4 Walls by f(x)

f(x) - 4 Walls

A hatch door swings open, and you crawl into the large orb. The hatch shuts behind you, and the spherical vessel roars to life. You feel yourself and your container thrust quickly into the air. The strong gravitational force presses against your body, until you steadily level out into a calm hover. The dark walls of the orb mutate into transparency, revealing a vast concert hall filled with twinkling lights and people within orbs of many sizes. Spotlights hit the stage . . .

I finally understand the hordes of ravenous fans that flock to k-pop events. The genre is infectious, undeniably fun, and suffers little from cultural barriers (Korean happens to be one of the most musically euphonious languages). 4 Walls is the newest full-length from k-pop quartet f(x). The album title refers to the group’s recent alteration from five members to four, and the lineup change results in a captivating rebirth of their sound.

K-pop tends to embrace the pop sensibilities of the West, and no k-pop group has refined and expanded on those influences more extensively than these four ladies. Victoria, Amber, Luna, and Krystal each possess unique nuances — Amber raps, while the others bolster distinct harmonic elements and perform melodies in different ways — and the crystalline electronic instrumentation soars with upbeat, body-moving bliss.

Western listeners need not fear the language barrier when it comes to these songs, because they undoubtably require to be felt more than understood on a lyrical basis. Fans of acts such as Hot Chip and Grimes will surely discover the tantalizing allure of this lively record, and any individual that likes to have fun should absolutely give it a fair shot. If you’re seeking euphonious, intricately-composed k-pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Advertisements
4 Walls by f(x)

Shadow Of A Doubt by Freddie Gibbs

Freddie Gibbs - Shadow Of A Doubt

You sit on a lacerated couch that feels stuffed with something, in the dingy living room of a small house. A layer of pungent smoke hovers just below the ceiling and extends nearly to the ashen carpet. The front door slams open, and five hooded individuals carrying duffle bags and firearms run in. They slam the door behind them. You stay completely still. They cannot see you. They begin to board up the windows, and take smaller bags out of the duffle bags . . .

Artists embody the reality that they live, no matter how absurd it may seem to outsiders. Listeners ought to remember that while delving into this monster of a record. Shadow Of A Doubt is the newest full-length from rapper Freddie Gibbs. After the overwhelming success of last year’s Piñata, produced entirely by studio mastermind Madlib, Gibbs follows up by enlisting a star-studded cast to help create one of his best albums to date.

The versatility of Gibbs is unmatched. He adapts to and takes control of any environment he inhabits, which transforms the stuffed feature list from a harrowing initial sight into a treasure trove of possibilities. Production credits include Boi-1da, Mike Dean, Kaytranada, and a dozen others. The featured vocalists are even more impressive, with Black Thought, Gucci Mane, Dana Williams, E-40, and more all included.

The artists that choose to approach topics pertaining to gang violence and drug culture tend to do so from a distance, and the select few that speak from personal experience usually contort the potency into dramatized composition. Freddie Gibbs doesn’t fall into either of these categories. He presents the truth upfront, and censors not one single detail. If you’re seeking potent, trunk-rattling hip-hop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Shadow Of A Doubt by Freddie Gibbs

Dark Sky Island by Enya

Enya - Dark Sky Island

You stand upon a creaky wooden ship, looking out into the foggy night. The turbulent waves subsided hours ago, but you fear that the vessel has taken on too much water. Just when all hope seems to have sunk, a seraphic tone pierces the frigid air. The haze surrounding the ship dissipates, revealing an island nearby. You steer towards the entrancing tone, and anchor at a dock illuminated by the full moon. You step off the boat and follow the irresistible sound . . .

Some voices are timeless; they evoke specific worlds that require no adjustment in order to create something captivating for the listener to experience. However, some voices possess the timeless quality and also seize the opportunity to subtly tweak elements to create something sublime. Dark Sky Island is the newest full-length from Enya Brennan, an Irish singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist that really needs no introduction.

I have yet to encounter a soul with a dislike for Enya; I don’t think it’s possible. Her angelic singing voice and enveloping compositions wrap around listeners like a blanket, transporting them to the tranquility that exists in a place far away from reality. The golden formula of classical instrumentation tinged with pillowy electronics is lush as always, while her songwriting is the sharpest and most poignant it’s ever been.

This isn’t just an impressive collection of songs, it can also serve as relief from stress or anxiety. Enya has always embraced the easy-listening genre with more grace and artistry than anyone, and this release is evidence of her long-lasting relevancy. She creates aural landscapes to escape into, locations that place no burdens and require nothing from its visitors. If you’re seeking serene, patiently evolving ambience, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Dark Sky Island by Enya

Skid Row by James Ferraro

James Ferraro - Skid Row

It’s 1992. You sprint down a sidewalk through the streets of Los Angeles, raucous with the noise of revolt. You sidestep around a burning pile of debris just as it falls from a higher floor and smashes into the ground directly in front of you. You enter your apartment building and quickly scale the stairs to your floor. You slam the door behind you and turn on the TV. You blink, and you’re floating in front of a wall of TVs in a dark room. They turn on, one by one . . .

Los Angeles. It’s a city with layers upon layers of disparate culture woven together in an abstract collage, and its dark, potent history provides the foundation for this artist’s record. Skid Row is the newest full-length from New York-native, LA-transplant James Ferraro. The highly adept producer is equal parts experimental singer-songwriter and collagist dot-connector, and paints a beautifully charred portrait of the perplexing city.

These experimental compositions are stitched together with samples of LA’s bleak past, a time filled with harrowing news reports detailing corruption and riots. These choice historical glimpses provide a concrete narrative that threads through Ferraro’s otherworldly, funk-tinged instrumentation, while his distinctly dreary voice recites lyrical mantras that drip like molasses. It’s sonically inventive and eerily captivating throughout.

This record comes at an ideal moment. Amidst the current state of racial tension and police violence in our country, it has the space to illuminate and warn of the potential for history to repeat itself. Between the scenes of discord, however, the teeming life of the city lurks. These tracks are menacingly gorgeous, just like the home that inspired its creation. If you’re seeking conceptual, collagist experimentalism, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Skid Row by James Ferraro

Nothing by Kode9

Kode9 - Nothing

You slam the door behind you, separating your soaked body from the relentless downpour outside. It’s pitch dark, but you soon find a switch after fumbling your hand along the wall. The massive room is cast in sterile, white light, illuminating a multitude of stainless steel tools and glass containers upon long tables. It’s a laboratory of some sort, but for what purpose? The containers begin to fill with potent, multicolored liquids, and the tools come to life . . .

Nothing. It’s a concept that’s difficult to grasp, and imagining it as inspiration for the creation of music is entirely perplexing. However, it is the common thread that ties this gorgeously heartbreaking record together. Nothing is the newest full-length from producer and Hyperdub label head Steve Goodman, under his Kode9 moniker. Hyperdub has always flourished with electronic innovation, and Goodman follows suit.

The spirit of The Spaceape, Goodman’s longtime collaborator, permeates throughout these tracks and even materializes for a posthumous feature on “Third Ear Transmission.” Goodman honors the recently deceased poet by constructing otherworldly, rhythmically intricate techno and footwork that’s ripe with melancholic melodies and cavernous space for the late wordsmith’s soul to silently inhabit.

The most powerful statement arrives at the very end, in the form of the album’s closer, “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Acting as a modern update to John Cage’s classic “4’33”,” the 11-minute song drifts in the clamor of silence, awash with fuzzy static and faint hints of everyday activity. It’s the purest form of “nothing,” and a beautiful tribute to a friend. If you’re seeking progressive, melancholic techno and footwork, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Nothing by Kode9

Asperities by Julia Kent

Julia Kent - Asperities

You sit in a theater, completely alone in total darkness. A grey counter descending from 5 flickers onto the screen. After the number 1 disappears, everything is black once again. You are then shown a tranquil image of a pastoral meadow in vibrant color. The scenery steadily fades to black and white, and a hooded man steps out from behind one of the trees in the distance. He coldly stares for a long while, and begins slowly walking towards you . . . 

The cello is a magical instrument. Its timbre and deeply beautiful tone are timeless, and it’s often utilized to emphasize the emotional intensity in compositions, but what happens when an artist constructs an album with the instrument as its centerpiece? Asperities is the newest full-length from Canadian cellist and producer Julia Kent. On this record, the frequent collaborator has found her own unique sound.

Kent weaves tapestries of delicate electronics and enveloping field samples that wrap around her entrancing, suspense-inducing cello performances. Any one of these songs could score a horror film with the best of ’em, but only the scenes where the sense of dread hangs heavy in the frigid air. There are no jump-scares on this ride, but the menacing, beautifully overwhelming tension will have you aching for the jolt of relief.

The symphonic musician has long accompanied and supported the artistic narratives of acts such as Antony and the Johnsons and Rasputina, but Kent has used this record as an opportunity to emerge from the ensemble haze and into the solo artist limelight. Classical music is very much alive and well, and it lives within talented virtuosos such as this. If you’re seeking menacingly atmospheric, symphonic music, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Asperities by Julia Kent

A City Remembrancer by Shape Worship

Shape Worship - A City Remembrancer

Layers of vibrant color vibrate and undulate before you. The seemingly random patterns formed by their movement are dizzying, yet you feel fully at peace within the picturesque tides of sound. For a moment the disparate images line up to form a face, noticeably content even without a smile, only to dissipate as suddenly as it materialized. The ethereal fog consumes you for a long while, until the haze forms a road leading to a town. You walk down it . . .

Inspiration can be found just about anywhere, and where better than a region that revolutionized a sizable portion of diverse electronic genres? A City Remembrancer is the debut full-length from producer Ed Gillett as Shape Worship. Gillett has meticulously crafted an expansive, emotionally ripe journey through the UK’s past, present, and future via electronic experimentalism of the most beautifully organic variety.

The record plays like a spiritual tour of the sounds that the UK birthed. The tracks fluidly delve through feather-light grime, mechanical techno, hazy jungle, and otherworldly dub, all immersed in tranquil ambience. Contorted samples of spoken-word testimonials from London’s residents haunt the lush instrumentation and ground the songs in concrete memories. It’s a deeply affecting listening experience throughout.

Eviction for the purpose of new development is infamously known as “decanting” in the UK, and the displacement that results from it forms this record’s underlying core; it’s about the bittersweet sensation of ushering in newness and the sacrifices that are made in its wake, in London and everywhere. Records with this much significance deserve to be celebrated. If you’re seeking ethereal, expansive electronics, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

A City Remembrancer by Shape Worship