With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Releases Spotify playlist, updated weekly.
Harlem-born recording artist, dancer and model Teyana Taylor has come through with a genuine golden soul record on K.T.S.E.. The album, which is Taylor’s second full studio album, is released in partnership with G.O.O.D. Music. With Kanye West on production duties, K.T.S.E. is the last in the recent slew of Kanye collaborative releases, but more on that later. Taylor’s vocal delivery is the album’s shining light. With seemingly endless adaptability her voice triumphs over the many beats and styles offered to her on the album. Take ‘Gonna Love Me’, where her take on the classic soul sound swaps from a clear falsetto to a low croon, depending on what the lyrical content demands of it.
K.T.S.E. is very much a modern romance album. Taylor’s statements of affection combine the wholesome, “I wanna spend my nights with you/ My life with you” , with a pervasive sense of sexual liberation, as featured on the ballad ‘3Way’. Just how well the balance between lust and love is traversed on K.T.S.E. is testament to Taylor’s ability to write a line.
On the production side, Kanye mostly comes through with his signature brand of sample-heavy soul. Tracks like ‘Gonna Love Me’ and ‘Rose In Harlem’ illustrate the golden ear which originally earned the producer his stripes. However, as with most things Ye, the finished product is flawed.
Taylor is very much the star of the show on the release, but at times it sounds as if Kanye is trying too hard to insert his influence into the mix. His verse on ‘Hurry’ is exceedingly unspectacular and the T.L.O.P. era stiff drum & bass sound on ‘Never Would Have Made It’ takes much of the sweetness away from Taylor’s vocal delivery. This is not to take too much away from away from K.T.S.E., it’s an album absolutely deserving of your attention, but it would have been that much better if the producer had been happier to take a little more of a back seat.
Belgian alternative dance giants Soulwax are back with their sixth full studio album release. Essential is a sprawling 12 track LP, packed full of aggressive modular synth sounds and robotised vocal hooks. One of the first things you might notice about the album is it’s tracklisting, with each song put down as ‘Essential’ with a number attached. That’s because all of the songs were made specifically for the band’s recent BBC Essential Mix and being Soulwax, they decided to release the individual tracks as a whole album.
Each of the 12 tracks on Essential do share a strong musical continuity. The group seemed to have pulled from a close group of synth tones, the vast majority of which are strongly modular. ‘Essential 3’ is fantastic example, with dense synth lines gradually layering over a wall of programmed drums. The result is a sort of hypnotic dance music that falls somewhere between the brutalism of many minimal techno cuts and the melodic ideas of many recent I.D.M. composers.
There’s definitely a sense that Soulwax have only left in exactly what is absolutely necessary in the mix for each track. You’ll rarely feel like you’re drowning in one of the songs, rather you’re coasting along with the music. Unfortunately, the many sonic similarities which the tracks share can often end up leaving much of the album blurring into one. Certain tracks, like ‘Essential 7’, can end up suffering from a distinct lack of personality. It’s great when it works though and Soulwax make it work more often than not on Essential.
Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death In Meatspace
Perhaps the biggest curveball on this week’s list, the debut album from Australian pysch-garage rock outfit Tropical Fuck Storm is a masterclass in vibrant guitar music. The four piece, headed by Gareth Liddiard, previously of The Drones, came together in 2017. Having already all been part of established groups, each member seems to have brought with them a wealth of experience and perspective, all of which seems to have made its way into A Laughing Death In Meatspace. The album is fuzzy and cathartic. Opening with the superb ‘You Let My Tyres Down’, it dunks the listener’s head into cold water straight away. While the cacophony of guitar lines during the verse could be mistaken for disorganised, it only takes the first chord of the chorus to make the listener aware of just how sophisticated a group of songwriters Tropical Fuck Storm are.
It’s difficult to be an exact label on the group’s sound. There’s certainly garage rock elements, best heard on ‘You Let My Tyres Down’ and ‘Shellfish Toxin’, but the group supersede the expectations of any one genre too often for any one term to comfortably fit. The drums on ‘The Future Of History’ sound like they were lifted straight out of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and the crushed bass sound on ‘Antimatter Animals’ would fit right in on a Nine Inch Nails LP. The end result, whatever you want to call it, is evocative. It demands the listener’s attention and imagination. This is not a record with hooks, but it is one that has layers, new sounds and ideas constantly to be explored.
Everything Is Love
The world’s most iconic couple took the pop world by storm when they announced the immediate release of their collaborative album Everything Is Love. The pair’s troubles over the past few years have been well documented, both by the press and themselves in their own solo endeavors, so many were excited to hear the two join forces on Everything Is Love. The provocative art campaign accompanying the project’s release, shot on site at the Louvre, seemed like a statement from the couple on where they see themselves amongst the art world.
While the jury is still out on Mona Lisa, many listeners will not come away from this album smiling. Things get off a strong start with ‘SUMMER’, the deep soul cut which serves as the tracks instrumental is the perfect setting for both Beyonce’s superb vocals and for Jay-Z’s archetypal east coast delivery. Indeed, when Hov’s verse begins, it’s hard to not get butterflies in the pit of your stomach. This is the project so many have been waiting on forever right? Unfortunately that’s not totally the case. Immediately following ‘SUMMER’ is ‘APESHIT’, the perfect example of how this album falls down. There’s something uneasy about the couple’s attempts to insert their signature sounds into a trap setting. Beyonce’s auto-tuned voice feels like a wasted opportunity and listening to Jay-Z rap over that thin trap hi-hat beat is like listening to a Beach Boy’s vocal line over a Guns & Roses instrumental.
There are certainly enough quality moments on Everything Is Love to justify a listen, the fact that it’s Jay-Z and Beyonce alone will be enough for most. However, awkward production and an overarching feeling that neither of the two are giving it their all keeps these moments few and far between.
Heaven’s Only Wishful
Toronto-based artist MorMor has been gathering a lot of attention over the release of his debut studio release Heaven’s Only Wishful, with good reason too. While brief, coming in at just five full tracks, the project feels like a comprehensive introduction to an artist with a ton of critical and mainstream potential. Sonically, MorMor seems to take borrow plenty of influence from the ’80s, with silky smooth synth chords running through each of the tracks on the project. ‘Whatever Comes To Mind’ seems like the most obvious example. A tender love ballad that held aloft by Seth Nyquist’s (MorMor) falsetto vocal delivery, it’s the perfect sort of track for a lazy summer’s evening.
Heaven’s Only Wishful interchanges sounds and styles excellently while still remaining a project which feels cohesive. The title track is a shoegaze indie number, projecting an image of the artist as a loner “Each night I wonder / Hoping to find meaning / To the nights getting longer / With luck I can break this feeling”. However, just a few tracks later on the colourful ‘Waiting On The Warmth’ MorMor sounds uplifting. It’s not that the artist has done a total 180, rather Heaven’s Only Wishful feels and sounds like the artist’s experience of growing up. Each obstacle which is detailed on the release is overcome later on. Perhaps that’s why the closing refrain, directed straight to the listener, on the album “I hope you find colour,” comes with such an emotional impact. It also does a fantastic job of building excitement who whatever else might come next for MorMor, definitely one to watch out for.