Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Reviews: Young Fathers, Paisley Parks and Pharmakon

Young Fathers Tape Two (Anticon, 2013)

The Edinburgh-based Young Fathers are an alternative rap trio, and Tape Two follows 2011's impressive Tape One. Since then, they've signed to Anticon Records, and this latest release sees them drop some of the lofi-ness of their debut. I say some, because they haven't exactly gone crystal-clear yet, and Tape Two is still grottier than your average squeaky clean hip-hop release.

"I Heard" opens the proceedings with a croon reminiscent of The Weeknd, and almost-whispered rapping over a mysterious drum pattern. Elsewhere on Tape Two there are a variety of sounds which are all indebted to traditionally black music; the album abounds with tribal drums and vocals heard in Afro-pop, and the aforementioned heartfelt crooning harkens back to soul music. One criticism of Tape Two is the rather pointless 51 second interlude "Bones", which serves no real purpose other than to pad out what is a rather short release; the all-too-brief length of Tape Two is another criticism of mine. On the whole though, this album/EP is satisfying enough, and it definitely whets my appetite for future Young Fathers material.

Paisley Parks Бh○§† (Pan Pacific Playa, 2013)

Footwork isn't an exclusively Chicagoan scene, you know. Paisley Parks are part of a wave of Japanese footworkers, and they've been putting out material since 2011. I knew nothing of them until earlier in the year, when Tiny Mix Tapes writer C Monster featured their new albumБh○§†, in the webzine's "Chocolate Grinder" section. His write-up made the album sound fairly interesting, and being the sheep that I am, I checked it out. And, well... it wasn't quite as good as he (or TMT reviewer Birkut) would have you believe.

Part of the problem I have with Бh○§† is that I'm not entirely sure what it aspires to be; it treads the line between parody, homage and sincerity so finely that it leaves me confused as to what the intentions of the project actually are. Take the track "There’s no pain killer anymore", which all but steals elements from DJ Rashad's "We Trippy Mane". Not a problem in and of itself, but when combined with stuff like the frankly annoying “Pai-Pai-Pai-Pai-Paisley Parks” production tag, I cannot decide whether Paisley Parks are critiquing and mimicking footwork conventions, or if they simply want the listener to move their feet to the music. Maybe I'm reading a little too far into this one. That aside, Бh○§† overstays its welcome a little bit at just over an hour in length, and tracks vary in quality, but it's also a strangely addictive album that does have a few choice cuts, namely stand-out track "G.H.O.S.T", and I do admire Paisley Parks for providing a new spin on footwork and juke, even if it isn't always all that successful.

Pharmakon Abandon (Sacred Bones, 2013)

Abandon begins with a tortured scream, and from there on in Pharmakon grabs you by the throat and plunges you into a dark place. A place where chains rattle, electronics groan and any signs of humanity are distorted beyond any decipherability. This is a resolutely murky album, and as a power electronics/death industrial record it has earned comparisons to the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Wolf Eyes, as well as the Hospital Productions roster.

Industrial music and power electronics are oftentimes quite repetitious affairs, wherein electronic effects, noises and drum patterns are looped and stretched out, and Abandon is no different in that respect. Like others operating in the genre, Pharmakon is effective in her employment of sheer noise and metallic, spine-tingling drums to create harsh, sometimes brutal atmospheres, and that indeed is what Abandon is all about; the long, pulsating sections of ambience are unsettling, even on record. Imagine what it'd be like to witness this live. Perhaps Pharmakon's greatest achievement, however, is the relative accessibility of this release; I'd say that most people could find something to enjoy in Abandon's deepest and darkest crevices, which isn't always the case for extreme music.

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