Posts Tagged ‘hip hop’

Bibio – Mind Bokeh (Warp)

April 6, 2011

For Juno Records

When Ambivalence Avenue came out in 2009, I quipped that this was a new and invigorated Bibio — Bibio 2.0 — an artist finally stepping out of the BoC meets folktronica shadow that both propelled and pigeonholed his sound. Ambivalence was exciting, fresh, and a solid leap forward for UK producer Steven Wilkinson.

Now, Wilkinson has returned, hot off the heels of his lauded breakout album on Warp, with Mind Bokeh. The new album carries much the same tone as Ambivalence, combining playful vintage melodies and summer-fuelled beats — but it also sees him venturing even further out of his folky-comfort zone and pushing into new sonic territory. Wilkinson’s vocals are more prominent in the mix this time around, and with “Take off your Shirt”, he tries his hand at Phoenix-style pop, using a chunky riff and cheesy lyrics with the hopes of creating a summer banger. And to be sure, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album, yet what may initially sound jarring ends up being a decent track after a few listens. “K for Kelson”, on the other hand, is a definite winner, seeing Wilkinson try his ear at “tropical robot pop”, and crafting an infectious poolside hit.

Other tracks see him revisiting the styles that became his trademark on Ambivalence Avenue. “Light Sleep” for example works the funk vibe in similar fashion to “Jealous of Roses”, and “More Excuses” sounds like an extension to “All the Flowers”. “Artists’ Valley”, works a crunchy Fly Lo beat and a smooth bass line outro, that’s perfect for bobbing your head during more ‘chilled out’ moments. The title track is a wandering blurry soundscape, reminiscent of BoC, and closer “Saint Christopher” may indeed be the album’s best track, featuring a light 4/4 beat and high-hat shuffle driving three interweaving guitar lines for six beautiful minutes. It’s brilliant production and a great outro to the album, and perhaps a sign of even further sonic evolutions.

The term ‘bokeh’ comes from the Japanese and has to do with staring at the out of focus areas in a photographic image; Wilkinson attempts to do this with your ears and mind, and for the most part, he succeeds. With Mind Bokeh we see Wilkinson reworking the best moments of Ambivalence Avenue and trying out a few new styles as well. It’s not a full leap forward, but Bibio 2.5 has got it going on.

Onra – Chinoiseries (Favorite Recordings)

November 26, 2009

Arnaud Bernard aka Onra is a French-Vietnamese beatmaker living in Paris, who’s amazing debut “Chinoiseries” somehow remained unknown to me until very recently. The album was released in 2007 and is a slick and unusual collection of instrumental hip hop reminiscent of everyone from Dilla, Madlib, Doom, and Flying Lotus, yet with a twist. “Chinoiseries” was created after Arnaud went on a trip to Vietnam and picked up a dusty stack of old Chinese and Vietnamese vinyl to use as his source material. The result is a brilliant foray in avant-garde beat making, which never once sounds clichéd or cheesy. The hiss and crackle of the warped vinyls add to the album’s charm, as you wonder what musty basement the records had been hiding in for the past 20 years.

“Chinoiseries” is made of 32 snippets, none longer than two and a half minutes, similar in fashion to Dilla’s “Donuts”, and each track is like a brief vignette into the far east of the past spliced with dope beats for the future. I am totally digging it and highly recommend for all fans of hip hop. Onra has also released his second album “1.0.8” this year, which features the same style of sampled Asian beats.

Check it and mafuckin’ wreck it! Won’t dissapoint! Here is a delicious sample of the good stuff…

Mayer Hawthorne loves up The Drake in Toronto

September 28, 2009

27 September 2009


Mayer Hawthorne & The County brought the love to the Drake Underground on Sunday to a sold out crowd. Opening the set with “Maybe So, Maybe No”, an energetic Hawthorne and his tight band, had the crowd immediately loving it – dancing, singing along, and blowing bubbles. Yes bubbles. They totally added an old-timey feel to his old school sound. I was happy to hear Mayer have his vocal chops live and not just on the album. He seems to enjoy having fun with the crowd, making us move in tight to dance, confiding with us about love, and even stopping in the middle of “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” to ask us if we like heavy metal and country, and then starting the song again with a reggae beat. Fun stuff.

The group played the hits from his just released “A Strange Arrangement” as well as a few covers, including a great extended version of “Love is All Right” from Cliff Nobles and Co, because as Hawthorne kept telling us: it was all about the love. Overall, it was a tight and fun set and there were a lot of pretty girls in the crowd, but unfortunately they only had eyes for the Mayer. The one thing missing from the band was some live horns, but all in due time . . .

Opening DJ mymanhenri is consistently awesome at his craft, always setting the mood with his 92bpm hip-hop vibe. I unfortunately missed BUFF1 throwdown his smooth Ann Arbor hip-hop, but did get to see 14KT‘s set before the headline and BUFF sat up behind the drums during his set and chilled out as 14KT dropped dope beats. Check out their collab track “Real Appeal” on BUFF’s latest album “There’s Only One”, it’s a winner. All in all, it was a great night of Detroit soul and hip-hop with mymanhenri representing for the T.

Keep it coming y’all.

sold out

Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

September 11, 2009

the end of day

When I first heard the now ubiquitous “Day n Nite” I was pretty much sold from the opening synth hook. It was moody and heady with a gorgeous stoner beat. A gem in the generic world of towards-the-mainstream hip hop. Several mixtapes and remixes of “Day n Nite” followed, and then Cudi worked with Kanye on a few tracks for his inspired but ultimately failed “808 & Heartbreaks”, which helped further push him into the popular conscious. And now on the cusp of fall, Kid Cudi has dropped his much anticipated debut, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” — an ambitious collection of nu-skoool hip-hop jams and pop anthems.

And I be digging it.

Like Kanye, Kid Cudi may not be the greatest rapper out there. Like Kanye, he may use the same word twice for a rhyme: “And I tried to piece the puzzle of the universe / Split an eighth of shrooms just so I could see the universe”, but Cudi lacks the soul-crushing egoism that has hindered Kanye from making the album he really wants to, and I’m afraid now it may be too late for him. So in steps young upshoot Cudi from the Cleve, and Kanye knows a star when he hears one. So he hitches his manicured nails in there, and brings Common with, knowing that they will be the ones riding Cudi’s coat tails in order to stay in the hip inner circle of an ever changing scene. From a business POV, West and Common are smart muthafuckas, but also, from a hip-hop POV, Common and West have the rep and the cred. So it’s a win-win for all three artists. Common does a smooth job narrating between tracks, but I gotta say, the song the two vets rap on “Make Her Say”, sounds out of place on an album of far out jams…

In a way, “Man on the Moon’s” musical aesthetic seems much closer to Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” than Kanye’s “808 & Heartbreaks”.

Still, Kid Cudi has never sounded more honest and fresh as he does on this album. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” is an emotional and personal song about Cudi’s life thus far, and it’s highly effective as both an awesome cut and a moving vignette of the young rapper. Other highlights are “Sky Might Fall”, a slow, synthed-out jam, where Cudi continues to reveal his vocal chops. “Alive” is also quite memorable with Ratatat’s signature production and Cudi’s chorus hook: “Everytime the moon shines, I become alive!” “CuDi Zone” is also a hit, with it’s punctuated strings, deep synth line, and another hooky chorus. Cudi does an excellent job with the rap/sing dynamic, and guess what folks: 100% vocoder free! To be sure, his “I’m a loner-stoner weirdo plagued with nightmares” vibe does get a bit trite, but hey, he’s young still…

Closing off the album is a second collab with Ratatat and the help of MGMT called “Pursuit of Happiness”, which is just screaming for remixes, followed by the amazing stoner jam “Hyyerr” featuring fellow Cleveland rapper Chip Tha Ripper, that sounds like an old Outkast/Goodie Mob track. So smoove. I dig this track so much, I kind of wish it was the last song of the album, but instead, “Man on the Moon” ends with the poppy, send you off on a high note, “Up Up & Away”, which is still a fine closer.

The album has emotion, dope production, good lyrics, some great guests, and a solid flow. My friend Jeff has dubbed it the “hip-pop” album of the year, which I think is fitting. Could it still stand to lose a couple tracks? Maybe. And I’m scratching my head at the omission of the actual song “Man on the Moon” from his “A Kid Named Cudi” mixtape, but overall, ding ding ding, yes folks we have a mafuckin winner whether you wanna believe it or not. This is definitely a “fall” album, so check it out before them leaves turn yellow. Peace.

Edit: CUDi makes the cut on my BEST OF 2009 LIST.

man on the moon

Flying Lotus at Tattoo Rock Parlour in Toronto

July 10, 2009


9 July 2009

Warp Records budding superstar Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) dropped his cyber-slick sounds on a crunked and over-capacity crowd last night in Toronto. And hot damn was it ever good. We walked in to opener mymanhenri playing Dilla and Doom and setting the mood just right. FlyLo hit the stage next and within seconds sized-up the crowd he had in front of him. “These peeps ain’t just drunk, they’re all super fucking baked,” was no doubt his assessment, because he immediately pressed the “drug” button on his groove box and the bass just cooked the crowd and made us scream and jump and grin and shake our booties. It was infectious and trippy, full of reverb and snare pops and bad ass bass rumbles and soul.

I gotta admit the sound system at Tattoo is pretty awesome and FlyLo’s set was so crisp it sparkled. There was even a crowd surfer at one point. I think Flying Lotus was genuinely amazed at how gonzo the crowd was going all around him. He was smiling and laughing the whole set and brought the energy and rhythm to an absolutely feverish pitch. He crescendoed with some subtle Michael Jackson nods from “Off the Wall” that sounded as fresh as ever under his care. A fitting farewell to the King of Pop and a musical highlight of the year for mmmlele.

Ahh…wait for it…mazing.