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)

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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

Goodness by The Hotelier

The Hotelier - Goodness

“We sit and we talk, not of much but of little. I see the moon, the moon sees me. I would smile but it would be meaningless. I wouldn’t want it to be. But in the landscape of tilted heads, while the sky sheds skin on my body, I feel my voice quiet to a halt, and this is where I am.” You sit beneath a tree’s canopy in a meadow, surrounded by smiling, naked individuals. The sun rises and casts its warmth through the leaves, a band plays, and everyone dances . . .

With only three measly paragraphs, I fear I shan’t have ample space to adequately convey how I feel about this record. I’ve failed until now to locate a collection of songs that bridge the gap between my past and present tastes, and do so in such a graceful way. Goodness is the newest full-length from Massachusetts trio The Hotelier, a band that pours raw feeling into their sounds until they’re on the brink of overflowing.

These songs toe the threshold of emo rock, but they sculpt the emotive elements into refined compositions that resemble progressive anthems. This music invokes something from deep within the listener, like gospel honoring life itself rather than any otherworldly deity. Shout-out-loud choruses, communal harmonies, rollicking drums, and scorching guitar riffs are all included, with a sense of warmth pervading throughout.

Opening with a spoken-word recitation of the lullaby “I See the Moon” and sprinkled with brief interludes of the same piece cast as campfire sing-alongs, Goodness is emblematic of its title and perfectly NSFW cover art; it’s a record that claws through the hurt and preconceptions in order to stare at the inherent beauty of existence, stripped away of everything nonessential. If you’re seeking emotive, anthemic rock, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Goodness by The Hotelier

Tempo by Olga Bell

Olga Bell - Tempo

Drenched in sweat, your body sways among the mass of undulating flesh that fills an underground club. The room is dim, humid, and overflowing with bass-heavy pulses that shake everything. The sound suddenly cuts out, and a blanket of silence is thrown upon the chamber. The mass of individuals frantically pivot their heads, and slowly create a hole in the crowd. A single woman, dressed discordantly, stands at the center. She starts to sing . . .

Picture this: a classically trained musician develops an infatuation with the tantalizing allures of electronic dance music and 90’s pop. A student till the last, she does her extensive research by becoming a regular at a plethora of club events, always attending alone to avoid unnecessary distractions. She absorbs the sounds, studies them, and makes them her own. Tempo is the newest full-length from Russian artist Olga Bell.

After familiarizing herself with the components of club music, Bell dismantled the pieces and reassembled them into a fresh breed of pulsating, off-kilter pop. Her stunningly charismatic voice plays ringleader in these versatile, playfully creative compositions, encompassing styles including hip-hop, house, trip-hop, and footwork. The dichotomy between her intricate progressions and frivolous instrumentation is truly astounding.

The record title refers to the semi-improvisational method by which she constructed these songs; for each track, Bell would simply determine a tempo that suited the mood of that particular day, and gradually form the song’s elements around the sound of the metronome. This lends an air of delectable spontaneity to one of the most fun records released this year. If you’re seeking playful, eccentric pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Tempo by Olga Bell

For Good by Fog

Fog - For Good

A man slumps over a grand piano in a vast, empty concert hall. The walls ring with a residual hum, and all that can be heard is the steady breathing of the crouched pianist. The lights dim until blackness covers everything. All is dark and quiet . . . until a chord explodes through the chamber with a BOOM. The room is cast in blinding light. The piano’s lid flies open, and its mechanical insides float around the hall. Another chord rings out, and the man sings . . .

How does a jack of all trades pour himself into the singular vision mold of an album, reintegrate into the world of music after so many fleeting trends, and do so adorned with a sobriquet that he hasn’t utilized in almost a decade? How can one consolidate the experience and skill gained from stints as an ambient musician, turntablist, vocalist, painter, and handyman? For Good is the newest full-length from Andrew Broder as Fog.

Merging his expertise in traditional songwriting and technological experimentalism, Broder crafts an album filled with theatric, electronic-tinged balladry. The centerpieces are his voice and piano, powerfully charismatic and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, respectively, while multitudes of IDM rhythms and vinyl scratches surround him like a swarm of locusts. It’s melodically stunning and idiosyncratic to the utmost degree.

Rather than hindering his eccentric tendencies to fit within the confines of something that can be regarded as “pop”, he does the exact opposite. For Good is a record that displays the ideal trajectory of an off-kilter artist, a collection of compositions that squeeze refined elements inside of far-out arrangements to marry the harmonious and the cacophonous. If you’re seeking IDM-tinged piano ballads, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

For Good by Fog