April 23, 2018

A Perfect Circle - Eat The Elephant Review

Almost a decade and a half has passed since the last release of a full-length proper studio album by A Perfect Circle, not counting their anti-war cover album eMotive, released in late 2004. One might ask themselves then, if too much time has transpired to give reason for releasing a third studio album, given A Perfect Circle's short timetable in the first place. It's this and other concerns which give Eat The Elephant a lukewarm return for the band, for it functions as a welcome back album that covers time-tested familiar ground, but also chooses to deviate, sometimes heavily, into newer, uncertain waters.

As far as the artwork is concerned, this is the first album to feature the faces of its main songwriters on its cover, a departure from their abstract covers before, and they don't hesitate to show us a pair of unsettling images of Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel for fans to feast their eyes on. Both members are split and conjoined together in a hunched over pose and offering what can only be described as a red and blue octopus. Assuming they're making a political statement in artwork and title, it comes off rather grotesque, which might have been their intention.

The title track, which happens to be the opener of the album, might actually be the explanation for the entire album in the first place, as the band's frontman Maynard James Keenan sings, "where to begin eludes me", displaying a vulnerability often felt for many artists during the creative process, and more generally, the feeling for anyone who has a great undertaking. Therefore, Keenan concludes to "take the step, take the bite", and eat the elephant. This may be a very telling view of Keenan when working with his bands A Perfect Circle and Tool, waiting for projects to transpire for many years, which was the precise reason why he invented Puscifer, to stay involved in making music from yet again another perspective creatively. It's not exactly the strongest track, but keeping it the album's title does explain the great obstacle the band faced in making a comeback album, and it serves to taper our expectations for the subsequent singles that follow it.

Their first couple singles, "Disillusioned" and "The Doomed" are slow burners, with multiple movements and changes in rhythm as Keenan sings about disconnectedness and apocalyptic anxiety. Both tracks follow virtually the same construct, and it seems like they could have settled on picking just one of the two to be the album's single, as they both share the same successful, yet redundant, formula: compelling instrumentation paired with strong messages and vocals from Keenan.

Directly following such a brooding and heavy single such as "The Doomed", one of the most confounding creative decisions of the album appears to have been to shoehorn in the most optimistic and joyous track A Perfect Circle have ever recorded, creating an undoubtedly jarring tonal shift in "So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish". The album would possibly have benefitted from the exclusion of this track for future release as a B-side, as it stands out as the band's attempt at stadium rock, with themes already covered in "Disillusioned", only this time executed with what might seem uninspired or goofy lyrics. The overall effect might turn many longtime fans away, and just be a track skipped over to get to the real meat of the album, but it still has the ability to brighten any listener's day with a perfectly captured mood.

It's not until nearly halfway through the album, on the 6th and 7th tracks, that personally I hear a stroke of genius, and the A Perfect Circle that I grew up falling in love with. The songwriting of "TalkTalk" and "By and Down the River" illustrate the best examples of A Perfect Circle's tender, yet intense juxtaposition, the closest they've come to the music they produced in their second album Thirteenth Step just under 15 years prior. "By and Down the River" has Keenan unleashing a vocal performance of unmatched brilliance when compared to his other recent release under his Puscifer moniker or even if you compare him to any other contemporary artists in alternative rock and metal. Keenan's voice has and always will be a major draw in anything he chooses to do musically. This single, furthermore, is probably the strongest track on Eat The Elephant simply because of the amount of time the song has been gestating with the band, appearing only as a non album single many years before in an earlier form. The rest of newer material presented on ETE may struggle to find a home, both in the ears of new listeners and longtime fans. There are newer ideas presented here, and still there are songs with traditional APC familiarity, such as "Delicious", which contains some Mer de Noms vibes with its slight dissonance and eastern musical scales and shows off another exciting Keenan performance as he plays around with his musical range and sounds cautiously optimistic, a feeling more fit for APC than the straightforward, hollow chanting of "hip-hip-hooray" in "So Long..." There's always more details and depths to dive into as a listener in tracks like "Delicious" and "The Contrarion", early on in the album, when compared to the weaker ones I've mentioned before.

"DLB", the one instrumental, stands out from the rest of the album because it's the shortest track on the album, and also that it mostly seems like a half baked idea in the studio that was never fully developed. Maybe fatigued from writing the rest of the album, the band simply settled on stopping short of a fully formed song and left it undone. Even considering it as a transitional track, it doesn't really work since The following song abruptly starts without notice. Ultimately, it's another expendable song, which probably should have been excluded in the spirit of creating a tighter, more focused album.

The final trio of songs all offer something different from one another. "Hourglass" utilizes a robotic vocal effect and a heavy rock sound for a novel experience, and "Feathers" casts a dramatic and emotional epic that doesn't seem to go anywhere, but it's the final closing track which continually leaves me perplexed and with a mixed response. "Get the Lead Out" starts off strong enough, giving the nostalgic feeling of just hearing a great band's comeback, when it shifts gears and breaks into a hip-hop beat, with heavy drums and violin plucks. Upon hearing this for the first time, I found myself agreeing at first with the catchiness of the melody and slowed down vocals, however, I soon began to question the artistic decision of A Perfect Circle to go this route. I found myself wondering if bands which have been so established in their respective styles should start incorporating hip-hop as a genre into their music, and how often this is heard in contemporary music makes APC's decision seem stale and unimaginative in my opinion. There are instances where this blending of genres works though, such as the funky, jazzy, hybrid album just released by Jack White, which was in my previous review, or bands like Portugal. The Man's 2017 release Woodstock, which was a welcome addition to their catalog since they're already the masters of catchy instrumentation and pop hooks. A Perfect Circle though, seems to be going an all too common route for their music with "Get the Lead Out" and it seems like they wanted to try to test this final track as a possibility for what they want to do in the future. It is admittedly a catchy and decent closer, but too much a diversion in the style longtime fans have come to appreciate and expect from them.

Overall, Eat The Elephant is a well crafted, but mixed bag in terms of what fans want, and where the band wants to go. There are plenty of moments of genius and signature APC moments layered throughout, but there is also almost an equal number of missed opportunities and the desire of wanting more than they've delivered. With a sometimes uneven flow, the album would have received significantly higher praise from me if they were to cut the tracks that I mentioned earlier. It has something to love for hardcore fans, but not quite enough to satisfy the high expectations set by their previous releases. Approach with an open mind and you will enjoy it.

Eat The Elephant - 7/10

April 22, 2018

Jack White - Boarding House Reach Review

For someone as prolific and steeped in as rich a musical history as is Jack White, expectations were sky high for the follow-up to his much acclaimed sophomore solo outing, Lazaretto. Already bending the rules in genres such as garage rock, blues rock, and country, there seemed to be a bar set almost too high by White after proving he could have a solo career that is just as, if not more, successful than his time spent fronting The White Stripes. That's why it came as such a surprise when 4 years later, White came out of the studio with an album that surely tops Lazaretto with even more experimentation and a vision that is inclusive to all genres of music: Boarding House Reach. To classify this album is to describe it as a garage-blues-country-funk-electronic-jazz hybrid with sprinklings of hip-hop and stream-of-conscience absurdity, something which I never expected to see combined all in one record by Jack White. There was however, a hint dropped early before BHR's announcement that signaled White's departure from traditional blues and garage rock anthems toward a more experimental and jam rock approach in the release of his non-album single "Battle Cry", in 2017. This single builds into White's traditional heavy, fuzzed-out guitar riffs from the tribal chanting and clapping, and it sounds like it's a next step in evolution from his instrumental wild card, "High Ball Stepper", in Lazaretto. When looking at "Battle Cry" as a bridge for listeners to take to Boarding House Reach, this new record should feel like just the right follow-up from someone who has never stopped growing musically.

The album's warm opener, "Connected by Love", is one of the more familiar anthems which White is known for, and allows listeners to strap in while they listen to White's captivating words. The gospel-infused chorus and message makes this one of the strongest openers on any of White's albums and infuses a sense of universality and human condition which can speak to anyone in any walk of life. "Why Walk A Dog" follows with a slow hip-hop-like beat and dark blues angst, and one of the many fascinating guitar lines in the album. What's amazing about White is his ability to always keep things interesting with his guitar, and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of musical ideas and solos that are displayed in this album. "Corporation" is the first all out funk number from White, with serious festival and jazz vibes, and the first chance the listener gets to hear White's assembled band of sessions musicians feeling their own groove on this track. White calls out that he feels like starting a corporation and repeatedly asks the listeners "Who's with me" between insane screams, high-pitched squeals, and guitar riffs, and it's this high energy in "Corporation" which makes his invitation all the more compelling to want to tune into his musical movement and sync your body to grooviness of it all. Other tracks, like "Ice Station Zebra" and "Respect Commander" show White's desire for funky, bluesy experimentation, while "Over and Over and Over" gives listeners another accessible yet incredible hard rock anthem with White's signature garage rock flair. There are several spoken word compositions nestled in between the main body of tracks which are somewhat hit-and-miss, but they have an air of tongue-in-cheekiness that reveals a rare side of White. For some, this might be too drastic of a tonal shift, but for others it can be refreshing to hear a humorous, not-to-be-taken-seriously aside on the album, but ultimately it comes down to personal taste. Personally, I think that it can be a strength to reveal that one doesn't take themselves too seriously during the creative process, as if channeling Frank Zappa in terms of experimentation and absurdity. "Humoresque", the albums closer, sounds like a a songwriting session with Paul McCartney as it takes Boarding House Reach in for a soft landing.

Boarding House Reach is nearly perfect, with exception for the spoken word pieces, which are up to interpretation for each listener. The genre bending, in addition to the thought provoking artwork featuring Jack White's face, gender-ambiguous in a cloud of blue, a repeated color throughout each of his solo albums and music videos, makes for an accurate reflection of current times, as everything becomes more obscured with gender rules and everything, even in music, is borrowing and mixing and coexisting as a futurist blend of culture. Boarding House Reach will remain a compelling listen for many years to come, and come to be known as a defining album and one of the strongest to date of Jack White's solo career.

Boarding House Reach - 8.5/10

February 2, 2017

B Dvine & Various Artists - Dvine Intervention Review

Dvine Intervention, the hotly anticipated mixtape by Long Island resident and beat conductor, B Dvine, is an extraordinary collection of collaborations for hip-hop heads everywhere. Dvine's first exclusively produced hip-hop mixtape is hosted by mixtape curator J-Love, and features collaborators such as Prolifik, Vital, Meyhem Lauren, D-Rugz, and J-Love himself. It’s been a long time coming for listeners and fans to be graced with something as completely Dvine as this mixtape package B has put together. From D-Rugz and Timbo King’s jazzy “The Message” to J-Love’s badass “Fan The Fire” to Vital’s “Smoke Good” with Dvine’s lo-fi guerilla beat, there are sure to be a number of favorites for any listener.

Despite featuring such an eclectic mixture of guest artists, the real star on this mixtape is B Dvine, with all the production flair culminating from his many years in the field of hip-hop. The Wu / J Dilla inspired freshness takes off right from the start, and leaves the listener with multiple irresistible headbangers. Dvine’s natural skill at composing masterful blends of bass, strings, drums, vocals and more is impeccable. There is no instrument Dvine can’t touch and turn to gold.

The only thing that Dvine Intervention could use more of is B Dvine himself in terms of verses. There is a nice self feature in his hit single with Tragedy Khadafi, “Divine Revolution”, where Dvine and Khadafi let loose a fury of lyrical talent that is unmatched and absent from any corner of mainstream hip-hop. Dvine Intervention is a pure form performance of the underground hip-hop movement, and B Dvine is at the head of the wave of emcees and producers that are making an impact. Perhaps one of B Dvine’s greatest strengths is his natural tendency to bring so many talented artists together under one roof. His drive to push beyond the mediocrity and create a fully realized movement through his mixtapes can be felt strongly, as Dvine Intervention certainly radiates an aura of togetherness in a genre that is sometimes divisive and at odds with other artists.

This recent release, paired with the hip-hop mixtape series Rhyme Regulators, makes B Dvine a definitive force in hip-hop to watch out for. After witnessing the track record he has laid down so far over the past few years, it is clear that he is only rising higher in the midst of hip-hop prolificacy.

Dvine Intervention - 9/10

August 24, 2016

Jahan Nostra - ESP Review

When it comes to intelligent, forward-thinking and eclectic hip-hop, the name Jahan Nostra as one of the more prominent emcees with this title becomes a no-brainer. Jahan, having been writing verses and slaying beats since he was a teenager, has already made a name for himself with a number of professional grade albums and releases. From releasing 2012's Bedtime Street album, and after releasing 2013's Sleepwalking LP, Jahan has made moves in directions both up and down the East Coast, touring in locations such as Newport and Providence Rhode Island, Brooklyn and New York City, and Greenville and Columbia in South Carolina. Now in 2016, ESP marks one of Jahan's greatest achievements in hip-hop storytelling and songwriting.

A modern "real hip hop" masterpiece, ESP by Jahan Nostra reminds us the most important thing in the game of hip hop is a love for the art and for each other. ESP, which stands for "extra sensory perception", is probably what we all need now more than ever, as we are thrust into a world full of social networking, smartphones, and news feeds. In only the past decade, society has drastically changed, and the argument for better or worse is yet to be determined, and with the full range of emotions expressed through ESP's mesmerizing 16 tracks, they help remind us that we are all humans beings feeling the common struggle no matter how diverse or intense the experience, and the immediacy of Jahan's lyrics reach straight for the heart and soul.

The albums opening intro track wraps up the mood and tone, and describes the feeling of ESP as a basic summary of life. The first few opening numbers is the true essence of Jahan, with "Welcome Home", a classic new and improved comeback track after the 3 year break from Sleepwalking, "Embrace the Rain" featuring Puma Simone, a reminder to take what life gives and work with what you have, and the change-up mantra of "Vitamin D", which mocks the materialistic nature of our society and puts the essentials of life first and foremost.

"Whole Life (Cruisin')", produced by one of my good friends B. Dvine, and featuring Tone Trump, takes the tempo down a notch to illustrate Jahan's smooth flow, describing life as a ride and a call to go with it in the chase for greatness. However, when "Living Your Life" featuring Omar Wilson comes on, you can't help but feel the chills as this godly track makes an impact on your mind and heart. How many hip-hop tracks are as or more uplifting than the gushing positivity of these men who are no doubt living their lives in humbled bliss? The rarity of Jahan and Omar's sincerity is one of the true standouts of ESP.

The next few tracks also start up another insanely eclectic flow from song-to-song as well, with the anthem of living day to day in "One of Them Days" featuring Rey Vega, a shoutout and tribute to past jazz legends in "No Stress" featuring the prominent Smif n Wessun, the freedom chant of the shiny, synthy "El Chapo" feauring Ceschi, and the will to prevail and survive in this f'd up world that we live in, in "Time" featuring Kyro and Wednesday Atoms. The cerebral moments go on and on with real meaning and no fluff on Extra Sensory Perception.

Jahan is an amazing hip hop artist because he for the most part keeps it positive and clean, which is what this genre needs. It's a rare quality that has the ability to uplift people, and paired with amazing production and lyrics, there couldn't be a better feeling while listening to ESP, which is essentially one of the most human albums in the hip-hop genre. As technology accelerates and forces us to change at an alarming pace, ESP will stand in the years to come as a true testament to the human potential and our shared desire to feel loved and connected to one another.

ESP - 10/10

May 14, 2014

Lots of Changes and Content - Blog Updates!!!

What's up drifters!!? There have been so many changes to DJ Dark Flow and "Adrift In The Airwaves" since my last post on Airdrift Signals a year and a half ago. (:

Since slowing down posting music reviews after securing a full time job in 2012 (all my music reviews for Surviving The Golden Age can be viewed here), I have made myself a weekly 4 hour time slot on WPKN 89.5FM in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Every week, I feature independent and local artists, either through their music, or as live in-studio guests or callers, mixing experimental electronic music, dance music, hip-hop, and psychedelic rock infused with abstract reggae and world styles. 

My guests have multiplied and my phone callers have consistently joined in these late-night ventures through music and commentary. There is a great community group page on facebook where artists and fans can network and share music for submittal to be played or featured on the show!!

Keep your eyes peeled on the WPKN archives for recorded through the weeks (My show is always the first link under Wednesdays, or personally message me to get any recorded show if I featured you or your art in some way. (:

In addition to all of this, I have begun collaborating more with graphic designers, musical artists themselves, over the visual conceptions I have had for DJ Dark Flow and the show. The end results have started to print on my first pressings of posters, stickers and t-shirts!!! You can visit the DJ Dark Flow / Radio store to support my artistic endeavors in music and art as I move forward with my vision. 

As if that wasn't enough, I finally built a custom website for DJ Dark Flow!!! Visit my personal website for everything DJ Dark Flow and "Adrift In The Airwaves"!! Everything is connected through this center point here and branches off from there.... Listen to any one of my many electronic mixes on the home page or read in my about section my influences or extensive biography that chronicles my history of becoming DJ Dark Flow (; Contact me directly through there or visit the online store, or this blog, or the facebook pages!! 

Finally, I have released recorded shows from the past 5 years of the show in its 6 year span in a special internet torrent!!! You can download the torrent containing all of the 146 recorded shows through Mid-March of 2014, plus extras featuring interview clips, guest mixes, and my long missed original radio intro collages through my first few years of the show!! 

Please take your time to check out all of my artistic content, and consider supporting my musical movement of bringing local and independent people and their fans together for a truly remarkable radio experience!! You can either support my Podfund campaign or by purchasing a piece of merchandise that I have worked hard to create (: 

Peace for now, stay in the flow, and until the next blog post (because I am going to start posting more), keep on drifting~

September 10, 2012

The Nomad - Perilous Times Review

For years, Daimon Schwalger, aka The Nomad, has been producing electronic sounds, masterfully mixing elements of dubstep, reggae, drum and bass and electronic music. His unique sounds continue on his sixth LP, Perilous Times, which features a foray of electronic beats spanning many genres that all feel related, and a multitude of singers to give every song a fresh face. The Nomad proves to listeners that they should not expect to hear the same thing twice, as his tracks all bring something new to the table. The dark funky lull of the opening track, “Give Some Love,” resonates with a neo-disco soul similar to electronic dance artist TV On The Radio. The reggae melody that races through “Run Through These Streets” takes surprising twists and turns as Vida-Sunshyne sings, “These are really perilous times.”

After listening through the first few tracks of Perilous Times, it becomes apparent that The Nomad has reached a very impressive level of electronic musicianship, mixing sonic echoes with furious drumbeats and reggae keys; all of this under the strong foundation of the different styled vocalists featured on each track. As Rajah45, who offers his vocals on the opening and title track, spits his funky flow over The Nomad’s soulful buzz, a new era of dubstep seems to be just over the horizon. Blending the reggae vocals with the fuzz of the bass, we hear all these sounds from separate genres of hip-hop, reggae and dubstep, coming together in a brilliant exhibition of future dub.

“We got to be conscious,” sings Jornick off of “Free.” The gentle vibes from Jornick’s voice and the steady electronic beat that The Nomad provides speak a message as universal as the love that makes us all one. It is all very familiar territory for any fan of reggae or dub music, but the duo still makes “Free” a very enjoyable listen that is new for where future dub music is heading.

All in all, Perilous Times covers a load of themes, ranging from the ominous presence of troubled times, the need to run from those troubles, and the freedom that we all share, that lives within us, all the while The Nomad’s reggae-fused sounds, which go from hip-hop to heavy dubstep, all blend from one genre to the other. Perilous Times is an astonishing experience, and a true testament to all lovers of reggae, hip-hop and electronic music.

Rating: 8.2/10.0

Recommended Tracks: Give Some Love, Run Through These Streets, Perilous Times