SKIZZA - "fallSEVENriseEIGHT"

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Skizza - “fallSEVENriseEIGHT”

Saskatchewan rapper Skizza raps about finding inspiration in the past to power the future. In this hopeful and motivational release, fallsevenriseeight, Skizza calls upon the ancient Japanese proverb,

七転び八起き

Fall down seven times,
get up eight

Which is a much more poetic and ringing way of saying this than the Chumbawumbian proverb, “I get knocked down, but I get up again,” With the title, Skizza lets us know right away where his perspective is at, and like fellow Canadian rapper, The Mighty Rhino, (who features on track 8,) Skizza always seems to be looking upward, trying to stay positive and moving toward a goal in the face of adversity.

With bumping tracks produced by BigBoyTraks, Skizza comes across as that comforting, little brother sound. That kid that’s kind of a badass troublemaker on the outside, but really is good as gold. I won’t break down all the tracks here, but standout jams include Oldsmobile Doors, which has one of those catchy atonal choruses that populated rap years ago, Another Bridge City Anthem, which, for many, may be a first source of knowledge about the mysterious northern paradise known as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I already mentioned the eighth track, Look Before You Leap, which features The Mighty Rhino. I didn’t miss the symbolism of placing this track at the eighth position, (fall seven rise EIGHT, get it?)

Overall, fallSEVENriseEIGHT is one of those releases I find myself returning to just to jam on. It’s got those throwback beats and some bright, shiny lyrical work that I enjoy. Nothing too deep or challenging - just good stuff to bump and perhaps be inspired by.

Gray Lee

https://skizza306.bandcamp.com/album/fallsevenriseeight

ACEF STRIPE - "Renascent"

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ACEF STRIPE - “Renascent”

Renascent is a collection of intricate electronic compositions by Longmont, Colorado-based musician David Svrjcek. These winding corridors of convoluted synth sound are full of color, detail, and imagination - much like the brightly painted cover art.

The album opens with Renascent, a meandering journey built from a steady beat and several stacked loops of electronic sound. Acef Stripe is quite skilled at creating electronic music that buzzes electronic precision, but resonates with the influence of a human heart. This is evident in the second track, Hourglass, which invokes classical pastoral works within the framework of technological instrumentation. A warm wave of ambient synth lays the groundwork, as rhythms and melodies harmoniously wind their way across the surface. Another standout track, Second Chances, pushes forward the idea of referencing past styles with a fresh lens.

Renascent is an excellent collection of electronic selections that transcend their mechanical means and land squarely in emotive expression.

Gray Lee

https://acefstripe.bandcamp.com/album/renascent

STONED MAZES - "Temperance"

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Stoned Mazes - “Temperance”

Mexico-based electronic artist Stoned Mazes brings us Temperance, a chilled out collection of spacey, wide-open tracks full of fuzzy synth loops and upbeat rhythms. This latest EP is a continuation of the cool, dreamy beats found on other Stoned Mazes releases.

The opening track, Manners, combines a hazy synth loop with scattered chiptune elements and a driving beat. Still, is a downtempo ballad with emotive keys and an exotic rhythm, The title track, Temperance infuses an energetic breakbeat with synth textures and a buzzed out lead line with just a touch of artful dissonace. Unkind Gestures is built from a clean piano loop with some nice work on the brushes and a subdued synth backing. The EP closes with Peacekeeper, which features a hypnotically cycling ambient vibe surrounded by miniature textural elements.

Overall, Temperance is a short and sweet EP that is a good introduction into what Stoned Mazes is about. It’s a light musical experience with plenty of chillwave bang for your lo-fi buck.

Gray Lee

https://stonedmazes.bandcamp.com/album/temperance

FRAGILE X - "The Butterfly Effect"

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Fragile X - “The Butterfly Effect”

(Bricolage)

Electronic artist Fragile X creates energetic explorations of fast-paced synth and rhythms. Their latest release, The Butterfly Effect is a look into that well-known pseudo-scientific theory of chaos that goes something like: If a butterfly flaps it’s wing in Nepal, a sudden gust of wind may cause me to drop my Ashton Kutcher dvd just as I’m precariously dangling it over Niagara Falls for an Instagram photo.

Charged with powerful kinetic movement, The Butterfly Effect could certainly affect the listener, with pulsating electronica designed to move the mind and body, combining the powers of IDM, dub, ambient, and a dozen other musical disciplines to create a complex concoction of rhythm, motion and tonality. Tracks such as Initial Conditions (0.506) and the title track, The Butterfly Effect, are built on driving electronic beats backed by walls of ambient synth, swelling with surges of emotion and light. Other tracks take on a more aggressive IDM/Drum & Bass approach, for example, the track Chaos Theory, which hits hard with fast paced percussion and soars high on clouds of synth bliss.

The tight production and intelligent sound of The Butterfly Effect gain the listener’s attention, while variety in texture and detail maintains the attention span. If you are looking for motivational vibes that are fresh enough to engage, but produced for replayability, The Butterfly Effect is a sure to change your horizon.

Gray Lee

https://bricolagecollective.bandcamp.com/album/the-butterfly-effect-bc043

LAURA LUNA CASTILLO - "Folksonomies"

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Laura Luna Castillo - “Folksonomies”

(Cudighi Records)

Puebla, Mexico-based multimedia artist Laura Luna Castillo creates a miniature world populated with imagined figures in her third release Folksonomies, available now via Cudighi Records. Though every track shares common building blocks of ambient passages, swirling synth loops, and electronic embellishment, each is a distinct audio work with its own personality and set of emotions.

The opening track, I See But Say Nothing is an exploration of looped strings and slowly burgeoning clouds of distant fog, while the next track, Ataris Bellum builds strings and bit-crunched rythmns atop a Badalamenti-esque bed of synth. As the release progresses, it resembles more and more a conversation in the mind between several perspectives, represented by different characters. Beautiful ballad, I Breathe Trust is a solemn hymn of introspection that stands in contrast to Eight Eyes of Anticipation, which hungrily buzzes with electrical signals and sticky webs of glitch.

The sum of all the interlocking puzzle pieces of Folksonomies is a complete work that fully explores the ideas which it expresses. Laura Luna Castillo deftly directs the action in each scene, carrying the listener on a thoughtful walk through the heart and mind. Each segment of the story is carefully balanced and composed to capture the joys and fears of living each day in reality. Explore this music, and your own psyche – with Folksonomies.

BODY TRAINS - "Odonata"

Like a slow ritual in a darkened parking garage, Odonata gleams with gritty, ambient grind, characterized by driving pulses of rhythm, minimal synth, and sinister layers of electronic sound. In the opening track, Waterhouse, a distant voice chants, as the flames dance higher, and the crooked shadows of the worshipers make the corroded cement walls come to life.

CURTIS ELLER'S AMERICAN CIRCUS - "A Poison Melody"

Durham, North Carolina banjo player and songwriter Curtis Eller has been crafting a recognizable brand of ramshackle punk americana for a number of years, blending edgy rock and roll vocals with vintage subject matter and instrumentation to create an alternate reality populated by steampunk versions of actual history. After being involved with a lot of other terribly creative endeavors, Curtis returns to his ‘American Circus’ for the first time since 2014’s How to Make it in Hollywood.

MALOCCULSION - "Personal War Machine"

Oakland-based electronic artist Malocculsion brings us Personal War machine, a dark and dangerous car chase into the terror of the night. Digitized screams, robotic voices, and stabs of twisted metal and broken glass punctuate driving lines of synth and rapid fire drum machines in the opening track Blade in the Spine, setting a malevolent tone for the rest of the release.

Darko the Super - "Year of the Darko"

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Darko the Super - “Year of the Darko”

(Cold Rhymes Records)

The summer solstice, the halfway point of the year and the birthday of rapper Darko the Super all eerily reside in the same narrow space of days - which leads to the question - has 2019 been the Year of the Darko, as prophesied in his beginning of the year release Year of the Darko? The answer is yes. The world is a more chaotic place than ever, and Philadelphia wordsmith Darko the Super reacts to the world the only way he knows how - by releasing a zappaesque stream of releases that boggles the mind in its scope and detail. How can one even keep up with that level of work? You may even be tempted to ask, "How can I deserve that beautiful art? I can’t keep track of all those releases! I don’t even know where to start."

Fortunately, Darko's got an album for that - Year of the Darko. Don’t call it a greatest hits album. This material is only curated from Darko’s TEN 2018 releases. And in this compilation of Darko material, we can see the many facets of Darko. Some might even say the album could be titled, Darko the Super is Having Another Episode, with all his various inner personalities surfacing and swirling in the hip hop morass that circles this release. Darko’s alter ego, Dr. Heller, takes over like a Mr. Hyde and spins mad boom bap beats with fuzzy samples and call in style shout outs.

It’s quite difficult to sort a highlight track out of this collection, since Darko the Super has already done that by putting the collection together. It’s a long string of edgy, creative hip hop mess - but there’s no filler - it’s all good. It’s not all about Darko though. You’re gonna be dealing with an all-star cast of Darko friends including Homeboy Sandman, Serengeti, MC Paul Barman, Lil B, Mr. MFN eXquire, Moka Only, Harvey Cliff MC, ialive and Height Keech. There’s some nifty guest producing on the record as well, with Starchildluke, Gloam, Big Baby Gandhi and Amaze 88 at the helm making those track extra nasty.

Year of the Darko is a look inside the mind of an artist who is constantly on the move, looking for the next beat, writing the next rhyme, taking all the good, and yes, all of the bad parts of modern American life and digesting them, and expressing the result. At the very least, this release not only deserves to be heard, but demands it. Get some Darko the Super tunes in your ear today.

Gray Lee

https://darkothesuper.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-darko

BACKXWASH - "Deviancy"

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Backxwash - “Deviancy”

(Grimalkin Records)

Zambian rapper Backxwash absolutely slays it on Deviancy, bringing intensity, emotion, and lyrical artistry to life. This hard hitting 8-track album kicks off immediately with aggressive Don’t Come to the Woods, built from a driving beat and a raw style that spills over into other killer tracks like Devil in a Mosh Pit and Foundation + Face Tattoos. Backxwash, an accomplished lyricist who cites Redman and Missy Elliot among her influences, is not afraid to tackle tough subject matter to bring change to the world through heightened social consciousness.

On the title track, Deviancy, producer Sugeryhead wields a driving industrial beat and howling synths that lift Backxwash’s fierce delivery and crushes opponents with torrents of digitally demonic rap. The producing on these tracks is top notch with bass and beats that bang hard, and Backxwash’s style is energetic and full of attitude - but I was completely blown away by You Like My Body the Way it is - a song that captures the human experience of love in such an intimate and powerful way.

Deviancy is a powerful album that highlights the values of love and personal liberty, and proceeds from digital only sales go to Nationz Foundation in Richmond, VA. (www.nationzfoundationrva.org/)

‘Nationz Foundation a 501(c)3 non-profit organization was organized to fulfill our mission to "provide education and information related to HIV prevention and overall health and wellness, while inspiring the community to take responsibility for their health while working towards a more inclusive Central Virginia for LGBTQIA+ identified individuals.’

Gray Lee

https://grimalkinrecords.bandcamp.com/album/deviancy

NEARLY ORATORIO - "A Comforting Fact"

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Nearly Oratorio - “A Comforting Fact”

(Solitare Recordings)

Melbourne, Australia’s Simon Lam, performing as Nearly Oratorio, brings us A Comforting Fact, a six track EP of minimally acoustic meanderings with light folk flavor. This EP creates a wonderfully strange sensation of gentle cognitive dissonance washing over each track in an oddly tangy solution of glossy, smooth overproduction and trace imperfections - gently laid across like synthetic cobwebs on a halloween candy display.

These purposefully bare tracks thrive on walking a thin tightrope between mechanically precise and emotionally present, often relying on generic indie music tropes, only to twist them in an almost playful way. The standout track here is Down to the Minute, which is downright scientific in its execution, yet delicate in its presentation, with the cool and collected voice of Simon Lam never overplaying. I’d expect to see this entire EP absorbed into some streaming playlist with a title like “Songs To Chill Out To While You Weep Uncontrollably”

Overall, I’d advise not to overlook this uncanny work. These sinister concoctions of melancholy are not as easily dismissed as you may think, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you wound up humming some of these tunes to yourself at the most inopportune times.

Gray Lee

https://nearlyoratorio1.bandcamp.com/album/a-comforting-fact

SR388 - "Where No Clouds Go"

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SR388 - “Where No Clouds Go”

(Bonding Tapes)

Plucky electronic beats with plenty of buzzy, lo-fi synths for good measure characterize Where No Clouds Go, which, according to the cover art, is an album that relates the story of a little green person who is interrupted by a shark whilst swimming to an enormous strawberry floating in the ocean.

Each of these chilled tracks has the perfect balance of thumpy beats and ponderous synth lines for a cool and fresh musical experience. The album is well represented by the second track, Braindead, which has an infectious repeating melody that is absolute ear candy. This Mess We’re In is built from a distinctive loop of 8-bit sounds, layered over with meandering winds of electronic ooze and chunky rhythms. Loaded Handshake feels like a chilled-down prologue level of Streets of Rage, featuring a building tension and driving drums.

Overall, Where No Clouds Go, is a brightly decorated collection of cool beats with some nice electronic seasoning, and just the right mixture of vintage sounds and original artistry for durable repeat plays.

https://bondingtapes.bandcamp.com/album/where-no-clouds-go

Gray Lee