Beck - Sea Change (2002)


Sea Change is one of the few worthwhile rock albums from this millenium. Seriously, I'm rarely able to give a shit about any white people music released after 2000; nothing new happens and it all feels like uninspired re-hashings. Sea Change defies both of these gripes I have with modern rock music. The compositions are all folky, but the digital elements put this album in a world of its own. Beck isn't the only artist to do this, but there are few albums which match this more-than-natural blend of synthesizers, electric keyboards, and folk guitar. Sea Change is one of the slowest albums I've ever heard and this might be a turn-off or an acquired taste for some people--this was certainly true for me. The music definitely ranges into slowcore territory; I guess there are aesthetic differences between this and more traditional slowcore that prevent it from being considered a staple of that genre, but if you enjoy Codeine or Low, I can't see why you wouldn't love this. The album is essentially a product of Beck's then-recent breakup and the songwriting is as overtly desolate and depressing as you'll ever hear from him. The somber Nick Drake influence is obvious, especially on the second half. An album like I Could Live In Hope is more likely to make you want to kill yourself, but if you want a melancholy album to drink and think to, then Sea Change will be your cup of tea.

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Sea Change

Détente - Recognize No Authority (1986)


I heard of this album from an old interview with Fenriz of Darkthrone where he drunkenly talks about how he digs through obscure thrash metal records to find forgotten great vocalists. Recognize No Authority was one of the albums he used as an example. He describes the instrumentation/composition as only decent and the vocals as fantastic. Well I don't disagree with him about the vocals; when he mentioned that there was a female singer for this album, I knew I was going to have to listen as soon as possible. Dawn Crosby is her name and her singing style (also the lyrics) lends itself to the punk ethos. I'm not really sure what constitutes as crossover thrash (hardcore punk mixed with thrash metal), but I bet this is pretty close. Compared to thrash metal legends like Slayer and Metallica, I guess this isn't really on the same level, especially in the eyes of a metal history expert such as Fenriz. Still, the comparison is kind of unfair because Slayer is simply from another planet and Détente assumes a more traditionally punk attitude, so when I compare this stuff to the sloppy aesthetic of Black Flag, Saint Vitus, or Melvins it feels more than competent. At the same time, I can only imagine if this girl did the singing for the classic Slayer albums. If you're a fan of classic 1980s thrash metal or the more metal-inspired SST repertoire, you've got to check this out.

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Recognize No Authority

Weezer - Weezer (1994)


Weezer's debut album--well, Weezer the band--is one of the most polarizing artists in pop-rock. For some people in my generation, this album is their life blood; to others it's pathetic. This is probably most true when it comes to the band's second album, Pinkerton, but still, people love to hate on each other when it comes to Blue too. For 10 years I've maintained that it's about as close to perfection as a rock album can get. Like Supertight is to Houston hip hop, Doggystyle is to g-funk, or The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is to psychedelic rock, Weezer's debut matches the description of a genre on paper--in this case it's power pop, but really defines itself as a class of its own. I mean it's pretty much uncomparable to anything else in the style and--let's be real--on another level of quality never to be touched again. I'm sure the vast majority of power pop/alt-pop fans will agree with this, and if you're a teenage hipster or don't fuck with anything close to this style, then just move along. As for me, you all should know that I have--without a doubt--played this album more than any other, probably three times more than whatever's second on the list.

When it comes to the album's musical backbone, it's obvious there's nothing too drastic happening, just distorted guitar chords. Even if the album was kept purely instrumental, I would still probably consider it a classic. I think this is mostly due to the magic worked by Ric Ocasek on production (or the engineers or whatever). The mastering quality is out of this world. Every piece of the soundstage is filled to the brim with tempered guitar tones and this really helps the album achieve maximum loser degenerate catharsis. The vocal melodies are all incredibly catchy; same with the guitar leads and Ocasek synths (or pedaled-guitars, to this day I'm still not sure which it is). I appreciate the backing vocals from Brian Bell and Matt Sharp; I've always loved the decision not to overdub Rivers singing the backing melodies (I should mention that the falsetto singing from Sharp is awesome too). Every song has its own identity and could be used as a single, but the themes are consistent through each track and the album comes together perfectly as a whole. When I was younger, I genuinely believed that no song from Blue was greater than another, but over the past two years I've come to realize that No One Else and The World Has Turned And Left Me Here are beyond perfect--twin high water marks from the first half that aren't really touched on the second part. That's not a criticism to the fantastic second half, just a testament to how great I think those two tracks really are. To its advantage, however, the second half is wrapped up by possibly the greatest album closer in pop music history, Only In Dreams. I started to write a mini-review on that track alone, but I realized that if I did, I would need to start doing so for every track on the album, and nobody wants that.

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Weezer

Sacramentum - Far Away From The Sun (1996)


Far Away From The Sun is one of my top five favorite black metal albums and definitely my favorite so far in what I've heard from the less lo-fi realm. Fans like to throw shade at Sacramentum for doing stuff similar to the most well-known melodic black metal band, Dissection, but I actually prefer this album to anything in Dissection's discography. Skill-wise and compositionally, Dissection might take the cake, but that's not all there is to making good metal. I respect them, but I think they sometimes go a little too over-the-top with their flashy melodies and song structure changes. I don't know, I guess it could be fun, but the guitar work in their music always gives me Dragonforce vibes. Far Away From The Sun is more subdued than either The Somberlain or Storm Of The Light's Bane, but it's not like this compromises the band's ability to make skillful, catchy, and powerful black metal. Aside from being less wank-ish, I also think Sacramentum is the better group because the vocals sound less cheesy and the guitar tones feel heavier. Far Away From The Sun is a legendary melodic black metal album, but it still doesn't seem to get the same kind of love from entry-level lists as it should, so definitely check this out.

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Far Away From The Sun

Teflon - Westwood Click (1995)


Westwood Click is one of the best dirt-quality Memphis hip hop tapes. It is credited to the Graveyard Productions affiliate Teflon, but it functions as a posse album. I guess it's like the Skinny Pimp/Gimisum albums where it's a posse junt credited as a Skinny solo tape. It's also possible that this is a Teflon solo compilation made up of his features on GYP albums, but I am pretty sure these are mostly exclusive cuts with the exception of Black Magic, which also appears on The Havoc (I can't remember all the Lil Grimm/GYP/Children Of The Corn songs off the top of my head, plus the fan-made song names don't help in tracking down overlaps). As for Westwood Click, I am not sure if this is a general name for Graveyard Productions and their affiliates, a nickname, a subgroup, or a parent group, but I don't think there's anything too problematic in assuming it's all essentially the same thing.

Westwood Click is basically just another Children Of The Corn album. It has a bunch of the members as vocal features: most notably Red Dog with a killer set of verses on Black Magic. Grimm's production is haunting and super lo-fi. It sounds like the posse recorded this album, dubbed a bootleg, went and buried it in the woods by some Mississippi swamp, waited three years, and then dug it up--much like the Children Of The Corn 'Single' tape. With its violent lyrics, scary film samples, and themes of witchcraft, the album makes for a prime example of horrorcore, especially of the Memphis flavor. Unlike a lot of the other under-underground Memphis cassettes, Westwood Click isn't semi-forgettable or helped along by its endearing qualities. It's certainly lo-fi and almost completely lost to history, but the rapping and beats are A-grade material.

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Westwood Click

Calsutmoran - Emerge From The Mist (2017)


Emerge From The Mist is one of Calsutmoran's most recent EPs and it's guaranteed to melt your body; the first track alone is the musical equivalent of hydroflouric acid raining down on you by the gallon. It seems the more Cal's production career goes on the more he turns up his kicks. Relatively speaking, he's adopted a phonk-ier and more abrasive sound since the days of his 5 Dimensional Mr. Bones EP when he was all about slick psych-trap. I'm not sure what their relationship is like or if they've had any direct influence on each other, but at this point it sounds like Apoc Krysis and Calsutmoran are engaged in a friendly battle of who can turn their kicks up the loudest. Cal's music is still bound to his signature ethereal vibes, but so far this year he's bringing those mechanized and borderline industrial sounds. I doubt I'm off-base when I assume that Calsutmoran's goal is to make his audience think these pieces are produced by aliens, and he's successful in leaving that impression. As I hinted at above, Emerge From The Mist feels like an envelope for the brainfuck of the first track--The Sideshows, but the other inclusions are consistent in style and are also dope as hell. Calsutmoran has released longer and more thorough EPs and albums, but Emerge From The Mist shouldn't be slept on by any means.


Calsutmoran - Auditory Hallucinations (2016)


This dude chose his music alias from Erowid's DXM page, so you know his material is going to be legit right off the bat. I loved the moniker Calsutmoran and had no idea it is the name of an alien encountered by a few people while on a fourth plateau DXM trip until he told me where he got this. Calsutmoran falls within the Memphis revival umbrella, but like the rest of the producers in his and Dragg's Waistdeep Clique, he's really cut out a musical path dissimilar to anyone else in the movement. In a sense, his music is more influenced by psychedelia than it is Memphis hip hop and trap; about all of his track and album names have something to do with hallucinogenic phenomena and the material itself has quite the lucid punch to back it up. I've always thought that Young Thug and his most common producers, London and Metro, have created mixtapes with largely uncredited psychedelic vibes, but Calsutmoran takes the meaning of psychedelic trap to another level. His samples often feel spontaneous--in an almost Syd Barrett way--amidst etherel synths and non-stop floating trap hi-hats. His vocal samples are usually pushed far out with flangers and reverb to really put you in a dream state. Of course all this time in a true 'phonk' fashion, the 808 bass remains agressive and relentless to give those body vibes. Auditory Hallucinations is an album that's both accessible and deep; perfect to have with you whenever you're riding or tripping. This is just one of many Calsutmoran EPs. He's one of the most prolific artists out right now and releases an EP, usually built around its own hallucinogenic concept, every two months or less, so check him out. PS: you might as well cop his whole discog on his Bandcamp as it will be a lot cheaper for a fuck ton of material.

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Calsutmoran

The Orb - U.F.Orb (1992)


The Orb is the brainchild of Jimmy Cauty of The KLF. This is where Cauty was able to focus the bulk of his ambient musings while his primary group was typically split between break music and Kraftwerk/Eno inspired ambient. The first two Orb albums established the essence of ambient house by effortlessly melding sound-collages and deep, juicy four-to-floor house pulses. I feel that this sub-section of ambient music is the easiest portal to the lucid genre since the traditional house bits make the vast sections of detached sampling a little more friendly and entertaining. U.F.Orb is the follow-up to The Orb's debut, The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. Due to how long each album is, I haven't ever had the chance to do a side-by-side comparison, but from what I remember about each, I feel that this sophomore effort is a little more straighforward and, at a half hour shorter, an easier album to digest. I wouldn't say one is better than the other, but the debut feels a lot more planned out and deeper than this; like how Ridin Dirty is to Super Tight or The Dark Side Of The Moon is to Meddle. U.F.Orb radiates peaceful hallucinogenic vibes. I don't mean bursts of psychedelic energy like Funkadelic or Syd Barrett though; more like dropping off your body and entering the world of DXM or Ketamine. I am not saying that any album can capture the experience of a drug, but the album's personality is definitely similar to some disassociative trips. If you're ever in the mood for some easy-going, positive, soothing music, then you should cop this. "But...there is a third world, the world of objective contents of thoughts". Enjoy.

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U.F.Orb

Alec Empire - Hypermodern Jazz 2000.5 (1996)


Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Sun Ra Arkestra got their hands on drum machines and started sampling breaks? I'm sure you have. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any Arkestra-breakcore fusion albums, but this record by Alec Empire of Atari Teenage Riot is a pretty great simulation. Alec Empire's solo material is usually a departure from the straight up digital hardcore sound of Atari Teenage Riot and he never really walked the same path twice for an album. He indulges a jazz flavor this time around. The backbone of the album is drum breaks, but he also litters the recordings with Sun Ra-esque electric piano/clav sounds (I'm unsure if these are samples or his own drum machine sequences--probably his own), dusky horn samples, and acidic basslines to round up a solid nod to nu-jazz. Hypermodern Jazz is relaxing in its own way, but its symptomatic overtones will challenge most people a bit, especially on the first listen. I think this is absolutely dope, and I'm not even heavily into electronic music or breakcore.

Hypermodern Jazz 2000.5

Mack Daddy Ju - Solo Tape (1995)


A lot of my biggest posts have been dedicated to the series of stellar mixtapes from the 1994 Triple 6 Mafia, but to tell you the truth, I wasn't even really into their style when I first got into the Memphis subgenre. It was actually the sound of muddy bootleg rips from DJ Zirk, DJ Squeeky, and Chilly D I was hunting for when I first started going on forum raids and downloading sprees. This faction of Memphis rap, while not even close to the grittiest from the city, had an even more intense punk and do-it-yourself aesthetic than Three 6 Mafia. The Mack Daddy Ju tape represents this sound to the fullest. DJ Squeeky's sampling is lean and mean; short-loop funk clips with high-riding synths, unique kick and snare fills, and of course trunk rumbling bass. Mack Daddy Ju's voice is calm and easy, along the lines of Shawty Pimp, but his staccato rhythm is more abrupt as he tends to rhyme a split second ahead of the beat, which I think works out okay for him. Ju raps about all things ghetto and devilish in a lyrical style very typical to the city; complete with references to chickenweed-induced psychosis and brutally unseaming trifling hoes. As far as the feature rapper's history goes, I'm not too sure. Based on the shoutouts, he's obviously either from Binghampton or somewhere in Whitehaven. I honestly don't listen to Gangstashit tapes very often anymore and I can't remember if I've heard him anywhere else. He drops shoutouts to Tom Skeemask and other Gangstashit/2 Thick members, so I'm sure he's a feature somewhere else (on Squeeky mixes for sure), but definitely a more obscure one at that.