Saturday, March 05, 2011

Album Reviews

Chase & Status - No More Idols (4/5). British electronic/dance/dub-step duo Chase & Status release their first full length album, No More Idols, a collection of hard-hitting genre-hopping anthemic sounds--mainly cultured around their signature frenetic electronic drenched compositions--featuring a host of mainstream, mainly British musical guests, including rappers Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal and Tempa T who appropriately bring an unyielding hip-hop edge on each of their tracks, "Hitz," "Heavy" and "Hypets Hype," which in particular courts a heavy grime induced sound, however the best of British rap on here is "End Credits," which features Plan B, clobbering with heavy drum'n'bass beats with light rock-studded overtone. The blaring electronic bass lines of "Brixton Breifcase" with Cee Lo Green is another winner, so is "Embrace" with alternative rock band White Lies, which has a heavy baroscopic bearing. Reining in the frantic beats; there are some calmer moments, such as "Midnight Caller" with English singer/songwriter Clare Maguire, a haunting mid-tempo; very atmospheric with a calm drum backing. There are a couple more songs that capitalize heavily on the dub-step sound, which can be a little overkill at times, but it's a strong record and merely an extension of the sound they pursued on their last record, More than Alot, with a distinctive mainstream edge. Best: End Credits, Hypest Hype, Embrace, Midnight Caller, Hitz, Brixton Briefcase

James Blake (3.5/5). British electronic/dub-step producer James Blake has a very interesting and distinctive sound--built around heavy vocal layering and choppy vocal effects--his self-titled debut, demonstrates a collage of electronic-influenced sounds with seeping soulful undertones--almost similar to fellow British dub-step producer Burial. It's a little hit and miss, however when it's on point it works very well, such as opening track "Unluck" which lays down intricate tongue-clicking beats buried under gentle piano chords and heavy accelerating synths and the one-lyric "I Never Learnt to Share" which begins as a soulful Acapella, before the warbling soundcapes and progressive synth-chords flourish in the backdrop before the plodding bass line kick in for it's erratic electronic induced climax. Blake strikes an emotional chord on the Star Wars inspired "The Wilhelm's Scream" beginning quite illuminated and undimmed before bleeding progressively into its lurid and aphotic second half. Blake cited fellow British indie/pop band The XX as an influence for his sound, this becomes apparent on the two-parter "Lindesfarne" 1 and 2, which both capitalize on that rootsy, minimalist approach to his music. The electronic beat-driven tracks are fun, but I also enjoy the back to back piano-laced balladry of "Give Me My Mouth" and "Limit to Your Love," one of the few tracks on here that strips the auto-tune down to raw vocal. This a strong record with a handful of highlights, but also quite a bit that doesn't quite stick, particularly on its second half. Best: Unluck, I Never Learnt to Share, Limit to Your Love, Lindesfarne 2, Give Me My Mouth.

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