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.
We last heard from this electronic producer with his EP generously titled, “When You Realise People Are Not One Dimensional Characters In A Movie Of Your Life“–check out our thoughts on it here. The London beat smith, MODEL 86, is back already with the first single release from another incoming album. The lead single, “Missing” has many of the experimental elements we’re familiar with, but there seems to be a more driven and organized sound. With changes around each corner “Missing” is a dynamic listen and the main melody is just infectious.
James Lanning made his first salvo into the ongoing struggle for notoriety in New York hip-hop with the gutsy single “One” in March, 2016. The music video, filmed by the rapper himself, saw James climbing and teetering on top of Big Apple skyscrapers. Combined with his thick lyricism and daring flow, the audio-visual combination was a feast for the senses. Now the driven and introspective rapper is back in a big way with “Until 27” featuring a witty verse from the talented Michael Christmas. “Until 27” is the first single off Lanning’s upcoming debut album Another Day Wasted out December 16th on Onamazu.
Off the bat, this beat slaps. Producer glocque pairs the lo-fidelity of a classic hip hop beat with low-end bass manipulation from the realms of dubstep or glitch hop. This unique backdrop is well-suited for the unorthodox, rapid-fire lyricism of Lanning. He stays in the pocket, and with this beat there’s some wonderfully spacious room for him to rhyme. “You don’t like me? I don’t like me neither / He might be Eazy or he might be Bieber,” Lanning starts in, alluding to his crossover appeal or perhaps some inner tension. Michael Christmas’s verse is a splendid addition to the track, rounding out the ironic tune with a bit of humor. In a city of almost 9 million people, and probably about 15,000 rappers, Lanning is wisely flexing a fresh and unique sound to distinguish himself.
Greg Jones aka G Jones has been an undisputed innovator in electronic music for years now, the champion young gladiator in the arena of filthy, hard-edged sound design, with ever-evolving new expressions of the mind-melting, cathartic bass drop. His production pace is also prolific. It seems every time he performs he’s debuting new singles and collabs, and now he’s dropped “Pull Up”, the first single from his upcoming Visions EP.
Jones’ sound has always evolved at a rate which can be hard to follow. Fans barely get accustomed to one incredible style before the artist moves on to his next manifestation, and some of the stylistic innovations he’s made in the past are now passed over in his new productions. “Pull Up”, for example, lacks the head-nod drums (“trap” beats to some) and the long-sustained synth lines of his earlier work. The track starts with an archetypal faux-dance synthesizer that’s soon interrupted by slashes of razor sharp, two-ton heavy snyths, bounced back and force with a Jamaican voice hollering “Pull Up”, and a mash of hi-hats, 8-bit beeps, and huge variety of seemingly random percussive sounds. What has never left, and will continue to define G Jones music for many ears, are the enormous, meticulously-crafted kicks and experimental snare sounds that anchor “Pull Up”.
This new single confirms what many who’ve been attending Greg’s shows for months already know, that the producer is moving into ever more abstract territory, away from clean beats a la Bassnectar, and more towards the fringes of experimental bass music a la EPROM. “Pull Up” comes ahead of Greg’s Visions Tour, which commences in January and will absolutely barnstorm clubs with support from legends like UK bass pioneer Plastician, and The Widdler.
Tropics has spent years writing intelligent ideas and trying and tinkering with sound to express them, from early acid-jazz experiments to more recent original like the astonishingly avant-garde “Home and Conscience”. After all his development and genre-blending work, Ward strikes a strong, original balance of elements on this remix of Alex Clare’s “Tell Me What You Need.”
Here Tropics aka Chris Ward creates a soundscape that is emotionally ambiguous but full of delightful sonic flourishes. We loved Ward’s introduction of his own voice into his composition last year, and we love his ability to fold Clare’s bold croon into the smooth fabric of this new advanced production. The complex beat almost manages to divert attention from the starry vocals – no small task. The organic instrumentation which Tropics introduced on last year’s “Rapture” makes this remix so pleasurable, particular the skipping drum beat, crisp cymbal strokes and the minimal, echoing guitar pluck which play off each other for a polyrhythmic effect. The acoustic material blends soft and smooth with the synthesizers that Tropics and admirers of his music have always been so fond of.
For an artist who has never stayed in the same sonic space for too long, Tropics has moved again to beautiful new surroundings with this fresh remix.
Fresh from the onomatopoetically named Whump Collective comes a masterfully deep and diverse single, “Death Stroke”, composed by Nocturnal Status and Dillard. “Death Stroke” is highly danceable, with a deceptively smooth and steppin’ beat riding over sub-flexing background bass. There’s innumerable sonic snippets and details in the track. They flutter in and out with varying impact, until becoming more apparent when the sub bass drops out. All elements come together cohesively, which is no easy task. As the track moves along, a vocal sample is choked and manipulated, and some particularly industrial whumps, assumedly from Dillard, take center stage before the act is through.
Clearly some skillful sound design went into this number. Both artists traffic in inordinate amounts of bass and glitch, and can create contemplative chill music as well as chest-thumping bass jams. “Death Stroke” has a great balance of both styles. A free download is available here.
Time and time again the word “experimental” gets used incorrectly. However, it’s groups like Meltybrains? that end up somehow eschewing and bolstering that label at the same time with their absolute defiance of coloring inside the lines. “Step” is the latest from this eccentric band, fraught with auto-tuned and veiled vocals bouncing around crashing drums and a nearly impossible to follow rhythm, but it isn’t off-putting in any regard. They’ve developed an entrancing nature that’s reflected throughout their dark and mirrored video, and by the time it ends, you find yourself slightly confused yet more than satisfied.
There are no boundaries or conventions followed by Meltybrains? (which is an apt name, by the way), and their thorough disregard for both is what has created such an intriguing exploration into the farthest reaches of what experimental music can truly accomplish. “Step” is the second offering from their upcoming Kiss Yourself EP, and if you’re digging this strange yet absorbing sound, be on the lookout for the rest of their new project on November 18th.