Tuesday, 24 January 2012

the unlikely return of Nu-Metal

these are strange, uncertain and occasionally exciting times for the music industry.

the market growth and profits of major labels is not the issue at hand as far as i am concerned right now.

more so, it is the cross pollination of genres that sparks my interest.

although the liberal borrowing from a thriving genre is certainly not a new idea, it is certainly churning out some polarising efforts and unlikely collaborations from those striving to remain relevant.

riding on the coattails of the inescapable wave of dubstep that swallowed whole continents in 2011, we now see bloggers' favourites turning their hands to production duties for returning icons from a bygone musical age.

writing this specifically with Korn's most recent effort in mind, their tenth studio album most prominently featured collaborations with flavour of the month Skrillex, as well as a number of other electronic producers in an attempt to re-tool a tried and tested formula for a new generation.

and now it is the turn of Cypress Hill to foray into the realms of pulsating bass as they team up with Mad Decent alumni Rusko for a dubstep EP due out in April, having found their way from Hip Hop and through the other side of Nu-Metal, an incredible 21 years since their breakthrough single 'How Could I Just Kill A Man' was released in 1991.

i am still yet to cast aspersions on the whole of the new Korn album and whether all this band wagon jumping is manipulated by shady puppetmasters wanting to sink their teeth into new trends, or whether this is genuine re-invention spurned on by a passion for dabbling in exciting genres that are now growing out of their infancy.

but with the rap-metal fusion that both influenced and was influenced by Nu-Metal some ten years behind us, and given the cyclical nature of music trends that keep coming back around, will these collaborations inspire another attempt at returning to the mainstream by the floundering Limp Bizkit, this time on an album helmed by Caspa, or perhaps even Papa Roach teaming up with the filthy warped bass monster Borgore.

while at first the very idea of it sounded unlikely and a rather desperate attempt to be 'down with the kids', personally, i feel that Korn's  Narcissistic Cannibal is something of a revelation for me from a band that has been drifting slowly out of favour and has also created something new that is infused with the ever-more integrated dubstep sound, creating a hybrid Nu-Step which is just as abrasive as the first parent-upsetting and face-shredding riffs of Nu-Metal that hit our shores over a decade ago.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Twisted Hearts

as a fine purveyor of Enfield's local music scene, i was proud to have a physical copy of The Twisted Hearts' debut EP hand-delivered to my door by their drummer.  i had seen the band a few days prior at a charity fundraiser in Palmers Green, where the band had breezed through a blistering set that was short and sweet and all for a good cause, and had been promised a copy of the release would be heading my way very soon.

we stood there on the doorstep, making small talk, when it was noted that the cover of the CD was cracked, i was asked not to mention it in the review, i made no promises, but insisted that it would not reflect badly on my opinion of the music contained there-in (sorry Tom)

so let us concentrate on the music then!

the EP kicks off with a short 'Introduction' scheduled sensibly at the beginning, as if to whet our appetites, teasing lovers of the genre known as 'Rock' with an acoustic strumming that gives way to an electric guitar that swirls and soars before careering into the start proper of The Last Breath, that pulls no punches with its upfront riffs, pounding drums and grandstanding guitar solo.

© Annelie Rosencrantz 2011  http://www.anuli.co.uk/   

and as their debut progresses, we are shown a young band that are almost a step out of time with current trends, keeping with a traditional Rock n Roll sound that carries with it a bluesy garage stomp that features more than just a tip of the hat to the reverred sound of Jimi Hendrix and a mild case of psychedelia as evidenced on Paint Me Red.

with the exception of the down-tempo laid back funk of Chemistry, every track present seems to be more expansive than the small backroom venues that the band have been playing recently, equipping their garage-rock with an arena sized scope, especially with the revival of 80s hair metal guitar solos and power ballads in Walk To The Light that seems firmly aimed at Wembley and the lighters aloft tenderness of A Thousand Steps.

This isn't to say that there isn't room for improvement, with the recordings occasionally sounding a little rough around the edges, but The Twisted Hearts have clearly found their own niche and are revelling in it right now, with more gigs upcoming and a convincing statement of intent in the form of their debut EP, they have marked themselves out as a local act to keep an eye on.

stream: Walk To The Light by The Twisted Hearts
from the EP, The Twisted Hearts EP

credit where it's due:
photograph © Annelie Rosencrantz 2011  http://www.anuli.co.uk/  

Saturday, 7 January 2012

BBC Sound of 2012

in an exercise of self-fulfilling prophecies, BBC's sound of 2012 has just announced London soul singer Michael Kiwanuku as being at the pinacle of acts that they are tipping for the top this year

UK based 'tastemakers' are polled for their favourite acts that look ready to break though in the upcoming 12 months, yet it hardly seems surprising that most years have seen these people plump for those that are already riding on a considerable amount of hype

the voting system that it is founded on is basically a glorified popularity contest, with those topping the pile being the acts that are increasingly harder to avoid come November as record label's PR's must have become increasingly savvy to the elevated profile that the poll has garnered in recent years, and the timing of their client's game-plan will no doubt be scheduled with this in mind.

perhaps it is cynicism or the fact that the record industry is becoming more transparent with it's business activities, but in many cases it only serves to heap more hype on an already hyped act and sealing their fate of chart supremacy with that little extra nod.

with that said, perhaps we are looking at the most leftfield choices yet that seem to skirt some of the more obvious radio fodder

with genres bouncing around from the cool electro-pop of Swedish trio, Nikki and The Dove to the smack-in-the-face screeching dubstep of Skrillex landing at fifth and fourth place respectively, and the lurid rhymes of the already much-hyped Azealia Banks in third, we seem to have quite a mixed melting pot ready to be served to us this year.

 stream: Avicci - Levels (Skrillex remix)

second placed Frank Ocean is personally my favourite of the listed acts announced, the best thing about Odd Future, who were themselves heaped with unfathomable hype last summer, Ocean has been operating under the rader writing for Beyonce and John Legend, and made a transitional shift with his productions on Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne following on from his own unique nostalgia,ULTA mixtape that i have not been able to get enough of and have had on repeat in the months when the sun still shone, after delving deep and finding it languishing unheard on my generic mp3 player.

which brings us to the 'winner', Michael Kiwanuku, who i must admit to being rather ignorant of until december just past, and although he may not be as abrassive as Azealia Banks and Skrillex, nor as innovative as Frank Ocean, i can't help but like him.

perhaps i am mellowing as time passes ever faster, but Kiwanuku's music that i have heard so far is soothing and evocative, and a welcome change of pace from dance-hip-hop hybrids that clog the airwaves and a real 180 degrees about face from last years winner, Jessie J's upbeat urban-pop

musically, Michael Kiwanuku sits somewhere between Jack Johnson and Damian Rice in terms of style and may signal a revitalised male singer-songwriter presence in the mainstream, following on from the success of Ed Sheeran and wrestling attention away from the dominating female forces of previous winners Adele and Elle Goulding and 2009 runner-up Florence and the Machine.

releasing his music via the Communion label that was set up by Mumford and Sons' Ben Lovett (who were inescapable in 2010) and having supported Adele on tour in 2011, Kiwanuku will surely be on the right track for replicating the track records of both of these acts in 2012.