Henry Greenleaf – Taking First EP

Henry Greenleaf is a rising UK producer currently based in Bristol, in the south-east of England. Inspired by the creative culture in Bristol for electronic dance music, Henry draws inspiration from Jungle, Post-Dubstep, and an array varied techno from Drumcode, to the ambience of minimal. Henry’s new EP titled, Taking First, becomes the fourth release under Par Avion. The opening single, ‘Taking First’, is a heavy scorching opener which immediately grabs your attention. Henry seems to take inspiration from Drumcode and dubstep to create a quickly evolving track. The following track, ‘Rumble’, carries the dark engrossing feeling of nervousness, as the steady opening build creates an atmosphere of suspense.

The B-side carries the energy of the previous tracks but with more sounds befitting on the dancefloor. It could be the rhythmic swelling from the percussion elements in the closing track, ‘Rumble Cando Remix’. Or it could be more the ethereal, alien-like sounds resonating from the synthesiser during the opening build in the track, NOFM.

The full EP releases on the 22nd of January. You can pre-order here

Listen to ‘NOFM’ below. 

Xavier Omar – If You Feel

Xavier Omar has had an interesting trajectory. Starting his career in 2012 under the moniker SPZRKT, (abbreviation for Spazzy Rocket) he released a steady stream of EP’s produced by his musical match, Sango. His rise in popularity and recognition has been nothing short of gradual. After four EP’s and penning an open letter in which he divorced his old stage name, Omar released his first ever album and music video for Just Get Here ft. VanJess and Wale last autumn. A unique approach to protecting his mystique, which for the most part has worked in his favour.

Xavier Omar returns again not long after the release of his debut with if You Feel. Omar’s secondary effort, released almost a year to the day of Moments Spent Loving You is a perfectly sequenced, 11 track body of work. This go around, we get to hear Omar collaborate with the likes of Mereba (Like I Feel), Masego (SURF) and new comer Jae Stephens for the laid back summertime track All Our Time.

Getting more personal on this album, the singer-songwriter lets listeners in on his new marriage, expressing his devotion to his wife on tracks like Protect and in particular So Much More; a stand out, 90s nostalgia slow jam.

In true Omar style, each song is laced with warm and intricate harmonies. Pushing the limits, we see Omar sample the Dru Hill smash ‘Tell Me’ for the 5th track on the album, ‘want/need’ where he flits between rapping and singing effortlessly.

‘If You Feel’ is a great continuation to Xavier Oamr’s journey; a piece of art where the underground RnB artist meets the mainstream without losing substance. A perfect balance. 

Check out the full album below, and let us know what you think:

Oscar Jerome – Breathe Deep

Oscar Jerome’s dynamism as an artist, and instrumentalist has been exciting to see in the last year. From catching my attention with the stunning single ‘Do You Really’, to his debut album, ‘Breathe Deep’ feels like a culmination of his noteworthy EPs and singles. Oscar began the year strongly with what appeared like a short three-track EP, titled ‘ Your Saint’ ,but instead, all three tracks would later feature in his debut album. The energy infused with the long winded, enduring single, ‘Gravitate’ is one my stand out tracks in the album. The broken drum pattern, and slow burning congo drums, accompanied by the steely resonating guitar sits beautifully with Oscar’s vocals, and gentle backing vocals.

Oscar Jerome oozes with emotion for the track, ‘Give Back What U Stole From Me’. Beginning with a momentous introduction with the drummer making full use of every drum piece from the cymbals, hi-hats, and kicks. The drums create a captivating start for Oscar Jerome to take on different style with his vocals than I’ve heard before. Seemingly taking some inspiration from The Kooks’ lead singer, the track still feels very much like his own, with his vocals developing more passion as the it goes on.

‘Timeless’ sees Oscar Jerome team up with the amazing Lianne La Havas. Beautifully dreamy and moving, hearing their vocals harmonize with each other throughout is really special to hear, as the stripped back production allows their vocals to take center stage with each instrument gradually accompanying their vocals as the track unfolds. London based spoken word artist, Brother Portrait joins Oscar Jerome in an unlikely link up for the track, ‘Your Saint’. Brother Portrait uses vivid imagery and metaphors to provide an excellent interlude in between Oscar’s first and second verse. It’s great to hear Oscar experiment with different styles with his vocals and overall composition for his debut album. He is an impressive songwriter and guitarist, and should be someone you look out for!

You can listen to ‘Breathe Deep’ below. Please let us know what you think:

Joey Badass – The Light Pack

Photo courtesy of Spotify

Joey Bada$$ returns with The Light Pack; a three-track EP that is only 8 minutes and 22 seconds in total, but says a whole lot. The Brooklyn born rapper begins with The Light; a 90s influenced embodiment of Hip Hop’s golden era. His flow and sustained rhyme pattern, held over ten bars are immensely impressive, but not surprising. Joey Bada$$ has been rapping since he was twelve years old and has had plenty of time to perfect his craft, which he has done with seeming ease. 

With one feature (Pusha T on No Explanation) over three songs, Joey Bada$$ stands alone in his generation. Not reliant on superstar producers or catchy made for Tik-Tok hooks, Joey Bada$$ explores the realms of his spiritual rebirth (alluded to at the beginning of The Light video) and toys with his lyrical prowess. Much of the project is a testament to his steadily progressive career. While his first album was strictly a 90’s throwback, the second album embraced the change in rapping style across most new artists at that time. However, The Light Pack is a perfect blend of both styles, as Joey Bada$$ successfully makes two era’s meet in the middle, creating a sound that only Joey can pull off without sounding dated.

Laying low for the last three years, this is Joey’s first release since 2017’s All Amerikkkan Bada$$. A bold return for the rapper who self-proclaims his music as “…mumble rap extermination“. The Light Pack is a strong return and a great teaser to whatever is coming next.

Chloe x Halle – The Ungodly Hour

Photography credit to Robin Harper

American RnB duo, Chloe x Halle planned to release their second studio album titled, The Ungodly House on the 5th of June, but later decided to push the release back by a week to honour the Black Lives Matter movement and the unfolding events surrounding the murder of George Floyd. 

Fast forward to the 12th of June, and the album is released to the world. Pressing play, and hearing the opening lines to the album “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” beautifully translates to the mood of the album. As the duo unapologetically explore their fully-fledged adulthood. A step up life experience and maturity from their debut album, The Kids Are Alright, The Ungodly Hour delves into the conflict of young adulthood and fidelity, “It’s nine o’clock, I get a text saying are you up?/ ‘Bout 9:15/ My girl said she got the same message, the same thing” sings Chloe in a harsh, assertive tone on the early noughties song – “Busy Boy”. 

With the duo receiving writing and producing credits on almost all of the 13 tracks, they serve up a unique RnB sound with a touch of soft rock on “ROYL” and soft house music on the Disclosure produced album title track. Their sleeper hit; a Scott Storch produced track titled, “Do It” serves as the ladies the first song to chart, placing them in front of a wider audience than ever before. 

As always, the sisters play with their perfectly practised duality, not only in the imagery for the album but on their vocal arrangements; singing harmonies with a tightly locked blend that is almost operatic at times.  

The Ungodly Hour is a stunning follow up from the Atlanta duo. Chloe x Halle teeters on the edge of RnB all the while staying true to their experimental roots. The sisters are becoming ones to watch. 

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to The Ungodly Hour, check it out below and let us know what you think:

Tom Misch – What Kinda Music

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One of the UKs most exciting drummers in Yussef Dayes has collaborated with the forward-thinking multi-instrumentalist and composer, Tom Misch, to release the pulsating new album ‘What Kinda Music’. The opening single, ‘What Kinda music’ is a slow burning beginning to an album which Yussef on the drums nicely sets the tone to, whilst Misch creates an eerie mood with the heavily reverb bassline which lines up perfectly behind his vocals.

The experimental dynamic throughout the track with his vocals and guitar is a direction in which Misch didn’t do much of, for his previous album, ‘Geography’, where he seemed to be trying to make more classically structured music and arrangement. Titling the track, ‘What Kinda Music’ adds to the experimental, instinctual natural relationship between Yussef Dayes and Tom Misch for the track, and the synergy between the two is continued throughout.

Tom-Misch

Stand out single, ‘Nightrider’ has a wonderfully relaxing tempo which is difficult to skip past as it seamlessly blends from the previous track. American Hip Hop artist, Freddie Gibbs blesses the track with a bumping up-tempo freestyle, casually ebbing and flowing around snares. 

Lift Off’ has an amazing momentous build started with the smooth leading bassline permeating throughout the track, the combination of the lead bass and drums took me back to moments during Mansur Brown’s previous album ‘Shiroi’. Similar to how Mansur Brown would let his bold imposing guitar provide the unwavering presence for his standout track, ‘Mashita’, Misch turned the focus to allow space and time to show off his guitar string play. The Following track, ‘I Did it For You’ sees Misch and Dayes coming together for a funk fuelled groove which slowly encapsulates Tom Misch’s ethereal, echoing vocals resonating around Yussef Dayes’ drums as the track develops. 

Coming towards the end of the album, the stunning stand out track, ‘Last 100’ elevates the wistful, dreamy mood created from the previous track, ‘I Did It For You’. The piano chords brighten the spirit, all the while, Misch’s raspy soft vocal line glides with the quick guitar finger play throughout. 

Misch’s seems to create a nostalgic mood towards the end of the album for the last two tracks; ‘John Mangos’ and ‘Storm Before The Calm’. With the latter, featuring a memorable conversation around from his manager about the album as well as, whilst ‘Storm Before The Calm’ invites Kaidi Akinnibi on the saxophone which provides settling tone and switch from illustrious build from the drums and guitar. 

Tom Misch’s fearless change in direction from ‘Geography’ is a bold move which will entice new listeners to work and strengthen his already loyal fanbase. Known to have spent some time producing beats on Ableton by himself, linking up with Yussef Dayes on the drums seemed to allow him to put those ideas into a live album which he was not able to do in previous albums, and i think it’s definitely paid off. The album is terrific from start to finish

You can listen to the spotify stream here:

What the video for Kyiv here:

First Thoughts: Tensei – Constellate

New music is always a bit more exciting when you unexpectedly fall on to something which you weren’t really looking for, but, from rummaging around bandcamp I stumbled on an exciting duo culminating out of Chicago. The pair bring with them a wealth of experience and influences into their music, from hip hop, jazz, house, soul, Afrobeats and electronic. Forming the duo are Chris Kramer and Midas Wells, who have been making music together for over ten years, working with the likes of Black Thought, ADaD, Denmark Vessey, Tall Black Guy. Besides that, they’ve also enlisted a range of respected jazz and soul artists from their home turf, such as Makaya McCraven, Kafele, and Greg Spero. What’s more interesting, is producing music isn’t entirely their whole lives’ as Kramer works in the Robotics Field as well as finding time to travel the world, extracting those wanderings into his music. Whereas, Wells’ curiosity for people and how they interact drove him to studying a master’s degree in anthropology.

*This video is for promotional use only*

The duo recently released an impeccably contagious, feel-good 7-track album titled ‘Constellate’. The album drifts on topics which challenge the disparity and growing tension facing many Americans today, and matches that with positivity and perspective. Accompanied with a range of lyricist and vocalist to who help bring their arrangements and instruments to life, with their pensive, thought-provoking lyrics. Tensei create a wonderful soundscape in the opening track; Liquid Tongues, leaving an enchanting moody vibe for Bilal vocals to envelope. Stand out track ‘Amazing’ has some beautifully fresh sounding instruments which are enriched and harmonize Sam Trump’s vocal. Tensei show their range in the closing track; Telemetry, which stretches and layers wonderfully vibrant loops, to Kiara Lainer accompanied vocal hook line.

Have a listen for yourself and support the artist via:

 

First Thoughts: KOKOKO! – Liboso

A group which has someone managed to miss my radar are KOKOKO! Channeling the alternative, vibrant energy of Kinshasa in to their music, KOKOKO! are group who hope to wash away African music’s label  being ‘World Music’, by making music which is truly reflective of Congo. The artistic vision and producer comes in the form of well-respected music producer; Debruit, who is known to blend synthetic sounds to instruments inspired from Africa and the Middle East. Building on the foundations of the KOKOKO! project are four lively musicians who add their authenticity through their ‘Punk’ style vocals, and psychedelic repetitive patterns crafted on self-designed string instruments and other percussive energetic inventions.

Watch below:

*This video is for promotional use only*

Just before the new year KOKOKO! brought their sound to UK independent record label; Transgressive, with their vivid 5-track EP titled; ‘Liboso’, which means ‘forward’. The journey into the diaspora and diversity of Kinshasa begins with the beautiful rhythmic patterns of the opening track; ‘Blvd Lumumba’, which is befittingly named after a road which leads into Kinshasa. Winding down from the exhilarating track; Azo Toke, is ‘Affaire A Mbongo’ meaning Money Problems, which has these incredible make-shift metallic sounding instruments which is indicative of Congolese culture, to make instruments out of anything. Bringing the EP to a close is the pulsating, radiating track; ‘Longola Ye Kupe‘, where the pounding drums, and bassline matches the energy and power of the lead vocalist; Makara Bianko.

Have a listen to EP and support the artists:

 

Maisha – There Is A Place

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There’s something beautifully enchanting and wistful around Maisha’s music. Channeling the spirit and rhythm of African highlife, Afrobeat, and combining that with the experimental nature of jazz to produce something which is deeply thought-provoking and pensive. Six members make up the spiritual jazz group, with the drummer Jake Long leading the team, along with some familiar members such as Nubuya Garcia on the saxophone, as well as Amané Suganami on the piano who you may recognise from solo projects of their own. In addition, joining them is Shirley Tettah on the guitar, Tim Dylan on the double bass, Tim Doyle and Yahael Carama-Onono on the percussion. Releasing their debut EP in 2016 with jazz: refreshed live recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, in three tracks spanning over 30 minutes the band made a perfect introduction to their sound. Their closing track titled; ‘A Night Trance’ captured my attention as the slow enduring build for each element to blend and fade among st one another created a wonderfully ethereal journey.

Those meditative patient builds are recaptured throughout their second EP release titled; ‘There Is A Place’. The free-flowing, unpredictability of the opening track ‘Osiris’ is jazz at its finest. Pure soul and feeling carries over nicely to the following track ‘Azure’. Side B elevates the mood and tempo, with the track ‘Eaglehurst Place’ finding influence from afrobeat rhythms. The underlying high and low pitched Congo drums build momentously in the following ‘Kaa’ creating an explosion of energy as the instruments begin to take over. Seemingly blending into one track is there transition to the closing track ‘’, which has Amane Suganami on the piano at the center of the whole composition, with his dynamic change of pace of keys allows for a contemplative closing track.

Have a listen to the full EP below and support the musicians:

Kaidi Tatham – In My Life

in my lifeKaidi Tatham (also known as Agent K) is a member of the Bugz in the Attic collective, keys player for The Herbaliser Band on stage and involved in many projects, most notably his collaborations with 4hero’s Dennis McFarlane: 2000Black, DKD (with Daz-I-Kue), Silhouette Brown and Da One Away (with Ian Grant aka IG Culture).

Having already begun the year with his full-length album release through First Word Records (click here to read our review), Kaidi has gone back to his 2000Black family to release a stunningly crafted 4 track EP. Kaidi perfectly blends challenging instrument experimentation with enough soulful rhythm to work on the dancefloor. The third track titled; ‘Is Crimbo really here’ is an exciting showcase of that, with a steady build of elements marrying amazingly well throughout the track. Resonating shakers, soft kicks, and harmonious piano chords provide the backdrop for Kaidi’s piano skills to take shape and lead midway through the track. Another stand out track, which almost feels like two, is titled; ‘But you bring it up’. Blessing the track with her gorgeous vocals is Nadine Charles, who’s voice keeps up with the change of pace, in a manner which radiates and lifts the song to flow with the vibrating, frequent percussion and piano melodies.

Have a listen to below, and support the artist via bandcamp: