Cyber Shaman: Shaman’s Dark Electro vol. IV

There’s a loading screen in Fallout 2 that has always bothered me. It’s a man dressed in tribal clothes–tattoos, face paint, a skull necklace–wearing a Brotherhood of Steel helmet. The game takes place years after a nuclear holocaust. When man is on the brink of extinction. In the first game you encounter the Brotherhood of Steel, after voyaging out in this dark apocalyptic world, they are a breath of fresh air. They seem to be making scientific progress pushing humanity forward, and yet you have this lingering notion that they’re not going to survive. And they don’t.

We live in a time of technological comfort. Where everything is a keyboard stroke of coming true. Yet there is an existential angst that comes with that. What happens if it’s all lost? What happens if we lose it all? Are we all just brute beasts; doped up to forget our base nature?

We can see this conflict play out on Cyber Shaman’s Shaman’s Dark Electro vol. IV. In fact the very first song hints at this dichotomy and the conflict it brings. I mean, with a name like Guerro des son (War of sounds), and even the name “Cyber Shaman” brings about images of two complete opposites. Yet it’s in this dichotomy, that of the organic and that of the synthetic, which we hear throughout the album.

First off, Cyber Shaman is an amazing electronic music producer. I’ve mentioned earlier that musicians tend to lose their identity the more gear they have. Mainly because it causes them to become a jack of all trades and master of none. As a result their music sounds incredibly basic and bland. But not Cyber Shaman. Like a classical music composer Cyber Shaman is able to craft these individual synth textures, each one feeling fresh and unique. It hearkens back to when electronic music was first being made. When musicians threw away the manual to the synthesizer they were using because it was more fun to experiment and create new sounds, rather than use blatantly fake sounding strings. Or better yet, let me show you a clip of David Bowie, because who doesn’t like David Bowie?

Yet I said this album had a dichotomous nature, and I’ve only addressed the electronic side of things. Now let’s get into the organic. Throughout the album there is this amazing percussion, the first track Guerro des son does a great job of preparing the listener for the musical journey that they are going to make. With the bizarro percussion that is put through effects, and yet sounds like a junkyard drum kit. Or better yet, what a drum kit in an apocalyptic nuclear wasteland would sound like. Yes it’s put through a lot of effects, yet you can but hear the hint of tribal-like drumming throughout the album. The later songs compound on this idea, but this track is your first glimpse of what is yet to come.

The next track Renouveau (renewal) captures another aspect of the album that is quite unique to Cyber Shaman. Mainly it’s his ability to warp, and mutate each song. There’s a general sense of fluidity in his sound. Rather than being binary (Chorus, verse, Chorus) each track starts off with a motif only to mutate into something entirely different. And when I say motif, I don’t mean a series of notes that repeat themselves. Rather the motifs in this album are the individual synths and instruments used on each track.

The beginning of Renouveau sounds like you’re going on an underwater exploration. Only for the drums to harshly interrupt that tranquility. Then the track dissolves into this rhythmic electronic kind of seance. With the synths giving out this electronic howls. You can still hear–faintly–the underwater meditative kind of track in the beginning. Yet this track devolves from tranquility to that of anxiety. As though you while exploring deep underwater you encountered a cybernetic Cthulhu.

Now I’ve touched a lot on the percussion of Cyber Shaman, and yes it deserves all the praise it gets. But as I can’t make an argument on something being organic when I only provide one example. So for the next example we go to Attendre si peu (“wait so little” which is what google translate told me, so I’ll stick to it). Immediately it starts of with this guitar strumming, that so clean and then the distorted synths begin to disrupt this period of brief tranquility. The synths no longer sound like synths, they sound like the guttural noises a cybernetic monster would make.

Then as the electronic synths begin to fade away–as though they are low on power–you hear it. This lone trumpet. Which is so soulful, and so perfect for this track.

As I mentioned before there is a certain fear that comes along with technological process. A fear of losing it all. Where our overuse of technology can unleash a nuclear Armageddon, and we revert back to our primal nature. Yet, this is quite an abstract concept for music. After all how can this apply for an electronic music album? Well we can look to Myspace for that. One of the greatest tragedies in all of music is that almost all of it, we’ll never get to hear. Because it wasn’t written down. If you look at the historical epics, and tales of great music being heard, we have no idea what it sounds like. What was Alexander the Great’s favorite song? We’ll never know. What about Jesus, Buddha, Caesar, Cleopatra? What kind of music did they enjoy? We won’t ever know.

Likewise modern musicians find themselves in a similar predicament. We upload our music to streaming sites, hoping that it would be permanent. That maybe one day, somebody will hear it and really enjoy it. Yet as the Myspace fiasco showed us, nothing is permanent.

And nothing captures that kind of existential angst better than Attendre si peu. Where amidst the electronic digital behemoth a lone trumpet plays it’s beautiful siren call. The fact the whole album has this electronic orchestral feel to it, where everything sounds almost foreboding, and tribalistic–and to hear that lone trumpet. It’s an album worth listening to in order. Rather than cherry picking songs, because Cyber Shaman understands how to create music narratives. How to create a sense of consistency, lull the listener into complacency, and then only to surprise them with something so radically different that it becomes incredibly rewarding to find out.

So now that we’ve covered the existential fear of the digital era, now we go on to a different kind of fear. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Now it could be the I’m a nerd, and I like attributing science fiction to album reviews. Yet I cannot but help to bring the comparison to science fiction. Since this album is so electronically layered, and the medium, as they say, is the message.

Immediately the track begins with this electronic rhythmic wailing. As though you are observing an electronic black mass, done by machines. After all spiritualism/religion is a purely human phenomena. I don’t think Koko the Gorilla is really concerned about Gorilla Jesus. Yet there’s some existential angst that comes with the realization that there’s something out there that could become spiritual. For example there’s a certain kind of existential dread about meeting extraterrestrials, but then there’s the existential dread that they know something that we don’t. And their knowledge is so far removed from our grips of comprehension, that we become infinitely small in the universe. Where all religions turn to dust, and everything we believed for thousands of years, disappears within the blink of an eye.

Yet what if a machine becomes spiritual? What does that say about us? Was all of our spirituality merely the firing of neurons between synapses? Nothing more than electrical impulse? And the machines we create can have the exact same experience?

This song in particular hits that existential dread right on the head. As the black mass wails continue, a synth arpeggios along, and we faintly hear a sample. But we can’t make out what exactly it’s saying. Yet it is saying something. To us, it’s mere gibberish. But to the machines in the seance it could be a religious mantra, a black magic spell–anything. For in the time post-human–where all the skyscrapers become archaeological sites–we’ll never know what we’ll be remembered for. And that is a scary thought.

So with that kind of existential dread lingering throughout the album, Cyber Shaman, like any great artist knows when to alleviate that. The next 3 tracks build in an upbeat tone, Ridicule, L’Ordre, and finally to Métal Sucré (Sweet Metal) which is orgasmic to the ears.

Whether it’s the pads in the beginning that swirl around your ears, which is an oh so picturesque of a beginning. It almost begins like a robotic ballroom dance. With the synthetic violin playing this tender, vulnerable melody. It’s the kind of vulnerability you get when falling in love with someone. Where you strip down all the bravado, false assumptions, and get emotionally naked. And then you get actually naked for some baby makin’. Which let’s admit if you’re able to make a tender melody on an electronic instrument, is an impressive feat. Then there’s the actual context of the rest of the album, bordering on this cybernetic nihilism. Hearing this is such a catharsis. But it doesn’t end there.

Then you’re transported to some distant foreign country. The kind that you’d see in Indiana Jones. You know, something like Nepal–where even the people of Nepal think the Nepal of that movie is incredibly foreign to them. This is all propelled by middle eastern instruments, a brilliant percussion that gives the track momentum, synths that bubble in the background, and these beautiful female vocals. It’s the allusion to these cultural motifs, that’s ingrained in our collective unconscious that provides this track with so much momentum. That sense of exploring the unknown, that sense of adventure, the sense of action–which provides this track with so much of a catharsis.

Which is fitting after listening to an album that is so heavily electronic and has such an intense existential kind of atmosphere. I mean, why do we invent new technology? We do it because deep in our hearts, we are all explorers, and we want to know the mysteries of the universe. And we will keep pressing forward, regardless of the hazards, because the rewards are so much greater.

So finally we end with La Toune de la fin. Which begins with this focused synth melody. And when I say focused I mean a warrior’s kind of focus. A steel willed determination, which stands in contrast to the electronic distorted growl in the distance. Yes it’s an incredibly sinister sound, and one that does not provide a resolution. After all does our constant need to push technological limits account for the human condition? No. Yet here these two elements battle out, with amazing drums in the background, and the occasional melancholy piano keys. This is not such a clear cut answer, and I don’t believe Cyber Shaman wants to be resolved on this album.

Overall this album is a must listen for any music fan, or sci-fi nerd. Personally it was inspiring to see the limits of electronic music being pushed into new uncharted territory. And seeing creativity like that on display only drives me to be a better artist. Because these synths, and collage of sounds are something for any music listener to stop, and take a listen to.

So with his ability to create any amazing an electronic orchestra, I give this album my full recc. Please check it out.

Jack Goldstein: LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

There seems to be this line drawn in the sand between what is professional, amateur, and experimental. The amateur attempts to be professional, and when that fails they attempt to be experimental. That’s why there’s a stereotype of the “Film school” Director. That aspiring filmmaker who just can’t make the cut into professionalism, so they instead set their sights low to the experimental side of things.

Then there are the “Professionals” the people who set the standard. And because they set the standard; in their wake they leave behind a trail of imitators. That’s when things get boring. It’s how we get Zack Snyder, Generic Popstar A, B, and C–it’s how we get stasis. In that stasis we forget why we even love the art form that used to be so near and dear to us. If everything is the same, how can it speak to me?

Yet what happens when a professional turns to the experimental? Now that’s an interesting combination. That’s where we get our Kubrick’s, our Picasso’s, our Beatles’ and even our Kanye West. When listening to Jack Goldstein, it is impossible to believe that this person is an amateur. No, this is a professional. Not only is he a professional, but he is a professional in the avant garde.

Now that maybe a strange way to start a review, but I’ve just begun. The first track on this album, LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, is an abnormal introduction. To begin with it doesn’t start off with the album’s strengths, which are mainly the vocals, until a good 30 seconds into the song. Instead we hear this pulsating ambient noise. This ambience is something strange foreboding, something so foreign and alien, and yet there’s no other way to start this song with a title like LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. After all if you have an answer, you need a problem. This kind of answer/solution type of sound pops up throughout the album. In this track in particular it works incredibly well.

Why? You might ask. Well the ambient sound is unnatural, or maybe it is natural. It’s hard to tell. Whether it’s some ambient tape loop, some sample slowed down and reverbed out, or maybe just some synth put through some bizarre effects. Either way the droning nature of the noise creates this sort of unease. This introspective kind of feeling that what you’re listening to is unnatural, that it’s not quite the state we should find ourselves in. Yet, we still find ourselves in it. It’s a state of being unable to love. Whether it’s the job that you’re stuck in–all the while dreaming of a career up on the stage. The relationship you’ve settled for–seeing more and more flaws as the days progress. The mundane life you live–all while believing that there just has to be something more. All of these feelings wash over you, and then it happens. The vocal harmonies.

Suddenly you find yourself immersed in these heavenly vocals, while this soothing keyboard lulls your anxieties away. When Jack Goldstein presents a problem, such as the existential angst of modern existence, he’ll provide a solution. All in the span of little over a minute. And we’re just getting started.

WE’RE STARTING OUT is a not only a great song, but a nice segway to review the rest of this album. I mentioned this before that Jack Goldstein isn’t an amateur. There’s an orchestral beginning to this track, with an almost atonal string section. Yet it’s atonality isn’t chaos, rather it sits on the edge of harmony and chaos. Then comes the drums. The drums are so layered, so complex, and so creative; that it almost becomes this jungle kind of sound. The drums and bass of this track forms a foundation for Jack Goldstein to really experiment. There are flourishes of vocal harmonies, samples, keyboard flourishes, it’s got the whole nine yards. These sounds often ebb and flow within the track, providing emotional ups and downs as the track progresses. It’s in this ability to experiment and provide emotional clarity that Jack Goldstein shows off his craftsmanship; and what separates him from the “professionals” and the “amateurs.”

Next we have CINQUE PORTS. I already touched on how talented Jack Goldstein is at creating vocal harmonies, drum beats, samples, etc. But on this track he introduces another layer to his sound. The guitar. Now like I’ve said before, I am a sucker for somebody who knows how to use guitar tones. I’m the type of person who likes to watch people purchase, say, a telecaster and a gibson and watch them jam out. Mainly for entertainment, because I’ve got no life. But the other reason is because almost everybody plays guitar. Throw a stone in a crowd, and you’ll probably hit at least one guitarist. Yet what separates somebody who plays guitar, and somebody who plays guitar (besides the italics) is their ability to know how to craft a certain sound, and thus create a certain feel.

In the beginning you have this trebbly, thin, distant, sounding guitar, which then gets overtaken by this fat sounding trudge of a guitar. Each of these compliment each other, as the sound puts layers upon layers of different guitar sounds. Yet it’s not like listening to Bach, where (and please don’t hurt me) it’s so complex it feels like listening to a math problem. No this is something that you can hum along to.

Even the little glitchiness, cascade of guitar effects, and electronic bleeps and blurps provide little nuances. Kind of like when you’re watching an actor pull off an emotional scene, and the veins on their forehead protrudes, or snot comes out of their nose while they’re crying. While those are actors who are so into the role that they feel the emotion they’re conveying. This kind of emotional flourishes comes not from spontaneity but rather careful planning. After all this was recorded with modern equipment, trying to capture that live kind of sound with all of it’s human elements is incredibly difficult. Yet Jack Goldstein somehow manages to pull it off.

So the next song DUNGENESS does something that is incredible. How do you make a song lighthearted, fun, comfy, all the while being experimental? After all experimental music isn’t known for being upbeat. In fact it’s nearly impossible to find a song that’s experimental and that’s not abrasive. Yet here is DUNGENESS which is probably one of the most upbeat songs I’ve ever heard. How does he do it? Well with a banjo of course!

Now if you’re like me and you hear a banjo two things come to mind: Deliverance and Banjo Kazooie. Which I’m sure a lot of psychologists would have a field day with since one is about male on male sexual assault, and the other is an N64 children’s game featuring a bear and bird. Now this isn’t an instrument one would expect to find in a British avant garde album, yet here we are.

Now why do I bring up this instrument since there are a plethora of other instruments that are probably more important and more prominent in the track? Well as musicians we often find ourselves limited in due to genre, convention, what sells, image, etc. Yet we never really utilize everything that’s within our arsenal. Better yet, imagine being a painter and for some reason you never use the color orange. You paint picture after picture, and then one day you see somebody paint this beautiful painting using orange. It’s that sense of freedom knowing that if one thing is possible, then everything is possible. Which is why even though if you were to take out most of the obscure instruments of the track, and even Jack Goldstein’s father’s monologue, and replace it all with something more conventional–the track wouldn’t be as fun to listen to.

Then we get to BECKON CALL most of the music has been pretty optimistic, or I’d just say fun to listen to. BECKON CALL is when it gets real. It’s the kind of track that I’d imagine being played out in some moody detective movie in the 80’s that never has existed, because no movie during that time has been that good to deserve a song like this. It’s mainly due to the spaghetti western guitar strumming, the moody  synths, and gritty trumpet playing. Something that would be playing while the detective is on the third act of his story arc–pours himself a whiskey without the ice–and has ran out of leads. We all know how the story plays out, yet it’s good artists who know just how, when, and why to subvert our expectations to then deliver a twist that everyone will remember. And Jack Goldstein knows when to deliver a good twist.

The sound then devolves into this cacophony of what sounds like Modern Jazz and then gets overwhelmed by this electronic swarm and then…You’re cruising. The sound develops into this moody kind of groove. That kind of groove you get when you’re in the zone, when you get over your two left feet, and dance in harmony with that beautiful girl in the club. And this isn’t some bump and grind kind of dancing–this is that soulful, baby making, take this girl home to mom but don’t tell her where you met her, kind of dancing.

Then the last piece of the song is a triumphant rock track. Something you could imagine Led Zeppelin playing sold out arenas towards. Which judging from the previous descriptions of this track you probably weren’t expecting. And I wasn’t expecting either, this track has more twists, and turns than a soap opera. Yet narratively speaking it all works. Kind of like when you watch a really good movie and they play a rock track, because the people who made the movie know it’s good, and know there’s reason to celebrate.

Which brings us to the last song, GHOST SIGN. THIS is how you end an album. The instrumentation feels like a college football team’s anthem, and it’s that sense of victory that this track ends with. Because after all listening to this album, you can’t help but feel that Jack Goldstein has accomplished something special here. Not since Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper has an album sounded so experimental and yet at the same time accessible. This isn’t an album to listen to, it’s an album to lose yourself to, to immerse yourself in the experience, and understand what pop music is capable of.

I said when reviewing this album that I haven’t heard any British music that’s been submitted to me that’s sounded bad. But GOD DAMN I didn’t expect it to sound this good either. This album comes out May 12th, and I URGE YOU TO BUY IT. I’m not getting paid for this, and there’s no benefit for me to shill this album. Yet I can’t help but want to show this to as many people as possible.

So undeniably this album gets my recc, and BUY THE ALBUM. This album NEEDS to be on your radar, because if it’s not you’re missing out, and there’s nothing worse than missing out.

Ryan Deranged: Deranged EP

There’s been this kind of desire in music for awhile now. It’s like when Kurt Cobain said, that he wanted his band to be vicious like Black Flag, heavy like Black Sabbath, while poppy and melodic like the Beatles. While other bands had done it–specifically Husker Du and the Pixies–it was that unconscious idea that was brought up to the mainstream that made them the overnight success that they were.

Now hip hop kind of has that same kind of unconscious desire: to sound heavy like metal, to have the viciousness of punk, the nostalgia of vaporwave, and the instrumentation of electronic music. That’s kind of why, regardless of what Kanye does, music lovers can never really fault him. I mean how often does a hip hop track sound Psychedelic?

So what do unconscious desires have to do with Ryan Deranged’s album, Deranged EP? Simple it fulfills the desires you never knew you had.

So let’s dive into the first track of Deranged EP, Hamartia. In Soundcloud rap, the Navi sample, “Hey” in Ocarina of Time is kind of a staple. I mean I even have the Skull Kid’s laugh in one of my songs. If there’s ever a debate on whether someone is an industry plant or not; if one of their early songs doesn’t feature an N64 Zelda reference, then they’re probably a plant. Yet also the reason I point out this sample, is because it gives the track a really needed levity. What I mean by that is that there are hip hop groups that are experimenting with heavier, darker sounds; bands like Death Grips, $uicideBoy$, or GHOSTMANE. Yet I wouldn’t say those groups are “fun” in the way that Ryan Deranged is fun.

The best analogy I can come up with is picture punk rock, all the earnest bands singing about Anarchy, getting fucked up, social upheaval, and political views delivered with a sneer and sarcastic lyrical delivery. Then imagine the Misfits, who wore makeup to look like Ghouls in their devil locked hair, singing about B-movie horror movies, and Jaqueline Kennedy giving blow jobs. While the punk groups seem like outsiders with outsider opinions, who are abrasive, edgy, and do controversial shit to do controversial shit. The Misfits seem more like the class clown, and let’s be honest a class clown is always more preferable than an edgelord.

So Ryan Deranged has an incredibly “fun” kind of approach to what other bands have doing. As mentioned before the Navi sample, combined with the dirty synths that aren’t abrasive, the sword slice samples, and the distorted laugh sample. All of these individual elements builds up a track that is just sounds fun.

Now that I’ve kind of set the stage, let’s dive into the rest of the album. Chaos, has some amazing bars. The flow is absolutely on point–in fact let’s say that the sound isn’t your cup of tea. Anybody can admire a virtuoso even if they have no idea what is going on. I know nothing about soccer. I just know that you gotta get the ball in the goal. Yet if you were to show me a compilation of the greatest soccer plays ever made, I would be impressed. The same I would say for Ryan Deranged, even though he goes out on a limb with a unique sound, he at least has some virtuosity that even a casual listener of hip hop can respect. So with the imagery, as I described in his track on Hamartia, this track really embraces the fun of this kind of hip hop. With violins that sound like something that would be played on an early N64 horror game, distorted heavy synths, HEAVY 808’s, and glitchiness of some aspects of the track; it’s so over the top that it becomes enjoyable.

The next track If you don’t know now you know, sounds more like a cheesy video game boss kind of music, and I mean that in the best way. With the looped distorted laughter, brevity of the track, and that same signature distortion. It’s over before you know it, and the same applies for Opus Dei. Which again calls back to punk, where the Ramones would play 20 songs in 30 minutes or 30 songs in 20 minutes. With this whole album being under 10 minutes it’s really a breeze to listen through. Not just because of it’s length, but also due to the fact that the sound always manages to surprise you, while still sticking within Ryan Deranged’s sound. It’s such a unique sound that every synth, every 808, and every sample seems novel. In having this fully fleshed out style, played out in such a short amount of time, that it’s incredibly rewarding to listen to. After all Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The songs by being shorter, keep all the bullshit out, and just focus on what matters–the music.

So with the last track, Babylon–which opens up with same amazing samples that call back some Sci-Fi Horror movie–it’s the best summary of what this whole album is. While most of soundcloud rap that’s experimental try to be abrasive, shocking, emo, and political; Ryan Deranged goes a different approach, and one that should be further explored in this genre of hip hop. Because if you try to be abrasive, shocking, emo, political, etc. all it needs is somebody to take the piss out of you, for everybody to see your music as schlocky. So when this album, that sounds like a video game Boss’ EP, embraces this campy sound–it adds something that is needed for this type of experimental Hip Hop to survive. Fun.

So I can’t give this album enough reccs. You gotta check it out for yourself. It’s the kind of album that everybody didn’t know they needed to hear, until they’ve heard it. With that I give this album my full recc.

Noisemad Succeeds to Impress

This post was written by The Scratch King you can follow him on twitter, instagram, and soundcloud.

 

It’s hard to make a good impression in a short amount of time, especially in the dog-eat-elephant world of underground music in 2019. That is, unless you’re Noisemad, fresh off the release of his new Deadcity EP. Three tracks in length, the project wastes no time submerging listeners in an ocean of polished production, aptly coupled with harsh, unrelenting lyrics. This is clearest on the intro track, “Meat Wagon,” which features a John Carpenter-esque key melody alongside a screamed refrain. It’s a powerful sonic package that’s hard to ignore. Noisemad doesn’t let up as the runtime continues, delivering equally razor-sharp lyrics through the second and third tracks, Red Light District and Wanted.

Coming in at about seven minutes, Deadcity EP is a quick but intense listen worth hearing.

Recc/10

Johnnascus Questions Everything

This post was written by The Scratch King you can follow him on twitter, instagram, and soundcloud.

In the microcosm of independently-released music, it’s all too common for relatively average projects to be erroneously labeled as experimental. Texas-based rapper/producer Johnnascus’ most recent release, Identity Crisis, is not one of these projects. Identity Crisis is an EP bursting with otherworldly bridges and authentic eccentricity, with genres within ranging from noise, to metal, to rap and even gaps of ambient. Johnnascus himself shows tremendous vocal range, bringing servings of screams, singing at a variety of pitches, and everything in between.

The first track, “Question Everything,” features a monologue setting the stage for the rest of the project, detailing meditation interrupted by an existential crisis. Playing out against a backdrop of haunting key melodies from producer Sleepy Randy, the track explodes into a stunning bevy of layered percussion and vocals. Similarly aggressive tracks can be found throughout the 36-minute runtime, including “My (A)sexuality” (prod. by Bruhmanegod), “Sad Satan LSD” (prod. By Bruhmanegod), and the self-produced “Gen Z.” The track listing here has no shortage of softer, more melodically-minded cuts either, including “2am,” with a stream-of-consciousness vocal flow that soars alongside a gorgeously mixed synth instrumental.

Identity Crisis is what so many projects dream to be: cathartic, polished, even unsettling. For any fan of music that doesn’t color inside the lines, it’s worth a listen.

Bigrecc/10