Monday, 3 August 2015

2015: Favourites of Q2

Another quarter means another list, and it's just as fragmented and all over the place as ever; that's just part and parcel of doing a two man show. And hey, who wants a neatly uniform round-up of the ever-volatile musical landscape? I know for a fact I don't dig the new Jamie xx record, but //APEX's other half does enjoy it a fair bit, so in it goes. It gets even more interesting when our tastes do actually converge: a noise opus, future-shock abstractions and the Super Chef are all things we can agree on, somehow. So, without further ado, here's our collective favourites of April–July (in no particular order). Joe Sherwood


Jim O'Rourke – Simple Songs
(Drag City)

Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
(Big Dada)

Jamie xx – In Colour
(Young Turks)

Holly Herndon – Platform
(RVNG Intl./4AD)

Young Thug – Barter 6
(300 Entertainment)

Everything Everything – Get to Heaven

Oneohtrix Point Never – Commissions II

Lower Dens – Escape From Evil
(Ribbon Music)

Prurient – Frozen Niagra Falls
(Profound Lore)

Kehlani – You Should Be Here

Nosaj Thing – Fated
(Innovative Leisure)

In Media Res – リンキンパーク
(Exo Tapes)

JME – Integrity>
(Boy Better Know)

Dean Blunt – Babyfather

Beat Detectives – Boogie Chillen / The Hills of Cypress
(Where to Now?)

A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP
(Polo Grounds)

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

iLoveMakonnen - Drink More Water 5

Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl
(Sacred Bones)

Friday, 3 April 2015

2015: Favourites of Q1

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
(Asthmatic Kitty)

Illinois-based Sufjan Stevens has always been a vivid storyteller, with each recognised album from 2003's chamber folk classic Michigan right through to the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy of the glitch pop world, The Age of Adz, in 2010 showcasing a different side to the singer-songwriter's alluring personality. However, despite seemingly lying low since his previous release in 2010, Stevens has reintroduced, if not reinvented, himself through Carrie & Lowell, which serves as a devastatingly heartbreaking insight into the trials and tribulations of Stevens' broken childhood by focusing more closely on his own repressed experiences rather than his views on the outside world and the ways in which his Christian upbringing have shaped these, as was the case on many of his earlier albums. Stevens sings "Fuck me, I'm falling apart" on the critically acclaimed 'No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross' which not only epitomises the despondent atmosphere of the album, but also highlights my exact feelings upon listening to 'Fourth of July', a track that tenderly addresses the death of Carrie, Sufjan's mother, before sombrely ending with the existential realisation that "we're all going to die"; Carrie & Lowell is a story of brutal honesty that wasn't curated with intent to portray a pretentious fantasy, nor to please the mind, and as Stevens said in an interview with Pitchfork"this is not my art project; this is my life." Joe Gilbey

Viet Cong – Viet Cong 

Mumdance & Logos – Proto

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late 
(Cash Money)

Drake's cut the crap and reverted to the rapper he once was, the sole reason that he originally rose to fame; he's reinstated himself as a Young Money Cash Money Billionaire. If You're Reading This It's Too Late is a sterling example of how the rapper is fighting the public perception of the credibility of his music and contains nothing but minimalist "fuck everybody" production to drill home the point that he is still one of the biggest names in hip-hop, and with features from Lil Wayne and Travi$ Scott and a mention to the highly respected British grime artist Skepta in the mixtape's liner notes, it is clear to see that the Canadian is not alone in his push for supremacy. Drake has burnt Marvin's Room to the ground and has taken his sound to the streets, and has ultimately left everyone wondering what he and his 'woes' are able to achieve in the forthcoming months. Joe Gilbey

GFOTY – Cake Mix
(PC Music)

Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

To Pimp a Butterfly is already a cultural juggernaut and critical monolith, and with good reason; if there's one album this year that has felt like a genuine event, it's K. Dot's. A complex, multi-faceted odyssey of black power and Hood Politics, Butterfly has already established itself as a cornerstone of 2015 which, rather appropriately, has got the whole world talking. Joe Sherwood

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love 
(Sub Pop)

Mount Eerie – Sauna
(P.W. Eleverum & Sun)

Dawn Richard – Blackheart 
(Our Dawn)

Pinkshinyultrablast – Everything Else Matters 

Father – Who's Gonna Get Fucked First?

Jam City – Dream a Garden
(Night Slugs)

If Classical Curves jolted UK's dance continuum in a new direction, Jam City's follow up record bears witness to a complete stylistic about-turn. Caustic textures, drifting guitar and RnB-indebted vocals all propel Jack Latham's sound into newfound realms of song-centricity. While everyone else is still catching up to Jam City's first album, Dream a Garden elevates Latham to another plane entirely, and it's gonna be a while before we see anything else quite like it. Joe Sherwood

DJ Nigga Fox – Noite E Dia

OG Maco – 15
(Quality Control)

Teresa Winter – Oh Tina, No Tina

Teresa Winter's new tape for Reckno is a rough diamond if ever there was one, all crumbling samples and bedroom pop reverie. Oh Tina, No Tina floats with the best of 'em, a veritable fever dream of melting plastic and broken tape machines; H-pop hardly needed a revival, but Teresa Winter nonetheless gives it a refreshing boot up the jacksie. Joe Sherwood

Björk – Vulcinura 
(One Little Indian)

Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife
(Ear Drummer)

Susanne Sundfør – Ten Love Songs 

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside 
(Tan Cressida)

This quarter has been an absolute milestone for hip-hop with eagerly awaited releases not only dropping left, right and centre, but also delivering the hard-hitting, dynamic content that had been promised by artists varying from the Wu-Tang veteran Ghostface Killah as a result of his collaborative project alongside BADBADNOTGOOD to the hedonistic up-and-comers from the south, Rae Sremmurd. Earl Sweatshirt's latest album I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside is another that certainly doesn't disappoint, with Odd Future's protege taking a more mature approach to his lyricism on grown up tracks such as 'Grief' whilst maintaining the gritty darkness that distinguishes the promising 21 year old from the rest, and more than justifies his self-entitlement of being "a hard act to follow". Joe Gilbey

Sunday, 14 December 2014

2014: Favourite 100 Tracks

It goes without saying that 2014 was another damn good year in music terms - then again, pretty much every year is - and as is customary for blogs, we're poppin' off a few lists of our favourite bits and bobs from the past year. First up, here's 100 tracks we really liked, in something of a rank order. Our choosing of the number one pick was pretty much the easiest decision in //APEX history, and there's plenty of other goodness elsewhere on the list, whatever your tastes may be, from smash hit singles to mixtape deep cuts. No write-ups here; we reckon these songs speak for themselves.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Reviews: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, DJWWWW & MC PLAY-STATION®

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Pika Pika Fantajin (Warner Japan, 2014)

It's a little difficult for me to consolidate my feelings towards Kyary Pamyu Pamyu without reaching for the overblown imagery of her Western mega-pop counterparts; your Lady Gagas, Katy Perrys et al. Hell, even Avril Lavigne has paid tribute to Kyary's outlandish style with the blog-stirring video for "Hello Kitty". But if you manage to look past the ultra-kawaii maximalism of the visual and performance aspects of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, you may find some of the most enticingly crafted pop ohrwürmers of recent memory, in any language. Her latest offering, Pika Pika Fantajin (which roughly translates to "Shiny Shiny Fantasyperson"), is more of the same, which is to say: stuffed to the brim with colourful instrumentation, viral hooks and a glorious sense of unreality. It does falter in places - "Ring a Bell", Kyary's first entirely English song, is so lyrically insistent that it winds up being a tiresome experiment above all else - but for the most part, Pika Pika Fantajin will likely be one of the most gleeful pop pleasures of the calendar year. That is, until Momoiro Clover Z release their new album.

DJWWWW & MC PLAY-STATION® *'~ 僕らのFANTASY *゚​+​.​。​:​;​+​.​:​;。​+​゚​*​♡ (Wasabi Tapes, 2014)

DJWWWW, MC PLAY-STATION®; purveyors of TOTAL SENSORY OVERLOAD and DENSE, NEBULOUS "COLLAGE" MUSIC (or, better yet, "epic collage"). Made up of 10 tracks with none of them edging over 4 minutes in length, *'~ 僕らのFANTASY *゚​+​.​。​:​;​+​.​:​;。​+​゚​*​♡  is a post-post-Oswald exercise in sheer sampledelia, almost totally forgoing melody and rhythm in the process. Well, maybe that's a little untrue; it's there in traces, only to be wiped out by a wave of digital noise or crushed beneath another sample almost instantaneously. Perhaps the real entertainment of *'~ 僕らのFANTASY *゚​+​.​。​:​;​+​.​:​;。​+​゚​*​♡  is picking out the blink-and-you'll-miss-it plundering; Kanye West, Waka Flocka Flame, Autre Ne Veut, D/P/I (I think?) are all given the DJWWWW/MC PLAY-STATION® treatment, sometimes all within the same 30 seconds, and it amounts to an amazing mess of pop culture and Bandcamp cool/weird/other.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

New Video: Beat Detectives

Man, these Beat Detectives guys are capital-dub Weird. Their musical output stands as pretty strong evidence of this, with groggy-azz tapes for Moon Glyph, 100% Silk and Night-People all capturing my attention last year. Their latest release, the wonderfully titled ASSCOP, captures those “3am basement house party” vibes that followers of the Detectives will already be accustomed to. As if the psychedelic fug of the music wasn't enough, their visual accompaniments also happen to be next-level BAD trip material (as is well-documented on their YouTube channel), and the Nic Wilson-animated vid for "Fresh Out The Pack" could well be the strangest of the lot, featuring a nude CGI Bart Simpson doing all sorts of hoodrat shit; namely, walking through a mountain range, navigating a black void, and setting himself on fire. Yeah. Watch it above, and cop the ass outta ASSCOP from 1080p here.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Review: The Soft Pink Truth

The Soft Pink Truth Why Do the Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey, 2014)

Can popular music ever exist without politics? Even in mainstream, charting music, one cannot help but get the sense that, now more than ever, artists are bringing an explicit political agenda to their work. Beyoncé, perhaps the foremost singer in pop, male or female, described herself as a "modern-day feminist" in an interview with Vogue UK, before taking this notion to its logical extreme on her self-titled album late last year: surely only Yoncé can shout "bow down, bitches!" over a drilling trap beat, before dedicating the middle portion of the same track to an excerpt from feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An overtly political record, then, but also the fastest selling album in the history of the iTunes Store. Away from the Billboard 200, the likes of Sleaford Mods and Young Fathers are spinning intriguing political narratives of their own, deeply rooted in background and personal circumstance.

Perhaps, however, we try to shoehorn politics into a musical context too hastily. For all the thinkpieces and articles on the supposed feminism of Miley Cyrus, the tracks on Bangerz, both lyrically and musically, remain effectively apolitical in nature; this is music for the party, which by design defies any political reality. This escapism is ultimately shallow, but Cyrus most certainly knows that she needn't create discussion through her music, so she doesn't. In the case of Cyrus and Bangerz, it's the aesthetic which takes precedence, and while on some level she may attest that her image subscribes to feminism, she is also aware that sex very much sells. Unlike Beyoncé, her ass is less a liberation front and more a platform from which to sell records.

This, then, poses a different question; can popular music exist without sex? In a Freudian sense, sex has manifested itself across all "popular" (I use this term quite broadly here) genres; not just amongst charting/radio music, but also at the more esoteric end of the popular music spectrum. From a distance, black metal might appear to be totally and utterly sexless, with many of its practitioners employing distinctively misanthropic, sacrilegious imagery in their work. It is upon closer inspection that themes of sexual desire and lust begin to appear, and this also happens to be where Drew Daniel's Soft Pink Truth project enters the fray. The Soft Pink Truth is the Matmos member's playful dance-orientated output, probably best known for 2004's Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth?, a collection of hardcore punk songs reimagined as synth-heavy house. Having spent the better part of a decade mainly focusing on his operations in Matmos, Daniel has emerged with the first Soft Pink Truth record since Do You Want New Wave...: this time, an album of black metal covers.

That Daniel should even touch genre classics such as Venom's "Black Metal" or Darkthrone's "Beholding the Throne of Might" is problematic in and of itself; black metal fans are famously dogmatic, and reconfiguring these tracks as house/electronica is enough to provoke bile-spewing internet comments as it is - indeed, the video for the "Black Metal" cover has already had a number of commentators express their distaste for Daniel's treatment of the original - but the most provocative issue underpinning Why Do the Heathen Rage? is sexuality. Daniel occupies a unique vantage point, as both a self-professed black metal fanatic and a homosexual man. It is this situation that drives the very essence of Why Do the Heathen Rage?, for this isn't so much a "profanation" of black metal as it is a complete genre deconstruction, not only gleefully attacking the dogged authenticity it strives for, but also the extreme homophobia and prejudice of some of its practitioners.

Daniel's makeovers penetrate themselves deeply into black metal's kvlt principles, reimagining aggressive riffs as acidic synth squeals, blast beats as punchy drum machine patterns, and so on. Interestingly enough, it's not only black metal that is being retooled here; baffling house and pop interjections appear throughout, such as Chuck Roberts' famed "let there be house!" proclamation on "Let There Be Ebola Frost". While this certainly smacks of a kitschy, self-indulgent appropriation of the genre, this tongue-in-cheek approach is not without a degree of respect for the material that is being worked with. The lyrics of the respective tracks Daniel takes to are kept intact, and the vocal delivery of these lines tends to retain the same raspy growl; clearly, these covers function not only to critique the narrow-mindedness of the black metal community at large, but ultimately to celebrate the music itself as Daniel confronts the fascistic ideals of his beloved genre.

As an exposé on the abstruse sexuality of black metal, Why Do the Heathen Rage? succeeds spectacularly, with lines like "riding Hell's stallions, bareback and free" reframed to now perhaps indicate the latent homoeroticism of some of the sacred cows of the staunchly masculine genre. It also succeeds as both an imitation and a respectful tribute to the unfuckable-with musical and thematic values at the beating heart of black metal. Above all, however, it succeeds as a Soft Pink Truth album; even without the serious historical subtext of Why Do The Heathen Rage?, it can be appreciated on its own terms as a hard-hitting, amusing and, occasionally, even danceable set of tracks.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

2014: Favourites of Q2

Where does time go? 2014 is already half-way through, and having honoured the best albums of (roughly) January-March, we're back to honour the best albums of (roughly) April-June - this time, however, we decided to actually quantify why we like these albums so damn much rather than just straight up list them. As ever, expect a nice grab-bag of styles and sounds, from alien grime to dusty jazz-hop with a gangster rap edge; terrifying doom metal to shimmering psych-folk, and so on.

Shout-out time; many great releases from Q1 slipped through the cracks initially, along with the sleeper hits we didn't realise we liked so much until after the list was finalised. These include Isaiah Rashad's Cilvia Demo, New Balance's Formes De Viure, Kassem Mosse's Workshop 19, Sun Araw's Belomancie, Ana Caprix's For Seven Nights This Island Is Ours, Ekoplekz's Unfidelity, Migos' No Label 2, Magic Eye's Babylon and Kevin Gates' By Any Means.

More shout-out time; the past three months have been particularly kind to us, so here are a load of releases that barely missed the cut from Q2: BADBADNOTGOOD's III, Foodman's DRUM DESU, Valerio Tricoli's Miseri Lares, Traxman's Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2, Life Sim's This Life, Gobby's Wakng Thrst For Seeping Banhee, Fear of Men's Loom, Dynooo's These Flaws Are Mine To War With, GFOTY's Secret Mix, Lil B's Hoop Life, Klara Lewis' Ett, Fushitsusha's Nothing Changes..., Mac DeMarco's Salad Days. Every single album mentioned above is worth checking out along with our top 20, and who knows, maybe they'll grow on us in the coming months.