Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rustie - Green Language

You could always tell the follow-up to 2011’s Glass Swords was never going to appear ambiguous or even find itself idly archived amid the growing to-cover list of many interested parties. Scottish producer Rustie - from nowhere - became an overnight sensation with his debut’s ecstatic, ear-crunching digitization. Neither indulgent nor impervious to its own sense of crazed energy, Glass Swords quickly became almost an unwanted mantra; a pedestal for critics to refer towards; hailing it as some guiding light in the more extroverted scene of electronics - a time when the likes of EDM, glitch and trap (especially) were quickly picking up pace and making listeners second-guess the conventions of modern-day's attraction to such sound. With that said, Rustie was always going to dive head-first into the conversation - deciding not just to go in big, but bigger than what momentous intention his debut now stands for. And while the double A-sided Triaddz/Slasherr last year may have suggested Rustie moving towards more front-ended, trap-like leanings, it’s no surprise to find Green Language move in a persistently ambient-esque forte - completely taking the low-road on what was his debut’s at-the-heart high-road chase. Thus 2014’s sophomore showcases a slightly more debated, atmospheric tinge to the Scot’s palette - an eagerness to remove one's self from the clutter of data, information and noise, and find perhaps an ease in the surrounding scope.

Initially though, we are to look at the album on its numeric values in preparation: thirteen tracks, one of which only just passes the four minute mark; length clocking in at just under forty minutes - and think nothing more. Business as usual right? Only this time, Rustie’s business is not aimed squarely on the digitizing effect of sound, as is seen clearly - but somewhat confusingly - on the album’s first two tracks, which in effect, feel more like a split prologue to the some more underlining (and already-promoted) offering in Raptor. Workship does indeed strike home Rustie’s desire to return to a more isolative, natured approach with its sun-kissed bathing of synthesisers and sizzling layers of sound that build and build towards the end's inevitable pulse of activity - a solitary fuzz of bass and cymbal hits, inspiring but somewhat precariously, drawing us to immerse in the closing swash of deep water and eventually find ourselves dragged back out into A Glimpse’s arpeggiated synths. Yet it’s the growing presence of a more driving beat carefully, and calculably, placed at mid-drift amid the track’s hazed clarity and the guiding melody that takes hold. Overall though the track is far from leading or suggesting otherwise where it’s taking us or even what emotive or colloquial context this record is reaching towards. Raptor, which falls back on Rustie’s affection for punchier beats and invasive synths, certainly feels like the record’s true ‘next chapter' has been reached with its sturdier presence. But this turning of the page ends up feeling relatively accidental; a result of pure coincidence (or even impatience), as opposed to planned persistence on the producer's end.

So moving onto Paradise Stone, you get the impression - and in effect hold onto the desire - that what we’ll unravel is something all the more absolute and objective in its desire. Yet the track follows pretty much the same rhetoric as the ‘introduction’ pieces - capturing, and attempting to drive home an allure of this engrossing, atmospheric surrounding of such, though even with the textural benefits to its glockenspiel inclusion and providing the lead melody, nothing is built upon or progressed beyond this. It feels more like bewildered meandering, rather than discovery. Up Down (which finds grime rapper D Double E tongue-tying throughout) is more centrifuged and less discreet with its intent - both synthesiser pads and melodies creating an enticing groove, but unfortunately falling back on themselves by the half-way mark. D Double E himself tries his best to distract the listener from the track’s underwhelming lack of expanse, but overall listeners will find it too easy to look past Rustie’s veil - the repeating birdsong sample and stand-alone hurrying beats potentially getting a little too repetitive for some.

And this is one of the major drawbacks to Green Language as an assemble, as it is a record relying on its guests contributions. Danny Brown's feature on Attak in all actuality isn't necessarily a bad choice - at times Brown's flow gels nicely with the track's trap-focused upscale of intent. But Rustie's contribution falls way behind on the initial promise; the inevitable build-and-drop little more than drag-and-drop hi-hats and a synth line I'd find better incorporated on a TNGHT track than I would on something which, unfortunately, finds me imagining it as its most basic of envisioning on a D.A.W. than I would a piece of music. Tempest however is a welcome break from this, ironically easing the listener with its rampant, intenser pulsing of drumbeats and guitar feedback that only adds to the weight so clearly and excessively illustrated about the album's supposedly abstract-yet-floral coaxing of atmosphere. So to find ourselves transition back to He Hate Me, another vocal-fronted (and vocal-deterring) track, the problems only rise ever further - Rustie's imagination and consistency on his more club-heavy, building-congested showcases little more than shallow strips and bars that not only disinterest me in their bareness, but just come across so awkwardly disconnected from the former lush - and more appeasing - ventures into untrodden, sonic territory.

Velcro is perhaps the most Glass Swords-esque track here, one of but only a few signs the producer is willing to be patient and steadily build cohesiveness. And while it showcases a little more efficiency and prowess with some trap-influenced jitters of percussion alongside his glossy, energized-to-the-point-of-being-hyperactive synthesizer leads, it's in no way a hallmark on the record - rather it feels more a fond reminder than necessarily a push forward. So it's with some degree of surprise and swift realization that we reach the final two tracks - again, adorned and unfortunately plastered as but a pairing of epilogue's both attempting the same principle idea to round-off the album - and the overarching feelings and output of the record beforehand begin to appear all the more ill-structured and inconsistent. Let's Spiral shines some light on the notion of openness, yet with a tinge of nature's presence with repeated use of bird tweets that follow from the track's climatic loosening of cymbal crashes and muddling drips of synthesizer sound. And Green Language, closing proceedings, offers but a somber, eye-squinting lead of piano (also with the included bird sampling) seems to suggest the end of a trip, but far from finalizes just what the result or conclusion to this entire tale, actually is.

Unfortunately, it's a tale which is left muddled and particularly less-convincing than the album preceding it. There's no doubting Rustie's ability to soak his listener in with what is a relatively new area for the producer, and it is impressive how quickly the album's non-vocal pieces grab the listener and how Rustie balances both calming and his more volatile concoctions of electronics to keep the record revitalizing and fresh. But Green Language is unfortunate in that it's best efforts are themselves at fault too with their unwillingness to move beyond simply setting the scene, and instead instill reason and purpose into such sounds. What's more, Rustie's move towards encompassing such areas as trap and grime (both musically as well as vocally) is for definite, a questionable investment - especially when its focus and priority begins to break up the flow and transitioning of the album. Not that Glass Swords was necessarily a record built on flow, but with the focus being these multilayer, built-up compositions, the desire here is that Rustie will keep refining and identifying what it is he's attempting to unveil. He's checking all the right boxes and recognizing the impact the scenery can merit, but for the moment lacks a solid primary direction. He's still just fumbling, dumbstruck on which direction he's actually facing.
~Jordan Helm


Monday, 18 August 2014

Track Review: Delamere - Headstrong

Delamere return with a lovely little single titled "Headstrong". It's been a while since the Staffordshire based alternative rock / indie rock quartet released music, and "Headstrong" is a good indication of whats to come after a very interesting past repertoire of singles. They recently signed with Manchester label Scruff of the Neck Records, showing promise both as a live act, and as an act fulfilling goals by signing a record contract. Previously Delamere impressed me with with their sound quality from home recordings, and this studio recorded track only adds to that initial positive impression. 

Like with many of Delamere's songs, "Headstrong" induces a calming presence, with soft vocals and fluctuating instrumentation. They're mastering the atmosphere sound needed to make artists like Delamere standout on a stage full of similar recording artists. This song is something you can nod your head to, stomp your foot etc - it's a relaxing tune with very-impressive percussion, and reverb effects on the lead guitar. It's not unusual to replay Delamere songs after they're over, because there's always that feeling of sudden loss when they end without a fade out. Delamere are constantly improving, song after song, release after release - their record label knows it as well as I do that Delamere have a mass of potential ready to be tapped in to by an indie rock / alternative rock loving British audience.
~Eddie Gibson

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Interview: Pegboard Nerds

Electronic music has always been an exciting genre that always has something new floating around it. Monstercat is one of the main places I go to for new electronic music, and I have always been curious about them. Therefore, I asked to interview the Pegboard Nerds, one of MonsterCat's most successful acts. I ask questions that cover main points of their history together as a band and discover things that are pretty awesome about them. With Uncaged and also Global Gathering to be on their busy schedule, they managed to find time to answer my long list of questions.
~Matthew Clewley

MRD: How did the Pegboard Nerds form?

Well we have made music together for 10+ years. But specifically, we started Pegboard Nerds towards the end of 2011, with the intention of making our own music under our own name, shifting the focus away from doing what was basically remixes only. We’d talked about it for a long time, but there was always that “one more remix…” which made it take forever. We had to make the move however, because making music started to feel like boring routine, and a drag, and that is not really conducive to making big and exciting dance music! We really just wanted to try, and still try, to be the best we can be, on our own four feet. We never looked back! It’s a brave new world :)

The Uncaged Tour is just over the horizon, have you ever done a tour this big?

We’re super stoked!! The Bassline Kickin’ tour was pretty big for us, but this is the first time we are doing our own full headliner tour, which is both a little bit intimidating and very very exciting!

What has the music life for you guys been like since you've signed to Monstercat?

Busy :) We are not technically signed to Monstercat, it’s more on a track by track basis, but as you can see we have a really close and strong relationship. We feel like we’ve grown with Monstercat, which was already pretty big back then, but now has gotten so much bigger and is still growing. We’re always working on new tracks and look forward to each new song we can put out.

On Monstercat Wikia you've been known as the most popular artist on Monstercat, how do you feel when you hear things like that?

Actually we didn’t hear that until we read it here.. Wow, that is humbling and nice :) It also feels.. weird, in a positive way, if that makes sense. I mean we had no idea what would happen when we formed PBN.. And now.. This! Amazing. Monstercat is such a great community, very supportive and interactive and vocal about how they feel.

How much has video games or/and video game music had an effect on your music.

It’s probably ingrained in us from our childhoods, so it’s more of a subconscious thing a opposed to actually referencing games and music from them when we work. The thing about old school video game music is that they had a very limited toolset to work with, and practically no effects or fancy production tools, so the melodies HAD to be catchy and great. So some of the vibe and feel probably/hopefully finds its way into our melodies as well :)

What do you guys see as the perfect live set up when it comes to songs setlist and live equipment?

We think a set should be kind of like a journey, with highs and lows, contrasts, fast and slow. We usually cover a pretty wide range of genres and tempos in our sets. As for live equipment we are just doing straight up DJ-set as of now, but of course we dream of maybe doing something more live based and hopefully we will do in the future. It’s just that it’s so easy to travel with a couple of memory sticks and a headset!

What is your favorite song you have remixed so far?

Hmm good question. J. Viewz - Far too close was fun, but I guess the Alive remix was our favourite so far, as everything kinda came so nicely and instinctively together. But we try and make every remix our “favorite” at the time of producing it, because you gotta have that feeling when you make it. I translates into the production, gives it soul.

Do you plan on remixing anymore songs? If so, would you remix songs from genres that seem out of place to your genre?

It’ll probably happen, but it would have to be a really interesting song for us. Sure, that’s the most exciting! Which is why we are trying to avoid remixing a straight up electro track, or a dubstep tune, etc..

Have you guys ever been to the United Kingdom? Or if not, do you ever plan to?

We have played several shows there: Last year we played in Exeter, and we did Global Gathering, Reading & Leeds (missed Leeds due to really bad traffic unfortunately! :( ), Creamfields and Manchester (Haunted House with Knife Party). Also, this is written as we’re going back to play Global again this weekend so that should be fun, can’t wait for the artist lounge burgers!

What is the ultimate venue you would want to play?

We played some pretty sick venues/places already (EDC bass pod, Reading festival and Red Rocks) :) For maximum grandeur and flair probably something like mainstage EDC Vegas or Tomorrowland? For gritty, up close, intimate and downright sweaty raging, any small club with a crazy crowd!

What do you think about sampling in songs nowadays? Do you think artists like David Guetta do it too much?

It doesn’t matter.. We have a saying: “Whatever works”. If an artist samples and uses it in an interesting way, or uses little bits and bobs to create one shots (we do that a lot). Of course there are more exciting and less exciting ways of utilizing a sample, but at the end of the day it’s the end result that counts.

You said on Facebook your genre of music is "crazy shit". As much as I agree, would you be able to describe what crazy shit consists of?

Haha! It consists of whatever we feel like making on any given day, because it can be most anything, a lot of it never being released. Actually it’s amazing that anything makes it to release because (and this has been said by many before us, but it is so true) a track is never finished, it is abandoned because you have to (deadline/release). It’s kind of taken from you, and you have to let it go, haha. It’s also referring to how we almost cannot believe how insane the process of writing a track is.. It goes through so many stages. The pre deadline paranoia one is the worst. The best one is when a bunch of sounds suddenly goes from being a incohesive mess into actually being a concept, a TRACK. It’s such an elusive point during the production process, but it’s clearly felt every time. Fascinating!

You have stated you have too many influences to name, but what is your main influence?

Too many to name ? lol! But really, there is no main influence, it’s way more faceted than that..

You've had a few comments on one of your Facebook posts, but one caught my eye saying "Come on PBN. You guys have changed and it's terrible. Go back to your old roots when you made the most amazing music...." How do musicians like yourselves respond to this kind of comment?

Well first of all, things move incredibly fast in today’s world, but we can’t help but smile when people are referring to music we made 1-2 years ago as our “roots”.. We’ve barely begun defining our own roots!  Technically, and as far as Pegboard Nerds’ timeline as a whole is concerned, that is indeed our roots if you want to use that word… We’d rather say that our roots are the music that defined us 10 years ago, 15 years ago and made us want to make music ourselves. Stuff like The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Orbital, etc.  Anyway. We usually never actually respond to comments like that, but we read them (sometimes) and discuss them. We don’t want to water down our own music by doing a “Disconnected 2” or “Self Destruct 2” or a “Fire in the hole 2”. That’s why they are strong tracks and have their place in our history, because we made them and then moved on.. We don’t want to “rip off ourselves”, you know?

What songs and collaborations have you got coming up for the near future you would like to tease?

We have a raunchy trap-influenced track coming up, as well as collabs with Cash Cash and Destroid.

You have a great following and you have had things like necklaces being made based on Pegboard Nerds, how great does that make you feel?

We love it!! It’s unbelievable to see people go and do their own things with something we cooked up together in a basement outside of Copenhagen one rainy night. We have a big bag of necklaces, pearler beads, combos of both, and a kickass hero flag at home as tour souvenirs :)

What is the signature song of the Pegboard Nerds in your eyes?

Self Destruct (At the time of writing, lol)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Interview: The Lounge Kittens

A month ago I went to Knebsworth Park for Sonisphere Festival to watch bands and get drunk. Whilst I was there a certain act caught my attention. I was ready to watch Limp Bizkit, until three ladies came on the stage with stunning dresses and great voices. Turns out they were called The Lounge Kittens, a great name for a great trio, so I thought I should interview them not only for my own curiosity, but just to give you, the reader, a taste of what they're like.
~Matthew Clewley

MRD: You cover famous rock songs in a girl group style, who is influential to this style of singing?

TIMIA: While a lot of our set is Rock and Metal, there is also some Pop, Dancehall, Hip hop and Dance in there too. We like to mix it up! I suppose some of the better known originators of the '3 girl close harmony' vocal style would be The Andrews Sisters, however, I guarantee that we swear infinitely more than they did.    

Where did the wonderful idea of your trio come from?

TIMIA: Jen had suggested to me that we start a duo together for fun, to do a few low key gigs. I suggested that the songs should be our favourite rude and explicit songs or tunes that people don't usually cover- particularly not in a loungey, swing style with vocals and piano. It all fell into place when we met Zan. 

How did you all meet and form The Lounge Kittens? 

Zan: Well Timia and Jen met at university and came up with the concept of TLK, then we all met through Jen’s work as a Rock Choir leader. Both Timia and I are part of the choir and we all became friends through that. One night on a drunken evening out the girls suggested I should become a Lounge Kitten too (although it was still just an idea at this point!). Of course I said yes…….and then we didn't do anything for about six months….until Jen booked us a couple of shows and we hastily put some arrangements together!

Who are your favourite cover bands, and did those too inspire you?

TIMIA: I've always loved covers that are done a completely different style. Me first and the Gimmie Gimmies got me into punk covers, and then of course there is the "Punk Goes..." series of compilations which always provides gems. It's always been about Richard Cheese though, he's something of an idol to me and I know the other girls are big fans too.  

You are a unique cover band may I add, have you heard other artists like Richard Cheese or Selo I Ludy who add a spin on a metal cover?

TIMIA: Without Richard Cheese there would be no Lounge Kittens. We make a point of never covering any song he has done. I mean, how many Lounge Covers of 'Killing In the Name of' does the world need? One will probably do it... 

Can it be challenging writing a metal cover song in your own style?

JEN: Surprisingly, I feel the metal songs are much easier to 'Kittenize' than the more poppy sounding songs, because we could never achieve the same musical result as the original, due to us harmonising 3 female voices with just a piano for backing. It's always going to sound different. But it's always so much fun to cover metal songs, because we can completely camp them up or make them really cheeky, a complete flip!!

I saw you sing an introduction for Limp Bizkit at Sonisphere, how did those guys come to contact you? Did they see or hear your cover?

Zan: Well, we tweeted Fred Durst with our video for our cover of ‘Rollin’ back in February and he picked it up, loved it and shared it through Limp Bizkit’s Facebook page, which is obviously the main reason it's had so many hits. He came to see our show at Sonisphere and afterwards asked us if we would come out and sing Rollin on stage with them during their set – so of course we said ‘yes’ and before we knew it we were on the main stage at Sonisphere in front of 40,000 people.

JEN: We had absolutely NO idea that it was going to happen. We found out literally 3 hours before the performance that we were going to be singing on the main stage, it totally reflects how much faith Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit had in us to do the job well and get the reaction intended. We were really touched! 

How did Glastonbury and Sonisphere contact you?

Zan: We contacted them. We emailed the people that book the bands and were lucky enough to have them reply that they wanted us to play. It’s as simple as that. We are absolutely over the moon to have been booked for some of the biggest festivals in the UK this year and we've had an absolute blast playing at them.

What kind of venues will you be playing around the UK?

Zan: We’re playing all kinds of venues when we head out on tour in September and October. Cabaret venues, rock venues and loads of bars and pubs. We love to play anywhere as long as people are having a great time and singing along.

How was your time in the beautiful land of France?

TIMIA: Idyllic. Working at this pace and intensity with your best friends is incredibly fun, but also exhausting. We gave ourselves some quality time off together, just the three of us to spend time being friends and finding ourselves again as Timia, Jen and Zan because that's who we are and who we were before we were The Lounge Kittens

Do you plan on releasing more videos of covers on your YouTube channel?

JEN: Oh absolutely we do! I don't think we realised how much fun making music videos could be. It gives us an opportunity to be really creative, fun and most importantly, SILLY! We all love being silly together, making faces, making fools of ourselves and the video allows us to show our fans who we really are and what we're about. We don't take ourselves seriously, and in turn, neither do our videos. 

Do you plan on giving us original material in the near future? 

Zan: People keep asking us this! At the moment, we really love what we do and don’t see it as a stepping stone to releasing our own original music in the future. But never say never. I’m fortunate enough to work with two very talented ladies so who’s to say we won’t start writing at some point. But for now, putting our own spin on our favourite songs is definitely enough – there are still SO many songs we want to cover!