Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Heavenly Ascension

This is a review I wrote last fall for a certain British publication and apparently forgot to submit at all.  Oops.

It's a track that I've been thinking about lately, completely bewitching, beautiful, perfect.  The kind of thing you can't imagine a person making, the kind of thing that must have come into existence on its own.  It's not about to kick off its own scene or tangent within electronic music or anything, but it's a wonderful tune that stands alone, unafraid of generic limitations or fitting into scenes. It's the second release on Raffertie's intriguing Super Records, a label that seems caught somewhere between colourful tech house and the new wave of UK house producers coming out of dubstep, and probably the best thing to come out of the label so far.  Stream and review of the single after the jump.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

R&B Futures #1: Drake

This post is not about dance music.  Avert your eyes if this scares you, and be assured that Futureproofing is not about to become Popjustice.  The rest of you reasonable people, please read on.

It occurs to me that there is a considerable love for modern R&B underlining the tastes of many of my friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators -- myself included -- and there's got to be a reason.  While most would be quick to dismiss the likes of The-Dream, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Ryan Leslie, Cassie, Ciara, what-have-you -- nevermind the stunningly snobby tastes of electronic dance music acolytes -- for those who like melodically rich, verbally playful, and beautifully textured music, there's no reason not to explore.  There is a large discourse surrounding this kind of stuff: whether it's indie rock juggernauts like Pitchfork giving considerable journalistic push and credibility to Drake and Dream, or more 'underground' and dance-focused sectors like FACT Magazine giving prominent press to the same (and more), a considerable dialogue begins to emerge.  While some might cite it as gimmicky bandwagon-jumping or minstrel-show novelty, that sort of attitude is even more close-minded than what it feigns to condemn, because there is actual merit in this music.  This dialogue has been ever expanding in recent months, particularly with the release of a fantastic Cassie remix EP and a post on the Guardian Music Blog about the cult of Cassie that led the head of the Tri Angle Records -- a label that is often attributed the title as a leader in the 'witch house' game, but we're not going to talk about 'witch house' here and suffice to say the man himself insists he doesn't release it -- making contact with the hallowed chanteuse, a virtual meeting that seemed like an impossible task.  As for what it means, that remains to be seen, but it proves that there's something about modern R&B and pop music really tugging at some of the most influential minds in electronic music right now.

One of the largest figures looming over this crossover is Canadian rapper Drake, disciple of the ever-divisive Lil' Wayne, and a figure that seems to only inspire vitriolic hatred or embarrassingly gushy praise.  He's easy to hate: he's Canadian, he's got an awkward flow that's robotic when it's not clumsy, his lyrics are a slower and more deliberate version of Wayne's patented associative rapping style ("this time I'm really going off. fireworks." etc ad nauseum), and he has a heavily introspective, sometimes whiny perspective.  Too bad that the guy has dug his own little completely unique sector of commercial rap and made a masterpiece in it, then.  Drake's debut album Thank Me Later is stunningly visionary, a mainstream hip-hop album that almost never bangs, doesn't really have any party songs, and consists of the most monochromatic, sleepy production heard in a good long while.  It's the sound of cold sweat pooling on a pillow, summer-induced heatstroke haze, complete and utter exhaustion, and the conditioned entitlement of a whole generation of spoiled brats obsessed with "swagger" and self-aggrandizement on a pathetically personal scale.  Yeah, this record has some baggage.