2014 has been as tumultuous a year for metal as it has been for Oberlin and the world at large. Formerly rigid classifications have been bent backwards and broken, warped into positions a chiropractor wouldn’t even dream possible. This lack of regard for convention has allowed metal genres to shake off some of the stagnancy of the early 2010s, and has paved the way for seemingly disparate elements to synergize in unexpected harmonies, culminating in some of the most compelling metal music that’s ever been produced. Below is a list (in alphabetical order) of the most intriguing records metal workgroup has looked at over the course of the last year, dominated by Profound Lore and Relapse Records. Links to listen to album or song streams are available in the respective album titles:
Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation (Profound Lore)
The Body/The Haxan Cloak - I Shall Die Here (Rvng. Intl)
Conan - Blood Eagle (Napalm)
Earth - Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord)
Electric Wizard - Time To Die (Spinefarm)
Ethereal Riffian - Aeonian (Mulligore Production)
Gridlink - Longhena (Selfmadegod)
Indian – From All Purity (Relapse)
Inter Arma - The Cavern (Relapse) (most-chosen album by workgroup participants)
Job For A Cowboy - Sun Eater (Metal Blade)
Lord Mantis - Death Mask (Profound Lore)
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)
Pyrrhon - The Mother of Virtues (Relapse)
Sterilizer - Sterilizer (Independent)
Swans - To Be Kind (Young God)
Today Is The Day - Animal Mother (Southern Lord)
Wrekmeister Harmonies - Then It All Came Down (Thrill Jockey)
The last week of school coincided with a fairly active period of hip-hop releases including Mike Will Made-It’s awaited mixtape Ransom, Kirko Bangz follow-up to Progression IV, Progression V, and the mastered version of the Chief Keef and Kanye West collaboration Nobody. Each offering deserved a listen, albeit all for varying reasons:
Mike Will Made-It, Ransom
Kirko Bangz, Progression V
Chief Keef x Kanye West, “Nobody”
Anna Rose Greenberg, co-Traffic Director and host of “Germaniacs” interviewed Jürgen Engler of Die Krupps, legendary German industrial/electronic band who, incidentally, wrote the song “Germaniacs” after which Anna Rose’s show is named – hear Engler talk about the difference between American and German music, his favorite music, his new label, and more.
Before the CMJ Top 10 tomorrow, enjoy this list of very new releases to check out. We typically do things around here in multiples of 5, but I couldn’t resist tacking on one special release on the end.
1. Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions [Ed. note: She's been around since 1992, but she still manages to sound fresh and interesting and just, well, really good.]
2. Lord Raja – A Constant Moth [Ed. note: Electronic artist from New York]
3. Girlpool – Girlpool [Ed. note: Duo of teenagers from L.A., just guitar, bass, their voices, and some killer songwriting.]
4. Oceaan – Veritas [Ed. note: Producer from Manchester, U.K.]
5. Abelardo Barroso y la Orquesta Sensacion – Cha Cha Cha [Ed. note: Re-release of an incredible Cuban group from the 50s.]
6. Parquet Courts – Content Nausea [Ed. note: The extra 6th album is Parquet Court's second full-length of the year!]
The intro to Cadillactica, “Kreation,” sets the tone for a different Krit experience; the southern drawl remains, yet the production is more electronic and noisy, vaguely similar to Pusha T’s My Name is my Name or a tapered down Raider Klan release. Essentially, Krit is trying to produce an expansive sound and illustrate his evolution as an artist, which he does moderately well. In particular, the eponymous track “Cadillactica” is a highlight of the first half of the album, with Krit rapping quickly and confidently about his motivations over a futuristic, synth-driven beat by DJ Dahi.
The first half of the album remains strong with the track “King of the South” serving as a catchy yet guttural experience with Krit boasting: “Kick that south flow that you can’t get. Try to fuck the world but my dick won’t fit. My bitch like ‘Krit, motherfuck they feelings. You wanna be king, gotta claim that shit.’ I’m talkin’ ’bout off with they heads.” In execution, “King of the South” serves to be the end of side a, with the second half of the album returning to Krit’s southern roots.
The remaining productions are full of twangy soul and funk driven instrumentals akin to an 8ball and MJG or Scarface record, which theoretically contrasts Cadillactica’s aims; the album plays as an experience attempting to transcend southern rap, yet through production and lyrical content fails to do so. There is a definite attempt at shedding southern stereotypes, and results are mixed. Krit’s lyricism is fine, but suffers on occasion as it comes across as a formulaic, conscious attempt to produce these vivid, yet obscure, poetically driven verses. In a noticeable attempt at a refined lyrical experience, Krit declares on his opening track: “These hands of mine can hold the weight of planets. Allow me to use the hues of lunar cools to paint a canvas. Of explosions and vibrant emotions that we know we could. Explore the outer most with no risks. Even though we know we should. You are the ocean, I am a mountain.” This isn’t to say that Big Krit’s lyrics are bad by any means, it just doesn’t feel quite natural. The same can be said for the productions, as the album lacks cohesion, problematically weaving from electronic synths to funk, without ever truly settling down.
Big Krit is a victim to success. As all of his previous releases have received general acclaim, a newfound pressure is present; Krit has been good, consistent, solid, occasionally great, and as a result, expectations have risen. Cadillactica is another step, but it isn’t groundbreaking. In this sense, Krit fails to fully escape the “southern rap” moniker he holds, and although Cadillactica is worth a few listens, it doesn’t reach the hollowed territory of a transcendent southern-turned- classic rap album. Essentially, the album strives to be Outkast’s Stankonia or Speakerboxx/The Love Below, yet plays like Idelwind.
Bob says 7/10
Part 2 of International Workgroup’s playlist – a real Japanese pop star, a virtual Japanese pop star, an up and coming British singer of Ghanaian & Nigerian descent, and a legendary Malian singer with a U.S backing band.
1. Kyari Pamyu Pamyu (Japan) – Pon Pon Pon
This video is everything.
2. Hatsune Miku (Japan) – Sharing the world (“live” on David Letterman)
22nd century J-pop meets 20th century American TV.
3. Lola Rae (Nigeria’Ghana/UK)
There will be dancing.
4. The Sway Machinery featuring Khaira Arby (US and Mali)- Gawad Teriamou
Khaira Arby, also know as the Nightingale of the North hails from Mali.
Two WOBC DJs, Ariel Miller and Rachel MacLean, report on a recent concert visit…
I’m not sure what sort of crowd we expected at Alt-J’s show in Detroit on November 10th. I guess we expected more college-aged folks with undercuts, but the crowd seemed to be in their late 20s-30s with pretty average hair cuts. Maybe it was because they were tall and took up the most space, but there seemed to be a lot of tall white dudes. Suddenly we started to worry if we were, in fact, edgy and cool, or just as mainstream as the chicks in front of us obscuring our view with their flower crowns.
Some Mikky Ekko fellow opened for Alt-J. Things Mikky Ekko is into: how high he can sing, listening to himself sing, rain/leaving/love/smiles/the sun. His beat was fairly predictable, as were his lyrics. There was nothing about him that really pushed boundaries. We were bored, and this reinforced our sense of superiority. We were cool. Mikky Ekko was not.
Alt-J! Alt-J! Alt-J finally came on, accompanied by scores of e-cigs and vaporizers booting up around the room. Triangle hands all around! ∆∆∆∆∆∆∆∆
Alt-J is great. Their new album, This Is All Yours, is indistinguishable from their old album, An Awesome Wave, but we don’t even care because both have the same weird, catchy, danceable sound. At the concert, they played it safe, balancing the old and the new. It would have been nice to actually see them through their obscuring shroud of fog and lighting, and even nicer to see some energy or movement. But overall, they sounded just like they do on record, which was good enough for us.
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