Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Surprise Stream of SBTRKT's New "Transitions" EPs

It's been about three years since the release of SBTRKT's self titled debut album, which had us captivated by its dark and distant soundscapes paired beautifully with soulful vocals from featured collaborator Sampha. Since then, SBTRKT has toured the world and made several mentions of working on a follow-up, but not much new music has seen the light of day. Early last month, the masked UK producer dropped off a new track to BBC Radio 6's Mary Anne Hobbs with a brief message to read on air before it played. It was announced that the song, "Hold The Line", was the first from a series of instrumental recordings called "Transitions" that SBTRKT would release to keep everyone occupied until the new album was ready. Well, as of today, you can stream all six of the new instrumental tracks for free on SBTRKT's website. The spacey, textured beats are familiar and just as awe-inspiring as before so fans of the eponymous album should feel right at home, though we certainly miss Sampha's vocals and hope they return for the album. In addition to the stream, the site also contains a link to purchase physical copies of the music, in the form of three 12' EPs which will ship in May. Visit http://transitions.sbtrkt.com/ to hear for yourself!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mysteryland Announces Line-Up for its First USA Festival

Last summer, it was announced that one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world would finally make its debut in the good ol' USA. This Memorial Day weekend, Mysteryland, which has been going strong in its home country of the Netherlands since 1993, will be taking residence at the hallowed site in Bethel Woods, NY where the original Woodstock was once held. Dutch promotion outfit ID&T made their first major mark on America last September when they hosted TomorrowWorld, the US version of the legendary TomorrowLand held each year in Belgium, in Atlanta to rave reviews (that pun was terrible, I'll show myself out).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Album Review: "Wedding Bells EP" by Cashmere Cat

Wedding Bells EP was released on Feb. 11 on
Amidst a bass-heavy dance music craze, it's become increasingly hard to find folks that turn the craft into much more than drop-ready club bangers. Elements from southern hip-hop begin to bleed their way into glitchy dance tracks and next thing you know everyone is "turning up" to the sounds of early 00's hip-hop memories, meshing nostalgia with hype for a sure-fire groover. Understanding the formula to lots of EDM acts can in a sense make you appreciate those outliers much more, but now we find that these outliers are the ones that have begun making their way into the mainstream. Take Cashmere Cat for example, where other folks are providing insular takes on screwed and chopped trap beats, Magnus August Høiberg instead crafts ornate soundscapes that are peppered with subdued bursts of bass, blistering hi-hats, squeaky bed springs and shimmering keys.

Høiberg was no stranger to the electronic scene prior to Cashmere Cat, the 26 year old Norwegian producer was a DMC World DJ finalist for years until he turned towards crafting his current style of music. In 2012 Cashmere Cat burst onto the scene with his debut EP Mirror Maru, introducing the world to his brilliantly juxtaposed styles. Cashmere Cat's textures are build around perfectly pitched vocal samples, blissful keys and harps, obscure percussive hits and an R&B inspired swing that makes you want to slow dance as much as throw bows. Høiberg's styles are versatile, allowing him to seamlessly switch between the standard EDM tropes of bass-laden bangers and intricately woven takes on cloud-rap. Remixes of Lana Del Ray and 2 Chainz gave Høiberg a slew of attention and he most recently produced a Ludacris track "Party Girls," substantially upping his production creds.

This rich and diverse background is important to take note of when jumping into Wedding Bells, as it contains bits of every previous endeavor that Høiberg has gotten into. The EP's opener "With Me" opens with a plaintive piano line before slowly unfurling with sharp synth lines, reverb washed vocal samples and bright, bouncy keys. All of this reaches a precipice before falling out of the mix and introducing a pitchy vocal sample that fades away to lend way to primal drumbeats, distorted synths and glimmering harps. "With Me" is a wonderful snapshot of Cashmere Cat's aural stylings and takes the listener on a brief but bountiful journey through rich soundscapes of various backgrounds. Tracks like "Pearls" dig even deeper into this established array of sounds, meshing unconventional percussive samples with smooth, pitchy vocals. It's all an immensely enjoyable listening experience, especially the title track "Wedding Bells," which obviously meshes the titular bells into Høiberg's typical structures.

While there's certainly an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality that can apply to this, it's a bit disappointing to see that Høiberg didn't delve deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole here. There's a lot of things on Wedding Bells that could have easily been found on Mirror Maru, which is a shame since Høiberg's live show contains a lot more diversity than found on Wedding Bells. It's clear that Høiberg has a lot of interesting tricks up his sleeve that he can pull out within the future of Cashmere Cat, and make no doubt, Wedding Bells is still a fantastic release, but it'd be a bit more enjoyable to see hints of some sort of aural development coming along.

Rating: 7.9
Standout Tracks: "With Me", "Wedding Bells", "Rice Rain"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Album Review: "Wild Dreams" by Colleens

Wild Dreams by Colleens was self-released on Feb. 4
For a self-produced, self-released debut, Wild Dreams is a record that blows away initial expectations. However, the deeper you dig into Colleens' background the easier it is to understand why this band has gotten so damn good so damn quickly. Jonathan and Joshua Harter lie at the heart of Colleens, two brothers raised in San Antonio, Texas that were surrounded by music since a young age. They've since began working in their father's record studio as recording engineers, and when you combine their practical knowledge with their years of experience, it's only natural for Wild Dreams to sound as crisp and polished as it is.

Wild Dreams glides along and clocks in at just around 30 minutes, but it's the perfect amount of time to digest these blissful bursts of subdued Americana energy. Warm basslines help these songs trot along with a downtempo pace, rich organs flesh out the textures and soothing vocal melodies with rich lyrical content top it all of brilliantly. The album starts off with a smooth-sailing track "About You," tightly packed with sparse guitar lines, subtle harmonies and contemplative lyrics that sucks the listener in like a rising tide. Following that natural ebb and flow, the album's mood is set by an excellent pacing that spaces out the catchy and anthemic tracks while nestling the slow-brooding experimental tracks in between.

It'd be easy to write Wild Dreams off as your standard Americana leaning pop record, but there's much more to it than that. "No Flowers" sets a darker and more expansive tone, dreamy dark vocals croon about "endless pillows" and rich, yet desolate imagery over a simplistic yet embellished soundscape. "No Flowers" displays the artistic breadth of Colleens, soft strings build upon the heightened tensions while a quaintly finger picked guitar provides the baseline for this fantastic mid-way track. As "No Flowers" slowly fades out you're snapped out of your trance and thrust into the rambling "Sun Before I Set," one of the album's bright songs characterized by bouncy piano lines, distorted guitars and a chorus of backing vocals. 

There's a lot to love about Wild Dreams, and while there's nothing that sets the band out as groundbreaking, there's a lot of potential for the band to truly move into uncharted territory in future releases. There's a lot of prominent influences on display here that are masked by the Harter brother's obvious talents and originality, but some of the album feels plagued by comfort. It's a fun and easy listen through, especially given its short duration, but there's not a ton of replay value found within most of the tracks. Tracks like "About You," "Maybe We'll Fall In Love," "No Flowers" and "Second Century Home" lend themselves to multiple run throughs and seem to have tons of live potential, but the remainder of the album tends to feel like filler. There's nothing wrong with the tracks, but there's nothing really stopping you from skipping them to get to the more exciting endeavors. All in all Wild Dreams is a wonderful entrance from Colleens and leaves me waiting anxiously for future releases.

Rating: 7.8
Standout Tracks: "About You", "Maybe We'll Fall In Love", "No Flowers"