Friday, November 14, 2014

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

October 27, 2014 • Mass Appeal

We ran the jewels once last year, and now it's time for round two—and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been pumped for this release. El-P has been on fire lately, and he still shows no signs of stopping with this album.

Run the Jewels 2 is about as perfect of a sequel as you could ask for, if you wanted more of the same. It's basically the same album as the original—the same production style, the same crazy sampling, the same great beats that are impossible not to jam along to. It doesn't feel like a collection of leftovers from the original sessions or B-sides or anything like that, and the first four tracks are about as perfect as things get. I love the sparse, bass-heavy, aggressive beats like on "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" or "Close Your Eyes". The album on the whole does feel a little heavier than the debut, which I like a lot.

The momentum does slow down a little bit on the second half, as things slow down and get less intense and violent and a little more introspective (for some godforsaken reason) (except "All Due Respect" which is appropriately bangin'). The low point arrives at "Love Again", in no small part thanks to the overly-sexually-charged lyrics. I've never like that kind of thing, particularly when it's as dumb as it is here. (It doesn't help that the guest rapper herself isn't really very good at all. But on that note, I love Zach de la Rocha's appearance on "Close Your Eyes"—where has that guy been??)

But this is definitely a worthy follow-up, debatable as good as or maybe even a touch better than the first album. Necessary listening for anyone who even remotely liked the first one—especially since they've released both for free. Now: time to look forward to Meow the Jewels.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Keeper – MMXIV

July 5, 2014 • PlasticSkull Records

Keeper delivers some excruciating, pounding doom metal that's some of the filthiest I've heard. The grimy distortion on downtuned-to-hell guitars (that low bass string must not even be remotely taut at this point), sputtering vocals, and echoing production make the album almost uncomfortable to listen to—although that's kind of a good thing in this case.

The songs are all quite long and sprawling without a whole lot of real structure to them, so the music can be a bit hard to follow, especially in the slower parts. It's not my preferred way to do doom; I like having some organization and clarity to the songwriting, but MMXIV goes off in all sorts of directions, losing me easily. Sometimes, when things pick up speed, it's not quite so bad and I can get into the rhythmic grooving they do in some parts, like "Perception/Prescription".

On the whole, it's really not a bad album. It's not something I'll put on often, as I simply don't get into doom much and this album doesn't do it quite to my tastes anyway. But I still feel like there's something worth looking into here, at least for established doom fans.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter

August 13, 2014 • Rok Lok Records

Cestine is another minimalist ambient drone project—but I don't want to sound dismissive because this kind of music is something I can really never get enough of—especially when it's as beautiful and relaxing as Other Half / Bright Encounter is. Simple washes of looping synths and distant glitches off in the background remind me a bit of Basinski's tape works (without the orchestration). There's also some voice sampling and I think some field recordings mixed in to keep things interesting.

Like most drone, it's very slow-burning music (understandable for two big fifteen-minute tracks), but I don't think it ever really goes on longer than it should and the pacing is pretty good. "Bright Encounter" has an especially good structure, with a great fade-in and transition from somber piano to some kind of synthetic-beach aesthetic, back to atmospheric droning.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for this genre but I can't recommend Cestine enough. Well-produced zone-out ambient, that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Idylls – Prayer for Terrene

March 30, 2014 • self-released

Finally, some mathcore I can really get into. I'm usually of the opinion that the genre is too messy and incomprehensible to be that enjoyable, but Idylls are doing something really cool here.

Sure, the album has its share of chaotic blasting, but it always feels like they still keep some sort of rhythm going so the listener doesn't ever feel lost. Plus, it's often glued together with some solid sludgy chugging sections, which I always tend to enjoy. There's even a bit of great melodic sections like "Fagged Out on the Beach" (probably one of my favorite tracks) to break up the crazy grinding. That's not to say Idylls doesn't do crazy grinding well—they definitely do.

Aside from the staggering seven-minute opener, almost all of the songs all clock under three minutes. But every one of those minutes is totally packed and Idylls squeezes everything they can out of their time on this album. I also have to give props for the production—I love the squealing saxophone that pops up every once in a while, and the growly, dirty bass sound is really great.

My one misgiving is that I don't get the weird tangents they sometimes go off on, like the bizarre bluesy thing they do for part of "PCP Crazy" or the weird surf thing on "Crashing Boar"—it breaks my immersion a lot and simply isn't in a style I like. At least they don't dwell on it for long.

Anyway, even though I haven't been following grindcore much this year, I'm glad this album crossed my path. It's definitely one to take a taste of for anyone into that sort of music or is looking for anything a little on the aggressive side.