I’ve discovered Elza Soares back in 2016 when she released her experimental Afro-Brazilian album, A Mulher do Fim do Mundo (The Woman at the End of the World). Soares is considered a Brazilian hero, having amassed more than 5 decades of music (I gave up trying to count how many albums she actually produced) after exploding onto the MPB (música popular brasileira) scene by winning in a talent show. It’s hard to realize that Soares was in her late 70’s when she came out with A Mulher do Fim do Mundo; an album that mixes one of the coolest genre fusions of all time, samba and electronic punk. Her follow-up, Deus é Mulher (God is a Woman), continues the experiment, albeit a more political one, with the help of producer Guilherme Kastrup, who also worked on her previous album and is known for popularizing Brazilian’s avant-garde perspective, or “Samba Dirty.”
Janelle Monáe, you glorious pansexual goddess, I don’t know what to do with you. For two albums, I’ve been following Cindi Mayweather’s funky journey of black queerness and now, you’ve dropped all pretense and revealed your true self. I won’t lie, the change threw me off completely. I was listening to the promotional singles wondering “What the hell’s going on?” I was getting really worried because nothing really sticked. All of the songs sounded a little too beyond my tastes, mixing hip hop, rap, and R&B in a style unfamiliar to the classy stylings of Monáe’s previous albums. Also, I hated “Pynk,” a song featuring the lovely Grimes, who seemed to not use her best capabilities, and I was positive nothing would change my mind on that. It wasn’t until I listened to the album that I realized that all these songs were part of one giant message of loving yourself and fighting the powers that be. This album kept me smiling from beginning to end and even though I was listening to this at work, I couldn’t pay attention to anything else until the dramatic finale. In short, Janelle Monáe’s latest album Dirty Computer is nothing short of amazing, giving the most complete package of her artistry yet. Also, yes, my mind has changed completely on “Pynk” and it is one of the highlights of the album.
Sofi Tukker is comprised of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern (get how they got their name?). They’ve been around, at least to our attention, since the release of their first EP back in 2016 called Soft Animals, which spawned the Grammy nominee for Best Dance Recording, “Drinkee.” They’ve just now released their debut LP, Treehouse, which is one of the better electronic dance pop albums that I’ve heard in a while. If you’re not familiar with the duo, you probably already know a few of their songs. Turns out, Apple loves them. The tech giant has utilized not one but three of their songs–the aforementioned “Drinkee,” and two from this album, “Best Friend” and “Batshit”–in their iPhone commercials. But enough about that. We’re here to discuss “Benadryl,” the as-of-now non-single from their remarkable debut.
I think 4 months has been quite enough. While Ellis had already starting throwing his thoughts into the digital vacuum with some really good tunes, I’m just now bursting with songs and albums that I can’t wait to share with anyone who would listen. And there’s really no better way to start my first Colorful Monsters article of the year than with a heavy, noisy, absolutely-catastrophic, loud electronic beast of a song, “This World Is Sick,” by IC3PEAK.
It always really sucks to hear about someone passing away long before it made any sense. This past Friday, Avicii died at the age of 28. While I may not have known him at all, his passing stuck with me as both a complete shock and a retrospect over his work. I feel like I’ve never really appreciated what he’s done. So for today, I’m going to temporarily break my rules and look back on the Avicii work that I’m familiar with and how important it was then and now.
It is unbelievably easy to be a fan of CHVRCHES (pronounced cha-ver-chiz) partly because they’ve spent the past decade making the same song over and over again. Was this a very rude statement? Yes, but it was said out of pure love. I think CHVRCHES has a very specific style of synth-pop that they’ve perfected to such an extent that they’ve made a career out of it. Once again, this isn’t a criticism. I am personally amazed at their consistency and how each song is so subtly different that you can’t fully replace one with the other. And to their credit, rather than stagnating, I think they’ve been getting better.
In 2015, a still young Sam Gellaitry nicked a calculated ambient stream of strings, synth, and other instruments with hard hitting trap on debut EP, Short Stories. It was immediately followed by the first of a series of three Escapism EPs, all numerically progressed. Escapism III, the latest and final collection in the trilogy, harnesses the construction of the Scottish producer’s past installments and takes them to an explosive victory. However, III links more directly to I than it does with II, in part because II stripped away much of the hard hitting trap beats for a more subdued outlook. That return to early stages bodes better for the final product, as it sounds more confident and pushes the trap ambient fusion on a more complex and festival-friendly plane.
“Jungle Waters” was thoroughly discussed via one of the first Monster Bunker episodes, where it was given so-so reviews and had sounds picked apart by the sand guzzling Ellis (inside podcast joke). Upon hearing it again, this time within context, the repeated violin crescendo brightly opens the EP over a cinematic landscape where weird frogs yelp and trap heightens the dense atmospheric layering. The fusion of ambiance and dance put the dueling roles in effortless encapsulation, working oddly well together.
“Midnight Racer” is exactly what we hear–a bright lullaby of synth evokes a starry night and surges as if inside an engine. It then combusts into faster pops and loops of sonic electronic elements, collapsing dramatically through embeds of vocal distortion and previews of the next track–“Acres.” It is by far the strongest and possibly the most intricate track on the EP.
The aforementioned “Acres” solidly prologues what “Midnight Racer” touched upon in the end. Sam Gellaitry pushes the soothing vocals to the forefront alongside some sappy piano and guitar for a more romantic design.
Escapism III borrows many points from the previous EPs and mutates them to fit Gellaitry’s maturity. There’s a sense of polish surrounding the experimentation that wasn’t sought after in preceding works. It’s that roughness that got him to think differently. But you can slowly begin to hear a much firmer (and confident) grasp over the amalgamation he introduced two years ago.
It was in 2014 when Deorro released “Five Hours,” a 5 minute speed-changing rotor blade of memorizing synth and distortion. Ever since, random SoundCloud uploads and a curious unofficial EP ensued. Good Evening is the first time the Panda Funk maestro placed his work above more serious ground, or through the lens of an actual concept. Erick Orrosquieta‘s intention to include past material, including a version of “Five Hours,” could’ve backfired if it wasn’t for strategically placed interludes and like-minded originals. The key was to take the eclectic route, that way all past material created without the album in mind can easily fit within the bounds of a not-so rigid narrative. In actuality, the free-flowing setting (a concert hall or decadent black tie gala) was what established flexibility. However, Erick’s lack of big picture editing kept the debut from becoming an instant classic.
The beginning and ending interludes (“Good To See You” and “Pause“) clearly establish a show of sorts. A smattering of applause or cheering is generously embedded within both of them. “Pause” is not even a track but just applause that slowly fades out until we’re left with complete silence lasting longer than a minute. In the case of the title, it acts as an ending but it really is a deliberate pause to clear the air for a so-called encore.
The final two alleged tracks, “Bailar” featuring Elvis Crespo and “Five More Hours” featuring Chris Brown, are the most popular among fans as they were promoted outside the SoundCloud realm. Yet, they don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the album despite Erick’s eclectic proclivities, suggesting that their addition is for the sake of familiarity and housing (since they weren’t released in a previous EP or LP). Also, they’re not the originals which clearly confirms the two tracks as mere lure. The radio edit for “Bailar” is used instead of the extended version–which is much better and includes more lines from Crespo. “Five More Hours” is terrible, and does not contain the abrasiveness and uniqueness found in the original–the very version that carries Deorro’s name to this day.
It’s not easy to pick only a few tracks from this jukebox monster. Previously released “Goin Up” featuring DyCy and “Butt Naked” are infectious; and the new “Bomba” fits well among the best of them with its delicious halt after the first street drum beat, before diving into a sublime arrangement of hip-hop and twisted synth. “Turn Back Time” featuring Teemu grabs a hold underneath a tuning radio layer and supplies sonic loops for a truly psychedelic pop song. Yes, there are many more tracks that deserve to be mentioned, including the ballad “Tell Me Lies” featuring Lesley Roy and the jazzy farmhouse number “Rise and Shine.”
It’s impossible to label a singular genre for Good Evening. There isn’t one sound replayed and each track is virtually different. He tackles dubstep, progressive and future house, electro, bass, and even a light semblance of trance on “Find A Way.” Such a vast mix is rare to find in a producer’s catalog, and he surely should be rewarded for making it look easy; though more from the Mexican-American producer’s cultural roots should’ve taken precedence. However, what’s more exceptional is the integration. By using interludes as connecting pieces (perhaps could’ve done without a couple), Erick melts together each sub-genre into one strange but ridiculously fun party. GOOD.
A cry out for forgiveness is what I saw in the title. If the fallout never happened, perhaps, the album would’ve been different. In my opinion, personal struggles should have no basis (or interference) when it comes to reviewing the work of an artist; but the purposeful intermingling of the aftermath throughout Queen is undeniable. It even began with the title–a word that’s practically in every gay man’s vernacular. So it’s important to understand what happened in 2014. Ten Walls made a homophobic comment (or rant) on Facebook, where he referred to gay people as a “different breed,” which led to an instant dismissal from his booking agency and record label, as well as several music festivals he was set to play, including UK’s Creamfields. The complete career shutdown was unfortunate for Marijus Adomaitis, especially since he was a budding new producer who broke through a couple of months prior with the effective “Walking With Elephants.” It’s the kind of thing that can completely destroy you and force a promising future to end (the queen is the most powerful chess piece after all). So it’s no shock he slightly devoted his debut album to the incident particularly after his public apology wasn’t widely registered. Queen is an hour and a half long cleanse broken down into two parts that teeters between meditation and self-help.
It’s not an album where one song in particular shines. “Rhapsody” begins the endless ambient stream of sound that seamlessly drives into the next track, something out of deadmau5’s playbook. It’s only a mere instance in a 24-track compendium. So much so, I don’t remember the track at all. It blends incredibly well with the rest that it’s hard to distinguish one track from another. Especially when only tiny shifts in direction and sound show any distinction. The whole album can be identified as one track. It seems like Marijus scored for as long as he could and then sliced the product into 24 random parts. The titles at times even feel like he was running out of ideas (one track, “Rocky,” plays before another track, “Balboa;” and there’s even a transitional track called “Transition.”). Arguably, the album, chiefly the second part, had its insight from Castlevania-inspired “Trevor C. Belmont” and “Italo” which were the only tracks previously released.
“Adi” is the closest resemblance to an apology. A man (presumably Marijus) identifies yoga and asserts that “sometimes I will say something, and I don’t mean it” in a plain spoken voice. He follows up with “before I say anything, I observe myself before I even speak to you.” It seems like he’s learned his lesson. But a smattering of tribal drums exploits the ‘sincere’ verbiage and celebrates his straight-forwardness shamelessly.
It’s not an album that should, or can be listened to in one sitting; otherwise a sleep induced sleep will ensue. A little at a time throughout a work day will be beneficial, if anything to help alleviate tension. Ultimately, it wasn’t necessary to make Queen this long. By the time “Observing” and “Still Waiting” rolled around, the point of the origin has faded. It enters a completely different domain, possibly one Marijus had in mind before the infamous escapade. It’s two albums, not two parts, attached to each other. The first part devoted to the scandal; the second part devoted to himself. Queen is blisteringly consistent and extremely polished but parts of it occasionally seem disingenuous. The vulnerability is talked about but it isn’t truthfully experienced. OK.