Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews | September

The Internet — Hive Mind

There’s slick and then there’s a step above. That’s where The Internet reside on this, their fourth album, ‘Hive Mind’. Starting with the multipart harmonies, flitting flute melodies, and grooving basslines of opener ‘Come Together’, it’s clear that this is an album where diverse ideas join in seamless harmony to create something bigger than their parts. At its best, like on the single ‘Come On Over’, the Funk basslines and R&B vocals meld into perfect Pop; pulling from different genres yet being all about the song. With ‘Hive Mind’, The Internet are at the very top of the Funk Pop game.

Lily - “I’ve been waiting in anticipation for the reformation of The Internet. By working on their own projects since Ego Death, the group have drawn styles from Lana Del Rey, Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean and Kali Uchis before reaching a new zenith together with Hive Mind. ‘Roll’ is perfectly suited for playlists ready for a new wave of psychedelic funk such as New York 80 - Disco and Funk, Bar Party and Ibiza and Balearic. If you like Steve Lacy’s vocals there you should listen to his feature on the new Blood Orange track ‘Out Of Your League’.”

Mike Nyoni & Born Free — My Own Thing

As a leading light of 70s Zamrock, that is; Rock from Zambia, Mike Nyoni sees long buried releases get a renewed lease of life thanks to Now Again Records. Including music from Nyoni’s first three records, ‘My Own Thing’ is a rhythmic Rock album with a lot of soul. From the politically charged ‘Soweto’ with its driving rhythm guitar and impassioned vocals to the equally emotive but slower ballad ‘Amida’, Mike Nyoni brings wah wah guitar chops along with powerful vocals. Nyoni is at his best when he leans most heavily towards Funk, with ‘Highway’ we get a classic Rock love song with Funk heart, and the title track brings raw Funk power that’s plainly irresistible as it champions joy, freedom, and doing your own thing.

Neil - “Lately I’ve been feeling Now-Again’s issue of Mike Nyoni’s funked-out psyche rock from 1970s Zambia. The Stone’s Throw offshoot really do find the real gold, and if you didn’t know that, this is a perfect place to start. West Coast psychedelia filtered through turbulent economic times result in a work that Brian Jones, let alone Fela Kuti would be proud of, and you can hear it across some of our more adventurous playlists in The 78, Neptune and Red Rooster.”

Ross From Friends — Family Portrait

While slowly developing his Lo-Fi House sound with a mix of EPs and 12” singles, Ross From Friends has attracted a growing fan base. Now with the release of ‘Family Portrait’, his debut album, that Lo-Fi sound has expanded. Bringing in a sense of weight and density to tracks like ‘The Knife’ with its unintelligible, 90s House vocals and ‘Pale Blue Dot’ with its stray electronics and looping beats there’s an impressive sense of melody to each track. The result is catchy hooks and ear worm phrases that will bury themselves deep in your head for days. Don’t miss it.

Brian - “I’ve been a little dubious about the much-hyped lo-fi house scene - jokey names such as DJ Seinfeld aside, the music seemed to be a step into the past rather than future, but this album by Ross From Friends proves me wrong. Anything released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder will increase the weight of expectations, but the album delivers with a more mature retro-futuristic sound with echoes of Burial’s inner London and nods towards Omar S’ Detroit. It’s slotted nicely into my Fresh playlists and clients such as Browns Fashion, Big Chill Bar and my curated playlist for Courier Magazine.”

Gilberto Gil — OK OK OK

After such an incredible career that stretches back to 1960s and has recently seen Gil taking to the stage with his grandchildren, it should come as no surprise that ‘OK OK OK’ is a perfect mix of MPB and Tropicalia. For those less familiar with Brazilian music, and Gil’s genre-defining sounds, this means a fusion of Rock, such as on ‘Ouco’, with the smoother sounds of Bossa Nova, Samba, and traditional Bahia folk. It’s a soothing mix at its best on tracks like ‘Uma Coisa Bonitinha’, a duo with the great João Donato, with its swift paced hook that roughly translates as ‘A Cute Thing’.

Blood Orange — Negro Swan

Dev Hynes has always been political. Yet by focusing on “the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of colour” on ‘Negro Swan’ Hynes draws out common insecurities in the year 2018 through the words and lives of the marginalised. On ‘Family’ we discover the spoken words of transgender rights activist Janet Mock, on the cool R&B of ‘Orlando’ Dev introduces us to his own childhood hardships, and there in the middle of the Jazz piano piece, ‘Hype’, the voice of vulnerability is that of Puff Daddy. It’s an album that covers a lot of ground yet feels grounded and centred thanks to Hynes’ compositional talent, twisting Hip Hop, R&B, and Jazz into a challenging yet accessible whole.

Tirzah — Devotion

Produced by Mica Levi, the debut by Londoner Tirzah feeds off a plethora of musical styles closely associated with the capital’s broad cultural base. Pulling from Grime, 2-step, R&B, Indie Pop, and minimal Bass ‘Devotion’ is an album at once busy with its influences and stripped down in style. Build around a looping 808 beat, ‘Holding On’ is just waiting for the remix treatment before becoming a club staple this winter. Elsewhere ‘Basic Needs’ drapes intimate vocals over minimal 2-step beats. It perfectly captures the compositional skills on show throughout ‘Devotion’ which centres on Tirzah’s vocals yet shines thanks to the quality of its beats.

Wild Nothing — Indigo

As each album passes Jack Tatum gets closer to the sound he most desires. On album number four Tatum overtly seeks a classic high fidelity sound so closely associated with Rock and Pop studio albums of the 1980s. Writing with whatever took his mood at the time, from guitar and keyboard through to in-the-box solutions, Tatum sets out to bind the very human creative process with highly synthesised sounds. The result is a crispness that mixes analogue guitars with synthetic keys into polished Indie Pop. Yet without Tatum’s perfectly controlled and studio sharpened vocals this endeavor would be without the soul required to make a truly enjoyable listen.

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