Twin Peaks). Yet it’s new rapper Tierra Whack, an artist already threatening to be this generation’s Andre 3000, who soars the highest. Her nutty verse on ‘Yellow Belly’ bottles the vibrant spirit Flying Lotus possesses as a producer, with lyrics such as “I’m so high everyone else looks up to me” feeling like a tribute to his genius. It’s also evocative of the album’s concept, which is apparently based around an eternal flame flickering at the top of a mountain. 
‘Flamagra’ is at its best when Ellison embraces his jazz roots (his great aunt and uncle were jazz legends Alice and John Coltrane), as introspective jazzier tracks such as ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Say Something’ really do summon the atmospheric theatrics of being sat high up in the mountains at sunset, looking out onto a vast landscape and wandering what might be possible in life. Judging by this album, Flying Lotus can make just about anything happen. 
Renata Raksha / NME