Skeletonized is indeed a rare breed of musical style that branches out from the gutters of Pittsburgh to bring an aggressive twist on the one-man band show. Drummer Matt Rappa combines both the authenticity of raw percussion work and various samples and electronics to create an unholy triple threat of emotion, confusion, and intrigue. Throughout his work, Rappa works in both the sporadic movement of jazz, to the complex cadences of heavy bass focused tracks with grooving snare rolls and freeform flow that is impossible to replicate and comes strongly on the ears.
As Self-Titled Cassette Excerpt opens, it is greeted with the simply titled “Side A Excerpt” that begins with near math-rock proportions of wailing horns, pounding percussion, and an assault of noise that floods to the listener and is reminiscing of an unfiltered and never calm style. The random flow, while incredibly un-fabricated and seemingly without direction shows a sincere sense of creating a completely new idea. While taking elements from other sections and genres of music, Skeletonized is able finally wind down and eventually leave the sporadic playing for more of a groove on the second half of “Side A Excerpt.” This is where the sections begin to connect and show a more distinct sense of direction. Even as the second half slowly falls in and out of these sporadic moments, Rappa is still able to bring back the reigns and really hunker down behind the cracks of both the snare and the Morse code like noises that play behind him. Finally, “Side A Excerpt” lets the dust settle with a large amount of feedback and silence before launching back into another glimpse into the pseudo-future of both animalistic unpredictability, and sheer ferocity.
Launching back into the undefined style, “Side B Excerpt” puts an immensely large focus on combining both the horns and percussion, but in a way that lets both instruments have their own spotlight. As the horns continue to wail and what sounds like a saxophone plays through both low grumbles and increasingly bravado style blurts, the percussion follows behind with continuing rolls and smacks on the cymbal domes to give off a complementary feeling between the powerhouse of instruments. Then as the percussion gradually takes the lead, the horns dial back and are instead replaced with these strange and unruly synths that take the backseat to the thunderous bass drums. Skeletonized is more of an experience and the Self-Titled Cassette Excerpt while only a small look into the future of Skeletonized, is still large enough to get a taste of something more.
From the dark, heavily-wooded hills of Pennsylvania shines a beacon of hardcore music. Glasnost is that shining light uses ripping-riffs, pounding percussion, slick bass work, and a punch of vocals that illustrates the City of Steel still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Not only is Glasnost powerful in their approach, but they show potential to become one of the stepping stones and a staple of Pittsburgh Hardcore.
While with only a single studio release, Shade EP is hopeful and features a solid mix of both straight forward aggression, and a hopeful insight into the future of human nature. With Andrew Frassenei on vocals, Nate Rupert on guitar, Sam Frassenei on Bass, and Vincent Clark on the percussion, they create a stopping force that together, is the equivalent of an atom bomb. From the start of “Generations,” Glasnost moves steadily and creates momentum within the instrumentalists before coming to the first subsection of lyrics and continual breakdowns and start-ups that keep the action in a constant state of non-complacent power. The frequent changes in both tempo and style are attention grabbing and the consistent switches from both clean to growling vocals is one of Glasnost’s best attributes. Together, Glasnost works perfectly together and their energetic chemistry is apparent from start to finish on the Shade EP. Even when transition from track to track, Glasnost seems to capture the same level of energy, transferring it into a seguing power and releasing an entertaining, near fifteen-minute ride.
Ryo Fukui is a prolific jazz pianist from Japan based out of Sapporo where he made his way playing at the Slowboat Club and while his career spanned only four total records, they are all fantastic looks into the beauty and grasp of a national recording artist. Fukui makes an effort to capitalize on his ivory prowess, launching a wave of power, grace, and soul that transpires through his music and truly emotes alluring attractions of instrumental glory.
His 1976 album, Scenery is gentle in the first stages but eventually goes through several transitions of metamorphosis where a distant rumbling of bass and percussion is soon brought into the foreground as Ryo Fukui can unleash a shining example of mastering multiple emotions in several sections. From the opening track, “It Could Happen To You” where it is the shortest track present on Scenery, but also a track that proves Fukui’s immaculate talent. Switching from steady rhythms to sporadic hammering of the keys, Fukui is a legend in his craft, making serious advancements through his sound. Even as the keyboard is thumping steadily along, the other instruments, both the percussion and bass are important in forming the overall sound as well. Their power is almost just as important as Fukui on the keys and the two players Fukui uses are incredible in keeping both the subtly and the forcefulness at a point of never overpowering each other. The constant duality is only further displayed as Scenery continues and becomes ever more clear.
As Fukui moves onto one of his proclaimed masterpieces, “Early Summer,” the keys become a simple extension of Fukui’s movement. He moves what seems like effortlessly between his machine and does an outrageous job of managing to output different sequences that would make the standard person’s head spin. He is fantastic at what he does and his sudden tempo changes that shift everything up to level eleven is awe-inspiring. Listening to Scenery for the first time is similar to finding a jazz gold mine, each note that Fukui plays ultimately contributes to the final product of immense glory. The sporadic playing that follows midway through “Early Summer” is challenging to even listen to, as it is so incredibly fast and while it shows a pattern, Fukui and his band move together so fluently almost as one single entity of sound.
Even in the final moments of Scenery, Ryo Fukui still progresses with a great amount of emphasis on keeping the energy continuously live and fresh. There is no track that sounds similar, even as all the tracks are seguing together nearly perfectly. Because of this, Scenery feels much shorter than it actually is. The barely 40-minute record is a national treasure to jazz and needs to become acknowledged for the sheer beauty that Fukui possesses through his music. From the somber self-titled track, “Scenery,” to the blast on “Early Summer,” Scenery is a wonder of noise and sound that echoes in the mind years after the first listen. The replayablility and the downright attractive nature makes jazz feel like a new experience once again, even after hundreds of plays in the late nights to the early mornings.
When people think of Virginia, the thought of Colonial America might form, or perhaps images of trees and sprawling forests, maybe the fantastic hills that the “Birthplace of the Nation” has to offer. There is however, a select few people who know the urban legends that spawned from the Richmond underbelly and Nickelus F is one of the vocal heavyweights that put Richmond as a footnote for musical ability. The Freestyle Champion, plague of locust flooding, production destroying, Nickelus F comes swinging with a melodic mix of fresh cuts on his latest record, Triflin’.
From the earliest days of 2000, Nick Fury/Sweet Petey/Nickelus F, what ever you want to call him by, each moniker is only a chapter in his life that shows a natural progression. He was a freestyling champion on BET Network’s “Freestyle Friday’s” and eventually worked himself up to studying with superstars like Drake and even some of the underground masters like Lil Ugly Mane from his sprawling career, Nickelus F has proved time and time again that he can master any microphone, studio, production, and still look calm, collected, and unable to break a sweat.
He begins his personal recollection with the opening track, “Laced Weed.” With a skit/intro that features Nickelus F and a police officer discussing a traffic stop over “no front tag” on his car, the officer then later explains, “The part, the are you live in is not such a good area down here, so when people have violations you know we stop just to make sure everything’s good.” Nickelus F then jumps right into the hook of “Laced Weed” where he almost speaks instead of rhyming and explains, “I leave go out, get to juggin’ unless you got a better plan. Step back and let that boy cook ‘em, whip whip with the left hand… Grew up to be a clever man, T-R-I-F-L-I-N.” The production is a solid mix of piano and 808 drums but does not come swinging in full force for an opening. It is more of a gradual build into some of the later tracks, but Nickelus F still delivers clever wordplay and some interesting one-liners. His clever flow resides into the following track, “Walls of Jericho” and the anthem to his city, “Richmond.”
Sweet Petey follows the subtle energy and eventually crushes it into a full-frontal rush on “Walls of Jericho.” The instrumental sounds something similar to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) with these smoky piano chords that are eerily similar to the personification of criminal mischief. The track also matches well with Nickelus F’s rhyming style where he attacks almost relentlessly with lines that describe, “She say he ain’t in church enough, I pray, done prayed my whole damn life, but that don’t seem to work enough so I’m grinding, grinding, making’ moves…” and even “Got a clip in the ashtray, put it in my mouth, that shit be jumpin’ like a baby kangaroo from out the pouch.” He also drops a classic, Nickelus F charmer, “Smell my fingers, you can tell it was some wow. She said I can hit it raw, I threw the hat like Kung Lao, what now?.” Nickelus F has always managed to release a steady flow of comedic lines while giving off the impression that he is not trying to overthink anything. His lyrics are not the vocabulary assault, but they are still relatable and complicated enough to stand on their own.
On his following anthem, “Richmond” is a beautiful track that taps into F’s upbringing and how he made his way into both hip-hop and life. “Richmond” is also a double track that switches beats midway to create a total style alteration that flows effortlessly and keeps Nickelus consistently adapting to his production. He first explains, “It’s where I first learned to smoke the grass, it’s where I got my first piece of ass. We used to shoot dice between the class, and if you don’t pay up we gon’ beat yo ass.” To then using a slight intermission where the percussion is more focused and the production features warped voices that echo almost like ghosts of the track. This style switch fits Nickelus F’s lyrical style as well as he describes, “What you know about dark days, pointing that gun at yourself. Tell me everything about life, man you can blame nobody else…Swear I cried out to God begging for help, and then he gave it to me in the form of a mirror.” Nickelus F uses “Richmond” as more of a personal statement and does an outstanding job with connecting his past experiences and his future ideas into one consistent track.
Out of the fourteen total tracks that Nickelus F delivers, there is not a single track that feels like a filler, or even out of place. He does an amazing job of creating a surreal album that demands to be listened to from front to back with no skips in between. He destroys every track in his own stylistic choices and creates a personal connection to the listener without sacrificing for wordplay or experience. Doing the impossible is something that can almost never happen, but Nickelus F has proven time and time again that he can shatter the boards of hip-hop, pick up fifty-two points with ease, and make other artist seem silly in the craft.
This is a new collaborative effort from Drew The Architect and Grayera… I like it and you might too. I don’t feel like doing anything fantastic today so this is what my friday will consist of. Come to my showcase on May 26th and it’ll be cracking. Mostly, it is a short distraction from this life to the grave. Happy Friday kids, stay safe on the weekend, and don’t forget to do at least one front flip a day.
Somewhere in the barren recesses, there lays a diamond amongst the sand. A true jewel of musical sound that laid buried deep, and almost in plain sight. This diamond was the strange, wonderful, and occult compilations known as The Desert Sessions; a love-child of Joshua Homme, Chris Goss, Samantha Maloney, Mark Lanegan, and the numerous personas that stemmed from Cole Jontrane, Nigel Thistlewaityourturner III, Gross, Alain The Mighty, Natasha The Great, and even Joshua The Mildly Entertaining. From these laidback, experimental sessions of recording, some of the greatest Queens of The Stone Age tracks, features, and products have come to fruition.
Volume 7 (Gypsy Marches) & Volume 8 (Can you See Under My Thumb?… There You Are) are a compilation effort of both talented and experimental instrumentalists and vocalist that create an intriguing approach to a double sided album. Almost in no correlation, Volume 7 begins with “Don’t Drink Poison,” a promiscuous styled lumber of stylish cymbals and tom percussive work that almost borders on a Middle-Eastern sound of sitars which slowly transfigures into a march of snare drums and horrific chants. The string work on the first portion of “Don’t Drink Poison” is enticing and is reminiscing of a fantastic dinner party, while the second portion becomes a sudden ritualistic trial of short, bursts of knives that cut through the sound and become quite animalistic. Even as the track frequently switches between these two styles, “Don’t Drink Poison” is thrilling and keeps a consistent flow which drones out into “Hanging Tree.”
As Queens of The Stone Age later revamped the track, “Hanging Tree” uses Mark Lanegan as the main vocalist and his stone-dead voice is chilling, but still tender when letting out the subtle cries of the daunting setting. Lanegan describes, “Round the hanging tree, Swing in the breeze. In the summer son, as we two are one.” Of course while he nearly whispers these lines, the instrumentation behind him is similar to a Spanish/Mexican dance track where the acoustic guitar is played in a certain manner and the percussion is focuses on drawing attention to the pounding tom drums. Then, in succession, the track “Winners” slides into frame and is more of a joke than anything. It features a funky electronic beat and has different voices reading names of students as they proclaim, “The following students in your high school were winners.” It shows the level of variety and the care-free attitude that the musicians had when forming the Desert Sessions’ records. They were meant for experimentation and to change the formula of music.
The track “Winners” and the following, “Polly Wants A Crack Rock” are polar opposites and the jump is almost jarring. The sudden four beat count-in from the drumsticks is the first opening of the gates into one of the best written and most musically progressive tracks on Volume 7. “Polly Wants A Crack Rock” is catchy, with a punk style of percussion and the guitar being a flurry and flash of simple, but memorable fret-board maneuvers. The vocal aspect is the most predominate and Nick El-Dorado does a beautiful job of illustrating an addiction to crack with sudden huffs and inhales as a backing piece to his vocals of “Polly wants a crack rock, Polly’s on the wrong block.” Even from the jumps from the first, “All dressed up, nowhere to hold…” to then the second verse where El-Dorado screams, “All fucked up, hanging around,” is a sudden, but effective lash of energy that segues into the final moments where the following track, “Up In Hell” can shuffle in.
The final track of Volume 7, “Up In Hell” is subtle in the introduction but quickly changes into a crush of percussion and claps that echo through the track, even the chorus features a band of people in unison stating, “Up in Hell.” The guitar work is a shining example of how unfiltered expression can make for a solid display of precision as the entire work feels like a guitar-solo dedicated to overlaying extra noise over an already deeply layered track. “Up In Hell” is an effective transition of cult-esque chanting, ritualistic drums, and the final notes of the guitar acting like a wave to subdue all the sound, paving the way for Volume 8.
“Nenada” is the first track to grace Volume 8 and is a straight-forward track of a continuous jam session of hi-hat clasps, chanting, and guitar work that shines through into the later work of Queens of The Stone Age. Volume 8 is a much slower, more gentle side than its predecessor and the final track, “Making A Cross” is a perfect example of this sulking approach. It is a ballad of acoustic guitars and a crawling advance toward percussion that acts more as a finale. “Making A Cross” is beautiful and is a well-placed closer to an album of experimentation and oddities. An album that destroys genre and instead focuses on creating whatever was wanted, ignoring the rule book and adapting to a new order.
Where does the center of punk music lay? Does it have roots dating back to the earliest ages of the ancient Egyptians? Does it spawn from the first days of the missing links? Could it possibly have started with the sudden eruption scientists describe as the Big Bang? I personally do not know, but I do know that Blazing Eye is an extension of that pent up aggression and desirable punk music that the public so desperately needs. From the enclosures of the sudden urges to break everything in sight, Blazing Eye launches an attack with terror and displays no sign of mercy, no points of slowing down, and no sense of rationality. They destroy, rebuild, and crush again the very foundation that stands around them.
S/T 7” may only be a near seven-minute journey, but Blazing Eye treats this journey like a flurry of broken bones waiting to happen. The glimmering beacon of hope that acts as a build up into their first track, “No Outside” is not quite punishing, but instead acts as a safe zone for mosh pits to gradually form and become the onslaught that Blazing Eye will surely deliver on. Their sound goes beyond the limits of emotion and becomes a thrill-ride of electricity that instantaneously throws a wall of sound to the listener, threatening them, and finally launching a blaze of percussion and gutsy guitar that seems to echo continuously through each track. Anger is a repeating factor of their musical sound and the abrasiveness is the weapon of choice as Blazing Eye will move from track to track in a consistent fashion of never seeing a stopping point. Their music is like a train ride of fire, the wheels never slow and the noise only continues to grow more and more rambunctious.
In the subtly named “Kill You,” Blazing Eye takes an approach of using their vocalist as a screamer and introduces some solo work on the guitars as a way to mix up some of the flow of the music. Their approach is still the same, a sucker punch of kerosene that burns brighter than anyone around them. Blazing Eye is also home to LA VIDA ES UN MUS RECORDS which shows a touching grace to Lumpy and the Dumpers, and other outstanding acts like S.H.I.T., Rat Cage, and Anasazi, all of which have been known to be angry and show similar signs of Blazing Eye’s claim of glory. The general sound of LA VIDA ES UN MUS RECORDS is a hardcore jump with a twist of modern personalities. Blazing Eye feels familiar but also is a touch of new that is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding palate of hardcore music.
Blazing Eye then continues on with “Devil,” and the final track, “Biting.” Both of these tracks are a fighting spirit of head-slamming glory and force movement within the first few seconds. The pounding of the percussion, the swinging style of the guitar, and the in-your-face-attitude of the vocalization is a wonderful end to a fire-pit of hard as nails fury and a punch in the mouth to anyone being able to witness Blazing Eye’s assault.
RAGANA is the deadly duo of femme fatales that bring a crushing wave of sound, but also make use of beautiful chord progressions and incredibly daunting transitional pieces to create one of the more subtle, but punishing assaults on metal music this year. RAGANA is not a new band to the scene and both members, Nicole and Maria are no strangers to the musical background. With their newest record, YOU TAKE NOTHING; they establish newfound footing and continue to progress their overall sound another milestone.
From the gentle opening of singular notes played on a guitar, to the sudden crashing waves on the introductory track “Spare No Man,” RAGANA establishes a common duality within their music that contains both the beauty of melodic and droning styled metal instrumentation, with the howls and bitter screams of anguish that accompany the instruments. It is almost overbearing within first contact as the screams are so incredibly forceful and abrasive. Maria is the conjurer of the intense screams and does a fantastic job of creating a serious disconnect from the false beauty behind their music. Perhaps it is the sudden jump from angelic guitar work to the smashing percussion that crushes through like a hammer, RAGANA is unique in their approaches and show a strong disdain and detachment from being a place of solace.
“Spare No Man” is by no means a short track, lasting around three-minutes, but it does create a sense of blending within YOU TAKE NOTHING, as all the tracks have a sort of seguing property to them. There is no unapologetic jumps or leaps into a sudden blast of noise between tracks, the intensity is concurrent and never becomes a jarring stab. Even from “Spare No Man” to “To Leave,” RAGANA moves as a singular being where the percussion and guitar work shine immensely through the overbearing theme of darkness on YOU TAKE NOTHING. “To Leave” features the first appearance of clean vocalization and the voice is simply lovely when paired with the creeping, gentle builds that lead into the following track, “Winter’s Light.”
The percussion is something that always stands out on RAGANA’s records as of course, while only being a duo, there has to be some shining element of the band in order to create a memorable sound. Nicole does a fantastic job of switching from building sections of tom and snare hits where they continually pound and pound before reaching a tipping point of a full-frontal assault of rapid-fire cymbal and snare hits. When paired with the guitar work and the frantic vocalization as well, they make for an unforgiving combination of raw emotion, and pure power. This is also where RAGANA can illustrate their sense of adaptability as well, on the second half of “Winter’s Light,” RAGANA takes the progression down and becomes more focused on delivering a much slower, more steady sense of direction. The change is welcome as it enables RAGANA to become subtler, letting the feedback of a guitar flood out, and letting the inevitable silence to flood in.
The next two tracks, “Destroyer” and “Somewhere” are similar in style and act both as catalysts for RAGANA’s suddenly punishing touches and gentle approaches. RAGANA has such a wonderful sound and while their range is mostly consistent, it is the unanticipated changes that keep the listener on their toes and always trying to understand when the next transition will happen. This is RAGANA’s greatest ally, the element of surprise makes YOU TAKE NOTHING a constant journey of unexpected turns and gives the record a new level of replay value. From the beauty of Maria’s guitar work, the gentle build ups, and the final crushing waves of percussion from Nicole that truly make YOU TAKE NOTHING a thrill-ride from start to finish.
With the final act of the self titled track, “You Take Nothing” is the second-longest running track, but it is also the most important when looking at YOU TAKE NOTHING as a whole. It singlehandedly manages to capture RAGANA’s sound within its six-and-a-half-minute run-time while keeping consistent in building emotions and and the repetition of Maria’s words, “You Take Nothing, You Take Nothing, You Take Nothing…” which constantly builds before reaching her primal yells of the same phrase. It is a truly powerful message that becomes engrained through repetition and makes for a punishing, destructive finale to one of RAGANA’s best records yet.
Listen to YOU TAKE NOTHING Here!!! – BandCamp
Jamaica is known for traditional values, beautiful waters, famous artists and poets, and of course, Reggae music. While Bob Marley and the Wailers do hail from the “The Rock,” another artist that should be on the radar when discussing reggae music should also be Lennie Hibbert with his 1970 release, Creation. A Substantial release of feel-good musical tunes and an emphasis on creating a laid-back approach to sound, Creation is one of the best hidden gems that Jamaica has to offer.
Touching on major cornerstones of Jamaican music, Hibbert acts as simply an extension of the organs and vibraphones that make his records sound so incredibly consistent and well produced. It appears almost without effort that Hibbert creates a world of new sound and what appeared almost revolutionary at the time, has now deformed into a more modern style of using horns, strings, and slight, simple percussion to create the groundwork for his instrumentals. Hibbert’s sound is not unique, but the way that he organizes the progressions and manages the instruments is unique in their own right. Hearing his string sections and vibraphones being played together can instantly paint an image of a beach where the waves come gently, almost shuffling in; it can become a deep forest of lush greens and exotic wildlife. Through Hibbert’s musical ability and style, anything can be imagined and almost any tropical setting can be pictured along side. Creation is most simply put, lovely and has a touch of comfortable friendliness that never overstays the welcome and proceeds at a welcoming pace.
Even at moments where Creation begins to pick up and become more lively and exhilarating, it never becomes a sprint or a marathon of instrumentation. Instead, it adapts to these changes by making simpler rhythms and using a grander focus on creating sound rather than complexity. Hibbert continually adds layering to his tracks, but never do they feel overbearing or weighted, everything has a floating style around it and continues in the theme of being a gentle ocean breeze. The track that signs the brightest for these aspects is “Roselen,” it not only contains a wonderful arrangement of vibraphones and cymbals, but the bass lines and percussion truly sets “Roselen” to stand alone as a monument in music ability. The simplicity adds to the setting of “Roselen” and it truly does feel like a being caught in a gentle sea wave, or being placed during the most peaceful sunset on an exclusive island. Its solidarity works wonders for the track and makes Creation become a pleasant surprise with each incoming track.
Hibbert flew under the radar for American releases and his music is like finding a buried treasure. Creation is a record for the sun-filled days and the fire-lit nights; it begs for dancing, but can also be played to wind down an evening and take in everything nature will give you. From the creation to the deconstruction, Creation is a fantastic piece of cultural history and Jamaica has never seemed sweeter.