As much as we want to cover everything that comes our way at 108MICS, there’s the occasional song or album that slips between the cracks of our schedule or flies just under our radar. Introducing “The Overdue Review”, a collection of bite-sized reviews on music and artists we couldn’t quite get to in time. Better late than never!
In our interview in April, UK rapper/singer Slicko DiCaprio positioned his then-upcoming record “Mortal Bodies” as a crucial moment in his young career, a bridge which, when crossed, promised a world of greater artistic clarity and achievement. In its final form “Mortal Bodies” (now labelled as a mixtape, rather than an album) seems to have humbler, more grounded ambitions. The thirteen song collection is solid, well defended at all corners by DiCaprio’s signature vocal tone, but more concerned with presenting aggressively polished sound than any sense of grandiosity.
There are ruminations on relationships on openers “About Love” and “Heart 2 Heart”, and singles “Capital Punishment” and “Mortal Bodies” still shine as radio-ready hits; the tape consistently avoids tripping as wider themes are distilled into palatable expressions. Best moments are found in the slick chaos of the tape’s three duets. “I Rode A Camel Once” sees DiCaprio and longtime collaborator blkglam sing with playful dissonance about the nature of growth and memory. “Save It” with Johannesburg’s AKMZ is vicious (“I can’t stay in one place for too long, I don’t like the taste of loving you”). The champion track is “Cardiovascular Disease”, which, contrary to its clinical name, is fiery, emotive, and lovingly roughed around the edges, thanks in substantial part to a second feature from blkglam and the tangible chemistry the pair share. It’s a key listen for fans of creatively spun pop-trap.
I know this is a rap blog, but hear me out! It seems so much of modern underground music is to provide, as PK Shellboy described Drain Gang, “Music for Life”. Soundtracks to our day to day, going that bit further to tap into our thoughts and feelings. This creates a kind of kinship with ambient music, the original “Music for Life”. Dreampunk innovators 2814 (HKE & telepath テレパシー能力者), now years past the critically acclaimed “Birth of a New Day” and “Rain Temple”, have dove deep into ambient with their new release “Voyage/Embrace”. These two tracks that split half an hour into two dreamy episodes. First track “Voyage” is a tempestuous and brooding affair, growing only in tension as synth layers circle above an ominous kick drum.
It’s “Embrace” that calls back most to the duo’s most fertile period; the song is introduced by thick rain, which clears to an infinite horizon of superbly patched drones that call out to each other with densely digital reverberation. It’s immobilising, crystalline, pure, and bodes extremely well for the future of 2814 as the world begins to leave vapourwave in the past (as noted by Opus‘ review).
Years in, GYPTXVN continues to surprise this pluggnb flavoured “big collab” with French artist Guarda4L is as cunning as the best of them; the melodies are sly and mysterious, offset by a fantastically artificial brass tone that slides between rumbling 808s and Guarda4L’s confident delivery, which breaks ecstatically into English for a bridge; “France, UK, big collab, big collab!”. It’s always wonderful to see international collaboration, especially that which breaks down the barriers of language. GYPTXVN, being as massively collaborative as he is, seems a natural presence in this field. This song will have you going crazy for bars you can’t even understand.
Mini Artist Insight – Buffalobang
We need to talk about Buffalobang. The Swedish singer has taken on a niche role as the ‘secret weapon’ of boysnightsout; on their group album they laced title track “It’s Complicated” with glassy autotune shards, but the solo singles dropped this year form a grouping even more sweetly deluded. “Tough Evening” with Sg Lily has become one of my favourites this year, with its central refrain of “I work my ass off, and buy a gift with my earnings” hitting hard in a year of constant overdrive and collective care. “maintain” showcases the artist’s ultra-falsetto like no other track; Buffalobang climbs upwards on the hook, as if pushing through the sadness, trying desperately to be honest – “not gonna lie, find it hard to maintain a smile”. On the same track, d1v is dejected and unengaged, providing a deep contrast to Buffalobang’s extreme drama. That’s really what I love about BNO, they deal only in extremes, even mundane emotions like boredom are blown up in scale. “again & again” captures this excellently – a plainly heartbroken ballad, relatable in its simplicity and extremely easy on the ears thanks to a guitar-based beat from With3r. Buffalobang is effortlessly melancholy on this cut, gliding with style across increasingly frozen musical landscapes.
Archangel2 and DEEGS make a perfect team yet again on “Cold Water Therapy”, which dropped a few weeks back. The track explores identity, with niche themes of self-falsification and isolation’s effect on the mind. It’s a track that needs to tell it’s own story, so I won’t spoil too much, but I’d be remiss to not praise Archangel2’s softened delivery and DEEGS’ rippling melodies.
It’s Kiryano and Kketamine. If you’ve read my review of “Give” you’ll know how I feel about these two, but if not I’ll just say this – this is essential winter listening.
K9999 is one of the more interesting names in the field of Drain Gang remixes (which is surprisingly vast). The Filipino artist brings such a refreshing edge to the works of these ubiquitous artists, reclaiming them as Drum n Bass products, freeing them from the sadness that lies within. K9999’s latest collection is based on Ecco2k’s debut, “E”, and features some of his most heart racing efforts. “Peroxide” is flipped into a piece of total euphoria, an absolutely liberating ninety seconds. “Fragile” is somehow more frail atop a shaky stack of percussion. “Fruit Bleed Juice”, “Time”, and most of all “Blue Eyes” are downright violent, barely contained and bleeding into the tracks around them. There are calmer moments though; “Cc” is cleary a rough sketch, skittery and sparse with a cymbal emphasis. “Sugar & Diesel” pops and pulses, just about alive under the emotional pressure of the source material. Here and elsewhere (see “Girls Just Want To Have Fun ver.K9999”) K9999’s work expands beyond homage – these are worthy reinterpretations through and through.
Artists and Tracks have been linked in their respective sections.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)