Category Archives: Album reviews

Brainfeeder’s Azizi Gibson drops ‘Crown Violet’

Brainfeeder wordsmith and new addition to the team Azizi Gibson has generously shared a new track entitled ‘Crown Violet‘ on his Soundcloud page. Produced by NZ-based Kamandi, this track starts off small and ends H.U.G.E.

With a trap-infused downtempo feel, this song starts off reaaaaaal slow and chill. Textural sonic pleasure is rife in ‘Crown Violet’ in the form of reverb-soaked intermittent clicks, drops and taps. Imagine the tongue clicks from Drop It Like It’s Hot combined with gacked-out trap beats and you can start to get the picture. The production and vocals are shrouded in a cloudy haze that take pitched-down, stretched-out, f***ked-up beats to a new level. The ending outtro builds to a suspenseful climax that leaves the ear wanting more – at just over 2 minutes long, this is only a teaser of what is to come.

Gibson’s lyrics are self-deprecating and lighthearted and Kamandi’s production moulds perfectly around the words. However the weird / slightly boring rhythmic repetition of Gibson’s rhymes leaves something to be desired – I guess a lower level of lyrical energy is to be expected for such a hazed out, downtempo trap mix; but with such a huge drop, it does leave me wanting more.

It’s lucky the production carries the song so damn well or it wouldn’t be such a hit. And hopefully there will be more soon, with Gibson hinting at a new album release later in the year – so stay tuned. If Kamandi’s production on this is any indication of what’s to come, then Brainfeeder and Prehistoric Crew fans are in for a treat.

And while you’re at it, give some love to Kåm∆nd¡ for the excellent production on ‘Crown Violet’ (and check out Gifted/Suga Suga bootleg plus all the other goodness on his soundcloud!)


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Thundamentals – So We Can Remember

thundas hi res

Progressive, innovative, cohesive, definitive, informative, expansive … all these words fit the new album by Thundamentals. Add experimental, honest and evocative and you’ve got more than enough reasons to take time out to vibe on So We Can Remember.

May 3 marked the anticipated release of So We Can Remember (out now on Obese Records) from Australian hip hop outfit Thundamentals. With the lead single ‘Smiles Don’t Lie‘ debuting at #5 on the iTunes hip hop charts and coming in at #32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 Countdown of 2013 (bagging the highest position for a local hip hop act at the same time), success was always on the cards for this trio.

And it doesn’t stop there… dreamy pop-infused number ‘Something I Said (ft Thom Crawford)‘ is poised to generate as much, if not more, chart success than the lead single. The track has already grabbed #1 as the Most Viral Track on Spotify, as well as being the #2 Most Played Track on Triple J. It’s not hard to see why the group are generating such quick success – Thundamentals seem to have perfected the formula to creating an upbeat party song whilst still maintaining a raw essence of hip hop through personal experience.

Aside from their phenomenal chart success with single releases of more party/pop-oriented tracks, So We Can Remember also delves into the grittier side of Aussie hip hop, with some exceptional production courtesy of resident beat-mapper DJ Morgs. Standout in regards to production is the track ‘Much About Much’, which you can buy off iTunes here

Both MCs credit their partner in prime sounds DJ Morgs for embracing a wider outlook. “When Morgs delivered these beats, I was thrilled,” says Jeswon. “I feel like hip-hop is having another renaissance. There’s a new wave of artists and a new attitude towards beats. As an MC, you want to be working on beats that feel innovative, because that brings out the best in you as a lyricist.”

All in all, So We Can Remember is a catchy, melodic mix of pop/R&B-flavoured tracks and fun, party-oriented rhymes that make one reminisce to the good old days of summers past. It’s also great to see some hip hop invading the Australian mainstream charts again, so show your support and grab your copy of So We Can Remember, which is out on Obese Records now.


Thu 1 May @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC – SOLD OUT!

Fri 2 May @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC – SOLD OUT! 

Saturday 3 May @ Bendigo VIC – SOLD OUT! – GTM

Sunday 4 May @ Townsville NSW – GTM

Thu 8 May @ Flyrite, Perth WA – SOLD OUT!

Fri 9 May @ Mojo’s Fremantle WA – SOLD OUT!

Saturday 10 May @ Bunbury WA – GTM

Fri 16 May @ The Zoo, Brisbane QLD – SOLD OUT!

Sat 24 May @ The Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW – SOLD OUT!

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Single review: Run The Jewels – 36″ Chain

36″ Chain is the debut release off El-P and Killer Mike‘s 2013 release Run The Jewels. This track has a grimy, dark feel to it with an enticing eastern-tinged slow, grooving beat. With Killer Mike spitting fiery stream-of-conscious style lyrics all over the bar and El-P’s production skills, it’s hard to go wrong with this track.


‘From the ceilings of heaven to the gates of hell /

We murder death killed every stage we step /

Homicide times two better warn yourself, El’


El-P has a relaxed MCing style, and lags lazily over the beat for his verses while still appearing f***ing badass. Killer Mike brings a quintessentially Atlanta sound to the table too. Think Aesop Rock, a heavier version of Ludacris or the like mixed with more electronic trancey, dubstep and synths. This is new generation commercial hip hop and as usual, El-P is at the forefront of the movement.



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Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – Abrasions: Stitched Up

January 14 marked the release of Detroit producer Apollo Brown‘s take on Planet Asia‘s 2013 album Abrasions. The reimagined Abrasions: Stitched Up is a stripped back, soul-infused revamp of the original track listing, with slow beats and a smooth 90s nostalgia-clouded sound.

The Mello Music Group artist’s production on Stitched Up has invited comparisons between itself and the original Gensu Dean-produced tracks, which has sparked a few controversial reviews questioning whether the album was just a regurgitation of a bygone era’s sound. One journalist commented that ‘Abrasions: Stitched Up and the original Abrasions begin to swirl together in a self-referential ‘90s haze, the way much Golden Era evangelist rap created in the 21st century does’. Arguably Apollo’s production borrows much from the style of his predecessors, utilising short, repetitive soul samples as the basis for the lyrical placement in the song. I fail to see how this should come as a surprise however, seeing as Apollo’s, and indeed Mello Music Group’s ethic as a whole revolves around recreating and reimagining that Golden era sound.

Standout track – Reflections ft Rogue Venom 

As a whole Abrasions: Stitched Up may not be breaking hip hop grounds, but it mustn’t just be discredited as another generic replica of over-used obscure soul loops and 90s conscious rap revival. Apollo adds a new side to Planet Asia’s vocals, and an exciting re-arrangement of Gensu Dean’s classic work.

You can stream and/or purchase Abrasions: Stitched Up here.


Gemma Clarke

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Album review: IAMNOBODI – Elevated

October 1 marked the release of the latest stylings from Germany native Joe Kay, who operates under the pseudonym IAMNOBODI. This entirely instrumental album, which is aptly titled Elevated, is a satisfying mix of funk, soul and loungy beats. I must admit, I had my doubts about this album, but after listening I was completely floored.

Often instrumental beats mixtapes have the potential to go one of two ways, as the challenge lies in keeping the song progressive without the aid of vocal melodies, but also without overdoing the amount of instrumental or rhythmical ideas present. This challenge is overcome and executed perfectly on Elevated – sparse, unassuming rhythms slowly build and coalesce with smooth, spacey sounding synth lines and perfectly-timed handclaps and soulful samples to create a forward-moving and sonically interesting experience.

Each song feels like a song in its own right – the narrative of each track is hidden in the details, and the subtle intricacies of the atmospheric sounds and vocal samples are knitted together to create a seamless progression. But it doesn’t end there – just as you get into the groove of the song, Kay turns the rhythm upside down and inside out and removes a beat. Good quality instrumental beat-based music that keeps the ear guessing is hard to come by in a world where every man and his dog “makes beats”, but IAMNOBODI is definitely one to watch.

Highlights off Elevated include Do What You Love, Heaven’s Gate and Maputo Dance. 4/5 stars.

Elevated is out now on Soulection and available for streaming, download and purchase here.

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Album preview review: Slakah The Beatchild – Soul Movement vol. 2

Canadian soul/rhythm and blues producer Slakah The Beatchild is making us wait a little longer for the long-awaited Soul Movement vol. 2, which is now due to be released in January 2014. Thankfully the good man has released five tantalising bonus tracks available for free download off the beatchild bandcamp page, which you can find here.

This is an exciting taster – all five tracks showcase Beatchild’s extraordinary ability to blend elements of different genres seamlessly, whilst still maintaining a signature sound as a producer. Take I Surrender, for example – this sweet, soulful ballad sails over sparkly acoustic guitar and silky vocal harmonies. His sound is reminiscent of neo-soul legends such as Dwele and Bilal, but there is an unequivocal folk/ballad softness to counteract the RnB flavour. Getting In The Way is by far the most distinctive RnB track, with its 808 drums and and funky fretless bass. With a smooth, sexy groove and lots of dominant seventh chords (responsible for that sexy tension), Afrocentric ad lib vocal improvisations coalesce to produce a very Dwele-esque track.

I was really impressed by what I heard in these five bonus tracks. RnB producers are a dime a dozen these days, but artists that can create and maintain a unique sound are few and far between and I think Slakah The Beatchild falls neatly into this category. My only criticism is that the vocals on these five tracks sound very similar, with the focus being directly on high-end harmonies (especially on Plunderland), to the point that the lower register harmonies tend to be neglected. Soul Movement vol. 2 is released January 6 2014 but you can preorder your signed 12″ copy of the album here.

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Album review: Pusha T – My Name Is My Name

October 8th will bring the release of Pusha T‘s (one half of hip hop duo Clipse) debut solo album My Name is My Name, released on GOOD Music (home of King Yeezy himself) and Def Jam Recordings. While the majority of the tracks on My Name is My Name were produced by Kanye West, producers such as Hudson Mohawke and Swizz Beatz added their signature sounds on a number of tracks. Nevertheless, the album does possess an undeniably classic Kanye West sound – not necessarily in a bad way, but at times I did forget I was listening to Pusha T and not West himself. Unsurprisingly the album has a plethora of Pusha T’s more commercial counterparts providing collaborations, with artists such as Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz featuring on the promotional singles.

That said, My Name is My Name is still rife with Pusha’s unique sound and strong narrative ethic. A particular favourite track is Numbers On The Boards, with its jarring beat and fuzzy sub-bass perfectly complementing Pusha’s anecdotal rap. Another standout is Let Me Love You (ft. Kelly Rowland) – Pusha raps lazily over a sparse, slow-moving beat, while Rowland’s catchy vocal hook is reminiscent of late 90s RnB. Even Sweet Serenade (ft. Chris Brown) sounds good with Pusha T hurling his smooth pearls of wisdom over the most boring beat and hook ever (think Gucci Mane in Trap House but even lamer).

Overall My Name Is My Name deserves a wholesome 4 stars. I enjoyed it, despite being somewhat repelled by the overwhelming omnipresence of Kanye West on the album. Although not officially released until October 8, the great folks at Myspace have made the entire album available for streaming here.

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EP Review: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Deeper EP

This week I’ll be covering the new 12″ EP from Freddie Gibbs and MadlibDeeper EP. This is the final 12″ to be released before the two release their upcoming full-length album, Cocaine Piñata (released February 4th 2014 on Madlib Invazion). I love everything that Madlib does and although this doesn’t sound too far off what we’ve heard from the Beat Konducta and Gibbs before, it’s still an exciting taster of what’s to come. 

The title track Deeper is fresh, with Gibbs rapping a continuous, stream-of-consciousness lyric over a short synthy disco loop. Madlib slips in some chopped up classic soul samples just before the hook, which provides sonic interest to an otherwise repetitive track. Surprisingly I actually prefer the B-side track on this record – Harold’s is smooth and slow-grooving, with funk guitar and a driving 808 kick. Gibbs’ vocals are doubled in sections, which gives it a less abrasive tone (if you listen to the lyrics at all, you’ll see what I mean by abrasive…).

Overall, Deeper EP is a compelling taster of what is to come on Cocaine Piñata. And with acts such as Raekwon, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Bada$$ and Scarface set to feature on the record, there’s 99.99999% chance that this album will be on par with any of Madlib’s plethora of mixtapes. Deeper EP is out now – stream it here.

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Album review: John Legend – Love In The Future

On August 30 this year, R&B/soul singer-songwriter John Legend dropped his latest LP Love In The Future. The album is reportedly a collection of autobiographical love songs written in the wake of Legend’s recent marriage to Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen. I think the “love” theme certainly comes out on this album. Perhaps a little too much… I’ve always had mixed feelings about Legend. I love certain collaborations (such as with Kanye West, Jay-Z, Malik Yusef, Alicia Keys) where his voice just seems to shine and hold its own place in the music, but when I listen to his solo records none of that uniqueness is present. Although produced by Yeezy himself, Love In The Future gives me the same feeling – even after several listenings I feel nothing, if not slightly sick of over-used conventional chord progressions. The songs on Love In The Future have too much of a pop rock sound and feel way too over-produced, which dampens the rawness and imperfection that I associate with good R&B and soul.

If I had to choose a standout track I’d pick ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ (ft Rick Ross). Rick Ross provides a little interest to an otherwise uninspiring repetitive soul hook and too much auto-tune with his verse (rife with social commentary about the idea of excess within the hip hop game). I feel like Kanye is relying on his old trick of sampling a bar or two of a classic soul track and expecting Legend’s voice to take the song somewhere, which definitely isn’t happening. With 16 tracks squashed into this hour-long album, I think Legend could have written four tracks and achieved the same effect on Love In The Future.

To sum up, I was not overly impressed with this album. Maybe Legend should leave the neo-soul thing to the masters and go live on an island with his bikini model wife.

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Album review: Buika – La Noche Más Larga

This week I thought I’d stray slightly from the hip hop and R&B track and share a new treasure that I have chanced upon. It’s been a five-year long hiatus from the studio for Concha Buika, but thankfully June 2013 brought the release of the latest stylings from the Mallorcan songstress. Buika’s music is a compelling, heady mix of flamenco, jazz, soul, afrocuban and Timba stylings that perhaps stems from her experience growing up in Mallorca with Equitorial Guinea ancestry.

Where to start with La Noche Más Larga? Hearing this album for the first time was one of those rare moments in which you hear new music so engrossing that you lapse out of reality and get taken away for a few moments (or in this case, all 12 songs). I don’t need to know a word of Spanish to understand what Buika is singing about – all is conveyed perfectly through the power and dynamic emotion in the tone of her voice.

The title song, La Noche Más Larga is the first awakening that this is not an easy-listening jazz/flamenco fusion album. Buika’s powerhouse of a voice absolutely envelopes the listener in a smoky, soaring whirlwind of passion, caressing the lyrical melodies of pianist Ivan Lewis with her earthy, improvised wanderings.

The flamenco-flavoured version of Ne Me Quitte Pas  is another standout – her voice soars effortlessly over a 12/8 feel with Lewis’ insistent continuous melody heightening the anticipation of each next bar, which gives the song this great driving force. While the prospect of singing to this kind of unrelenting time-feel would have most vocalists running for the hills,  it doesn’t seem to pose a challenge for Buika. Rather, it seems the musicians are playing catch-up to Buika’s melody. Someway around the 3-minute mark into the 7 minute track, the listener is hit by a chorus of harmonising Buikas. It is impossible not to be encased in the swirling waterfall of harmonious, velvety voices.

In my opinion, there are no “bad” or unnecessary tracks on this album – each song has been strategically placed to complement the overall listening experience, and it has definitely worked. I could write a thesis on how good this album is but I’m positive no-one would read it. Point is, go and listen.

You can stream the entirety of La Noche Más Larga here.


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