Photo: Eve North
At this stage I have probably written about Dublin’s Meltybrains? enough times on this blog to negate them needing any introduction. Instead, let’s talk their new song, ‘New Don’.
There’s a quivering unease to the track: the intoxicating glamour of not-quite-prog sounds, the disturbing quiet of that glockenspiel and the glorious howling refrain of “why did I do that?”. Not for the faint of heart, it’s intense, eerie, weird electronic chaos and it is very very good. Plus the great (if somehow alarming) video is directed by the group along with previous collaborator Louise Gaffney, and was edited by the band’s drummer, Micheál Quinn.
The physical release of ‘New Don’ will take the form of a limited number of hand-painted Meltymasks, which come with a download code (via Little L Records). You can pre-order them here.
Also, as if you needed further proof of the delightful cult of Melty and why they are dons, their dope Bloomsday performance from earlier this year was in the related videos – check it.
I think everyone has some form of comfort music. The sort of songs that soothe and make you want to crawl into the blanket of their world, leaving everything else behind for just a little while. For me, it’s the music that is borderline celestial, with flourishes of somehow nostalgic, rich instrumentation and vocals that effortlessly pour with the sweetness of honeyed dessert wine. Think Beach House, Joanna Newsom, Julie London and, now, Kadhja Bonet.
A few days ago Complex posted a piece by Justin Charity with the somewhat inflammatory title, “Why Did Everyone Pretend To Enjoy Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly?'”. As a Kendrick fangirl at heart, I took issue with some of the writer’s arguments – in some ways, he seemed to be defaming a Holy Cow to provoke engagement. Overall, however, in discussing with a friend, I came to the conclusion that Charity had a point when it came to the differences between an album being enjoyable and it being important – and for all I think To Pimp A Butterfly is superb, it falls into the latter camp for me. More than that, in using the almost unanimous praise that TPAB was subject to more or less immediately after it leaked, Charity has raised some salient questions about how exactly the internet influences and, I would argue, pressures us to prematurely react to new music.
Primal panting over a pulse, flashes of glimmering chimes and an intricate, glitchy beat all topped with self-assured vocals that include sweet African samples: this is London singer Obenewa’s fantastic ‘Marshmallow’. It has an afro-house flavour to it, bringing some welcome, warm dance vibes to the fore. Her previous output includes ‘Solid Gold‘, a poppy R&B track with more celestial, traditional stylings and, while it was quite pretty and her vocals were powerful on it, it seemed a little like ground that had already been trodden. But this is not the case on the fantastic (if all too short) ‘Marshmallow’ or, indeed, more recent Machinedrum-produced ‘Save Me’. The latter is reminiscent of Imogen Heap, with its strangely manipulated vocal harmonies in the background and the soothing sense of cloud-like ambience that all underpin the singer’s unfaltering voice on the refrain, “Need to save me from myself”. There’s an older track ‘He‘ too, which channels Mary J. Blige with it’s squelchy, sultry swagger and charming hints of gospel.
Give her a listen, she’s pretty wonderful and there’s a lightness to her sound that’s all quite refreshing. And – as if the deal needed sweetening – ‘Marshmallow’ is free:
I once tried to start a regular feature on this blog “For the love of R&B”, in which I would gush about how amazing ’90s and early ’00s R&B was. The section has been neglected greatly, but yesterday was Ashanti’s 35th birthday and I’ve been listening to her a lot lately and man, she has some jams. Accordingly an R&B post revival was in order, in appreciation of the one and only Ms Ashanti Douglas.
It was in the 1950s that a movement amongst certain European playwrights saw the development of “Theatre of the Absurd”. Famously, these were plays that explored the mundaneness of human existence. They focussed on a breakdown of communication – the likes of Beckett and Pinter created funny yet tragic plays with repetitive, seemingly pointless dialogues that were laced with a sense of hopelessness and triviality. Holding Hands With Jamie, the debut album from Dublin’s Girl Band, could be considered in a similar light – there’s an odd lyrical focus on the banal that more often than not ends up drowned in frustrated, fantastic cacophony.
The sun has been shining all weekend which means my life has obviously been soundtracked by glorious reggae, dancehall and soca. One particular sound has pervaded the vibe – the seminal Sleng Teng riddim.
A brief explanation of the riddim concept is perhaps necessary. Riddims are the rhythmic patterns of a song – predominantly the bass and the beat, but essentially the riddim is the instrumental track of a song. There’s no exact equivalent outside of Afro-Caribbean music, as far as I’m aware; sampling is probably the closest you get to it. But while a sample is re-using a section of a song, riddims are “versioned” – so hundreds of different artists will have versioned the same riddim. That is to say, entirely different songs will be constructed over the same rhythmical track. In part, it seems to derive from the reggae and dancehall traditions of adapting old lyrical phrases and tunes in new songs.
It’s kind of a fascinating challenge: you’ve got a track that everyone agrees is great, but it’s not yours, so what are you going to create on top of it to make it stand out – how will you make it yours? From a legal standpoint it’s a complex system regarding ownership and international copyright – increasingly so in a digital age. If you’d like to know more about it all, then the Manuel and Marshall essay on riddims is super.
A perhaps lesser-known example is the Diwali riddim, produced by Steven “Lenky” Marsden which is used in a ton of great songs, including Sean Paul’s ‘Get Busy‘ and Wayne Wonder’s ‘No Letting Go‘ (yes, I am mentioning this solely because I am charmed by the coincidence of a riddim with a name alluding to my Indian background happening to backtrack two songs I love).