September is always a busy month in the world of hip-hop and rap music, and this year's calender month marks another landmark period for the booming genre, with a host of big releases attracting attention. Amongst the release schedule, three records in particular standout, namely, Kid Cudi's debut LP Man On The Moon: The End Of The Day, Jay-Z's star-stuffed The Blueprint 3 and Wu-Tang mainstay Raekwon's long-awaited Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II. Yet although those first two records are securing the bulk of press hype, it's Raekwon that's seemingly walked away triumphant from this rap battle royal, delivering an album of blazingly fierce rap.
Whilst Raekwon's competitors have been focussing on dressing up their records with head-scratching concepts (Cudi's Man On The Moon is divided into five acts with Common narrating the action, go figure) and an overload of big name guests (Kanye West, Rihanna, Drake, Young Jeezy and even Empire Of The Sun make appearances on The Blueprint 3), Raekwon gets down to business on OB4CL2. The infamous Wu-Tang rapper sounds entirely uninhibited on the record, letting loose some serious lyrical fire throughout. Of course, there's a few hook-ups with producers like Dr. Dre and the late great J Dilla, but beyond that, the record is a reminder for all who'd forgotten that Wu-Tang Clan and especially Raekwon are as potent and essential as ever. - Dave Ruby Howe
You’re in a difficult position when you find a new band and are ready to swear your undying love to them but you find out they’ve released one solitary song. You don’t know where they’ll go from here, you don’t know if you’ll even like it when they do because of you listened to that one little tune around fifty times already. Undeniably, you’re in a quandary. I know the feeling. For the last month we’ve been playing to death a track called Look At Me by UK synth-poppers Mirrors. It’s filled with pillow-soft synth bubbles, chilly atmospherics and glumstruck vocals which result in a resolutely stunning three and half minutes. But it’s not enough. As is common with such cases of new-band fixations, we had to know more about this enigmatic four piece.
As it turns out, Mirrors are as shrouded in mystery as their music, with scarcely little about the band yet to be revealed other than that they came together following the unfortunate conclusion of Mumm-Ra. “Since the growth of the Internet as a promotional tool, bands have become extremely accessible, and the mystique has vanished,” Mirrors says. “Mirrors aim to preserve that sense of mystery. Everything about us is presented subject to our vigorous aesthetic. What might be expected with other bands, we do not expect from ourselves.”
Beginning with such a bold and ambitious declaration as that makes it clear. Mirrors know what they want. Call it calculated, but I’d call it considered. They’re constructing an environment around the band itself, which, like Look At Me, is frighteningly easy to become immersed in.
“Our aspirations are to make a sort of electronic soul music,” Mirrors reveals. “. Individually, we had all come from a background of traditional pop music, and each of us felt as though we had taken it as far as we wanted to. Gradually we started falling in love with the seemingly limitless possibilities of electronic music as well as those artists that have managed to imbue stark electronic sounds with emotion and feeling.”
From here, Mirrors confirm that their next move is to reward the faithful and get out some new material. “We’re currently working towards an album’s worth of material. The process is very slow as we effectively build our songs in the studio, piece by piece until we have something that fits the band aesthetic. It’s very methodical, but it works. We want to alter the way people approach commercial/pop music. We want pop music to be an experience, not just a song.” Sounds like a plan. – Dave Ruby Howe
San Francisco duo Girls are masters of simplicity. From their love of stripped back and fuzzed-out garage rock tunes to their deliberately direct album title (it’s literally just called Album) Girls keep everything simple and immediate, and it really works for them.
On Album, the duo of Chris Owens and Chet White traverse through a set of sun drenched San Fran tales, from top-down roadtrips, to hazy trip-outs and wistful bust ups. While that might come off as a bit scattered, Album never feels ill-considered, and really Girls are just in a rush to move onto their next creative spark, never fussing over their production credentials or instrumentation.
As it stands, Album is pretty much perfectly of the moment. Whether you’re in the Southern Hemisphere and starting to head into the warmer months or you’re in Northern Hemisphere and are already feeling nostalgic for the fading summer moments, this is for you. – Dave Ruby Howe
Hot on the heels (or rather casually surfing behind) the success of psychedelic pop acts like MGMT, Animal Collective and long dormant sample-masters The Avalanches comes this new wave of blissed out artists with an affection for skewed pop-music and windswept psychdelica. Already the victim of a host of silly genre names – including no-fi, dreamwave and the piss-taking chillgaze – the emergence of this scene has been dominated by the likes of Washed Out, Emil & Friends and unquestionably, mystery-clad US duo Neon Indian.
The brainchild of former Ghosthustler and current VEGA mainman Alan Palomo, Neon Indian have already kicked up whirlwind of hype in their relatively short career and it’s easy to see why. With their debut LP, the appropriately named Psychic Chasms, Neon Indian successfully build this sprawling, psychedelic landscape of misshapen samples and bottomed-out synthesizers that feels like the perfect mixtape for a spontaneous cross-country roadtrip, twisting and turning through desert roads and star-clad night skies.
Whatever we’re calling this genre it is all sorts of fantastic. – Dave Ruby Howe
There’s something uniquely Danish about Fagget Fairys; an aggressive modernity stirred to a potent beat that marks the duo (that’s MC Ena and DJ Sensimilla) as being distinctly of the Jutland, a place where political, social and artistic progressivism is the norm rather than the exception.
It’s in Feed the Horse that the duo has produced a dexterous debut album. Built on Sensimilla’s filthy, sweat-smeared bass lines, Fagget Fairys’ brand of ghetto-funk churns, pumps, wrestles and writhes. Feed the Horse is almost salacious in its intent, and you can’t help but listen without feeling either bizarrely elated or subtly violated, or perhaps just both.
“I think the album worked out in a really good way,” explains Ena in her signature elastic style, her mind occasionally tripping over her tongue in a torrent of engaging verbosity. “Everything happened at the right time, because we had our EP out last year with two tracks on it that became very popular on the music blogs, so we already had a good basis on which we could then produce. When we did the album, we did it half in New York and half in Copenhagen, so we were working in these lots of two weeks at a time, where we would go into the studio and not come out for two weeks basically.”
Perhaps the biggest coup with Feed the Horse was the recruitment of Grammy award-winning Danish producer, Rasmus Bille Bähncke. Sensimilla has plenty of experience shaking clubs across Denmark, but working with Bähncke was a whole new experience entirely.
“He’s a really, really amazing guy and I think it was a bit like love at first sight for all of us,” Sensimilla explains. “You have the perfect match personally and you have the perfect match professionally and I think he was our perfect match in a professional sense. He has a good ear for what’s catchy in the pop genre and I have a really good ear for the underground thing, so the combination on the album is really interesting I think.”
Fagget Fairys may be destroying sound systems worldwide, but they’re simply the sharpened spearhead of what’s turning out to be a gang busting groundswell in Danish popular music.
“There are so many really interesting sounds coming out of Denmark,” says Sensimilla. “I think it’s being recognised in a few places in the world that we have some strong names now and that’s really exciting!” Exciting doesn’t even begin to describe the surge in great Danish music that Fagget Fairys are leading, with a bustling and dynamic community of artists in the pack, the scene is on the verge of a musical triumph of truly epic proportions. – Matt Shea
Speaking to Elly Jackson, the flame-haired singer and focal point of UK duo La Roux, on the eve of her ascent into the realms of pop-stardom - that being the pinnacle reaches of the pop charts - is interesting in that it's an incredible achievement for an electro duo, who regardless of their enormous potential don't fit the mold of conventional chart-darlings, and also because Jackson doesn't see herself popstar yet.
"Yeah, it's very weird in a way. I never expected us to do well on the pop charts like we have done, but yeah, it's nice anyway," Elly says, referring to La Roux's two most recent singles, In For The Kill and Bulletproof, hitting number 2 and 1 on the UK pop charts. "When In For The Kill first entered the charts we were chuffed about it, but then it started to climb and it reached number 2, so we were sharing space with genuine pop stars," she explains from the back of La Roux's tour van. "I was just happy because it meant that people were listening to our music. That's the important thing."
But despite the double-act's runaway success La Roux aren't a flash in the pan, as Elly states emphatically. "A lot of people think that we've just kind of appeared over night, but that's not the case at all. We've been doing this for years. It took a couple of years of recording and writing together to find out what we liked and what we didn't like, and then last year we started taking that around to labels and people who wanted to work with. It's been a long time coming for us, so if people think we've just sprung up out of nowhere, they're wrong."
As Elly suggests, the La Roux project has been developing and gestating for a number of years before taking off. The singer explains that the years leading up to their self titled album were spent "struggling" with songs. "It started out very different to what you hear now. We were doing things in an organic kind of way. It wasn't strictly folk music, but there were a lot of acoustic instruments involved. I grew up listening to a lot of folk music so I guess that was a big influence at the time," she says fankly. "But our songs weren't working. It was difficult for us. Like, the songs were good, but there was just something that wasn't 100% right. So we took a break from things for a little while and I started listening to a lot of electronic music, a lot of synthpop and stuff. Ben ([Langmaid], the other side of La Roux) and I got together again and decided to try things out with some electronic sounds, and it just clicked. The songs finally made sense.”
La Roux by La Roux is out now. Hit the band’s website for a free download pack. - Dave Ruby Howe
I hate the term ‘comeback’.” That’s Casey Spooner, one half of Fischerspooner, the iconic electro duo who’ve just released their third album (Entertainment) after a four-year gap in recording. “It’s not a comeback because we didn’t actually leave,” implores Casey. He’s right too. Fischerspooner haven’t been hiding after their last album, Odyssey, failed to ignite in the same way that electroclash touchstone #1 did, they’ve just been busy working on other facets of the Fischerspooner universe. “Releasing albums isn’t all we do, we’re performance artists so we could be working on stage shows, theatre pieces, ballets or installations.”
Yet for a duo that can work (successfully) in so many different creative arenas, there is something appealing about the musical side of Fischerspooner that lured Casey and creative partner Warren Fischer back for Entertainment. “I often wonder why we do it,” Casey remarks with a pause for contemplation. “This job can be terrible. I haven’t had a day off since the beginning of the year,” he moans. “But I think, in the end, Fischerspooner as a musical entity offers us a chance to incorporate a lot of different elements and open things up for collaborations. For us, it’s never just an album. There’s a stage show we’ve got to think about and with that comes choreography, costuming, design as well as art and image direction. We’re always thinking of new stuff to do and who we can do it with to make it work right.”
Whatever they’ve done in the last four years has worked, as Entertainment shows off a charismatic and invigorated Fischerspooner. One minute they’re swanning through some pulsating electro (The Best Revenge), the next it’s brooding dance music for androids (Money Can’t Dance) or fractured and futuristic pop (the stunning Danse en France). Entertainment is an album filled with unbridled imagination, but more importantly it’s an album that sees the realisation of all these ideas. “We worked really hard on this record, and we’re proud of it,” Casey says grinning. “I guess I don’t mind too much if people see it as a comeback. It just means that we’ve been through it all. First we were loved by everyone, then hated and now people are excited to hear from us again. I quite like that feeling.”
It’s good to have them back. – Dave Ruby Howe
It's hard to imagine any band that's able to utilise the studio as effectively as Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn-based quartet seamlessly weaves instruments into textures, rendering music that is almost irrelevant to discuss in traditional terms of rhythm and arrangement. But Grizzly Bear's art is not something to be thought about, it's something to be felt; it sweeps through you, feathering imagination and unlocking emotion. While this is prodigiously modern music, the cleverness of its coordination and restraint of delivery makes it seem of a porous and playful past, leaving the listener lying on a hardwood floor in the 60s, reading Kerouac and smoking Lucky Strikes. A spectacular triumph, Veckatimest is as absolutely enchanting as it is thoroughly impressive. - Matt Shea