The opening track on UK pop talent Katy Bs new EP, Danger, is called “Aaliyah”. At this point we generally know what we’re in for when mention is made of the late singer– some haphazard reappropriation of a vocal track or Timbaland beat, the trademark baby coos of“Are You That Somebody?” buried behind layers of echo or slapped onto somone else’s production. But Katy flips expectations here by creating a song that sounds nothing like an Aaliyah original, instead paying homage by making her the subject of the track’s lyrics. “Aaliyah, please– this is green envy/ Why must you taunt me, girl?,” she sings over a bass rhythm. Katy trades lines seamlessly with guest Jessie Ware, another UK breakout vocalist, crafting a lyrical love triangle that gazes at Aaliyah from a brand new angle. Together the singers take low-hanging fruit and make something complex from it.
Ware joins a stacked lineup of collaborators on the four-song Danger EP that also includes producers Diplo, Jacques Greene, Geeneus, and Zinc, along with rappers Iggy Azalea and Wiley. Which could have very easily made for a crowded, linkbait-laden mess of an EP under another artist’s jurisdiction (see: Charli XCX’s Super Ultra EP), but Katy B proves herself an excellent curator. Danger‘s a collective effort that’s diverse but never motley, warm never weak, tough but never harsh, slick but never washed out. While Katy’s the centrepiece of the release, she’s also an expert chameleon who bends to accommodate her collaborators without sacrificing her vision of gentle UK bass-bred club music. She invites them to see things her way. Full review here.
DJ Shadow, or Josh Davis, burst onto the scene at the ripe old age of 24. It was the release of his seminal debut album Entroducing….. that scored him, quite literally, a place in the dance music record books: recorded entirely using samples, Entroducing….. ’s innovation scored it a place in the Guinness Book of Records. His sound heralded the explosion of instrumental hip-hop, and four studio albums later, he returns with a compilation album, the aptly titled, Reconstructed.
A multi-instrumentalist, his experimental group UNKLE (with James Lavelle) showed how diverse and forward thinking his musical ear was. Keeping himself busy, he released several mix CDs and contributed to various compilations along the way, not to mention founding labels Solesides and Quannum.
Shadow’s releases over the years have been few and far between – only four studio albums in 15 years. So with any new release, there’s bound to be a bit of excitement mixed with a little bit of apprehension. Shadow has always been one of those polarising artists; some call him a genius, some think his self-obsessed excursions into the experimental are his way of trying to stay relevant. Whatever the case, there’s no denying his importance to the music scene. Full review here
The Gaslamp Killer
Breakthrough is the The Gaslamp Killers’s first full-length album, and with label head Flying Lotus in close support he’s brought something completely insane to the table. His own press described this album as “a manic and mystic trip through the mind of a madman”, and that should be a tip-off to the intensity unleashed in Breakthrough. A resident DJ at LA’s Low End Theory club night, The Gaslamp Killer has a high tempo, frenetic energy that’s exciting but almost disengaging. In the same way Frank Zappa can be good in small doses and the lunatic on the street is funny for a meet and greet, the full 47 minutes of this album becomes a bit wearing.
This is not to say it’s not enjoyable. With a fantastic cast of supporting characters from Daedules(himself no stranger to bringing the insanity to the long play format) to Samiyam, there’s certainly plenty of quality here. Veins, which features the vocal talents of Gonjasufi, is the first track proper and one of the most accessible: a moody, atmospheric beat driven piece with orchestra overtones and Gonjasufi’s heart-rending vocals. This is followed up by Holy Mt Washington where a massive beat and crash tempo is set up too slow to be dance and too fast for relaxed, buzzing chords setting a melody, human whistling giving it a lost in an alleyway feel. Next is Father, with Spanish language samples ripped and stretched and a general cacophony of mayhem that explodes in to experimental music and disappears in to the sitar intro for Critic. Full review here
Get ready to dance, and smile; or, more likely, dance while smiling. After teasing fans for two years with unforgettable releases on French favourite Ed Banger Records, Breakbot has finally released his debut LP By Your Side, and it’s a feel-good arrival just in time for summer.
Lovers of nu-disco, funk and soul will connect with what Paris-based Thibaut Berland has created; By Your Side is a collection of well-written, slow-burn love songs. Ballads and more up-tempo piano-laden numbers meld together effortlessly, all benefiting from the Frenchman’s love of bumpy basslines, beautiful melodies and heartfelt vocals. It’s also an album that will have you feeling like you’re back in the 1970s and 80s in many regards, too, for Berland’s love of disco shines through on almost every track, albeit a love tempered by a healthy dose of contemporary electronica.
I first came across Breakbot via PNAU in 2009; the Australian lads had enlisted the bearded Frenchman to remix Baby, and the way he was able to take an already great song to another level had me searching down previous remix work he’d completed for Sneaky Sound System, Justice, Digitalism and Metronomy. Full article here