Death Grips Surprise Yet Again

The most active / broken band in music history, Death Grips – continue to confuse, alienate, and keep fans and critics on their toes with yet another installation; in a stream of what could be described as numerous publicity stunts – share a 19 minute long video in which the band can be seen, in stunningly poor ‘Death Grips-esque’ quality performing two tracks ‘Inanimate Sensation’ and ‘Lock Your Doors’.

-Tyler Thompson

Cosmo’s Midnight – Surge

Cosmo’s Midnight is an electronic duo comprised of twin producers from Sydney, Australia. Being their debut original release, Surge was mounted with a bit of hype (at least for me), and I think it lived up to every bit of it. I discovered Cosmo’s Midnight through a video by the glover Ahuh on the EmazingLights channel where he used the single preceding this EP “Phantasm feat. Nicole Millar”. After hearing the song I instantly looked it up only to find it was their only original track released but an EP was coming out soon. The day it came out (yesterday at the time of writing this I believe) I snatched it right up and gave it a bunch of listens.

I would describe the sound as chillwave but with a little bit more emphasis on the beats than is typical and I love it. It’s got everything one might love about a good chillwave release: the floaty vocals with memorable melodies, the sidechained keyboard and basskicks, phasing background synths, and it’s all executed with great cleanliness and professionalism. When the title track begins it starts with a flowing beatless ambient section before the beat kicks right in and the realization washes over you that this is going to be an awesome EP, even assuming you hadn’t heard Phantasm already (which is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far). Something I noticed that I thought was nice was the melody tie in from Surge to Phantasm with the plinky keyboard, which gives some nice flow to the ideas of the EP right off the bat and you can immediately tell this is going to be a concise and well put together release. The production is spot on and the songwriting is catchy and feely, the perfect combination in my opinion. My favorite aspect of the EP is probably just how well all the different sounds are layered and put together to create the final product, which I’ve got to give mad props to Cosmo’s Midnight for simply for that in itself, not even taking into consideration all the other great things about this EP.

I recommend Cosmo’s Midnight to pretty much anyone who likes anything remotely chill, but to be more specific; if you like XXYYXX, Blackbird Blackbird, or MillionYoung you might like this, those 3 artists just being 3 that I thought of off the top of my head.

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Overall Rating: 9.2/10

Favorite Tracks: ‘Phantasm’, and ‘Lover’s Shadow’

Released: 7 June 2013

Links: Cosmo’s Midnight on Soundcloud


[willscott] – willscott… recordings

will scott... recordings [disc one]

When I was first informed of Edmonton, Alberta noise / drone trio, Pigeon Breeders I never imagined that this small town in Canada actually had stable place for other acts dabbling in the likes of experimental music until I checked out the 2012 Ramshackle Day Parade comp. which featured a solid collection of acts from the area and surrounding areas, the likes of which included musician, Will Scott, one of the members in Pigeon Breeders whose guitar oriented solo compositions draw from a number of influences and span a vast array of styles taking mainly from psychedelic, blues, and progressive rock and repurposing them into experimental and sometimes noisy electronic infused compositions that retain the catchy aspects of their contemporaries while branching out into newer territory.

The first disc in this two disc release can be seen as the more cohesive or realized set of songs whereas the second disc is more of a collection of short experimental sounds and compositions, “b-sides” and extras. Both discs do maintain a similar sound, although disc two does branch out a bit more, playing around with noisier sounds (‘3ree’, along with the inclusion of more irregular rhythms and unorthodox song structures that take queues from the angular playing of early math rock band such as Don Cabellero (‘Our Home Is Next…’, ‘No Love’) while some remind me of that Matt Stevens album that I reviewed last year taking from and meshing together a number of styles (‘Maybe and Sometimes’, ‘Funkin Ugly’).

While the first disc does provide a clear direction I actually prefer the diversity of the songs on the second disc. It’s pretty clear to me that ‘Recordings’ most successful attributes is it’s ability to appeal to a diverse audience. Even with the more straightforward efforts heard on the first disc each song provides a strong amount of variation with abstract pieces such as “Lonely Ground”, a track that sets itself apart starting off with guitars and “Ooohs and Ahhhs” that build to a climax before panning out and picking up with this directionless discordant noise. Although out of place among an album full of guitar based songs the track never sounds like it doesn’t belong. Even though [willscott] is primarily considered a solo project Scott is joined by a number of guest musicians who contribute the likes of guitar, vocals, lyrics, drums, bass, samples electronic embellishments, etc. that bring a sense of character where it would likely be lacking. While some of the songs are instrumental many do feature vocals and lyrics on tracks such as “The Saga Continues” from the likes as Elissa Cook whose voice soars above driving guitars and arena sized drums that gives this track a huge amount of space. ‘This Is What It Sounds Like To Record In A Cave’ and ‘Phatty Beats Bruce and Old Man Johnson” offer this free-form “frame of mind” style vocals reminiscent of rapping that strangely reminds me of experimental hip-hop group, cLOUDDEAD or even (dare I say) Beck. Initially one might think that all of this might be overwhelming but even with all of this variation it still works as a cohesive album.

The production is unreal, at times sounding like some strange lost alien blues jams. The drums are bold and cut through the mix without detracting from other aspects of the music and although the guitars are loaded with an arsenal of effects they don’t water down the tone and prove to be necessary as oppose to just being another addition to the sound. It is clear that every aspect of instrumentation on ‘Recordings’ was payed equal attention to but this projects biggest accomplishment is not only this ear for a great sound. Where musicians who have emulated a style of music from the past in this way tend to go wrong is in their pursuit to take the strong points of their various influences and combine them together as one. In doing this they push aside the possibility of using their influences to create something original and are left with this soup of sounds whose ingredients don’t mix so well. In an attempt to spice things up they continue to add additional flavors which aren’t as palatable together as they would be if they were left alone. I realize this is a terrible and overused metaphor, one that is just as bad as any band reusing past sounds but where [willscott] makes a difference is these sounds aren’t reused but repurposed and formed into something unique in its own respect without bothering to “pay homage” to earlier sounds but rather using these old sounds to do something new.

At the end of two discs of material there really is something for everyone to be heard here; if you don’t like one song on this release it’s likely that there will be a track among these two discs that will resonate. ‘Willscott… Recordings’ may be composed mainly of rock songs centralized around instruments traditionally found in rock music but this isn’t just another throwback retro-revival act. What is heard on ‘Recordings’ is an amount of experimentation that would not typically be expected or initially wanted on your standard rock album but is nonetheless encouraged because this is not your standard rock album and although it isn’t entirely new it is a carefully thought out coming together of influences and ideas that worked well separately in the past and sound great as a whole in the present. Do check this out.

Overall Rating: 8.4

Favorite Tracks: ‘SOS Fest Sucked This Year…’, ‘The Saga Continues’, ‘This Is What It Sounds Like To Record In A Cave’, ‘Happy Ending’, ‘Our Home Is Next…’

Recommended: Check out the Ramshackle Day Parade net-label.

Released: 04 December 2011


-Tyler Thompson

Balmy – Metaverse

Mataverse is the first release by producer Balmy, formally known as Atmosfear.

So I used to have this problem a long while back with listening to instrumental hip-hop and strictly beat oriented music in general. The biggest problem for me was attempting to maintain an interest, not becoming bored with what you are given; that being these linear constructions that I felt would so easily be made listenable with some raps thrown in overtop. Musician’s such as Flying Lotus and Blockhead were some of the first that turned me on to instrumental hip-hop mostly due to their listenability, the idea of hearing their music as established pieces that I could feel involved in and draw emotion from. As musicians their instrumentals seemed to pull everything together allowing me to hear it as more than just a nice background jam which is exactly what Balmy has done for me as well. ‘Metaverse’ is a twelve track collection of tranquil and pretty beats built on samples, lush synth patterns and great compositional arrangements that is experimental and nonlinear enough to listen to as is while still containing enough versatility for ambitious rappers to attempt to spit over. These psychedelic arrangements of pretty synths and sequences of downtempo jazz and hip-hop are perfect easy listening.

The smoothness that the album starts out with is maintained masterfully throughout making for an easy and relaxing listen that shows Balmy knows how to create a good vibe and just stick with it throughout. Even though the music is dominantly downtempo it goes without saying there are plenty of great bleeps, bloops, and unconventional noises to keep you entertained during a number of relaxing events, whether it be just lounging around with your friends, going to sleep, or just listening. All of the tracks remain at a steady pace all ranking in at under 4 minutes, a good length that ensures things don’t get boring.

‘Old Hall’ is a track brimming with tons of spacey futuristic sounds that is truly a treat for the ears. Tracks such as ‘Woob’, ‘Space Cruise’, and ‘Space Lounge’ have this old dusty record feel that harbors a sense of nostalgia and sounds like they would fit right at home playing during an Adult Swim bump. All of the tunes feature samples derived from traditional instruments which makes it hard not to get caught up in trying to analyze every aspect of the music and the sounds sampled to create it; these quick snippets of guitars, orchestral instruments, bells and chimes, all so warm and familiar. It happens so quick that it is almost subliminal but at the same time you don’t not want to pay attention.

An impressive album full of enjoyable mellow tunes that although sounds like you may have heard this before (Cosmogramma) you’ll definitely want to hear it again… and again and keep hearing it just to be able to digest it all. If you’re into Flying Lotus or Long Arm this will be a treat.

Overall rating: 8.3

Favorite Track: ‘Protura’, ‘Old Hall’

Recommended: Flying Lotus and Long Arm.

Released: 06 February 2012

Links: Mellow out on Bandcamp


Skymning – Moonstone Gang

Skymning is a bedroom music producer who writes and records lo-fi downtempo beats. ‘Moonstone Gang’ is the producer’s third release.

Rewind to 2010; a music genre called witch house arises and instantly creates a hysteria of rage amongst the internet music community. As lo-fi bedroom production grew more an more popular we were being introduced to the phenomenon of these tiny genres, micro-genres, often the result of an amalgamation various styles of music. The term ‘witch house’ refers to a form of electronic music that contains an unorthodox combination hip-hop music and some minor key characteristics of shoe-gaze, drone, and ambient music. Other than sharing similar musical characteristic the genre also saw a collective of shared imagery; inverted crosses, triangles, and various symbols all complete with a mysterious and elusive persona; masks, drag, veils etc. With Triangle Records rising out of the dodgy and laughable mess of faux-santanic imagery, mysterious personas, and the ability to induce a shit storm of rage whenever mentioned there has been this cloud of ethereal ambient laden music that has hovered over and influenced electronic musicians since late 2009; Balam Acab, How To Dress Well, and Holy Other being just a few out of the many.

The album is quick to rely on the mysterious presence that other musicians of this genre pioneered, complete with a combination of dark overbearing synth and hip-hop style production. The second track ‘Crystal Veins’ showcases this certain mystery beginning with a handclapped rhythm that draws a likeliness to southern hip-hop before exploding into these lush reverberated synth landscapes; a bold track that goes as far as to capture the vibe of the entire EP in one song. The EP continues to follow the consistency established on the previous two tracks. On the ridiculously incomprehensibly named forth track, ‘पापराक्षसी वत्से’, these saturated overdriven synths create an eerie and disturbing vibe as a vocal sample featuring a girl recounting the events of some negative point in her life, perhaps at some past rape or abduction scenario plays on. The track listing is nicely arranged with these short spells of calmness appropriately sandwiched between these foreboding hip-hop based instrumentals. ‘Nässjö II’ provides a smooth reassuring sense of ease that ties everything together and makes for a perfect closer.

‘Moonstone Gang’, although a short affair showcases the ethereal sounds of witch house ranging from washed out saturated synth patterns to dark and grimy hip-hop beats resulting in a dreamy piece of music that although does not attempt to be original by any means or provide anything new in terms of expanding on this short lived genre does accommodate with some great sounds that you could relax to just as easily as you could perform a satanic ritual to.

Overall rating: 6.3

Favorite Track: ‘Crystal Veins’

Recommended: Triangle Records. Salem style southern hip-hop influence production.

Released: 08 January 2012

Links: ▲▲▲


Almost Technicolor & A Problem Like Maria – Europa

A Problem Like Maria is a singer and songwriter, internet radio DJ, and hip-hop MC who’s music ranges from trip-hop style synth pop, to hip-hop, and pretty much everything else. She is part of the musical collective, The Hai and has worked with the likes of Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack and Radio Wire Empire, with this release seeing her team up with producer Almost Technicolor. A Problem Like Maria’s sound is hard to pin down, it’s not like her music is genre transcending or overtly experimental but that it combines a multitude of genres together in subtle ways to where you’re getting an even blend of sounds from a diverse range of musical styles which I think is most apparent on her collaborative effort with Radio Wire Empire. Almost Technicolor is the solo electronic project of Aaron Dawson, a musician from Rochester, MN who’s solo album, ‘Planet Altech’ was release last year which saw him infusing genres such as industrial, classical, and hip-hop with the glossy shine of contemporary music. ‘Europa’ is a remastered compilation of singles from 2011 featuring a collaboration between the aforementioned artists.

The first track ‘Deliberate Existence’ started off the EP on a negative note for me. The main downer for me were the vocals, Maria’s style of rapping is poetic and lyrically entertaining but her flow, the way the words come out felt clumsy. The appeal is there but its definitely going to be specific to certain people while it will isolate others. I was impressed with the beats that Almost Technicolor provides on this collaboration, particularly on the title track. The production features plenty of bass, some bold beats, synth and spacey background noises that pulls it all together nicely. There is a lot of depth and textures that help envelop the listener in the music. Maria comes through with some great singing, although I will say I could do without some of the vocal effects on her voice. It became more distracting for me than it was enforcing and at some points they just seemed to be thrown in without reason. The last track is a remix of ‘Never Sleep’ by Nights of Rizal. This track actually happened to be my favorite on the EP. The production style is very simple, at times glitchy with this shimmering synth coupled with Maria’s expressive vocals that makes for a flavorful track.

There were some good sounds but I did have some trouble coming back to the EP. There wasn’t any particular song that I really disliked, the EP as a whole just did not capture my interest as much.  The content  was rather linear leaving little room for the music to really grab your attention and it often felt like the music was clashing with Maria’s singing style as though she was just singing over the beats as oppose to singing with them. Although not a completely engaging series of songs, this EP showcases A Problem Like Maria expanding on her vocal abilities and Almost technicolor working with both conventional beats as well as experimental.

Overall rating: 6.4

Favorite Track: ‘Never Sleep (Nigts of Rizal)’

Recommended: Beat lovers will feel at place here while those looking for a bit more will find a home as well.

Released: 14 February 2012


A Problem Like Maria: Check out APLM on Bandcamp

Almost Technicolor: Visit the Bandcamp page


Mustapha Mond – Keeping Secrets

Mustapha Mond is a music producer from Boston. Keeping Secrets is the producer’s first release that puts an emphasis on downtempo hip-hop beats favoring simplicity and an array of smooth synth tones over unnecessarily complex instrumentals.

‘Keeping Secrets’ starts off with a bit of familiarity calling out to a wide array of sounds from the twinkly background noises and bells. The vocals are beautiful, recalling the ethereal falsetto vocals of Jonsi of Icelandic band Sigur Ros in the form of beat oriented electronic music that makes for a really nice combination. The vocals are pretty much unintelligible, whether they are actually saying anything is unclear to me but the way they are used more like an instrument or a separate melody more than an actual lead vocal. Undoubtedly a standout track and one of my favorite electronic songs I’ve heard this year that continues to progress in this dreamy direction with the second track, ‘Latching’ which features some reverse reverb. ‘Pills’ forces the listener out of the mellow sound of the previous tracks and into a distortion driven wah style that gives the track a little edge and momentarily brings the EP out of the dreamy slumber that the rest of the tracks do so well in inducing. The beats on the track are a sturdy backing to it’s otherwise chaotic nature giving it just enough structure to where it doesn’t feel sloppy while giving the illusion of chaos and non-uniformity. ‘Portland’, the closer, keeps a perfect mix of deep low end that is sure to please the bass heads out there and the presence of orchestral ambience giving the track a ton of depth and some great sounds to explore and re-explore.

The stand out elements of the music is not so much the beats but the gorgeous layers of synth sounds that carry the tracks on a bed of cloudy tones. Where Mustapha Mond really shines is not only in his ability to make relaxing instrumentals but also in his ability to create these soft airy sounds and dreamy background textures while making it all work together really well with the help of the tight production aesthetics. There are a few points were the beats are just a tiny bit too high in the mix which can be distracting; I feel like this could easily be corrected with some slight adjustments but overall it’s nothing too big.

Mustapha Mond’s simplistic beat making is complimented by his atmospheric and smooth sounds that makes for a really easy listen that doesn’t get old with repeated listens. Keeping Secrets is a solid beginning effort that maintains a cohesive sound throughout while having enough variety to keep you listening.

Overall rating: 8.2

Favorite Track: Keeping Secrets, Pills

Recommended: Dreamy relaxing instrumentals

Released: 11 February 2012


Follow him on Soundcloud

Take a listen on Bandcamp