Superorganism – Superorganism Review

When I first read Superorganism described as a “DIY pop production house”, and that they sent their material to each other via an e-mail chain so they could add their own touches, the first thing that came to mind was a game I used to play in primary school. A piece of paper was folded like a leaflet, and then in groups, one of use would draw a head, then the next person would draw the body without seeing what the last person drew, and the last person the legs, creating some kind of monstrous creature. It’s an analogy that does correlate in a way to Superorganism’s self-titled debut LP, but instead of some ugly being, they’ve created a beautiful and fascinating alien of an album.

Superorganism is a kaleidoscopic exploration of colour, filled to the brim with samples and experimental sounds, making each track an incredibly layered one that awakens the senses; you can actually feel the music. Everything each member of the 8-piece added welds together pretty perfectly.

It’s All Good is the ideal album opener, introducing one of 2018’s most hotly anticipated bands’ weird and wonderful style, launched by distorted vocals and the theme of waking up – starting the album like starting your day –  only to continue with a shuddering chorus and a choir of eclectic voices. Reflections on a Screen and Something For Your M.I.N.D. use bird song samples against the quietly gloopy bass, and both tracks immediately feel relaxed. The more thumping tracks – like Nobody Cares – are experimental pop at it’s finest; you never really know what’s coming next, and although the track is jam-packed with new and interesting sounds, it never seems immature. It’s already as if Superorganism have been doing this for decades.

However, some parts of the album are a bit childish. The Prawn Song’s lyrics are odd to say the least, and the bubble samples and pitchy harmonies makes the track a perfect addition to a techno re-make of The Little Mermaid. Sometimes the trippy experimentalism can be a bit much – the discordant synths on SPORGNSM are dizzying, and Nai’s March is simply overboard. Usually it works, sometimes it feels forced.

The album starts with the alarm going off in It’s All Good, and closes with Night Time: a track carried by shuffling percussion and pops of synth, and is also possibly their most basic offering. The song transpires into a floaty electronic number, mixing pop grounding with ethereal and atmospheric dreaminess, before closing with a yawn sample, putting this *mostly* successful and hugely entertaining debut to bed.

Superorganism – Superorganism: 7/10

Ellie Chivers

2017 Review – Best Album

Our votes for Best Album are as follows…

= 3. St. Vincent – Masseduction (14%) & The Horrors – V (14%)

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (15.7%)

1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (17.5%)

Sampha – Process Review 


Sampha is not just another producer turned musician. Sure, there’s plenty of them roaming about on this island, but the South London artist may well be the real deal. Having offered vocals for SBTRKT in 2011, he’s since worked with Drake, Kanye and most recently work extensively on Solange’s album last year, he has the CV like many of these producers do. What seems different about is Sampha is a real feel for songwriting and an ear for imaginative and innovative methods of delivering tracks. In many ways, there is little pressure on him; he’s already proved himself behind the scenes, but stepping into the centre of the stage is a bold move nonetheless. It seems like a move that Sampha will take in his stride though, for he is undeniably talented, more so than most of the people he’s worked with. So what does one of Britain’s brightest emerging talents have to offer?

‘Blood On Me’ was one of the lead singles in the lead up to the album and on the face of it, there’s not a great deal significant about it. With popping beats and drawn out piano chords, it is aesthetically not too different from SOHN’s work for example. What is different about this is that Sampha generates a greater flow to this sound and it is seamlessly tied to his vocals which are understated, yet still carry the song. He has an ability to generate a narrative too, with a tense content echoing around the track. Any gaps in the sound are often filled with even the smallest synth chord or sample and this attention to detail becomes much more noticeable across the whole track. ‘Kora Sings’ is a celebration of his roots in Sierra Leone. It is here that he demonstrates his versatility more directly. The instrumentation is made of several instricate riffs, tapping beats and shuffling percussion before opening out into a rhythmic track with a strong, sharp percussion. The swift change in tone is masterfully read by Sampha who gently alters his vocal between the soulful delivery of the verse and the hushed, distant sound of the chorus which engages in a call and response with his genuine vocals. A well throught out and balanced track which packs a kick without overstretching itself. 

‘Reverse Faults’ opens in a simple, minimalist way with deep, whirring beats, but these are slowly joined by a wonderfully arranged sample of falling, meandering beats and sounds which brilliantly serve as the rhythm section of the song. From here, the song goes on effortlessly to collapse into the chorus on a trap drop into a series of plunging beats that are tinged with distortion with repetitious popping beats above them. Throughout the shifts Sampha’s breathy tones are unmoved by the collage of sound around him. A coolly delivered track made from a masterful arrangement and instrumentation. ‘Incomplete Kisses’ is made up from of wiry and pitch shifted, resonant electronica with vibrating beats and glistening chords. Again, there is a hint of distortion at the edge of each heavy beat to give a greater impact to the sound without overwhelming it. He is also able to pull these sounds to leave just his more powerful vocals and some sparse piano chords. The ballad of the album comes in the form of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano’. Aptly, it is a piano ballad that is a personal track that reflects on his youth and his mothers death in 2015. His effortless, yet rich sounding vocals are on centre stage here with only a subtle addition to add more space to the track. ‘Plastic 100C’ a series of intricate sample of plucked strings Form the foundation for a much greater sound supplemented a rolling production. ‘Under’ makes use of vocal samples set around a slow, hip hop beat. 

With Process Sampha demonstrates his sublime talents as a producer and arranger. He’s also well rounded to produce clever and emotional lyrical content delivered with a mature and wonderfully simple vocal performance. His attention to detail in most areas adds so much to his songs as they run their course. He can do from a simple foundation, but can also turn this on its head by making the core sound of track complex and multi-layered too. It’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year and I can say this safely in February. 

Sampha – Process = 9/10 

Owen Riddle 

FLOTUS – Lambchop Review 

Since their formation in 1986, Lambchop have never wallowed in clear waters. Kurt Wagner’s tentative outlook has stretched far and wide, from albums sitting within rock, to alternative country, to cabaret. However, as I listen to 2016’s offering, FLOTUS, thoughts of Bon Iver’s distinct distortions spring to mind. The band’s experimentation is wholly embodied in this 68-minute tracklist, reaching peaks of great sharpness and sophistication.

Are we allowed to be surprised that Lambchop have dipped their toe into yet another genre? For long-time fans, the ethereal, resigned motion of the album may be something to get used to. In Care of 8675309 eases us into the new approach, whilst giving us a one-on-one tour of Wagner’s investigative mind. As his vocals melt into the instrumentalism, I can’t help but feel a sense of drowning, as one elongated, despondent line welds with the next. The song deliberates an assortment of gloomy issues – diffidence in the lyric “is there something in this that is worth singing?”, vulnerability in his declaration of power that is “merely human” – unforgivingly drawn out over eleven minutes. Succeeding that is Directions To The Can, which is introduced by quick buzzes of guitar. It worries me slightly that the ‘experimental’ genre, a route conquered by the likes of the aforementioned Bon Iver, is becoming less and less experimental by the minute, as more artists aim to take it on, sounding too familiar to the last guy. Having said that, Lambchop have made it their own by affixing their rock affairs to the backing tracks, hooking their past to their undisputed future. Very original and interesting.

Lampchop’s novel identity apexes in Relatives #2. This one hasn’t stirred up as much attention as FLOTUS’s other ten contenders, yet its connection with multiple genres is particularly strong. Led by an almost pop-like vocal warp, the song proceeds with drum shuffles, jazz piano twinkles and a funky bass, before settling with calm whir of the synth and the “ooooh” of distorted voices. The highlight of the album, though, waits patiently at its conclusion. The Hustle juxtaposes 8675309, shedding light on the joys of human existence; finding love, enjoyment and cutting ties with inhibitions. The song surrounds a wedding ceremony, opening with the vow to love the other person for a “long, long time”. The 18-minute number could track their lives as a couple, with up-beat instrumentalism, and Wagner’s voice unedited, implying an undisguised, raw love for the song’s recipient. It’s contrasting connection to the dark opener makes it an all-the-more vivid acme.

As the album presented itself, I expected not to like the monotony of it. True, it can be very samey, but also undeniably captivating and clever.

Lampchop – FLOTUS: 8/10

Eleanor Chivers

Sunday Suggestion – Paul McCartney – Appreciate

If you look upon McCartney’s 2013 album; full of nostalgic forays into the past decades of his career, then you’ll see that the man of innovation and risk taking is still there. Appreciate is a hidden gem within the New album. It’s stylish and refined neo-psychedelia curled around a hip hop beat and it has more freshness about it than many of the young artists releasing music over the last few years. That is either a sign of McCartney’s prowess or a sign of the lack of it amongst the new musicians of today. It shifts forward and refrains back in terms of focus and volume and is a fluctuating song in that sense. He’s also moulded a song with an expansive feel that goes far beyond the instrumentals with a rough washed out method. A credit to the legendary man.

Broken Bells – After The Disco Review

Broken Bells is the continuing project between James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse. Their self titled debut from 2010 was an all round success culminating in a Grammy nomination and showcasing their combined melodic, yet experimental efforts. They look set to continue in this vain with their upcoming second offering After The Disco. It is an offering that has largely been unexpected but with their combined talents surely have to produce results. After The Disco does effectively what it says in a fusion of erm… Disco, Funk, Soul, Space Rock, Electronica, Pop. Is it an overload of the senses? Maybe, but get it right and it could be a fantastic new and interesting sound.

‘Holding On For Life’ was the first track that they revealed back last year. Beginning with a slow and weighty bass line with thin electronic and acoustic elements; the song then gradually builds up with James Mercer’s step by step increase of his falsetto which culminates with a chorus Barry Gibb would be proud of. He ability to switch back to his normal vocal is quite impressive too and it shows the great vocal range that he has. It is a great bit of Disco and Pop indulgence but organised into something more profound in terms of the overall progression of the song and with the production. The title track itself is perhaps a broken reflection of the first. There is a much more urgent rhythm and groove with the synths spilling off from it. James’ vocals are isolated well to sit atop the instrumentals and allows him to push his voice to it’s limits even if he’s toned down the Bee Gees style falsetto from ‘Holding On For Life’. This track is also a far more catchy and melodic space rock affair as opposed to the disco ballad of the first track. The instrumentals are fluid as one but are not so separate as to devoid of any space and movement the track has. When the vocals are added then it greases the wheels of the track even more for greater motion and a greater melodic kick.

‘Lazy Wonderland’ almost sounds like a tribute to George Harrison with a slight peculiar twang on top of the steady acoustic sound and so creating a mild, spaced out sound. Not entirely original but varying the tone of the song while retaining its feel. ‘Perfect World’ is a driving piece of electronic mastery with the churning bass and the rapid synths. It’s an unashamed piece of synth pop and the vocals traditionally match it. The guitar solos grind and shred their way through the rhythms in the same way until it fades into a slower and more subtle interlude. A great way to open the album. ‘Control’ has the groove and melodic tendencies that the whole album seems to have and may be a slightly weaker track in that sense as little else is done with it. ‘No Matter What You’re Told’ are more guitar founded and put a different angle on the melodic twist and turns the album has. The album flows excellently and is consistent in it’s aims. Though the groovy, funky and glimmering feel begins to wain on the odd song; they generally manage to rejig much of the set feel in various tones and methods. Beyond that it is just a fantastic piece of melody and pop. For that they can’t be faulted.

Broken Bells – After The Disco = 8/10

Single Review – Broken Bells – After The Disco

Broken Bells is the continuing project between James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse. Their self titled debut from 2010 was an all round success culminating in a Grammy nomination and showcasing their combined melodic, yet experimental efforts. They look set to continue in this vain with their upcoming second offering After The Disco. It is released early next month and if the first single, ‘Holding On For Life’ is anything to go by then they look set to live up to the album’s title. The second track is the title track it’s self and is perhaps a broken reflection of the first. There is a much more urgent rhythm and groove with the synths spilling off from it. James’ vocals are isolated well to sit atop the instrumentals and allows him to push his voice to it’s limits even if he’s toned down the Bee Gees style falsetto from ‘Holding On For Life’. This track is also a far more catchy and melodic space rock affair as opposed to the disco ballad of the first track. The instrumentals are fluid as one but are not so separate as to devoid of any space and movement the track has. When the vocals are added then it greases the wheels of the track even more for greater motion and a greater melodic kick. I think the recreation of less obvious past sounds could see them on to a winner with their second album and I can’t wait to find out.

http://youtu.be/DRdY7_uxzyY

Image from we-are-awesome.com