Gonjasufi – Callus

(Warp Records, 2016)

Gonjasufi came to my attention in 2010 with his Warp debut “A Sufi And A Killer”, and after 2012’s “MU.ZZ.LE” I’ve been very eager to hear more of the Sufi’s deeply personal and original, melancholic experimental psychedelia. It took about four years but now the next chapter of Gonjasufi is out, taking his music even into more darkly psychedelic and intimate directions.

The music of Gonjasufi has always been rooted in Hip Hop culture, the Sand Diego scene to be exact, and he has done collaborations with awesome artists such as Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer and The Bug. The minimalist and low-fi atmospheres of his sampling and instrumentations, which are usually a blend of urban and almost shamanistic vibes, have been as individual as his voice, which is hard to compare to anyone else, and once familiar with it you will definitely recognise it.

When it comes to musical atmospheres and of course his voice, this album can be immediately identified as Gonjasufi, but there are a few new things he is trying out here. I’m getting almost Lynchian feelings of grey scenes of nightly California, intoxicating and hot under the silhouettes of waving palm trees, with flashing neon lights here and there telling of the liveliness of these grainy and strongly contrasted inner soundscapes. The term “noir” comes to my mind constantly. The heavy and slow very organic drumbeats mixed with distorted and reverberated guitars and basses often give an almost Doom-like feeling. On other times the classic Punk influences are very clear and function perfectly with the rest of the musical styles encapsulated on the album.

There are actually not many purely Electronic-sounding moments in these songs, and when they do appear, they are glitchy or vintage-sounding and delightfully noisy, which fits the overall atmosphere of the album nicely. Parts and samples of Ethnic music add to the psychedelic agenda of the album and the persona of the artist himself. The at the same time sensitive and strong vocals are again put through filters of strong reverbs and distortions, making them sound almost like samples of some weird movies, as the music is also highly cinematic in nature.

The whole experience is actually pretty 3D cartoon-like and very dreamy, with each of the 19 songs displaying a different scene strong in mental aesthetics.

If you are a fan of Experimental Hip Hop (with a strong emphasis on low-fi and DIY-mentalities), and especially of cinematic music, you should definitely check this album out. And if you are already familiar with Gonjasufi and liked his previous stuff, this album will not disappoint you. One of the best ones this year.

Warp Records

Gonjasufi

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Street Sects – End Position

(The Flenser, 2016)

Street Sects (from Austin, Texas) was formed in 2013 by vocalist Leo Ashline and producer Shaun Ringsmuth, and released a few singles in 2014, before creating this their first full-length, a masterpiece which appeared unannounced to many from nowhere, sinking its sharpened claws into minds not disgusted by styles such as Electropunk, Industrial, Noise and Power Electronics.

I gotta admit I wasn’t that convinced about the genius of the band after having heard a couple of songs from this album, but couple of days later, after delving deeper into the violent and chaotic alluring world of the album as a whole, I became an adherent of this shit. This stuff is spiritual.

As already mentioned, what you get here is a fierce and quite original mixture of classic Industrial mentality (think of the more aggressive and faster pieces of older Skinny Puppy or Ministry), Punk Rock (or Electro-Punk if you will), and Noise, chemically (psychedelically) combined into an original and fresh end result.

Most of the music consists of samples which could have been gathered from a steel factory of some sorts, put together in an imaginative way. The clanks, thumps, rattles, fizzes, thuds, hisses, bangs, hums and slams are backed up by vicious electronic bass-lines and pounding snares and kicks, rhythms mostly not related to any certain musical style, except Industrial naturally. The grooves of the beats are sometimes childish even, yet working in an extremely convincing way with all the sample-based madness surrounding them.

There are not many clear melodies to be found on this album, as the music relies mostly on the insane cacophony brought by the various sounds and intense beats, but when you do hear them in the form of synth-lines (mostly), they sound beautiful and strong, yet you realize you wasn’t really missing them in the first place. Such is the power of this music.

The vocals are mostly screams through filters of heavy distortion, and they work perfectly with the music. But what gives this stuff a professional feel to it is the vocalists use of clear and melodic singing in the right places, nodding strongly to their influences, but maintaining the aggressive and original feel of the band.

Besides the distorted chaos and aggression, this album is packed with various emotions of sadness, melancholy, hopelessness, self-destruction, hate, disgust and other cool vibes. In fact, without having read the lyrics, I’m betting my head on them being descriptions of resentment, revenge and suicide, making the cover art (artist) a perfect pick for the album.

There are no weak parts on the album, making it a very solid and powerful totality. In this age, after having heard almost everything music has to offer (when it comes to ideas), it is always a pleasure to find someone taking classic pieces from here and some from there and combining them into something that is truly refreshing and moving. That is something we underground music lovers, grown apathetic after years of first being in love with and then disappointed by many powerful styles of music, are always secretly hoping for.

Give this album a chance, and if you get what I’m talking about above, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. This might very well be your favourite album of the year.

The Flenser

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Flowdan – Disaster Piece

(Tru Thoughts, 2016)

After a musical career of about 20 years (as a founding member of the crew Roll Deep among other things), Flowdan stands still strong as one of the most recognisable voices in Grime. After the “Serious Business” Ep and a number of great collaborations with notable producers (such as The Bug) of recent years, the Big Flowdan finally finished work on his new full-length album this year.

The album features 12 songs of quite atmospheric high quality Grime, partly quite minimalistic (and even “safe”) and partly experimental production-wise, but always full of that guaranteed dark and deep Flowdan-feeling.

The production (by Cato, Masro, Swifta Beater, Dexplicit and others) of the riddims relies mostly on a mixture of modern Hip Hop and EDM vibes (mixed with even some Industrial elements) besides the classic Grime-logic when it comes to instrumentation of the synths and drum-beats, with each song consisting of pretty basic and straightforward musical themes (with some songs refreshingly going a bit more progressive than that). Epic orchestrations and percussions colour the etherial and electronic feel of most of the beats, and the overall production and soundscapes of the songs are of much quality and sound professional, altho I would have personally liked to hear a bit more gritty and hard sounds (such as those trademarks of the aforementioned The Bug), which fit Flowdan’s voice and style so well. On the other hand the quite straightforward and articulate feelings of the beats function as a solid whole.

The main emphasis of the album is nevertheless naturally on the voice and deliveries of the man himself, and his strong, deep and dark voice indeed keeps the whole atmosphere of the album intact and unified. The production lets Flowdan speak his mind without too many effects or other gimmicks, which tells of the trust in the abilities and skills of the man, acquired during his many years of involvement in the scene. Two songs also feature old-school friends Manga and Tinchy Stryder (while four songs feature female vox by Animai), but the spotlight is of course on Flowdan.

The lyrics deal mostly with personal and social themes the Grime-way, which are obviously more than familiar to the man due to his  experiences growing up. Flowdan’s lyrics have often been quite dark but very witty, atmospheric, and often straight to the point, fitting this kind of music perfectly. Needless to say, the technical abilities of the man are great as well, making his spitting always a powerful and pleasurable listening experience.

With no clear weak parts in the song-selection, this steady yet much imaginative and always entertaining album is an awesome and much recommended modern look into classic Grime. Honest, hard and simple if you will, but also often complex, emotional and deep. Just like the streets.

Flowdan

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Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

(Third World / Harvest, 2016)

In my case, with “Exmilitary” and “The Money Store”, Death Grips instantly became one of the most exciting new acts out there, blowing my mind with basically every delightfully minimalistic yet psychedelically complex and intense song on these albums. Coming from a background of extreme Punk and Metal as well as oldschool Hip Hop and various styles of Electronic music, the music this trio (consisting of Zach Hill’s percussions, Andy Morin’s electronics, and MC Ride’s vocals) was giving birth to clicked perfectly with my musical tastes. And altho many seemed to find Death Grips to be too “insane” for their membranes, I felt right at home when it came to the multifaceted twisted beats, sounds and rhymes the band was at this point known for.

While “No Love Deep Web” went more synthetic and even etherial in its approach and delivered perhaps a bit more catchy songs compared to the first two, “Government Plates” was a bit too artsy (and in this case boring) for my taste with its large yet kinda weak arsenal of electronic sounds, but then again the instrumental album “Fashion Week” hit my good spot while being mostly electronic in nature as well. In any case, the double album “The Powers That B” has been to many perhaps the pinnacle of the evolution and career of the band, gathering all their past experimentation and honest insanity in eighteen songs.

As the band is no stranger to controversial behaviour such as releasing albums for free online or cancelling tours (and even cancelling a breakup), it has often felt every new Death Grips release is a kind of a miracle to behold. Every time a new album is announced, two things usually come to mind: Is it really gonna happen and when, plus are they gonna top or overdo or reinvent themselves yet again?

With great pleasure I can say this album is not by any means a disappointment. All the deranged vocal fury, the often overwhelming yet controlled rhythmic chaos, all the right usage of weird minimalistic or massive psychedelic electronics at the right places still holds up to the standards of the band, going even further in many areas.

The album has many similarities with the previous album “Jenny Death” when it comes to repetitive lines and swirling intense soundscapes, but this album is not by any means as chaotic as the first song which became available, “Hot Head”, hinted. In fact most of the songs have a very certain personal atmosphere and quality to them, making this album perhaps for many a bit more pleasant listen music-wise when compared to some of the band’s previous releases.

Still, pleasant is not a word that first comes into most listeners minds when describing the atmospheres of this album, as it is again filled with very intense almost hallucinatory parts and scenes, reminiscent of bad psychedelic trips. Meaning the band will most likely not gain new fans with this release, but that has probably never been their main agenda anyway.

“Giving Bad People Good Ideas” takes a pretty comical spoken sample and turns it into a synth/instrument, industrializes a very Black Metallic riff and a blast-beat, throws in some weird electronics, and tops it with Ride’s furious shouting rhymes. What a great Death Gripping way to start the album. “Hot Head” switches between a section which could be the most chaotic and Breakcore-like shit ever heard on a Death Grips record, and a calmer slower more vocal-driven part, making it a very personal song as well.

“Spikes” is a very classic Death Grips sounding piece with glitchy fuzzy electronics and whipping beats. “Warping” takes likewise a very traditional approach (considering the band’s standards) consisting mainly of slow and groovy dizzy straightforward jamming, being still a total banger. “Eh” is a very airy yet energetic song with a classic IDM-mentality (in my opinion) and thin snapping beats, making me think of even Aphex Twin, while the vocals are clear and audible, full of cool little ideas of performance.

“Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” has some fuzzy noisy wobbly synths working together with a Trap-like beat and vocoder-parts, making it perhaps a very “current” (considering the trends of the music world) song. “Trash” has a fizzing and airy electronic feel to it in that “Get Got” and “Artificial Death In The West” kinda way, with the addition of massive noisy brasses. Cool.

“Houdini” again offers musically nothing new to the band’s repertuare, but sounds like metal wires moving and tightening and snapping in a very reverberated hall, functioning with its cool lyrics as a very cool atmospheric breather at this point in the album. “BB Poison” has rubbery, bubbling and zapping synth and drum sounds spiced with rocking organic guitar parts. Once more nothing too special but sound-wise very cool. “Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood” picks up the pace being a vigorous groovy piece full of cool details in all areas.

“Ring A Bell” brings back the heavy and phasing, flangy and twangy electric guitars sampled in various cool ways, familiar from previous songs like “On GP”, making it the most organic song on the album sound-wise.

“80808” is synth-sound driven ominous and eerie song full of calm fear and heavy aggression, before the title song “Bottomless Pit” finishes the album in style. The heavy noisy accelerating synths mixed with the steady energetic beat and tireless vocals make this song sound like an IndyCar speeding on the edges of a hurricane with Punk Rock blasting from its speakers.

In general, the soundscapes and mixing of the album is again pretty much along the same lines with the previous releases, with electronics ranging from heavy fuzziness to thin airiness, with pounding or snapping drum-sounds and various effects in the vocals, from multiple layers of well-managed chaos to stripped minimalism, perhaps this time around improving from past gritty rawness into a more thoughtful and better-produced whole.

While “The Powers That B” featured songs with some really personal lyrics from vocalist MC Ride, “Bottomless Pit” is possibly the most personal album lyric-wise the band has in their catalogue. All the mental delirious ranting rhyming insanity Ride spits and shouts is still here, only this time he often opens the door to his inners (and also to the band’s inners) more than before. Or at least that’s how it seems.

Altho personal-sounding, all the songs are pretty much equally good in my opinion, making it hard to pinpoint any favourites or clear highlights on the album, making this a steady release of high quality. While taking the organic freshness of “Jenny Death”, “Bottomless Pit” combines all the best elements of “The Money Store” and “No Love Deep Web” and adds a few new brilliant ideas, making this a solid, strong, familiar, high quality Death Grips album, and I’m bound to have many intimate and delirious moments with it. Loving it, as always.

Death Grips

Perturbator – The Uncanny Valley

(Blood Music, 2016)

Although the Paris-based Synthwave-artist James Kent has quite a number of releases in his discography (since 2012), Perturbator is a name that most likely started to spread more widely after the release of his previous album “Dangerous Days”. In this age of total retro-mentality, of hardcore vintage-worship, of complete copying of vibes of the past, it is no surprise numerous Electronic artists with a huge boner for the eighties (and its neon-lighted palm-tree-shadowed arcade-sounds) fill the underground, with names like Carpenter Brut being synonymous of THAT feeling.

Personally I enjoy (for example) the massive orchestral and symphonic soundscapes merged with the minimal vintage synth aesthetics Daft Punk gave us on the “Tron: Legacy” OST as opposed to the pure eighties-copying done by some 18 year old (which is way more common these days than the first mentioned approach), and luckily Perturbator gives us something a bit more experimental and diverse as well on this his latest effort.

The album has apparently been conceived during a two years period of intense music making, and is a concept album of sorts with a very well-thought narrative in the background (something we will not dive into in this review), and this can be heard in the variation of the songs and musical material. As is mentioned in Wikipedia, Kent has some background in playing guitar in Black Metal bands, and apparently for this reason this kind of hard-hitting Synthwave is quite popular among fans of more Extreme Metal-oriented tastes (as well), but I can’t personally find too much of Metal “influences” in this material, per se. The style is intense enough as it is.

While “Dangerous Days” was perhaps a more “traditional” album in the sense it offered the soundscapes which could have been heard in the eighties, Uncanny Valley (a term used describe the feeling of unease when a human being confronts an artificial intelligence or almost-realistic computer-generated surroundings, for example) is often far more intense and aggressive with its soundscapes. The synth sounds are often more threatening and intrusive than for example the bass-drums, giving the malicious technological rhythm and groove to many of the songs, and often letting only the snare to break their intense attack upon the ears.

Multiple layered melodies fill up the rainy neon-flashing nightly streets and glowing sky of the city which is this album. The varied and versatile melodies (or riffs if you will) usually work well together, and when there are moments where the song is taking a turn to an uninteresting, too-repetitive or dissonant direction, some sort of an interlude or a bridge takes our attention to the next part of the song, giving us a feeling of the good skills of the musician when it comes to arrangement.

While many of the songs have the action-packed intensity of a battle between two clashing cyberpunk gangs, there are many calm songs as well, in the true cinematic tradition (reminding often of course of works like the classic “Blade Runner” OST by Vangelis). Jazzy parts, female vocals and narration, and other atmospheric elements take our minds often to even philosophical realms in the true sci-fi tradition. This stuff would of course work perhaps the best in the background of some animated film or series, but the inner visions it gives on its own are strong enough to consider this album to be an “audial film” of great inner / personal qualities, depending on the listener.

The overall quality of the compositions, the soundscapes (the choosing and creation of the synth-sounds), and the general editing / arranging and mixing make this album of course (as undoubtedly expected by fans) one of the very best of the genre. Still, if you do not have that personal connection to the eighties, either via existing in that decade of childhood arcades and video game and film gems, or by pure retro-absorption, you most likely will be at very unease states here (as the name of the album implies). The rest of us who know the deal, will find this a very pleasant and cool experience, either as background music (in our daily personal films) or as a trip to something much more deeper and perhaps even more real.

Altho streaming for free online, with 13 songs (of lengths ranging between about 4 and 7 mins) this album has tremendous relistening value, making it a good purchase as a physical entity as well.

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Blood Music

Interview with Yasmin Gate

I became familiar with the very personal, intense and sensual voice (and the all-over atmosphere) of the artist known as Yasmin Gate after hearing her awesome collaboration “That’s All” with Equitant. Constantly evolving and finding new portals for creativity, Yasmin is currently situated in Berlin, busy with her current projects such as her record label (and music blog) Killerrr.

Hey Yasmin! Where are you right now, writing this, and how has the year fared you so far with your projects?

Hi! Now I’m in Berlin. This year has fared wonderfully. In march I made a super nice tour in Argentina and I’m already developing ideas for the next tour. On top of that, we are about to release the new Dualesque Album with Killerrr in which I am featured in the first single. We’ve already shot the video in Buenos Aires and the edit is almost finished.

Originally from Buenos Aires, you have migrated from Argentina to Madrid and back to Argentina again, now grounding yourself in Berlin. How would you compare the different musical climates of the places you’ve been living in? Do you find Berlin to be a perfect place for you right now?

There are completely different musical climates in these cities. When it comes to Electronic Music in Argentina, I have a feeling that it’s always tinted with Rock guitars. It is a nice sound, more raw yet naive at the same time. Argentineans love Rock Music and you can feel it even in the Electronic scene. Of course this is a general approach, there are also a lot of good Techno producers.

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Picture: Quique del Bianco

Madrid has great producers as well as Barcelona. I started my career in Madrid and it was a nice homebase. Anyway Berlin is the place to be for me right now, in a musical way and in a personal way. Berlin has a good range of opportunities for artists who want to experiment. The music scene is enormous! Thousand times bigger than in Madrid or Buenos Aires, which makes Berlin easy and difficult at the same time.

I heard your voice first on your collaboration(s) with Equitant (previously of the awesome Metal band ABSU), in a more traditional Techno-oriented soundscapes, but you have recently moved into more Trap-sounding realms. Was this a conscious decision coming from you, or more a byproduct of your work with the producer-duo Dualesque?

The truth is I was interested in developing more of a Pop Album than what I have done before. For me it is always important to challenge myself and I wanted to sing more than to narrate. I see “Dollhouse” more as an album with modern sounds and arrangements.

If you take a look back, from Dirty Princess (my first Electronic band) to today you will find a clear evolution towards musicality and experimentation. By the way, I’m already working on my next album and you will be surprised, it will be something new again, none of the things I have done before. That is what keeps me doing art, to share and discover new borders.

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Picture: Theo Lafleur

Whatever the beats, when it comes to Electronic Music production you have always been clearly influenced and enthralled by the more traditional and vintage (mostly eighties?) synth-aesthetics. Using unique synth-instruments in live situation etc., are you more of a software freak or a hardware geek?

I love technology. I’m always trying to find new instruments to play live with. For me software and hardware are both great. Each one has a function and they can complement wonderfully.

As your music videos, release-covers  and promo-pictures clearly show, visual aesthetics seem to be as important to you as the music itself. Do you have a background in visual arts or for example styling, either by studies, work or both?

All the graphic work, videos and pictures are done by me because I enjoy so much doing it! When I was living in Madrid I went to the University to study “Art History”. It is a beautiful career, I guess that opened my eyes in more than one direction.

As an artist who has toured a lot and has much experience from live performances, how important do you see the whole touring-aspect of the (Electronic) music industry these days? Which setting do enjoy more, the festival or the club?

I believe touring is the most important part of the whole deal. It is the only way you still can get in touch with the audience. Humans need Humans in order to feel more deep emotions, and this is what Art is about: emotions.

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Having experience of DJing as well, what kind of advice would you give to an aspiring DJ of for example underground Techno music? Do you personally enjoy performing your own material more, as opposed to material by others?

I enjoy doing more other’s material and I love to play my own songs live.

How do you see the progression and future of underground Dance Music in general, do you see more progression and new ideas, or classy vintage vibes in the future? How much of the wheel is worth reinventing?

I see a great evolution coming up. I don’t know exactly how it will be, but I guess it will be super interactive. Reinventing and adding up new hardware and software is the wheel of progress so it is more than welcome to come. The bases for the future are wirelessly wonderful. Music translates feelings and it will remain like that, but the way those feelings will be transmitted will tell us a new story.

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Thank you very much for this short interview! What does the rest of the year of 2016 have in store for you and your projects?

Hopefully I will finish my new album. There’s also the new Dualesque album coming up with several video releases, plus new releases on Killerrr from two wonderful women and artists: Carmel Zoum and Lotis Tyr.

On top of that Killerrr and Fulmen Records have started a new event series called “Matematic” to showcase Latin-American Electronic Arts in Berlin, we’re looking forward to give a space to new and young talents. As well as the “Killerrr Club”, which is our beloved label party, will have several editions this year.

Yasmin Gate

Killerrr Records

This Is Killerrr

Dieselsex – S/T

(Self-Released, 2016)

The musical visions of Keegan O’Reilly (A. Octo) came to my attention in 2014, in the form of his previous Atmospheric Black Metal project Death Sigh Ritual, which left a very good (twisted) taste into my mouth, when it comes to things like honesty of the music and sheer emotion straight from the depths of the artist.

Now he is back with a new project, this time using the means of classic Industrial Music and Punk Rock, two styles that can be often mixed together in a very cheesy way. Fortunately, this project has turned out surprisingly original and entertaining.

Again the “naked”, honest approach of the musician is very present. In fact, the dedicated and passionate attitude of the man can be clearly seen in one of his hobbies (I know of) outside making music, namely knife throwing. Picture that shit translated into creating music and you know what I mean.

This EP offers four songs and about 12 minutes of very vintage-sounding, unpretentious or ungimmicky Industrial (Punk) Rock with strong nods to the (eighties) origins of styles like EBM and Electropunk, while maintaining the gritty organic feeling of classic Punk. The term Anarcho comes to mind just as often as names like Ministry or Borghesia.

The drum-beats are nicely electronic and pounding but not by any means as massive as one might suspect from modern Industrial, reminding us of the “unimportance” of the drum-sounds (according to many minds) in Punk Rock, executed in a very classic drum-machine-like way while using quite organic sounds in all areas.

The guitars are pretty fat and growling, altho not too heavy on the low frequencies, still basically functioning as both electric bass and electric guitar in the more organic sense. The riffs are half of the nature as an Industrial artist would use his/her synth, and half of the Punk-mentality. Many samples and background synths (such as bass-lines and noises) make the whole spectrum a bit more livelier.

The vocals are shouting coming from quite up high, in an aggressive but not too preaching way. While the accent is quite clearly American, the general style of the performance usually reminds me of the British eighties. The words are also often spit out in cool rhythms and grooves, functioning as an instrument of their own.

As the four songs pass through me quite quickly, and leave me wanting more of the same stuff (or longer songs perhaps), this EP has made a very strong impression on me. It is always cool to find a younger generation finding so much atmosphere in the music of past decades one can create and perform “retro”-stuff in a passionate and generally honest way, but projects like this make me wonder if the music would have turned out pretty much the same anyway, without the artist digging the works of the past.

This is again a very ready package from Keegan, let us hope he continues this extremely positively surprising project. For all fans of hard-hitting vintage electronics and anarchist leather and denim -clad attitudes. A very cool (human) cyber-attack against the programming of modern minds.

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