Record Reflection is curated by Alex Grindley.
Record Reflections is our weekly feature exploring the releases from the previous week across a variety of genres and styles. This week features the newest releases from Death Grips, James Blake and Vancouver punk-rockers White Lung.
Our in-depth feature on Radiohead’s newest album is available here…
Bottomless Pit- Death Grips
Label- Third World/Harvest
Release Date- 6/5/16
Genre- Hip Hop, Industrial
Over the past 6 years Death Grips have become somewhat infamous for their fiercely vitriolic brand of hip hop, their oft-insufferable internet fanbase and their antics both on and off stage. Bottomless Pit revisits more familiar ground after last year’s failed experimentation on the soundtrack Fashion Week. The first song Giving Bad People Good Ideas begins with a vocal sample followed by an explosive sample of noise rock, looped beyond all recognition, with MC Ride’s distinctly antagonistic style of rapping over said sample; they hit hard from the offset possessing all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the shins. With the tone very much set, the album continues on a similar course throughout with industrial synths and discordant vocals abound (see Hot Head). The brutal intensity of the album is uncompromising yet still remains compelling, despite its manic atmosphere the album is their most coherent and intriguing work since 2011’s The Money Store. The work of producer Zac Hill on this release is particularly noteworthy, the synths and sample work may be chaotic, but at the same time are adeptly layered and structured to establish Bottomless Pit’s distinct sound and style. This release is unlikely to win over detractors of the group (they show no signs of changing their obnoxious and caustic style any time soon) but beneath the seemingly inaccessible exterior of this release there is a skilfully refined and honed album to be found.
Summary- A return to form for the group after a few disappointing releases. As aggressive, unsubtle and confrontational as ever, there are no groundbreaking changes in sound or direction here, but this is certainly a must-listen for fans.
The Colour In Anything- James Blake
Release Date- 6/5/16
Genre- Alternative R&B, Art Pop
Critical darling James Blake has returned with his first album since his Mercury award winning Overgrown in 2013. The Colour In Anything, although evoking the soulful minimalism of his 2011 debut, is an entirely new endeavour for Blake as an artist who has not allowed his vision to be marred or overshadowed by expectations. The opening track Radio Silence recalls the rich synths and ethereal vocals of his 2013 hit Retrograde, yet it does not come across as derivative. It is markedly more melancholy and pensive in its mood. This wistful melancholy comes to define the album and is masterfully encapsulated in the reflective Love Me In Whatever Way and the delicate Bon Iver collaboration I Need a Forest Fire. A particular highlight of the album is the beautifully intricate Put That Away and Talk To Me with its stark vocals and complex ambient soundscape which elicits worthy comparisons to Radiohead’s Kid A. In spite of its bittersweet atmosphere the album is at the same time warm, sensual and deeply nostalgic. Songs like Timeless and I Hope My Life for example even seem to harken back to some of his earliest dubstep and garage EPs. Ultimately Blake is looking back retrospectively across his discography, while at the same time speculating about his future as an artist. The Colour In Anything is the sound of an artist coming into his own and entering a new stage of his career, it will be very exciting to see where he goes from here.
Summary- A gentle and introspective release from Blake with an unmistakable maturity in its tone and atmosphere. Blake continues to prove himself as one of the leading British artists of the moment.
Paradise- White Lung
Release Date- 6/5/16
Genre- Punk Rock
Canadian band White Lung have consistently produced some of the most exciting and sincere punk rock of the decade, channelling their riot grrrl influences in a dynamic way. Paradise signifies a shift in tone from their previous efforts, focussing less on explosive bursts of energy and more on long form structure. Their characteristic rage and frantic blistering guitars are certainly still present, Vegas, for example is one of their heaviest songs to date with instrumentation that wouldn’t sound out of place on a metal song. Nevertheless these aspects at times seem sidelined in favour of a more orthodox approach in their songwriting. Riffs are cleaner and their arrangements are uncharacteristically catchy at many points on the album. Occasionally this new approach succeeds, I Beg You is melodic and memorable yet does not compromise on their typical anger, a marked highlight of the album. However, for the most part this new approach does not succeed; their songs come across as muted and subdued…attributes a punk song should never have. Furthermore, the production choices across this release have given everything an unsettlingly polished sheen. Way’s vocals are too crisp, the guitar work lacks weight and the drums often fall flat. This refinement serves to their detriment rather than their benefit, losing some of their raw abrasive energy which made their earlier albums so invigorating. While this is certainly not a bad album per se, it comes as a considerable disappointment when taken in the context of their discography as a whole.
Summary- Catchy hooks and riffs are frequent in this unusually melodic affair from White Lung. However their raw energy, which is typically abundant, seems to be lacking in this release.