Artist: Thom Yorke
Label: XL Recordings
Thom Yorke needs no introduction at this point, and saying he needs no introduction goes without saying, so why am I saying it? I don’t know, I just needed an introduction in this review. We all know how influential his band “Radiohead” is. A band that have garnered much acclaim from critics and music fans alike with their eclectic music that strives to innovate and push boundaries. In fact, they’re so acclaimed that they just recently were inducted into the “Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame,” and if you’re aware of the “Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame,” you know they tend to ignore artists that are truly innovative, but here we are pleasantly surprised. Aside from “Radiohead,” Yorke has embarked on numerous music endeavors, including a decent solo career. Now, I’m not going to lie and say I’ve been the biggest fan of his solo material, (please don’t crucify me) because much of his music tends to be predictable or sound like “Radiohead” b-sides. That isn’t to say his music has been devoid of creativity and meaningful content, but the replay value is hardly there, but upon hearing that he was set to score Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake I was immediately intrigued. My expectations were exceeded with that soundtrack. Yorke beautifully crafted a dark and melancholy contrast to the film’s disturbing visuals. Following that up, Yorke has released his third solo album ANIMA, and this is the Thom Yorke solo album I’ve been waiting for. This album sounds like what I expected it to sound like, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This album has everything we’ve come to expect with Yorke’s solo material. The layers upon layers of synths, off-kilter drum patterns, and reverb-drenched vocal loops and harmonies layered to fall in disarray, but this time around this sound is perfected and truly hypnotic. Inspired by the subject of dreams, Yorke and longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich fully immerse the listener in a world of “Ambient Techno” that’s hypnotic and creates humanity out of the machines at work. The album’s opener “Traffic” hits you with buzzing synth bass and skittering synth arpeggios that build to a subtle climax that doesn’t bombard you with self-indulgence. This sets the tone for the rest of the album quite well, because the rest of the album follows a very similar note, and that’s the point, to hypnotize you and put you in a state that feels like a dream, and sometimes even a nightmare. Much of the album’s content deals heavily with claustrophobia and anxiety, and Yorke uses themes of dystopia to evoke feelings of anxiety, but there’s never a feeling of discomfort. A sense of urgency yes, and even a feeling of discombobulation, but it’s controlled and there is a frequent hopeful tone. The track “Dawn Chorus” is most definitely a standout track where Yorke’s almost spoken word vocals lay out a paranoid string of consciousness, but there is a sense of comfort beneath the madness. This isn’t an album that pummels you with abrasion or tumult, and it’s not trying to unsettle you, but with the darker subject matter, instead of delving further into the rabbit hole, Yorke and Godrich find a way to guide you through a meditative experience amidst the anxiety, as if they know most of their listeners find comfort and beauty in the sadder art, and pulling that off is no easy feat. If you find Thom Yorke to be pretentious or self-indulgent then this album isn’t for you, and the mere idea of Yorke using his own dreams as inspiration might make you cringe, but it’s definitely worth a listen. That’s right, i’m talking to you ya Thom Yorke detractors.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Album: Plastic Anniversary
Label: Thrill Jockey Records
Just about any object can be used as an instrument. Anything that makes a sound can be utilized in a musical composition. ANYTHING. A washing machine, recordings of bovine uteruses, sperm hitting paper, audio of plastic surgeries, you name it, and though these sound like absurd examples, guess what? Someone has sampled all of these things in their music. “Matmos” is their name, a duo and married couple that produce music comprised of field recordings. The duo have been doing this since the late 90’s with a different theme for each album, creating dark and often surprisingly catchy tunes made up of nothing but field recordings. Their unorthodox approach to recording music has garnered acclaim, and considering how this approach to music could easily become a gimmick or novelty, it’s impressive how they’ve kept our attention after all these years. So what’s the next theme for their new album? Plastic. Oh plastic, how would civilization survive without it? Humans love convenience, and though it’s destroying our environment, we just can’t live without it, because the majority of our products are comprised of the plastic, and of course, “Matmos” have utilized a myriad of plastic objects to create their new album Plastic Anniversary. This album isn’t just the two banging on plastic objects creating only a percussive nature in the vain of “Stomp,” the countless plastic objects are sequenced and manipulated to create loops and layers upon layers of sounds that take the roles of rhythm, melody, and atmosphere. Many plastic objects are utilized like the breaking of vinyl on the opening track “Breaking Bread,” the use of pill capsules and the eerie and ominous tones the two get out of them on the track “The Crying Pill,” and the most captivating of all, the primal sounds created using riot shields which are scraped and banged on on the track “Thermoplastic Riot Shield.” Matmos cleverly show us all how anything can be an instrument. Everything from billiard balls to plastic horns, and the two impressively create whole melodic compositions that aren’t just a bunch of noise. That’s their forte. Field recordings have been used far before “Matmos” came along, but no one has ever utilized this recording method quite like them. Their music is incredibly innovative and they always think outside the box, finding new ways to create music using unorthodox instruments. If they can make you dance to a washing machine, then i’d say they’re IDM’s biggest innovators.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
The masters of field recordings, “Matmos” are set to release their new album Plastic Anniversary on March 15th. The album’s instrumentation consists of sounds of various plastic objects. Why? Well, it’s “Matmos,” that’s why. Who else can make you groove to washing machine sounds? The duo have shared two brand new music videos for the tracks “Breaking Bread” and “Thermosplastic Riot Shield” off the upcoming album, and in true “Matmos” fashion, the duo’s imaginative talent has found a way to make you dance to unorthodox instrumentation. You can watch the videos below:
Album: Mazy Fly
Genre: Art Pop/Experimental/Electronic
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Have you ever discovered an artist so unapologetically imaginative and creative to the point where you suspect that this artist is not from this planet? Well, Chrystia Cabral A.K.A. “SPELLLING” most certainly fits this description. Following her 2017 debut Pantheon of Me, the Oakland, CA based musician delves further into her spiritual, poetic, and otherworldly mind on her new album Mazy Fly, the first on new label “Sacred Bones Records,” which is a perfect home for her immense experimental ambitions. This album, like I mentioned earlier, is vastly otherworldly with spacey instrumentation consisting of minimal and at times dark synthesizers, bare but mood-setting drum machine patterns, and eerie sound textures that can be as nightmare-inducing as they are angelic. The album is produced almost entirely by Cabral, but she also brings along other musicians for the ride to create her own universe. The live drums and guitars that flirt heavily with “Doom Metal” on the track “Real Fun,” the pristine saxophone on the track “Afterlife,” and the subtle violin on the epic track “Under The Sun,” are all gorgeous additions to this spiritual journey of an album, and also like I mentioned earlier, the alienistic lyrical themes further prove my hunch that she is from another planet. With lyrical themes such as aliens traveling to earth to discover music and dance to Billie Holiday and “Billie Jean,” and the use of theramin that evokes the spirit of B-level “Sci-Fi” films, it’s apparent that Cabral is a visionary who constantly looks past the surface level and lays her eyes upon the stars. Though she often speaks from the perspective of someone who extremely admires the universe and it’s endlessness, Cabral explores human sentiment as well. The track “Hard to Please,” speaks on the emotional and mental toll the pain of trying to please an unsatisfied lover can take on someone, but with a constant sense of optimism, this album never strays into nihilism or cynicism, no matter how deeply personal this album can get. Though I feel like Chrystia Cabral has yet to reach her magnum opus, Mazy Fly is one giant leap toward her masterpiece.
Written By: Steven Sandoval
Here’s a surprise. “Noise Rock” band “HEALTH” have teamed up with rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA for a new track titled “Hate You.” This collaboration makes sense honestly, given the fact that “HEALTH’s” new album Vol. 4: Slaves of Fear is “Industrial” driven and JPEGMAFIA’s at home when he raps over noisy discombobulating beats. The two are a perfect match. You can listen to the track below:
Bay Area based “Industrial” duo “Chelsey and the Noise” released an impressive E.P. last year titled Blank Frames, an E.P. laden with hard-hitting “EBM” inspired production along with catchy songwriting that brought an undeniable sense of catchiness to the usually chaotic world of “Industrial.” Today the duo dropped a stellar new track titled “Mercy Kneel,” and this thing is incredibly addictive. You can listen to the track below:
Artist: Charlotte Adigéry
Genre: Electronic/Experimental Pop/Synth-Pop
Zandoli, the new E.P. from Belgian-Caribbean artist Charlotte Adigéry is utterly unique “Electronic” infused “Pop” that is immensely refreshing. This is her second E.P. following her 2017 self-titled EP, and her work with frequent collaborator Bolis Pupul has reached new heights. The two work together perfectly. Adigéry flourishes on each versatile track with sensual swagger with vocal and lyrical content that can be just as playful as it is imaginative, and I really do mean the production is versatile, because these are shapeshifting multifaceted tracks that can be tribal influenced like the all French sung opening track “Paténipat,” and then they can be rich in danceable wonkiness like the track “High Lights,” which has an unorthodox approach to “Pop” with it’s skittering synths. “I know I shouldn’t do it, but I like synthetic wigs a lot,” sings Adigéry, paying homage to the empowerment of wigs and hair extensions, and though this may sound surface level, the way she delivers this theme is completely liberating. Adigéry is an impressive and thoughtful poet as well, metaphorically speaking on sex and seduction on the track “B B C,” and considering how seamlessly she transitions from this track into the conceptual closing track “Okashi,” it’s evident that Adigéry is far from one-dimensional. Unfortunately this E.P. flies by with each listen, because it’s only 5 tracks in length, but every second of these tracks are vastly promising, and they leave me begging for a full-length album this year.
Written By: Steven Sandoval