c0ncernn: Dariacore 2: Enter Here, Hell to the Left
After their original Dariacore album invented a genre (“not a fucking genre”—c0ncernn), the artist a/k/a Jane Remover among other aliases delivered on their potential for creating the most annoying music in the world. The sampling piles on more layers and c0ncernn’s own beats have sped up, continually breaking up and reconfiguring like drifting continents while delivering melodic pleasures as ancient as bedrock (both the geological material and Young Money’s hit.) Voices are chipmunked beyond gender, so that, say, Taylor Swift’s “22” becomes a universal declaration of 22-ness, regardless of whether one is binary or enby or a robot. “Super Bass”, the greatest song of the 2010s as you recall, floats by in a couple of seconds and I don’t miss the rest of it at all. The album of a ’90s happy hardcore fan’s dreams, save that those reveries didn’t include Flo Rida’s “Whistle”. The good news is that dreams have improved since then.
Grade: A MINUS (“Starbucks Employee vs. Niche Twitter Personality @c0ncernn”, “Snare of a Lifetime”, “… During Pride Month?”)
c0ncernn: Dariacore 3… At least I think that’s what it’s called?
I know only us old cishets care about “musicianship” and “accomplishment” (you’re lucky I’m not bringing up “maturity”, but the musicianship and accomplishment on the third and final Dariacore record is up a level again from its predecessor, with c0ncernn’s mash-up skill rivaling those on the best Girl Talk joints—this time there’s, like, pacing! All the greatest dance music tricks of the last three decades are repeated: up-pitching, Skrillex drops, big square slabs of sound, the “oh shit” from Fergie’s “London Bridge”. Sometimes the samples are building blocks for trance-alarm beats characterized by density of bleep and shrillness of screech. Sometimes they’re destinations in themselves: if we have to sit through the Weeknd to get to Britney’s “Till the World Ends”, well, us old cishets have sat through countless bad opening acts in our time. Patience is one thing we matures have.
Grade: A (“Damn! We Got It Bad: You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next”, “Her Head Is Soooo Rolling!! Love Her”, “Fuuuuck We Were Supposed to Wear Argyle”)
Less jazz than on their first album, but this time the rapping is all good, a fair trade. Whatever “Gas Akap” is about (Pi Recordings’s complete translations are incomplete), Gaston Bandimic’s furious intonations are tremendous on it, adding all kinds of emphases to what I’ll assume are his takes on either multigenerational history or how great he is. HPrizm is usually slower, rapping in a Jay-Z-like old man fashion that focuses on selling the words, with horrors like “waves [that] move in triangular patterns” and “white cops with night sticks” reinforced by dystopian soundscapes—what could be more hellish than making two major saxophonists sound like bagpipes? Steve Lehman and Maciek Lasserre pick their spots to go hard: when they do, as on “Liminal”, it suffices to remind you that one or more of them is among the best in the world on his instrument. Percussionist Damion Reid is the vital link between the vocalists and reedists; all agree that if there’s such a thing as transcendence, there’s a way to drum yourself into it.
Grade: A MINUS (“Gagaku”, “Gas Akap”, “Liminal”)
After following a 2015 autofiction-or-is-it memoir/catalog of sins with a semi-public semi-meltdown, the CBC’s most omnivorous radio host focused on his drive-time job until returning to rap through recent collaborations with Controller 7 and Tachichi. On this solo joint, he reminds you he’s long been one of alt-rap’s most inventive beatmakers (since Square at least), going ham on the titular instruments with percussive thumps and boings morphing into different thumps and boings. Basses wobble and samples genially funk along too, and Terfry remains a deft, clever rapper at all tempos. He fills his usual rhyme strings and double assonances with arcane low culture references, declaring “Heavens to Murgatroyd” with a de-camped version of Snagglepuss’s voice. He also keeps up with contemporary linguistic developments (“pronouns: it/it”) and enunciates every syllable of “Volodymyr Zelenskyy.” Concrete topics include these drums, which will kill you; psychological construct subtexts include openness to experience, for which he’s an advertisement and a warning to sometimes look before you leap.
Grade: A MINUS (“Part 2”, “Part 9”, “Part 7”)
It’s no victory for equality that she can half-ass some boosted Janelle Monáe pussy-themed color schemes and make an excellent album that uses her undoubted vocal talent to the minimum extent she can get away with, relying instead on her immense reserves of cultural capital as well as the cash money kind that tops up Right Said Fred’s retirement fund yet again. But if every Beyoncé is a policy failure, it’s self-defeating to deny oneself the pleasures of groove and atmosphere here. Multiple generations of dance mavens are recruited and well-compensated: I hope Skrillex got paid by the wub. Is the whole product any better than a good Honey Dijon mix, which at least has the advantage of turning pro-LBGT vibes into text? Well, a bit, because one of Bey’s undoubted vocal talents is her ability to stamp her personality on any project on which she isn’t a CGI lioness, so that when she declares she’s “comfortable in my skin”, I suppress a well-duh to react with the deference I’d give to anyone with the power of a minor deity whom I wasn’t beefing with. Would the album be better if instead of empowerment bromides, she turned to the camera and said “I am a Communist now” while specifying the exact type of Communist she was? Yes, it would. Lacking that, I’ll settle for her roasting Jay-Z's face.
Grade: A MINUS (“Church Girl”, “Cozy”, “Summer Renaissance”)
Luke Stewart’s Silt Trio: The Bottom
Starts off with Chad Taylor, one of the two or three best jazz drummers working today, playing mbira, so be more tolerant than me or start from track two and be rewarded with five of the year’s more enjoyable avant-jazz tracks. On tenor, Brian Settles is more about ideas than tone—not that there’s anything wrong with his tone—even if some of his best ideas come from the gut; on “The Bottom”, lofty thoughts contend with hungry rumblings like he’s at an under-catered academic conference. Stewart can act as a propellant, picking out bass figures for Settles to bounce off, or set the tone in more subtle ways, like the opening minutes of arco on “Angles”. Taylor, to reiterate, is one of the two or three best jazz drummers working today. “Circles”, the shortest and fastest one, is surprise surprise my favorite, but there are pleasures too in the slow closing “Dream House”, the structure of which Settles spends the nine-minute runtime deconstructing brick by brick, before Stewart and Taylor dig around in the dirt to find… not an mbira, anyway.
Grade: A MINUS (“Circles”, “The Bottom”, “Roots”)
The disco pastiche “About Damn Time”, which by mentioning “Balenci-ussys” clarifies the time in question isn’t 1980 (except inasmuch as bad bitch o’clock is right twice a day), was a deserved number one for the least annoying flute user in the biz, Henry Threadgill excluded. Even better is “I Love You, Bitch”, her best vocal to date and kind of heartwarming, more so if it’s about Cardi. Often, otherwise, the music is a touch too throwback, too received—while I’m happy she reclaims the Beasties’ “Girls” for the grrrls, I don’t need to re-hear that hook anytime soon. When the sound isn’t quite there, she tries to get by on sheer attitude (motherfucker) and, winner that she is, usually succeeds. Could be more fun, but not that much more.
Grade: B PLUS (“I Love You, Bitch”, “About Damn Time”, “The Sign”)
Voivod: Synchro Anarchy
The only people I appreciate prog-curiosity from are women and middle-aged metal veterans. Voivod, one of the Big Four Canadian thrash metal bands of the Eighties (Sacrifice, Razor, and Annihilator are also still chugging along), became interested in odd time signatures and sudden-yet-smooth tempo shifts after the cancer death of original guitarist Piggy and the incorporation of replacement axe guy Chewy. The latter drives a lot of the proggiest action: on “Mind Clock”, he leads the band through a plethora of timescales and maybe even multiple emotions. Singer Snake is happy to play second banana, doing his best to fit polysyllabic words he just made up around Chewy’s guitar lines at the expense of anything resembling conventional narrative: you can piece together something about spaceships and philosophy of probability if you’re inclined. Nevertheless, I find them most likable when they’re comparatively straightforward, like on the title track, where Chewy’s and Snake’s explorations are dragged back to vintage riffing and something like a chorus by younger bassist Rocky and probable vampire/drummer Away. Flying saucers gotta orbit something.
Grade: B PLUS (“Syncho Anarchy”, “Mind Clock”, “The World Today”)
Amanda Shires: Take It Like a Man
One of Nashville’s major fiddlers bows up a storm on the opening “Hawk for the Dove”, then puts her instrument away until the B-side, lest you call her Americana. Though I’m not quite prepared to say come back Dave Cobb all is forgiven, Lawrence Rothman’s classic rock production is as all over the place as classic rock itself is these days. Soul horns accompanying a singer making no pretense of being a soul artist? Sure, whatever gets the under-50s with discretionary income rolling. Yet put aside the annoying radio drum sound and this may be a stronger set of songs than To the Sunset. Horniness and loneliness are amped up, with the former generally winning out, much to her guitarist’s relief. Shires continues to sing with that quaver that’s sounded unfake on almost no one in country besides Dolly, but she puts, if not soul, enough diaphragm behind it that I’ll give her a pass.
Grade: B PLUS (“Hawk for the Dove”, “Bad Behavior”, “Stupid Love”)
Binker and Moses: Feeding the Machine
A big success by avantish jazz’s modest standards—getting several times the streams of Halvorson’s Amaryllis, for instance—and despite being by two British people with those given names, this isn’t overrated, except by Mojo. Binker Golding plays easy-to-like tenor and not too much soprano with strong, vibrant tone, as on the lead “Asynchronous Intervals”, with some free sax tricks creeping in as the record progresses. Moses Boyd’s drumming is subdued, aiming for atmosphere more than power; there’s complexity if you bear down on it. The third man is Max Luthert, who does electroloopy stuff that’s mostly harmless and that I’m sure kids with expensive headphones or cheap weed like. While I hope this’ll be a gateway to them finding jazz closer to the cutting edge, the album is meritorious in and of itself.
Grade: B PLUS (“Asynchronous Intervals”, “Accelerometer Overdose”, “After the Machine Settles”)
Hailey Whitters: Raised
This Shueyville, IA native, assisted by Yankees and liberals like Lori McKenna and Brandy Clark among an army of lesser-knowns, has made the year’s best small-c conservative album. Well, maybe middle-c. In a not-too-adorned voice with just enough of a catch, Whitters describes the virtues of big families in small houses and learning to drive stick in a field somewhere. Does it matter to me that a non-trivial proportion of the “Boys Back Home” she and Brandy valorize would’ve beaten me up had I grown up in a Midwestern exurb where expressive hating of Priuses stood in for more tacit dislikes? A little, I admit, though not as much as the fact that the only song with a hint of ambiguity is “College Town”, in which a homecoming queen’s big-C values are dissipated by Hawkeyes tailgates and the University of Iowa’s social science programs, and there’s a sense that somebody’s lost something in her discovery that she’s a human being.
Grade: B PLUS (“College Town”, “Our Grass Is Legal”, “Big Family”)
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"every Beyoncé is a policy failure" lmao
"every Beyoncé is a policy failure" lmaoooooo