Secretly Susan by Sui Zhen

Sui Zhen - Secretly Susan

You dig your toes into the warm sand, as you sit and stare at the azure horizon. Something compels you to begin walking towards the waves that swathe the shore with foam. The water overtakes your ankles, and still you walk. You keep walking when the liquid covers everything under your waste, under your neck, under your chin. You inhale deeply below the surface before opening your eyes, filled with vivid color. Melodies of the ocean fill your ears . . .

The face of pop music has received countless makeovers, each more perplexing and divisive than the last. It’s reached a point where artists create the saccharine sounds typical of the “genre” while simultaneously parodying it, resulting in concoctions of both the satirical and the sincere. Perfecting this formula is a tightrope walk, but it’s nailed down on this record. Secretly Susan is the newest full-length from Melbourne’s Sui Zhen.

The tone is set by the shore-lapping waves that kick off the album’s intro track. Aqueous synths and billowing subterranean basslines envelop the listener in watery, bossa nova/dub-flavored worlds, pulsating with balearic hand percussion and soft electronic rhythms. At the core of the compositions are Becky Sui Zhen’s breathy, playfully featherlight vocal melodies, floating throughout the songs like candy-coated jellyfish.

Although not necessary to fully enjoy the music, it is recommended that the listener view Sui Zhen’s accompanying visual elements. Self-directed, her videos feature seductive brain-smashing, egg-caressing, fern-fondling, and other activities that meld the sensual and the repulsive in charming ways. Secretly Susan is gorgeous, uncanny, and completely entrancing. If you’re seeking aquatic, bossa nova/dub-flavored pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Secretly Susan by Sui Zhen

You Will Never Be One Of Us by NAILS

NAILS - You Will Never Be One Of Us

Sirens blaring; skyscrapers crumbling into ashen heaps; towers of fire bursting from the earth’s surface; ravenous beasts stampeding through streets; planets exploding among the stars; jagged meteors falling from the red sky; blood raining down from clouds of smoke; screams of the living dissolving into nothingness; howls of the undead shaking the cragged ground, crawling up from their graves. The end of everything is here, and it is loud . . .

Beware, ye who enter here. Abrasive music is a cultural divider that polarizes listeners, depending on their tolerance/craving for aggressive passion. Hardcore certainly isn’t for everyone, and this record in particular does not cater to the faint of heart in the slightest, as it thrashes about in the darkest, most unapologetically vile realms of the genre. You Will Never Be One Of Us is the newest full-length from Oxnard, CA trio NAILS.

With not a single second of filler content, these ten songs (most of which run under two minutes) roar at breakneck speed with pummeling blast-beats, earth-scorching guitar riffs, and inhuman, throat-shredding vocals. Fans of d-beat, grindcore, and powerviolence will revel in the chaotic rampage, refined to apocalyptic perfection by producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. It’s an onslaught of awe-inspiring brutality.

Off-putting at an initial glance, the record title is actually a message of inclusion. The “us” is in reference to anybody who’s ever found sanctuary in a musty basement overflowing with deafening distortion and flailing limbs. It’s an invitation to participate in the band’s bitter ritual; a celebration of isolation, atheism, ferocious masochism, and life’s utter meaninglessness. If you’re seeking chaotic hardcore, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

You Will Never Be One Of Us by NAILS

Red Sky by Moon Hooch

Moon Hooch - Red Sky

A circle of towering trees surrounds you. A fire in the center of the clearing illuminates the darkness of the night. The flames rise from a pile of glistening brass instruments, slowly melting in the heat. A cold wind dances across your face and feeds the fire. The fiery pillar explodes, rising into the sky with an unearthly tone that shakes the earth. The molten instruments ascend out of the fire and into the air. They are played by an unseen force . . . 

The saxophone is undoubtably one of the most versatile instruments in existence. Equally capable of virtuosic solos, foundational melodies, and otherworldly textures, it’s one of those rare tools that can be contorted in any which way to complement the given context. However, there are far too few circumstances in which it’s granted the leading role. Red Sky is the newest full-length from the Brooklyn trio known as Moon Hooch.

These thirteen songs are crafted by a deceptively simple recipe: a couple of dueling saxophonists in Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen, with percussion held down by James Muschler. The three classically trained musicians blast through compositions ranging from rollicking funk rock to subdued psychedelia. The chemistry between Wilbur and McGowen is exuberant and intoxicating, often resulting in sweat-drenched euphoria.

Having met at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and spent vast amounts of time refining their creative formula by busking in New York City Subway stations, these guys know exactly how to play to each other’s strengths. Red Sky is a record stuffed to the brim with ebullient melodies, fresh ideas, and exhilarating energy. If you’re seeking exuberant, saxophone-centered rock, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Red Sky by Moon Hooch

Who Is Richie Brains? by Richie Brains

Richie Brains - Who Is Richie Brains?

You stand within a crowd in a dark room. You turn around and see that a hole is growing amidst the throng of people. You push through the bodies until you’re at the perimeter of the empty space, and watch intently. Seven hooded individuals with heads lowered enter the chamber, march through the horde, and step into the circle. They form a line, and stand perfectly still. A beat starts to thump loudly through the chamber. They nod their heads . . .

Drum & bass is a constantly evolving genre, one that pervades a plethora of styles with its influence. The spirit of its rapid-fire rhythms haunts nearly every species of electronic music, while its chemical structure is regularly contorted to breathe new life into new sounds, which begs the question: “what exactly is drum & bass in the year 2016?” Who Is Richie Brains? is the debut full-length from new production collective Richie Brains.

Seven artists, each with respective solo catalogs, conjoin like heads of a hydra to create a marvelously cohesive album. Alix Perez, Chimpo, Fixate, Fracture, Om Unit, Sam Binga and Stray are the elements that make up Richie Brains, and each brings unique flavoring to the drum & bass-tinged concoction. Grime, g-funk, footwork, hip-hop, jungle, and techno are all displayed in various amalgamations with unbridled, intoxicating energy.

Although almost none of the compositions resemble drum & bass in its traditional form, they all utilize minimal components of the genre to bolster the sounds that are present. Scattered among the instrumentals are stellar performances from featured vocalists, including Fox, Killa P, Rider Shafique, and Trigga. The whole thing reeks of communal genius. If you’re seeking eclectic, unbridled electronics, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Who Is Richie Brains? by Richie Brains

Tween by Wye Oak

Wye Oak - Tween

You stare at a computer module, as piercing frequencies fill your ears. The waveforms created by the high-pitched sounds form undulating peaks and valleys on the screen, mountains that swell like ocean waves. Suddenly, you’re climbing a cragged cliff of one of those mountains, staring up at the boundless stars and satellites that illuminate the night sky. You reach the summit, turn around, and look down at the immensity of the valley’s magnificence . . .

Following the success of a record requires a bit of big picture decision-making; does the artist make an abrupt left turn in order to mine for innovation and new ideas, or does it make more sense to build upon what came before by diligently refining the familiar? History is strewn with examples of each, but a group that melds the two avenues is a true rarity. Tween is the newest release from the Baltimore duo known as Wye Oak.

This album is a beautiful enigma, one that merges the group’s experimental tendencies with what they do best. Soaring vocal harmonies, guitar wizardry, and pummeling drums mix with synthetic textures, bass grooves, and fidgety drum programming to create dreamy folk/indie-rock hybrids that are as imposing as they are gorgeous. These eight songs resemble the lofty magnitude and majesty of a volcano on the brink of eruption.

The title of the record is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the middle ground that the duo stands upon, a status that resides on the threshold between what came before and what comes next. A surprise release consisting of post-Civilian, pre-Shriek compositions that combine the best aspects of both, Tween is Wye Oak’s most wonderfully versatile, all-inclusive statement. If you’re seeking lofty indie-rock/folk, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Tween by Wye Oak

Levitate by Lone

Lone - Levitate

You step through the opening of a transparent crystal chamber suspended above the mouth of a deep cavern. The door closes behind you, and you begin to descend into the gargantuan hole in the earth’s surface. You see glimpses of colored beams of light shooting up from the cave and hitting the translucent walls surrounding you. You sink further. You’re now able to see the countless bodies gyrating to rapid beats and bass. You run out of the chamber . . .

Rave culture was born from the drum break, a rhythmic element to which every electronic dance track is indebted, and a component still utilized in purists’ repertoires to this day. It’s a sacred piece of music history at this point, yet it’s still being reworked and infused into modern compositions to combine classic and contemporary styles. Levitate is the newest full-length from British producer Matt Cutler as Lone.

For nearly a decade, Cutler has maintained his status as an innovator firmly planted in the roots of dance music culture, melding genres such as house, hardcore, ambient, and drum’n’bass in various amalgamations. Levitate is his most hard-hitting release thus far, filled with glossy synths frolicking atop breakbeats that could get any warehouse steamy. These are throwback-tinged gems adorned with immediately enticing melodies.

There’s an intoxicating energy within these songs; a kind of joyous, no-holds-barred vitality that’s loads of fun and highly addictive. They invoke potent levels of nostalgia, and also contain copious fresh ideas. The only downside is its brevity, but every second of its 33 minute runtime is captivating, and it only gets better with subsequent listens. If you’re seeking joyous, breakbeat-filled electronics, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Levitate by Lone

Faraway Reach by Classixx

Classixx - Faraway Reach

You drift through a dim cavern in a kayak. Droplets fall from stalactites above into the gentle water below, as you gradually near the bright light at the end of the tunnel. You cross the threshold, and blinding warmth caresses your face. You beach the vessel on a nearby sandy shore, and jog towards a massive group of people dancing to a tantalizing beat. The ground beneath the crowd changes colors in response to movement. You join the celebration. . .

It was high time for house music to shed its skin, emerge from its club-centric home, and journey out into the light of day; thus, tropical house was born. Numerous producers have made their names on the whimsical melodies of the sub-genre, but no artist designs sounds that evoke the feeling of warm escape quite like these guys. Faraway Reach is the newest full-length from Los Angeles production/DJ duo Classixx.

Michael David and Tyler Blake have always excelled at enhancing their features with blissful house instrumentals, and this time around they bolster their list of collaborators further with artists like How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, Holy Ghost!’s Alex Frankel, and even T-Pain. It’s the ideal soundtrack for a sultry journey to sun-drenched beaches, complete with colorful melodies and grooves abound.

The immense depth of these songs is unveiled with a closer look at the lyric sheet, filled with world-weary topics like allowing pain to influence life without consuming it entirely (“Just Let Go”), vapid arguments between partners (“In These Fine Times”), and consoling loved ones in the throes of depression (“I Feel Numb”); it’s aural revitalization. If you’re seeking vividly colorful, tropical house-flavored pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Faraway Reach by Classixx