Author Archives: Mark McNulty

[House] Mindex – Opal Senses (EP Review)

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Mindex is a Russian producer of intricate electronic music, eclectic collages he calls “full spectrum sonic constructions from the future for your third eye and ear. Sometimes he dabbles with jazz or hip-hop motifs, other times he makes cerebral downtempo, but his new EP, Opal Senses out on Time Resonance Music, is a rare combination of psychedelic bass music and four-on-the-floor dance music.

Not that these two classifying terms are mutually exclusive – “acid house” was particularly psychedelic and bass heavy – but Mindex fuses on Opal Senses the best from the bass music world (think Symbiosis Gathering, Burning Man, Envision, Shambhala Music Festival) with the stalwart “house” beat always heard in clubs the world over. Imagine the staple of fine aldente pasta as the medium for a rich, flavorful new sauce you may have never tried before. This is a metaphor for Opal Senses.

“From East To West” immediately envelopes you in the “full spectrum” of sound described on the producer’s Soundcloud profile. A thumping bassline syncopates with a little 2-step. Weighty bass synthesizers stab and sweep over the beat and wrap each bass kick. There’s a great deal going on – glitching pops and intricate percussion here, traditional dance melodies there. It’s a gnarly club track if ever there was one. “Olympia” starts as a low down, rather anxious jam. Reverb on many of the sounds creates the effect of a dark, industrial room. A sly, squishy bassline permeates this tune, on top of which you’ll hear a simple descending melody that balances with the rather complex sound design taking place everywhere else. With a slight increase in tempo, “The Ones Who Watch Us” rounds out the EP with gusto. It’s the most minimal of the three tracks. Strings dance over the house beat, a clock-hand sounds like its clicking time away, and a classic acid house synth keeps the pace throughout.

Mindex is talented, and his catalog of music becomes even more diverse with the addition of this highly danceable EP. Grab a download here, and perhaps one of these tracks will find its way to your club playlist or DJ deck. The colorful cover art was created by Archan Nair.

Mindex – From East To West
Mindex – Olympia
Mindex – The Ones Who Watch Us
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ROOMS – bahna [TMN PREMIERE]

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The burgeoning Miami-based record label and fashion collective Bribery Corporation presents “bahna” by ROOMS, a soaring, progressive, ambient song complimented by an equally powerful and minimalistic music video.

ROOMS is Chris Weisson, a Miami-born, Los Angeles-based producer of Cuban/ Ecuadoran descent whose debut LP, There’s No Noise Here, will release on Bribery Corporation this year. The colorful 4k resolution video, directed, shot, and edited in Iceland by lauded Canadian film-maker Edward Platero (responsible for 2012’s The Drop: The EDM Culture Explosion) is a sight to behold.

I’ve traveled many places in my career, and I will say that hands down, Iceland is the most stunning place on the planet…ROOMS has crafted a sonic masterpiece with this song, and hearing it brings me back to the landscapes that I experienced on the top of our planet.

Indeed. “Bahna” has both the intangible atmospheric brilliance and masterful melodic touch evocative of Tycho, Bonobo, and, to a lesser extent, Flume. A reverberating, innocent synth pad opens the song, reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s “Wildlife Analysis”, only to give way to a collage of erie, discordant voices that are quite challenging to listen to. Then, perhaps with a vague stroke of metaphor, the clamor of voices ceases and the music and magic begins.

At the foundation of the drop and the rest of the movement is an undulating wave bass, the type of super-charged sine wave which we heard throughout 2016 from avant-garde “wave music” to ascendant hip-hop a la Travis Scott. It’s a simple sound with width and depth to fill your spirit, mirroring the size and scope of the rich Icelandic landscape. The rest of soundscape is filled with a swirling stew of ambient glitches, strange, synchronized percussive sounds, and deep, broken bass playing off of measured, high-pitched tones that sound like a dialysis machine, betraying the life-giving essence of this music. The protozoic scenes in the music video and the lyric-less expression of the song synchronize perfectly, giving the entire project a primordial power as if the music is part of the Earth itself.

Bribery Corporation, “The Holy Grail of naked bodies, draped in the finest of silks, paid for with the foulest corruption,” is clearly onto something. We look forward to more avant-garde electronic music from their ranks, as well as the full-length debut from ROOMS, who makes his first musical contribution to the public a magnificent one with “bahna”.

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[Hip-Hop] Charles Jane LaFlare – 50 Shades of Jane

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Charles Jane LaFlare
Fifty Shades Of Jane (prod. Johnytiger)

There’s a new wave moving through Miami, a one-of-a-kind cut “50 Shades of Jane” courtesy of a first-class future music odd couple – the braggadocious R&B singer/songwriter Charles Jane LaFlare and the grungy, admittedly anti-social beat architect Johnytiger.

Though their collision on this track is potent, these Magic City natives appear to come from disparate backgrounds. Johnytiger gets out there on production, filtering wrecking guitar chords, 808 drums, and wide, low synthesizers through a grunge aesthetic. In fact, Johnytiger plays guitar with the durable hardcore band I Set My Friends On Fire. We were delightfully surprised to hear him cook up a saucy wave beat for LaFlare, an up-and-coming glamorous R&B cat who can really turn a phrase.

“You know I’m a savage / Why you flexing on me like you think you have it?” asks LaFlare. We’re not, you have it, guy. The back end of the tune gets dirty, with the white noise dropping off and LaFlare rhyming assertively over pure bass and drums, with a sardonic sampled vocal leading the track to its conclusion. I can’t remember hearing high-pitched, higher energy, innuendo-laced R&B rhymes over an electronically constructed quasi-rock song before, but I’m damn glad I heard it today.

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[Album Review] Kiante Robinson – Love For Rap, Rap For Love

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Kiante Robinson is up next from New York with his first mixtape Love For Rap, Rap For Love. With authenticity and lyrical precision, the young Bronxite presents vivid tales and relatable tribulations from his life, along with a few ill boasts and party jams. In the new horizontal musical culture, it’s becoming slightly easier for a kid with skill and drive to get recognized in the rap game without the patronage of a major music label. Mr. Robinson, whose tape is out thanks to Gold Expectations, shows ample amounts of both.

Right off the rip, Robinson demonstrates his poetic prowess while offering advice only a fellow NYC youth could understand.

This that mood music / when you gettin’ pushed, homie, this that pull through it / I made this for that kid sittin in the school clueless / you ain’t gotta know what they know, that’s from a true truant

This tune, “Intro”, sets the tone for the tape – complex rhymes that ultimately relate simple truths. Kiante encourages his listeners to follows their dreams, use their minds, and rap for love, not for attention. He’s rapping about what he knows, not what’s popular or cool, and that’s what makes this tape so cool. The kid radiates realness. In a rap game where hot new artists spend so much time talking about and cultivating their image but can barely freestyle, “Love For Rap” is as refreshing as a bottle of beer from a bodega on a summer day.

The beats, more lo-fi boom-bap than 808 trap and covered in stylish samples, give the tape a vintage vibe. He pays respect to the greats, memorializing Phife Dawg at the beginning of “Move Along”, and naming a tune after Lauryn Hill. The final track, “#Win”, makes use of a classic soul sample “You Can’t Blame Me” by Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Burr, again paying homage to the past. “I wanna see my community win … if you fall, pursue it again.”

The tape’s first single, “Greatest of My Time” is rare braggadocio from someone who “don’t like to brag a lot”. That single has racked up over 2.5 million plays on Soundcloud. With Kiante’s words flowing like water over a true head-bopping beat, it’s easy to hear why this cut is finding favor. With little marketing or promo, no major record deal or co-sign, Kiante is simply showing and proving. A quick lyric from “Move Along” helps to illustrate the community Kiante comes from.

Always close to the cliff, but no big step off / it’s hard growing up watching all the rich get more / takin’ his and yours to make the kids less poor / bad parents but we ain’t jealous of the kids next door

The triplet rhymes run throughout the album. His syntax spills out so quickly sometimes that one needs two or three plays to get the full spectrum of what he’s saying.

The sheer density of his lyrics stands out in a hip-hop scene which has been putting greater and greater emphasis on intricate production and catchy hooks. Passing on these trends, he reminds us of Dave East, another true MC with lighting quick lyricism out of New York City.

“There’s something deeper in the music / but you gotta listen to find it,” Kiante says on “Level Headed”. That’s just how we like it, Mr. Robinson, and we’ll be listening for a long time to come. Grab your free download of this fantastic hip-hop music here.

’Intro’
’Soon As We Enter’
’Kiante Robinson – Poetry (Featuring Taina Rain)’
’You, You & You’
’Dreams’
’Intermission’
’Kiante Robinson – Greatest Of My Time’
’Move Along’
’Level Headed’
’Kiante Robinson – Lauryn Hill’
’Kiante Robinson – #Win’
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[Trap] Infuze – Alive (Ft. Brave)

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Infuze
Alive ft. Brave

The thunderous trap producer Infuze is back with the single “Alive” on Fools Gold featuring the golden pipes of singer/songwriter Brave. We have always loved the Bushwick-based trap and dance producer Infuze for his on-point arrangement ability and willingness to execute some serious left-field sound design, as we first heard on his remix for Bassnectar’s “Mystery Song”.

The same low-down, razor sharp synths that caught my ear on his remix for Nectar creep into “Alive” during the booming, spacious, traditionally-trap drop. During the buildup, Brave’s thematically simple but emotionally captivating lyrics layer well over the warm synth tones and arpeggiated melody laid down by the producer.

Often, and perhaps this goes without saying for some, a trap drop can sound played out. Yet Infuze keeps it fresh in his mix by infusing complex or unorthodox sounds which contrast well with more traditional trappings of this genre like the booming kicks and high-pitched lead melodies. Brave’s contribution also powers this track. We’re confident we’ll hear from her again at least a few times throughout 2017.

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[House] arfus – Dark Forge

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DARK FORGE

Arfus from St. Petersburg, FL is on one. His music is immensely creative and fun while achieving emotional depth. “Dark Forge”, his newest single, is masterful.

A house beat composed entirely of glitches opens the track. The main melody whispers into the mix, simple but profound, almost esoteric. The kick drum then thunders in with shocking volume and depth, coupled with the producer’s characteristically coarse synthesizers. All of the sudden there are three melodies weaving through one another, screeching sounds and a deeply-pitched new lead melody that sounds like it came from Lord of The Rings. From there the music moves even deeper into more complex territory.

It’s typical of Arfus’s mind-boggling production style to pack so much seemingly disparate material into one cohesive, bumping track. He achieves this same queer collage effect on “Dark Forge” but strings it together with a new, quicker tempo because, as he says on his Soundcloud, it’s a “club year”. Name your price and download this cut here.

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[Album Review] Azad – A Very Emotional EP

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We can’t help but appreciate the honesty shown by Azad on his newest EP. From the project’s title down to its most negligible lyric, the Los Angeles-based performer offers up straightforward thoughts and sensual energy in this classy hybrid of R&B and hip-hop, A Very Emotional EP. The record features a ton of material for an EP – verses laid out with consistent, adept flow, hooks highlighting his soft, lilting voice, all couched in excellent instrumentals from an all-star cast of producers. We’re grateful the singer/songwriter took enough time away from his label Mind Of A Genius to bless us with this compilation.

From track to track the EP tells a familiar but timeless story. First, serious longing and heartbreak. Then, introverted analysis leads to a return to confidence. Finally, it’s baby-making time.

“Enough of You” lays out the pattern that each song takes. Azad’s rhymes, sometimes styled more like freeform poetry than rap bars, tumble out towards in the verse towards a chorus that sounds like many a softer cut from Drake or J. Cole. The deep beat comes courtesy of Sango, Atu and Dpat, a trio which literally made great waves together in 2016. “Special” reminds one of The Weekend’s best tracks from 2016, but with more hard-edged lyricism in between the shiny hook. Catch the creative homage Azad pays to one particularly influential rhyme sayer in the second verse.

The talented Millz Douglas from East Baltimore holds it down with a great beat on “Godesses”, the type of pocket beat that offers a prime platform to a rapper, and Azad slides right in. The next two tracks, “Trust” and ‘Grind on Me” are produced by Jonathan Marquez, whose guitar samples refresh the soundscape. Trust is difficult to achieve, and the absence of it seems to be driving much of Azad’s emotional turmoil. Azad has a special ability to tell detailed, true stories in verse, especially on “Grind On Me”. Love songs are common, but it’s rare to hear an honest, productive, real discussion of relationship troubles packaged in smooth verse over the kick and snare. Only a few in the game do it well, and Azad puts forward his best effort on this cut.

Stwo from Paris offers my personal favorite beat on the compilation with “Ready”, a boom-bap dripping in bass with a kick that sounds like a heartbeat and a snare that is deliciously minimal. The lack of glamor in the instrumental makes room Azad’s smooth, soft flow. “Teach me how to love I never learned how / it’s like every house I ever built gets burned down.”

After such an emotional EP, “Sweet” is a perfect capitulation. The raunchy lyrics and braggadocio fit perfectly into HUCCI‘s big-ass booming beat (Strictly!).

A Very Emotional EP is a very strong effort from Azad. It’s exactly what an EP should be – a thoughtfully-curated series of stellar instrumentals, each one employed carefully by the songwriter to tell a different part of his emotional tale. Few artists rhyme with the complexity and sing with the catharsis of Azad while keeping it so real with the subject matter. With all the new-age R&B out there, it can be hard to find the durable cuts. A Very Emotional EP is full of them.

’Enough Of You (Prod. By Sango, Atu & Dpat)’
’Special (Prod. by Patrick Collier)’
’Goddesses (Prod. by Millz Douglas)’
’Trust (Prod. by Jonathan Marquez)’
’Grind On Me 2016 (Prod. by Jonathan Marquez)’
’Ready (Prod. by Stwo)’
’Bonus Sweet (Prod. by HUCCI)’
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