Battles – Gloss Drop
Label: Warp (2011)
Genres: Art Rock, Experimental Rock
Sounds Like: Don Caballero, Metronomy
Review by TG Keas, KXUA Music Director
Many bands, over the course of decades, will see members come and go. But it can be a quite a different story when a founding member leaves almost immediately after the band finds a sudden surge in popularity. Guitarist/Keyboardist/Weird vocalist Tyondai Braxton jumped ship last year, much to our chagrin. But in his absence, the remaining members of Battles have found a way to thrive – help in forms ranging from niche godfathers (Yamantaka Eye!) to the well-known (Gary Numan!). While one would expect such a stable to bankrupt any sense of cohesion, Gloss Drop is able to manage such a wide array of talent and style with its own signature spin. The goofy, groovy fun that made us all love “Atlas” has been resurrected. It’s way too fun for the experimental, math-y rock that we all know it is.
Junior Boys – It’s All True
Label: Domino Records (2011)
Genres: Electronica, Club/Dance, House, Neo-Soul
Sound Like: Holy Ghost!, Kraak & Smaak, Lindstr∅m & Christobelle, Steely Dan
Review by Eric Jensen
Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus, a.k.a. Junior Boys, are the electronica duo whose each new release presents the listener with much more than meets the ears. Anyone who has taken the time to unravel the turns of phrase, oblique references, and symbolic meanings behind Steely Dan album titles and song lyrics, understands that the best artists constantly drive you to look deeper. Junior Boys’ last album, 2009’s Begone Dull Care, was a conceptual piece inspired by Norman McLaren and Oscar Peterson’s collaboration of the same name. Greenspan was disappointed with fan response to the album, referencing Orson Welles’ F For Fake documentary about how art is often more about gimmickry and branding than about the art itself, paralleling the central position marketing had taken in that album’s release. The title of this album, It’s All True, is a reference to Welles’ never completed quasi-propaganda film shot in Brazil during World War II. The line appears in the sparse and reflective “Playtime”, a song with overtones about breaking up, but ultimately about disarray and plans and dreams going unfulfilled and unrealized. Case in point, the title of the bouncing epic house track that closes the album, “Banana Ripple”, is an ode to the eccentric and obsessive Howard Hughes, who for a short time had a compulsive hunger for banana ripple ice cream. The complex musical structure, 170 overlaid audio tracks, creates a manic aural swirling effect, mirroring the madness of Hughes’ later life. This may contrast with Junior Boys’ reputation for audio minimalism, but the precision use of that multitude of tracks jives perfectly with their craftsmen approach to electronica. It’s All True is another well-crafted, complex, and enigmatic release from this talented Canadian duo.
Bryan Carter – Enchantment
Review by David Zeek Martin
It is difficult to believe that a man only 20 years old is capable of performing with as much perceived experience and soul as drummer and band leader Bryan Carter. The arrangements are tight, the brass is spot on, the piano meanders in striking ways, and the bass keeps everything moving along in one direction – that led by Carter. Smooth, well produced, mellow and exceptional. Julliard alumni all, the talent shines. The main theme found throughout the ride is that of, as the title lets you know, enchantment. This is the kind of jazz that makes me wander over to my cabinet to prepare a nice drink and turn the lights down to contemplate the good things that life throws at you.
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going To Eat That?
Label: Rhymesayers (2011)
Genre: Hip-Hop; Trip-Hop
Sounds Like: Sims, Blueprint, Aesop Rock, El-p
Review by Harrison Grimwood
In the early 1900s, a woman by the name of Mary Mallon was identified as the first healthy carrier of the typhoid virus in the United States. As she moved from place to place, those around her would mysteriously fall ill with the disease and, although she sought to help them after they were afflicted, her presence only made things worse. When she was first approached by typhoid researchers, she stubbornly refused to submit herself to their tests, as the very idea of a healthy carrier was preposterous in that day and age. She was placed in forced quarantine at various points in her life, but refused to give up her job as a cook the few times she was released from custody. For the last 23 years of her life, the woman known as Typhoid Mary was held in isolated quarantine. Her body, still dangerous even in death, was cremated and her ashes were buried in the Bronx.
So what does this have to do with hip-hop? I have no freaking clue. The Hail Mary Mallon trio – Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz – have released “Are You Gonna Eat That?”this project is an adventurous foray into a blend of hip hop that seems to be very hard to execute lately. Successfully mixing old samples and production techniques that are straight out the ’80s with awesome, yet trippy electronic sounds and a modernized feel, the production on this album simply accentuates Rob and Aesop’s lyrical skills.