I don’t want to seem like a yes-man, but Future’s not putting a foot wrong; ‘HNDRXX’ is gorgeous, a hallucinatory pop/trap/R&B whirlwind that balances pleasure and pain – even innocence and arrogance like they’re the same damn thing. Well, innocence might be a little too strong (we’re talking about a guy who kicked off his last project with, ‘Your baby mama fuck me better when the rent’s due’). Nevertheless, this thing dazzles. ‘HNDRXX’ trades in the unadulterated, head-bopping grit of ‘FUTURE’ for falsetto-led victory laps, decadent anecdotes and heartfelt confessions – bathing them in the melodic warmth of R&B instrumentation from a variety of eras.
I shouldn’t really have to fill you in on Future’s last album, I mean, it dropped last week for fuck sake. Anyway, it turned out to be the best version of what, I imagine, we all expected: a Super Future trapathon. Everything about it was relentless, and I suppose, in some ways, conclusive. He could have left it there. Alas, that’s really not his style; a follow-up was announced. Despite the fact that‘FUTURE’managed to colour inside the lines of his well-recognised formula and still keep things interesting, a further seventeen tracks of pure bass and bravado may have triggered some thumb-twiddling. So, a change of pace was pretty essential.
THEY., as a duo, jut out sonically and sartorially from our ’17 On The Frontline Series’. The former, with their audacious blend of punky flecks and R&B textures – and the latter with their stonewashed denim jackets and head-wrapped bandannas. Both of these characteristics make quite the statement – and they don’t shy away from verbalising them:“This is a new agenda we are trying to push, we want to be alternative, we want to blend different genres together and take little pieces of what we like and fuse it together.”
And that’s exactly what they do with ‘Nü Religion: Hyena’: the drums clash, clang and flutter quite unlike the more rigid patterns of today’s R&B; the ghostly, harmonised vocals constantly morph and modulate, drawing on a plethora of geographical influences; and the upshot of these artistic chess moves is extremely impressive. ‘Nü Religion: Hyena’, then, is less of an experimental project, and more of compelling argument: R&B, hip-hop, rock, funk – these are merely categories that we confer upon particular albums and artists because we – as fans – like to make sense of them. They don’t belong, intrinsically, to the sounds themselves. So, if we spend less time compartmentalising and more time listening – we can start appreciating these projects for what they really are: carefully moulded sound.
After that little rant, you’re probably wondering why, in the second line, I implied that the album in question was in fact R&B – well, that was really for ease of reference; ‘Nü Religion: Hyena’, as the duo themselves assert, is ‘alternative’ – but not the kind of not-quite this-not-quite-that kind of alternative that many acts fall into. Alternative, in this context, is more about amalgamation. ‘Africa’ for example, utilises tweaked trap drum patterns in service of a culturally cathartic groove with jaunty synths and layered crooning; ‘Motley Crew’, with its recurring, Nirvana-esque guitar riff, culminates in a triumphant call to arms with thumping bass that Future would be proud of; and Dante dials in some James Blake electronica for ‘Truth Be Told’ just to keep the listener honest.
However, despite the far-reaching influences and daring musical chemistry employed by THEY on ‘Nü Religion: Hyena’, the tracks aren’t simply bolted together. Dante’s zippy, complex drum patterns keep the project tightly focused, and Drew Love’s ghostly falsetto – although operating in a variety of ways throughout the project – preserves a semblance of homogeneity to keep the record’s vision intact.
‘Nü Religion: Hyena’, then, is not merely an excellent project – it’s an important project for music moving forward in 2017. Don’t get too caught up in the gorgeous melodies and the compelling rhythms – this album (and this duo) come with a message: don’t just push the boundaries – knock them down. Create something new.
People seem to be arguing a lot about Future’s hot streak: when did it start, when did it end, or even when – if ever – will it end? Well, it’s safe to say that it started late in 2014 with ‘Monster’. After a messy split with Ciara, Future decided to become a caricature of his new public persona, creating a project typified by three things: desperation, punishing low-end and crushed auto-tune.
The upshot: some of the most emotionally compelling hip-hop in a while – somehow managing to convey despair at 95 bpm. Following this came a slew of albums and mixtapes, namely: ‘56 Nights’, ‘Beast Mode’, ‘DS2’, ‘Purple Reign’, ‘What a Time to Be Alive’ (with Drake) and ‘EVOL’, all of which stuck to that same aesthetic more or less – and all of which were homeruns in their own right. With his latest album, then, the streak’s still intact; ‘FUTURE’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, however, it’s an excellent demonstration that the Atlantan has his particular brand of punch-drunk trap down to a fine art.
Hailing from Los Angeles, NoMBe (real name: Noah McBeth) has been tucked away for a while now, honing his conceptually ambitious sound – electric soul. Fusing together the slow, evocative whispers of indie folk, Noah 40 Shebib’s feather-light drums and a plethora of jazzy guitar riffs – NoMBe’s been marching all over the musical map to bring you these psychedelic love ballads.
What’s more, he plans on drip-feeding these tracks – one-by-one, each month – until his debut album, ‘They Might’ve Even Loved Me’, appears as a fully-formed playlist on his SoundCloud feed. A novel move, and perhaps an ingenious way to combat the average fan’s impossibly short attention span. Either way, he’s making some beautiful music.
The album’s second track, ‘Young Hearts’, just hit SoundCloud recently. A smouldering cut concerning adolescence, and, in particular – an adolescent’s inability to reconcile the emotional with the rational. Here’s NoMBe’s personal, and very lucid, take on the track:
‘Like the rest of us, the first time I was in love was the most pleasantly painful experience of my life. There was no point of reference for how to cope. When you are truly obsessed with another human, you are convinced that you have everything to offer to this significant one, but can only marinate in confusion over the fact that she (or he) just isn’t able to see it. You may want to die for this person, you may want to abandon everything. This may even seem plausible in that given moment because you simply can’t fathom life without them. This feeling evolves over time and I think love becomes more complex as we get older. Young Hearts is dedicated to that unadulterated feeling (pun intended) that we only get once. Raw, uncontrolled and unexpected.’
The vocals, although minimal, convey a real longing; the gentle knock of the wooden snare is extremely satisfying; and the core, tropical house-like melody that drives the track manages to embody the oxymoron written by NoMBe himself: ‘pleasantly painful’.
Go listen below or watch the video above and stay tuned for next month’s!
As we wait patiently for the TDE clan to get their act together, SZA gives us some digital goodies to hold us over, perhaps serving as a little apology for the delay of her debut album, ‘CTRL’.
Firstly, we get szactrl.com – an interactive site wherein we get to follow a variety of instructions before we can reach the main menu. After typing out ‘ctrl’, your keyboard turns into a sort of makeshift MPC; all of your keys correspond to some musical note, and hitting them causes a series of photos and doodles to appear on your screen.
This kept me entertained for a while, hoping that, amongst the rather cryptic slew of pictures – I might find theactualrelease date for SZA’s album. Alas – I did not. Anyway, once I had completed this task, I was greeted with a mini-documentary at the main menu: ‘WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN: road to CTRL’ (funny name on quite a few levels). The documentary serves as a montage of sorts, showcasing clips of SZA recording, performing and reflecting – all backed with pensive, acoustic guitar-driven cuts that will likely feature on the album. It ends up being a sort of kaleidoscopic window into SZA’s pre-drop life; gentle conversations are intercut with obscure filtered visuals, creating a hazy, glitchy (and rather adorable) story.
Despite the delays, I believe watching this documentary will end up being rather important for connecting with ‘CTRL’ – and SZA for that matter – on a more personal level. So, if the album’s just around the corner – I think the delay will have been worth it.
As one of the ’17 On The Frontline’, you can trust that – from here on out – Santino Le Saint is gonna bring the heat. And nothing exemplifies that statement better than his achingly poignant new cut, ‘Down’.
Written, arranged and produced entirely by Santino himself, ‘Down’ possesses all of the smoky guitar riffs and painfully evocative vocal lines present in‘THE SECOND EP’. However, there’s something slightly different about ‘Down’; it’s ballad-like structure and sparse instrumentation only accentuates further Santino’s layered, arena-ready voice:‘Told me I’m special / Say I’m a star / Just cuz I’m high doesn’t mean I’ll go far.’
Although Santino’s dejection on ‘Down’ seems irreversible – his artistic trajectory is only going one way:up. So, whether this track will appear on a follow-up EP, or perhaps partly constitute a more intricate project, its still up there on quality. But, needless to say, whatever this multi-instrumentalist has lined up – it’s gonna cut through the noise.
During his acceptance speech for Best Television Comedy at the Golden Globes (Glover won two awards by the way, both for ‘Atlanta’), Donald Glover had the following to say:“I’d like to thank the Migos – not for being on the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee’”.That track (along with that speech) has created quite the buzz for the trap trio as of late. It’s not surprising really – although remaining fairly formulaic – it’s not any old trap anthem; Metro brings his most mesmerising synths to the table, and the Mac-11 cadence of Offset’s triplet flow demonstrates just how punchy “mumble rap” can be – when left to the professionals, that is.