Noise 101 – CD Reviews for Nov. 4
With the average song length at almost seven minutes, The Chemical Brothers waste no time packing their newest album with head-spinning beats, layered samples and fist- pumping rhythms. Further is an extremely dense album that doesn’t so much “further” their sound as defend their “veterans of electronica” status. The Chemical Brothers know better than anyone that success can lie in creatively executing formulas and here they show their genius by putting their spin on other genres.
“Snow” opens with indie melodies and female vocals over fading walls of fuzz before bleeding into “Space Velocity.” This 12-minute track plays like a sonic space trip with Baba O’Riley, pounding with laser beam synthesizers and an unstoppable pulse evoking recent MSTRKRFT. But this Brit duo avoids redundant interpretations by wrapping the best parts of different successful genres in their own blissed-out electronics and melodic rhythmic samples. “Another World” is a gorgeous R&B-tinged ballad with its ear-popping electronics and hovering distant falsettos. The Chemical Brothers create a highly danceable album full of seemingly endless musical peaks, evident in “Swoon,” a beautifully spinning track featuring a frenzied melodic storm whizzing in between echoing claps and soaring synths. Delivering another strong album, the Chemical Brothers meet the electronica album quota providing dub step bass beats and experimental psychedelics without sacrificing their trademark producing skills.
— Lynne Hoga
I am the West
Baggy pants. Check. Swagga. Check. Gangsta attitude. Check. Well, it certainly seems like I am the best person to be reviewing Ice Cube’s latest album I am the West. Cube — once a leading gangsta coming straight out of Compton — brings beats recognizable to the hardest-hitting west coast G. While songs such as “Life in California” meld effortless space-age beats with soul choirs and Ice Cube dropping the rhymes, “No Country for Young Men” begins with a rattle of an AK-47 and then, just to be ill, a piano beat blends into the track. Cube’s raps have never sounded so good.
Does this CD make anyone a gangsta? Yes, yes it does. Is there such a thing as an album being too west coast? Yes, yes there is and that, my hip-hop loving homeboys, is a good thing. Today was indeed a good day when I listened to I am The West.
– Kevin Rushworth
Kings of Leon
Come Around Sundown
With their plethora of arena rock singles, Kings of Leon are a crowd pleaser. Their music is about as inoffensive as it comes, and there is something to be said about an anthemic rock act who sells out stadiums by their fifth studio album: they are doing “it” right. Although “it” makes this reviewer feel like she’s been dragged into one of the many bad night clubs in south Calgary and accosted by a belligerent drunk who wants to dance, it’s hard to ignore the soaring riffs, oooooooh-ah choruses and surprisingly down-to-earth relatable lyrics. Let’s be blunt: Come Around Sundown pretty much spoon-feeds fans exactly what they want.
Clacking rim shots, U2-esque guitars, plucky bass, choir backing, synthesizer, organ, saxophone, fiddle, trumpet, and Wurlitzer all contribute to an album that sounds pretty much the same as everything else you’ve heard by Kings of Leon. If you’re a fan, you’ll get what you expected. If not, it won’t matter either way. Same old shit, different pile.
— Sarah Kitteringham
The venerable kings of blazing it up are back with their newest album Rise Up. Our boys from the hood, Cypress Hill — once quite “insane in the membrane” — drop the beat, grab their favourite herb, and light it up — sometimes on stage. Whoah. Fans of rap recognize the high- pitched nasally vocal styling of lead rapper B-Real. As an incredibly successful hip-hop group, their music has changed along with the times. The beats — although still bangin’ on Rise Up — have moved away from the recognizable ‘90s sound to harder-hitting grooves.
Their fame even made it onto The Simpsons where they hilariously hired the London Symphony Orchestra while high. One of the guys in the group even got himself banned from Saturday Night Live in 1993 when he lit up some Mary Jane on stage. Seemingly, the unique vocal style of B-Real is toned slightly down for their latest album, but it is known that rap stylings change along with the beats. With such songs as “Light it Up, Pass the Dutch”, “K.U.S.H” and others, it is obvious that the green stuff still plays a crucial role in their albums. As avid, vocal supporters of legalization of marijuana, they refer themselves as being on the forefront of that battle.
Rise Up is a fantastic addition to the discography of this iconic hip-hop group. It blends great beats, great vocals and a story of how hip-hop music changes throughout time. Thankyou Cypress Hill, for such great beats; your music allows me to get down and funky.
-— Kevin Rushworth
When I first sat down to listen to Lawson Graham by artist Factor, I had no idea what I was getting into. Usually, this is a fantastic way to review a CD due to the fact that you have no idea what you are going to hear — or if you are going to like it. After an eerie intro, complete with rainfall and a wolf howling in the background, the album launches into slow jams with smooth indie vocals. From there, it’s another 180 degrees to experimental head-bopping hip-hop. While “Living in a Vacuum” brings dem banging beats, “More than Love” is rap with an acoustic flair. It’s a strange combination for sure, but I loved every minute of it. Sometimes it is more than exciting to listen to an artist who is shaking things up in the rap genre, which needs some shaking.
— Kevin Rushworth
Painting With Tides
Saskatchewan native Kim Wempe tries to find a place in the Folk music scene with her new album Painting With Tides. Kim Wempe fits into the selection of female singers that rely on slow, deep vocals and an acoustic guitar, and unfortunately nothing about her. Just about every song starts of the same, with a simple instrument arrangement with a prominent guitar, a verse and then a kick (drums or back-up vocals) just after the one-minute mark.
Her hooks aren’t particularly strong and neither are her lyrics—general prairie stuff and choice lines that may carry some meaning to her, but sound generic to me. It’s a relaxing CD, but no song really stands out, making it better background music at a get- together, but not something I’d immediately grab off the shelf.
— Aaron Chatha
Valley of Smoke
If you’re the type of metal head that goes gaga for jazz death titans Cynic, then Intronaut will be right up your alley. Combining double bass kicks with mellow instrumental interludes, inconsistent jazzy signatures, growling-then- clean vocals (a first for the act), extremely complex songwriting, and the constant ting of a set of gorgeously crisp and varied cymbals, this is metal for mathematicians, brain surgeons and the rest of us — except perhaps classic purists.
Valley of Smoke marks the American act’s third full- length album, and although not a marked departure from their previous outputs, it demonstrates obvious growth. The atmospheric elements are retained, but the band has improved at increasing subtle layers that continuously unfold. They have improved at adding more elements to each song — a skill they lacked on the blurred together edges of Prehistoricisms. Overall, a strong effort from an interesting band that will polarize listeners.
— Sarah Kitteringham