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The Weekly Froth! - 20161118

  • Published in Columns

The Weekly Froth! A weekly take on six tracks, most of which have recently popped up somewhere in the blogosphere. Bit of a mixed bag with a slight leaning towards house, disco, and remixes, but generally just anything that for some reason tickled the writer’s fancy.

Track of the Week: ‘Walls To Build’ by KLLO (Mall Grab remix)

I love the vocals, which are right there from the start. The rhythm that’s put underneath is nice and bouncy, and it’s stopped for a moment just after the minute mark, where the vocals are put in the spotlight with only a small percussion element. Then, the rhythm is thrust right back in there, and this time around the vocals are clearer and cleaner, which is a nice effect, a nice change-up for the track. They still are lovely and dreamy though, a bit apathetic, a bit removed; a tone that fits the deepness of especially the synth sound that works in conjunction with the beat. At about the 3:30 mark, again, a short stop, this time accompanied with higher pitched synth sounds, though quickly the deeper ones return to help the transition to the bass and beat again a little while later. Released on the Ghostly International label in America, which says it all, really.

‘Is There No End’ by Shit Robot (New Jackson remix)

New Jackson gets this one going with a beat to do some of that House club jackin’ to. The atmospherical sounds give it a slower, more melancholic feel, whilst the clean beat design also shows off some of the intricacies in the drum pattern. At 1:40 there’s a wobbly synth sound that arrives in there, though the big shake up comes after the two minute mark, when the bass takes over. The tone of the track stays intact though, even when the talking vocals come in. These are alien, from outer space (or from out-er-that-vocoder-thingy-over-there), and New Jackson subtly shifts in the rhythm department underneath all that talking. It’s a lovely, hypnotic track, of which the original was part of Shit Robot’s What Follows album, which was released earlier this year.

‘On Hold’ by The XX

This track, really, has all the hallmarks we have come to know from the band. The somewhat detached vocals, the melancholic sound, and the interplay between the male and female voices. Building up to the chorus though, they bring in the more orchestral, the bigger sounds, with the chorus getting a helping hand from a more punchy, rap like male vocal. The sounds underneath are also a tad trippier than I remember from when I saw them tour their debut album, which seemed to have a more minimalistic approach to it. The core sound though, the essence of the band, that’s still there, and it still has that little something something that made them go from 0 to 100 in 60 seconds.

‘Disco Child’ by Sean Sounds

How about that riffin’ to start this one off nastily, along with the bass and, immediately, the female vocals taking you right into that Disco Queen party. And why not, as we are all disco children, really, aren’t we? And this one gives you the riff, the bass, the percussion, and, of course, those horns (ah, the horns!) to get some dancing done to. With the vocals leading the band, talking about how in the ye olden days she was already imbued by them dancing sounds, and now she’s quite hooked. Given how Sean Sounds picks up that rhythm after she finishes her choruses, no wonder, because that just makes you want to boogie down, now doesn’t it? At the three minute mark we are treated to some percussion and some of that disco innuendo (Take that beat, now, why don’t ya?), after which the horns are put to some good use before la diva returns for the next chapter in her disco origins story. It’s got the disco flavor down pat, and the euphoria is as addictive as the riffs at the start.

‘Trust Me’ by Mr. Tophat feat. Robyn

Mr. Tophat is about to take you for a ride, giving you those house club sounds with that deep, rich beat as his base for (at least part of) his ten minute extravaganza. To juxtapose that, just listen to those sounds way back in the mix that are there even before he picks up the pace with some extra percussion just after the minute mark. Near the two minute point Robyn comes in for her first set of vocals, which also seems to be the cue for Mr. Tophat to move a bit more into the space territory. At about 3:05, again, a little pick-me-upper in the percussion, with Robyn helping out, her vocals becoming more pronounced and tied in with some disco inspired sounds. And after Robyn and the disco, the space and the deep rhythm sounds come back in, which apparently is so shocking to Robyn she gives out a few good yelps on top of a galloping rhythm that moves into some slick bass action. Mr. Tophat does that so well, keeping it weird and quirky, but also grounded in the origins of the genres on display. The rhythm in there is diverse, but all the transitions work well (although the real shocker at about the six minute mark is another thing yet again), and then there’s Robyn to add some of that typical vocal work that befits the tone of the track. It requires some trust (…), but the result is an eclectic funbox with the first part taking on the classic dancing genres and bringing it home.

‘That’s What You Told Me’ SR Edits

SR Edits adds some percussion, adds some drums, though already from the start we hear some of those original sounds right back in the mix, slowly moving forward, waiting until y’all on the dancefloor are ready for it. And a good minute in, they decide you are, as the beat takes over and the horn and piano sounds come in a bit clearer than before, giving you that good ol’ disco feel. At 1:40, the female vocals come in, quickly followed by their counterpart, as they sing about how the other is going To be loo-hoo-hoo-hoo-ne-ly. Just before 2:30, the male vocals, super silky smooth, giving you all that sweet soul and a bit more, giving you that whole Motown thing that Ashford & Simpson are known for (albeit, admittedly, this was a track released after). It’s a sweet soul disco track, and this edit highlights the latter, the dancefloor part, for some of them good times.


Kindness - Otherness

  • Published in Albums

About two years ago Kindness burst upon the scene with his album World, You Need a Change of Mind, which was very well received at the time. One of those enticing qualities that made people like it so much was the combination of a certain alienation, apatheticness, with the qualities of pop and R&B. Certainly, only looking at the collaborators for this album, one would expect him upping the ante playing the same game. You’ve got Dev Hynes from Blood Orange fame in there for example, someone with whom Kindness has worked before. But also R&B chanteuse Kelela and pop singer Robyn make an appearence, and naturally one hopes that bringing in the qualities of all these people makes the new album even better than the one before.

For about half an album you could certainly make the case that he’s at least in there rivalling his debut. ‘World Restart’, the album’s opener which also features Kelela, is exactly the kind of thing people were probably expecting. It’s got certain pop qualities, but it also has some Jazz and R&B infuences in there, culminating into a lovely song that is both intriguing musically but which still has that easy-on-the-ear quality, that one quality that pop songs excel in. In the second song, ‘This Is Not About Us’, you’ve got those kind of aloof vocals working on top of some lovely percussion and bass, with a lovely soft chorus when he starts singing “Long way doooown” and ending with the sad conclusion that “you should find someone new”. 

‘I’ll Be Back’ is perhaps the best example of that framework that works so well for Kindness. First of all you have these rather distanced, dreamy vocals and some genre elements, in this case that nice little piano line that gives the track its flavour. These things are put on top of an easy-on-the-ear rhythm part, which provides the backbone to the track and which makes it move forward. In this case with some lovely finger snapping to boot and, even, a little beat, which will give you a little opportunity to do a bit of shuffling on the dance floor. The lyrics are as simple as effective, with the narrator saying that You forgot my name, and then returning the favour by saying “and I forgot you”. The plot twist ensues when the soulful vocals near the end come in and sing that he’ll “be back again”. Not quite forgiven and forgotten after all.

Where in those tracks you have a clear backbone that keeps those songs together, even making it veer into a certain form of popiness, you don’t quite get that on the second half of the album. The first hint to that is when vocals come in that start rapping, which feels like a break from the main vocal delivery (even when they turn more towards R&B in some instances). It feels way more direct than the primary mood of many other tracks. After that, the tracks lose the structure that earlier tracks do have. At some points, it seems like the album starts to meander into one of those jazz solos that people who don’t like the genre always kind of make fun of. Those kind of moments where people feel the tracks just have lost the plot and that their minds, like the track, start to drift completely off the map.

The second half of the album certainly is harder to like than its first half, and compared to the first album there’s no contest in terms of accessibility. Some people will certainly find beauty in that second part though and people who liked the first album will have a couple of songs in the starting part of the batting order that they will welcome with open arms. Many people, however, might not want to be listening to this cover to cover, as some songs might give rise to people throwing their arms to the heavens and exclaiming 'What is the point of all of this!'. Although I’m only half serious with that remark (as if music/art/anything-really always need to have a point), that you can actually half-seriously say that does tell you something about the album. And, definitely, not everything on here will be everyone’s cup of tea.

Otherness is available from amazon & iTunes.

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