Blank Banshee – MEGA REVIEW

The year is 21XX. The world has been overrun by robots. Tumblr is the base code installed into every single individual, and it is through this that the robots base all our their human traits; they feel emotions like love and depression, and they find momentary escapes with drugs. The main word that’s on every robot’s lips is “aesthetic”. The skies are awash with burning hot pinks and lush blues. Images of statues and marble busts flash behind robots’ eyelids, and the world stutters and jumbles like it never really upgraded past Windows 95. Within this world, a billboard with a purple-pink gradient and a neon comet pasted over it stands tall. Aside the comet is a caption:

D O  Y O U  K N O W  W H E R E  Y O U R  C H I L D R E N  A R E ?

Now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to say that I’ve appreciated Blank Banshee for several years since I stumbled into the virtual plaza of the vaporwave scene with the assistance of the meme-infested Soundcloud subculture that I was actively a part of around three years ago. I was interested by how Blank Banshee was rooted within vaporwave’s aesthetic but so sonically different that he was able to carve his own niche.

His debut album Blank Banshee 0 is, in the eyes of many, one of the most influential albums in the genre. It generally followed the rules of vaporwave but, like the misunderstood, parent-hating, and borderline-sociopathic millennials that love it so much, broke said rules to incorporate beats with trap influences and even live instrumentation with bass guitars. This artistic springboarding birthed the subgenre of “vaportrap” that encouraged other producers to stretch the mold they were working with, and Blank Banshee gets all the respect in the world from me for that.

BB’s follow-up album, Blank Banshee 1, took his sound in a much broodier and more experimental direction that I wasn’t exactly head-over-heels for, which made me all the more curious when I found out that he had put out a new album called MEGA. I didn’t whether it would hearken back to or continue down the dark rabbit hole that was slipping into, which made me both excited and nervous to see what the album offered.

While listening to the album, I took the following notes:

After listening to the album, I found myself considerably underwhelmed.

MEGA goes not in a darker direction, but a more intimate and humanized direction. The contrast between the evoked emotions and the electronics producing said emotions stirs something that Daft Punk unsuccessfully tried to do on Human After All–the idea of how “human” computer-controlled music can sound.

It’s an interesting concept exhibited with some level of flair, but the side of the album that it dominates happens to be the most lackluster, in my eyes. I found much more enjoyment in the tracks at the start of the album that just showed the world that BB was back and still at the top of his game; it’s when the album starts to experiment to such extents that it turns me off.

Another thing that struck me is how pitifully short all of MEGA‘s tracks are; each song is around 1-2 minutes with absolutely no exceptions, when he’s had seemingly no problem straying outside of that range like on 0, which has some songs that are closer to 3 minutes. This decision hindered BB’s abilities to develop the ideas of his tracks, and it seemed like it was not the sufficient time that I needed to be sold on it.

If you came expecting a trip into the virtual plaza, you’re not exactly going to get it here (and why are you listening to Blank Banshee anyway?), and if you enjoyed or and came expecting more or less the same thing, you’re better off listening to one of the producers that serve as the fruit from Blank Banshee’s loins.

ConsensusMEGA has a bold artistic and sonic direction that leads to a multitude of enjoyable moments, but the intense and needlessly rushed experimentation onset by this direction leads to an alienating experience that makes the album falter.

Favorite tracks: Basically all of tracks 1-6 and “XENOS”

Least favorite track: idk like “JUNO”…if I had to choose

. -.-. -.-. — / .. … / .- -. / . -. -.. .- -. –. . .-. . -.. / … .–. . -.-. .. . …

Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes REVIEW

This album is essentially the soundtrack to a lucid dream.

I’m gonna make this quick before I forget everything I’m gonna say.

Flying Lotus is one of my musical heroes, and an influence on me as both a lover and a producer of music. The way that his unmistakable and choppy yet fluid swing breaks through any palette of sounds that he’s working with on is pretty incredible, and it’s been cool to see him and his production style evolve throughout the years that have passed since the “baggage room” bump and the Reset EP. It’s still mind-boggling to see him in the credits of a Kendrick Lamar album.

Cosmogramma is one of my all-time favorite albums, and that is certainly no dismissal of some of his other albums such as Los Angeles, but a special interest of mine was piqued towards his album Until the Quiet Comes. It was a mature, bold, and freeform step into unexplored ground for FlyLo, and it seemed too big for my young mind to swallow when I stumbled upon it.

Until the Quiet Comes is a jazzier and groovier effort than the bitcrushed bleep-blap beats that I am accustomed to and sorta perceive as synonymous with FlyLo. It’s kind of like how To Pimp a Butterfly was to good kid, m.A.A.d city–but perhaps that’s comparing apples with oranges. FlyLo’s normal style of production helps listeners get settled in at the start of the album, takes a backseat during the jam seshes that provide the bulk of the album, and then triumphantly returns around the end.

It also has a Thom Yorke feature.

Sounds pile up and coalesce with one another like vestiges of memories melting into one another within the confines of one’s mind on UTQC, and songs segue smoothly into each other in a very similar fashion. Bits of one song can be heard in another song, even if it’s on the other side of the album. Additionally, the album has structure; “All In” and “Dream to Me” respectively represent an intro and outro, and there are also considerably short tracks throughout UTQC that seem to function as interludes. My mind ended up drifting to J Dilla’s Donuts when thinking about them, for whatever reason. They’re intriguing at best (“Until the Colours Come”, “Sultan’s Request”) and throwaways at worst (“DMT Song”).

Also, there’s a Thom Yorke feature.

Although sounds pretty much run amok on this thing, there is an underlying connection through its dreamy textures and ethereal atmospheres that are omnipresent during the energetic first half and the more subdued second half. In that sense, this album is essentially the soundtrack to a lucid dream. Its dreaminess begs for it to be listened to at night, perhaps while staring at the sky that you are soon to be drowned in by the music. However, that’s a setback for me.

While it’s pretty sonically cohesive, the general mood of UTQC is very austere and limited. One of the reasons why I love Cosmogramma is the roulette of different moods that spins round during the album. There are upbeat tracks like “Computer Face / Pure Being” and “Galaxy in Janaki” as well as more mellow and downtrodden tracks like “…And the World Laughs With You” and “Mmmhmm”. Perhaps FlyLo intended to do this so as to bolster the listening experience, but it’s something that I couldn’t shake off.

Did I mention there was a Thom Yorke feature? Because there’s a Thom Yorke feature.

Speaking of the listening experience, I pretty much mentally checked out during the entire second half of the album. For an album that emphasizes minimalism so much, you’d think that it would know when to stop; it curls itself into a fetal position so tightly that it soon forgets to stretch. As a result, things start sounding repetitive, and that’s something I hate to say about a FlyLo album. Maybe he programmed the album so people would fall asleep halfway through so they wouldn’t have to hear the rest.

Wow. Even I thought that was harsh.

Consensus: Through newfound jazz elements and experimentation, Until the Quiet Comes has a commendable minimalist focus on atmosphere, groove, and simplicity, but that same simplicity ends up being its undoing. At least it has a Thom Yorke feature.

7/10

Favorite tracks: “Getting There”, “Tiny Tortures”, “All the Secrets”, “Putty Boy Strut”, “Until the Quiet Comes”, “The Nightcaller”

– …. . .-. . .. … .- – …. — — -.– — .-. -.- . ..-. . .- – ..- .-. .

Gorillaz – Self-Titled REVIEW (16th Anniversary)

In this day and age, everyone’s always trying to find a shtick. What traits embody your sound so that it’s different from everyone else’s? Some musical acts put fresh spins on old formulas, and others follow their heart to the point that their music is nigh-unclassifiable. The shtick that Gorillaz presented when they came around at the start of the noughties might just be one of the shtickiest shticks I’ve ever seen.

The four-person band exists in an animated universe completely detached from its creators and given depth to the point that these characters seem real enough for you to suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to enter their world. When I listen to Gorillaz, I don’t imagine Damon Albarn singing; I imagine 2D.

Although I was introduced to them through “Feel Good Inc.”, as many were, and Demon Days is personally my favorite Gorillaz album and one of my favorite albums of all time, I still find that it’s important to respect the roots. Everybody starts from somewhere.

There are a handful of more recognizable songs on the self-titled album (which is how I’ll be referring to it in this review) that are dispersed throughout in a way that resembles swimming through a pool with life preservers strategically placed at certain points. Once you’re done with putting your face in the water, you can lean back on the comforting familiarity that hit songs such as “19-2000” (which you may know from its infinitely more iconic Soulchild remix) and “Clint Eastwood” (which has been ranked on several lists of the greatest songs of the 2000s) bring. However, the real meat of the album comes from the lesser-known songs. That’s my favorite kind of album: the one where the hit songs aren’t actually the best songs.

The general sound of the self-titled album sits on a sliding scale of alternative rock and hip-hop; sometimes the scale shifts pretty evidently to one side, but many a time sounds exist in Odelay-esque blends of both extremes. Gritty alt-rock songs such as “M1A1” and “5/4” exist alongside brooding trip-hop songs like “Sound Check (Gravity)” and “Tomorrow Comes Today”, and endeavors from more genres like jazz rap (“Rock the House”) are thrown into the mix.

As good as the album, its sonic experimentation is as beneficial and enjoyable as it is ultimately detrimental to the overall effect the album produces. Its sound is fickle and there’s not the same unity or cohesion that exists on the band’s future albums, many of which could classify as quasi-concept albums strung together by a story. Perhaps it’s on shaky grounds to compare a band’s debut to its more sophisticated future albums, but Gorillaz’ self-titled album feels more like a collection of songs than it does an album.

7/10

Favorite Tracks: “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Re-Hash”, “Clint Eastwood”