Blockhead has only gotten better and better, and that’s saying a whole lot when you look at his contemporaries. Deeply intricate instrumental hip hop is a genre that gained numerous contributors after Endtroducing… told unspoken stories without the need for a lyricist. Subsequent albums made the style appear limited, as RJD2 managed only to put out one killer record (Deadringer), and DJ Shadow proved that being the founder doesn’t make you the king with The Outsider. After providing the maudlin soundtrack to Aesop Rock’s audible internal monologues, the New York based beatsmith dropped Music by Cavelight on Ninja Tune in the spring of ’04. While the record had depth and staying power, it wasn’t a demonstration of Blockhead’s full potential. The following year’s Downtown Science was a similar story. Two years later, and after a couple of solid mixtapes, Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book came out, and the path of this producer’s skill had hit a brand new checkpoint, and it happened to come at a slightly higher average BPM rate. Blockhead has been playing with Ableton Live, so we can expect something a bit more loop based with The Music Scene. If you’ve used the software or seen it it used, you can probably guess that a guy like Blockhead will run with it. The Music Scene is out tomorrow on Ninja Tune records.
Under various names and through numerous styles, Luke Vibert has produced some of the best electronic music around for over a decade. Sticking to the format of simply good beats, he’s brought us masterpieces with every alias. Wagon Christ’s sugary yet dark trip hop grooves, the jungle stylings of Plug and Amen Andrews, acid of the Ace of Clubs, and dance floor candy ofÂ Kerrier DistrictÂ (not to mention a few others). Continuing under his given name and Planet Mu records, Luke is back with We Hear You , an album further extending his excursion into grime, yet retaining the straightforward goodness of all his previous work. If you haven’t heard of him, this is one record that will spark an adventure in digging back.
Just a few days ago, we heard little more than a peep out of Radiohead when the last British veteran of the Great War passed. Their tribute to him is still available on their site for a quid and all proceeds going to veterans’ charity. Today, we get something that’s actually going to be on their next release. Even better: it’s free. The new track is called “These Are My Twisted Words” and we’re all hoping for the best.
You can check out my take on it later today.
It might be the weather, the water, or the love with which it’s made, but regardless of the cause, the fact remains that the gelato is just better in Italy. Most gelaterias in Rome are pretty amazing. Of course, there are ones that are sub-par too (Blue Ice is the chain you’ll run into frequently). But for true craft gelato, the only choice is San Crispino. For the last couple of decades it’s been the gelateria that’s stayed true to the art of gelato, using only fresh, local ingredients and constantly striving to innovate new flavors. In the past 24 hours I’ve been to their location by the Trevi fountain three times. Here are my flavor combos: strawberry and Barolo wine (made with a 15-year-old bottle), honey and ginger & cinnamon, and hazelnut and plum. I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m already addicted.
What is the last thing you would like to eat before taking that terminal trip into the beyond? Most of us probably won’t have to ponder the answer to this question, but there is a select group of folks who do. In some sort of attempt to humanize capital punishment, the American prison system offers those sentenced to death something called a last meal. James Reynolds shows us that when death is looming, each palate craves something unique. “Last Suppers” is a series of photographs depicting recreations of some of these. Something to make you think: what would you want?
New Orleans brings to mind sounds of big band and certain other persuasions of jazz, but oddly produced rock — not so much. Mute Math‘s songs sound like their ingredients are pretty conventional, but then throw unusual instrumentation and production in a blender. Armistice (out August 18) is a rock album, but the rhythm section sets the sound apart from other bands in a similar vein. Produced by Dennis Herring, Armistice has only been heard in bits so far, but those little pieces hint at something great. There’s also rumor of a documentary about how the album was made that’s in the works.
The club scene in Rome can be pretty lame if you stick to the most ostensible standbys, the places usually crowded with more done up travelers than actual locals. The scene in those places ends up being as superficial as the worst American scene, and you find yourself wondering how that fits with the laid back temperament of Romans. One of the largest clubs in the city, and one slightly out of the way for non-locals, is Circolo Degli Artisti, a mostly outdoor club with a couple of indoor DJ rooms. A half dozen bars serve as various sitting and lounging areas — and then there’s the swimming pool. Big and small shows alike come through this venue, but just about any night is bound to be pretty damn fun. (You can catch Dinosaur Jr. there in September).
Exactly ten years ago, summertime in every city was lit up for those listening by a warm weather anthem that wasn’t a hip hop song or a club banger. The distinct bossa nova kick and the breezy female vocal of Nicola Conte’s ‘Bossa Per Due’ is ever familiar, even if his name isn’t. The producer, DJ, snappy dresser, and purveyor of all sounds Italian doesn’t play out a ton, but he’s coming to the Highline Ballroom. He’ll be on guitar, accompanied by a hand picked jazz ensemble for this one-off show. I’m in Rome right now, so I don’t know how the weather is back in New York, but I promise it’ll be warm and clear while he’s there!
Antony Hegarty’s voice will give you goosebumps guaranteed. The tremolo and emotional croon is the kind of thing that can sound cheesy and over dramatic if it’s not done perfectly. Thankfully, it is done perfectly. Antony and the Johnsons showcase the frontman’s ability to sing us an honest and sad, yet uplifting song, the single entitled ‘Aeon’. The true stunt, however, is the B side that sideswipes you. Equally somber is the band’s cover of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy Right Now’, a pop hit turned inside out, making a perfectly played out song listenable again. Remember the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules cover of “Mad World”? Exactly.
The term ‘experimental rock’ can sometimes conjure up images of unlistenable frequencies laid over even less listenable instrumentation, especially for those of us without the technical (and sometimes masochistic) craving for the likes of Frank Zappa or the Residents. Battles brings the genre home for fans of anything. Relatively straightforward drum lines by Helmet’s former drummer, and odd, piecemeal harmonies by former guitarists of Don Caballero and Lynx (as well as the avant garde jazz pedigree of Tyondai Braxton) come together to form something experimental without the pretentious sentiment often bundled with acts of the sort. It’s simply good listening.
Battles is playing a one-off at Terminal 5 (my favorite Manhattan venue) on September 4th. See it now or wait indefinitely for another record and another set of shows.