Listening Post #15

by Alex Brammer

1. Childish Gambino – Zombies

When I heard that Awaken, My Love was a funk album, I was pretty disappointed. After all, I’d just spent the last couple years tracing Donald Glover’s meteoric rise from the nasal Lil Wayne impressionist on early mixtapes like I Am Just A Rapper 2 and Culdesac through to the unfairly forgotten Because The Internet. I shouldn’t have worried – aside from a couple of momentary missteps with the use of vocal filters, this track is funky brilliance. Highlights include a fantastic moment of vocal layering at the halfway mark and a great guitar solo on the outro. Can’t go wrong.

2. Grouper – I’m Clean Now

This song is one of those songs so beautifully perfect that you think this can’t be real, can it? It’s like watching a snowflake melt on the eyelash of a deer or something. It’s just the right amount of tape hiss, just the right amount of guitar (almost none, drenched in reverb) and just the right amount of vocals (more, still drenched in reverb) to make a song which feels purifying it. Listen to it when anxious; if you’re already relaxed it’s likely you’ll chill out so much that your heart stops pumping.

3. Madvillain – Avalanche

I am still in shock by the fact that there’s a new CD quality Madvillain song. It’s roughly equivalent to saying “Hey, how about that new season of Firefly? Or the new Tolkien novel? Are you having a good time with Titanic 2?” Unfortunately, this track isn’t hinting at a followup to 2004’s Madvillainy – Avalanche has been floating around in various snippets since 2011. But taking that disappointment in stride – this song absolutely deserves to be held up next to Madlib and MF DOOM’s finest work on Madvillainy. The beat just screams Madlib, with eerie female vocals and low-key piano, whilst DOOM brings some more bars dense with rhyme and dripping with references and double meanings. It’d be criminal to miss the return of the villains.

4. Aphex Twin – tnodvood104

Eerie atmosphere dominates this new Aphex track, with the glitched-out voices from 2014’s Syro being stretched out to unnerving length. They get so drawn out, in fact, that they even come to resemble some of the drones on his earlier ambient pieces. It’s a track that’s deeply unsettling and creepy, and yet somehow smooth and relaxed in its own way. Well worth at least a few listens.

5. Run The Jewels – Hey Kids (Bumaye) (feat. Danny Brown)

I mean, I couldn’t just let Run The Jewels 3 pass me by, could I? This track’s a swaggering mixture of cyberpunk and the kind of dense witty wordplay which misses you on first listen only to come right around and smack you up the back of the head on the third. You might think that was a throwaway mention of Biff from the Berenstain bears but oh no – of course, it’s to do with parallel universes and Biff from Back To The Future. It’s a whip-smart banger with a brain, and you’d be foolish to miss it.