Saturday, 20 July 2013

Reviews: SAINT PEPSI, Diamond Terrifier and Inga Copeland


Fuck what ya heard, because vaporwave never actually died. No, it didn't die, but instead spawned a whole new wave of practitioners to pick up the baton left by the likes of New Dreams Ltd. and Mediafired. SAINT PEPSI is among the new generation of vaporwavers, and having released 6 full-lengths prior to HIT VIBES, it goes without saying that he's quite a prolific artist. His earlier work, while vaguely interesting, was never fully realised conceptually or musically, but his latest release sees him righting these wrongs and delivering a very good album in the process.

Part of the issue with releases like EMPIRE BUILDING and STUDIO 54 is that they didn't bang enough. They felt as if SAINT PEPSI was going through the motions. His brand of vaporwave (or broperwave as it has been coined) relies on the manipulation of groovy dancehall cuts, and this is where HIT VIBES delivers; many of these tracks are funky and danceable, with motifs nabbed from the likes of Rose Royce and The Live Band. The synth and bass lines that run throughout HIT VIBES are downright infectious, and the soulful vocal snippets are sure to stick with you long after the album is over. Elsewhere there are slower-moving, chilled-out tracks in perhaps a more familiar fashion to the vaporwave that dominated 2012, and these make for an interesting diversion from the dancehall bangers rather than merely padding out the album. SAINT PEPSI is onto a winning formula here for sure, and if he further hones his sound, a new vapor classic may be released in the not-too-distant future.

Diamond Terrifier The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow (Terrible, 2013)

Sam Hillmer is the saxophonist of the Brooklyn avant-rock outfit Zs, and The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow is his second full-length under the Diamond Terrifier pseudonym, released by Chris Taylor's ever impressive-looking Terrible Records. Last year's Kill the Self That Wants to Kill Yourself is a scattershot, almost piecemeal record, but still a somewhat absorbing experience with a couple of killer tracks thrown in for good measure. This effort, on the other hand, is definitely more cohesive, yet fails to deliver as many memorable moments as its predecessor.

The Subtle Body is meant to be experienced as a whole, a 33-minute composition comprised of four movements. Whereas tracks like "Adamantine" broke the sometimes-unidimensional sound on Kill the Self by experimenting with a variety of genres and loops, this album is mainly comprised of warped saxophone squeals and effects, which leaves a little to be desired. Another distinctive feature of The Subtle Body is the English snippets of the Bodhicaryāvatāra that are recited by a computerised voice at various junctures in the proceedings; the irony of the clear influence of religion on this record is that it fails to move me or provoke thought. Although it does have the occasional moment (see the metallic chugging in "Triple Gem"), The Subtle Body is quite an uninspired listen, especially when stacked up against Hillmer's previous achievements as a member of Zs and on Kill the Self.

Inga Copeland Higher Powers (Self-released, 2013)

Although I would hardly accuse the Hype Williams duo of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland of going pop, 2013 has seen both of them move away from their tape hiss-infected sound and towards clarity; Dean released his crystal clear The Redeemer to a smattering of acclaim, while Inga showcased some fantastic synth-pop with her Don't Look Back, That's Not Where You're Going EP, released on the duo's World Music imprint. While I am a fan of these excursions, they've kind of left me longing for a return to their well-trodden lo-fi sound - fortunately, Inga Copeland is glad to fulfil my desires, in the form of her new mixtape Higher Powers.

Although it is tantalisingly brief at just 20 minutes in length, these 6 tracks share qualities of Hype Williams' previous work while still sounding fresh, new and exciting. "faith" is an intriguing opener that features piercing tones and barely audible singing amidst the dub-y undergrowth, while tracks such as "light up", "b.m.w." and "obsession 2" wouldn't be out of place on releases like Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Gettin' Reel or One Nation. A new version of the previously released "A&E" is also featured here, but the standout cut has to be "a world in danger iii", a minimal but addictive exercise in effective drum programming, organ-like synths and tasteful sampling. Overall, Higher Powers will satisfy anybody who has missed the Hype Williams aesthetic of old, and then some, with a fresh spin on a tried-and-tested modus operandi.


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