Brand New Machine is a tasteful and innovative album by English drum & bass duo Chase and Status released in 2013 featuring collaborations from Major Lazer, Nile Rodgers, and Pusha T. It’s sound ranges from pure drum & bass, rap, pop, and jazz, in bits and pieces. “Gun Metal Grey” opens the album on a dark mysterious note, only to be blown open by the weirdly catchy but fierce “International” (with a superb remix from Skrillex on the deluxe edition). Brand New Machine is a bittersweet but aggressive album, with both toned down drum and bass over beautifully produced vocals and the synth sounds fans will known and love. It has enough range to be a good whole-album listen to but also has some singles that are well suited to a work out mix. Other standout tracks include “Machine Gun” and “Gangsta Boogie”.
Death & Magic from OWSLA artist MUSTDIE! is an succinct and exciting “dance” album. Although truth be told, I think only Transformers or robots more generally have got the moves for the searing synths and driving bass that MUST DIE! delivers. The album isn’t tremendously original, but it makes up for this is superb execution. If you’re like me, you need heavy bass music if you’re ever going to write a line of code, and Death & Magic delivers there.
Culprate’s 2014 Deliverance is a sophisticated, somber, and confusing electronic album. It’s constantly on the verge of throwing you into a classic dubstep “wubby” drop, but Culprate practices restraint while finding other ways to surprise the listener. It’s like dubstep crossed with the elevator music played in a very well-to-do apartment building. The album is at times completely carefree, flouting the need for structure, familiar instruments, or tropes of the electronic genre, but these moments are almost always matched by little snippets of something recognizable. Culprate jumps freely to and from the listener’s comfort zone, soothing them into a comfortable trance only to throw something unexpected at them, but not without tastefully reminding them of the song’s melody soon thereafter. Highly recommended.
The Avalanches finally released a new album, Wildflower, and it is flagrantly weird while ceaselessly captivating. Every track is a melodic hodgepodge of samples, beats, raps, singing, odd instrumentation, and sonic experimentation. Sometimes it makes you bob your head, other times it makes you dance, and much of the time you’re not exactly sure what you’re listening to: but it’s always a lot of fun. Wildflower is evocative of Daft Punk, The Beatles’ deeper cuts on The White Album, and even Jay Z/Kanye style soul beats, all while retaining that goofy charm from The Avalanches’ first album, “Since I Left You.” The album’s tone is silly and serious, pointless yet hints at a meaning, often familiar but still so foreign: it’s a celebratory, self-aware musical enigma.
“Because I’m Me” is the first full song on the album, and it’s a strut-worthy hip-hop track with catchy horns and am excitingly trippy chorus. But the straightforwardness doesn’t last long, as the ensuing song, “Frankie Sinatra”, immediately throws you right into the deep end, indicative of their track “Frontier Psychologist”, with stream-of-consciousness vocals over a Sgt. Peppers horn beat. It only gets weirder from there, and by the time you reach “The Noisy Eater”, you realize the bizarre genius of the album. It’s has an overall childish atmosphere, yet it’s occasionally performed on Baroque instruments, like sonic graffiti. In the end, while you’re listening to “Saturday Night Inside Out”, you’ll have enjoyed yourself, but have some elusive discomfort. The Avalanches took their successes from the first album and distilled them into extremely listenable and equally alien sophomore success: go listen to Wildflower.