May 30, 2019

Tyler, The Creator - IGOR Review

What? Tyler, The Creator is evolving!

I'll admit, I had lost my interest in the self-described creator ever since his follow-up release to his major label debut, WOLF. I had an early interest in Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All when they first arrived on the scene, boasting a large entourage of rappers and producers and putting out multiple albums and mixtapes and cross-promoting each other with features. I mostly just kept tabs on Tyler while I predicted that his protegé Earl Sweatshirt was going to eclipse him artistically. While over the years, Earl, who has stayed largely in the same minimalist, lo-fi musical landscape, Tyler, The Creator, has grown in style and ambition and has created an entirely new image for himself in his acclaimed hip-hop, R&B, and funk soaked album, IGOR.

When pulling up this album on my streaming service, I was surprised, and even taken aback, feeling like I have missed this guy for some time, and I had to double take to make sure I made the right selection, because this latest record feels as if I'm listening to an album from a completely different artist entirely. The music is assuredly crisp and daring on this introductory beat, IGOR'S THEME, a far cry from his lo-fi, head-splitting productions in OFWGKTA and early records, and there are more melodies to savor with an almost dance-ready vibe. The surprises don't stop there, as his second track, EARFQUAKE contains soulful croons and tastefully opens up IGOR'S concept of love and heartache, which keeps the pace in Tyler's next hit, I Think, as he sings, "I think I'm falling in love." The track plays out with a beautiful and soft synth melody that bridges the chorus and comes across playful and cautiously optimistic, showing listeners that Tyler isn't as hard as he made himself out to be in his earlier years making albums.

There is something to be said of an artist who finally comes into their own, and Tyler, The Creator is no exception. Almost every song has R&B flavor that gives listeners something they’ve never heard before from him, but some tracks still contain the same aggressive, lo-fi, hip-hop sound that made him famous, such as NEW MAGIC WAND, which gives a horrorcore rap vibe and shows listeners that Tyler’s signature style is still alive and well. A BOY IS A GUN is another delicious R&B, hip-hop hit, as Tyler shows listeners how fragile his heart is deep down when the hook hums "Don't-don't shoot-me down." WHAT'S GOOD switches back and forth from heavy, hardcore hip-hop verses and a straight up sweaty disco vibe that is addicting when heard for the first time. I DON'T LOVE YOU ANYMORE and ARE WE STILL FRIENDS are jaw-dropping in their maturity and how they sound nothing like the Tyler, The Creator that listeners know, and it's a fantastic way to leave listeners wanting more, right when the album fades out.

There isn't too much musical maturity, emotional growth, or journeys of evolution by artists in the music world anymore. Lots of artists find their safe space of operation, and venture, maybe too cautiously, out of their comfort zones. Tyler, in his latest record, proves to the world that there's more than meets the eye and more to the mind's eye that he's been letting on all these years. When speaking to a good friend about this album, and how surprised and impressed I was with his growth and sound, I was alerted that his previous 2017 release, Flower Boy, as one of the albums that sowed the seeds that eventually became IGOR, and I have no doubts that this dramatic improvement in production and themes didn't happen just suddenly. Suffice it to say, I've never been more excited for Tyler, The Creator and in anticipation for his next album than I am in 2019, and that is a true testament to what music and art should be.

IGOR - 9.75/10

Recommended Tracks: Igor's Theme, New Magic Wand, What's Good

May 24, 2019

Flying Lotus - Flamagra Review

Flying Lotus has become an amalgam of jazz, hip-hop, and electronica ever since he burst onto the scene with his minimalist beat-driven debut LP, 1983. A dusty, stripped-down collection of beats and electronic songs which defined him and defined an era of the late 2000s glitch hop scene. Since then, he has continued forward in big and exciting ways, releasing his touchstone classic, Los Angeles, and pushing forward into more styles and genres that all seem to melt into one signature sound in his follow-up works, Cosmogramma, Until The Quiet Comes, and You're Dead! This was a period of serious experimentation and collaboration into the genres of hip-hop, jazz, fusion, and cinematic, orchestrated greatness, and Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, began a wild career full of all-star collaborations on these records. Artists such as Thundercat, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Erykah Badu, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar, are just a few of the many team-ups gracing Ellison's catalog, and these artists and his forward-driving sound give them all a special place in history. Like Ellison's past work, Flamagra continues this tradition with more of that definitive experimentation in his most dynamic album to date.

Gone are the days when I could hope for a predominantly solo effort by FlyLo, but each album after 1983 and Los Angeles is a unique snapshot of his artistic evolution, and each one calls back a special time in my life as I became influenced by his work. Nowadays, what can be expected of Flying Lotus's album structure is ensemble acts of frenetic jazz and synth blasts as his albums open, with hip-hop and jazz fueled compositions throughout. It's no longer a surprising sound to longtime fans, and the "wow" factor might have left a couple albums previous, but Ellison proves that this FlyLo aesthetic is here to stay, for better or worse.

Just like his previous few releases, Ellison has a decorated feature list on Flamagra as well. Artists such as George Clinton, Shabazz Palaces, Toro Y Moi, and none other than surrealist David Lynch take turns fading in and out of Flamagra, an album Ellison describes as being based on the concept of a fire that burns on the horizon, a fire that inspires dreams and fears throughout the course of humanity. Considering his past few efforts have taken on the concepts of astral traveling, dream states, and death, this new ground seems like the most likely successor.

After a cinematic and jazzy opening, FlyLo takes us into the glitch-hop, head bobbing landscape that defined his sound on Post Requisite, churns out some video-game jazz fusion on Heroes In A Half Shell, and trades that sound in yet again for his soulful, hip-hop collaboration More with rapper Anderson .Paak. And this is just the opening suite of songs! FlyLo has become the most versatile on this latest record, as his mastery of multiple styles is unmatched on Flamagra. His next track directly following More is a funky hip-hop beat with a cautious piano melody, likely performed by Ellison himself, who at 35 years of age started taking piano lessons. The aesthetic may be building from his previous albums, but his growth and willing to keep learning is obvious in tracks like Capillaries and the beautiful, orchestrated jazz ballad, Say Something.

The songs that follow continue with this sonic exploration and some have a downright feeling of absurdity and nightmarish quality, such as that of Yellow Belly, and the lead single featuring cracked, old-timey spoken words by David Lynch, Fire Is Coming. It was from this the Flamagra concept became a fully formed record. Other highlights include Black Balloons Reprise, which instantly took me back to the days of bumping the Madlib produced Quasimoto album The Unseen. "That black balloons beat is dedicated to Madlib and Egon. When I was in college I heard quas "come on feet" it relit my love for sampling and eventually changed my world. Love to you legends," Ellison writes in an official Youtube comment for this track. Relative to Ellison's experience, it was also my college experience to have my world opened up by this Quasimoto album. It's arguably the best FlyLo produced hip-hop song to date.

Other tracks that follow seem to give the same airy and bouncy vibe, as Ellison mixes more glitchy production with other collaborating artists, and takes some time to showcase purely instrumental works. Nearing the end the record seems to lag a little bit, and I couldn't help but feel that some of these later half instrumentals feel similar to the tracks Ellison dropped a few years back in his "ideas+drafts+loops" song dump on the internet. Overall, they keep Flamagra from achieving true masterpiece-like greatness.

After all that Ellison has done for us this past decade, I've come to the conclusion that, in my opinion, Flying Lotus’s greatest strength is his restraint. With his past four albums, fans have gotten a good idea for what Ellison can do when he throws just about everything at you. This usually succeeds to varying degrees, but sometimes it comes off a bit too busy, and just seems like a moment of synth and bass noodling that doesn't pay off like it used to. These moments could instead have been substituted for more interesting or complex melodic lines. Some tracks in Flamagra feel slightly under-developed, and I think if he left a few of them on the cutting room floor, I would be holding this new adventurous record in much higher esteem, but for now, I'm going to have to settle into the less-than-amazed but pleasantly surprised camp. Ultimately, it's a fantastic starting point for any newcomers to Flying Lotus, who may then want to work back through his discography, and I would still give this record a high recommend. I can't say how much high praise and respect I have for Flying Lotus, and I'm grateful that we have a world that embraces an artist of this magnitude who constantly pushes the envelope musically. Flamagra is not my favorite, but that won't stop it from becoming your favorite.

Flamagra - 7/10

Recommended Tracks: Post Requisite, Black Balloons Reprise, The Climb

May 16, 2019

e dono The Gaijin - the #donotape Review

A good friend who’s mixtape I slept on has new material, features, and previews to share in an exclusive release featured for free download on his website !

A past radio cohort on the "Adrift In The Airwaves" radio run, E-ryDa, aka e dono The Gaijin, is a Waterbury, Connecticut producer and rapper, originally from the Bronx. His past cuts included guest features from members of his Woof Crew and Tyrant Lyfe members on his Error of Judgement 2 album, but the #donotape's got a raw flavor and style to it that showcases work that will appear in his sequel, the 3rd EoJ.

The mixtape opens with a previous single E-ryDa’s been holding on to, "The Night", a fun and catchy party hit that welcomes listeners into The Gaijin's world. As soon as it's up, it becomes clear that this is a special mix, bringing together work from multiple artists. Stretcheddalongwayz, and C The Wise Prophet specifically, have beautiful tracks to contribute here, which all feature e dono and his multiple rapping styles which emerge from it.

When looking at this tracklist, tracks that start with e dono: The Gaijin, are clearly the sprinkled in solo cuts, with original production, and sometimes cut short, leaving listeners wanting more, as they will appear in their fully fleshed out form on the Error of Judgement 3 album. The Gaijin's verses and work on these newly revealed snippets are promising and enlightening to us all, as we understand the man behind the mask even more. Some are deeply personal, while others are played for laughs in a good way that keeps things fresh. Highlights of this include his tracks Dark, Mad, Rather, and Tiger Woodz.

As a repeated guest on my program, I have always enjoyed e dono’s lyricism and comedic, serious, and sometimes spiritual message. His simultaneous dedication to lyrics and beats resonated with me and his music shares influence from multiple styles of sound. The #donotape has an underlying spirituality and determination in it, and declares that you got to believe in yourself, and God, for your destiny. In this preview mixtape The Gaijin shines.

the #donotape - 8.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Dark, Mad, The Essence of Time

April 23, 2019

Crystallize DEBUT LP by DJ Dark Flow OUT NOW!!!!

This June 1, 2019, Crystallize, my debut electronic LP, will be released into the world on all music platforms! I have had a long and exciting journey with music ever since my DJ alias was founded in 2008 for my late night radio program. Now, 11 years later, and 4 years after the release of my debut self-titled EP, comes my first full-length release!

A collection of heavy and smooth electronic tracks trade the spotlight in this kaleidoscopic release, and I hope I can convert some new fans of electronic and hip-hop music over to my current and future releases! Crystallize is a photographic snapshot of my production sensibilities now, where I've been, and the seeds of what more may come from it in the future.

My digital discography is specially discounted at this time, and pre-orders of Crystallize come with early downloads of my title track and last single, Cracking the Code. All in all, it's been a neverending journey of growth and discovery. Here's to hoping you will join me on that journey.

Bandcamp Pre-order:
Crimson Sky Paperback (+FREE OST Download Offer):

April 7, 2019

Milestones Part III: Writing

Ever since I was exposed to music, I really felt an appreciation for written lyric, and wanted to be a songwriter myself... As you might already have noticed, all of my milestones and creative passions funnel back to music. For that I always have to thank my dad for inspiring me and promoting it in my life. From writing written lyrics with my acoustic guitar, I began to get a feel for rhyming and poetic storytelling. It was exhilarating creating and recording my own acoustic songs on my 16-track Fostex, some of which are still around today, buried in my computer files. 

Additionally, reading fantastical stories of adventures in western wastelands (Stephen King's Dark Tower series) or bleak post apocalyptic winters (Cormac McCarthy's The Road) would leave marks forever burned into my memory. As I combined these and other intense stories with instrumental playlists I would create, I was enthralled and inspired by the power of written storytelling.

As an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, I was interested in exploring a broader school of literature and chose the degree path of English with a concentration in Creative Writing. It was a rewarding experience and it helped facilitate more regular writing exercises and poems. I also created a personal blogging space where I'd promote my college radio show and at this time, I put it on myself to start writing music reviews to music that I believed needed to be heard.

After graduation and looking beyond into what was in store for me, I started searching job sites intent on finding a writing job that would be both worth my time and creative. In this search, I found a very interesting ad from a psychotherapist who was looking for a writer to adapt his book into a screenplay. His name was David P. Johnson, and he had a book which was based on one of his patients. His book's called Nine Little Ronnies, and it was a true story account of dissociative identity disorder in his patient, and the repressed memories of his abusive childhood which came flooding back to him in his first year of therapy. For me, it was a heartfelt, tragic, yet fascinating story that needed to be told! There wasn't any payment offered, just the experience of working on a creative retelling of Dave's factual account of the therapy sessions, and the copyright license to share Dave and Rick (not Ron's) story.

As a young kid, I was always drawn to psychological thrillers and stories that focused on mental disorders, and I took it a step further as I researched and took notes on several movies based on this exact subject of multiple identities, including the historic film Sybil. I was intent on keeping Rick's story as close to the facts and reported sessions as possible. Although it had taken me some long stretches of breaks, I was proud to complete my 130 page treatment of Dave's book in 2014, and I was ready to start seeing ways to shop it around to writing festivals and cold email literary agents. At the same time, I had successfully compiled my first collection of poetry into my first collection: Poems of My Past, and subsequently published it on Amazon Kindle and paperback.

I felt hugely accomplished as a writer, having fully realized two large writing projects, and ready to present them to the world. In the years following, I took a break from my writing, and started to focus on my own original electronic music production, as my radio show was coming to a close in early 2015. The overnight time slot no longer worked for my schedule, and I was intent on keeping music in my life. These years, in 2015 and beyond, I started releasing my first music (debut self-titled EP and singles) as DJ Dark Flow, and left my writing on the back burner.

In 2018, after the release of my single "Cracking The Code", I was ready for my writing to get reignited. In April, I realized that I had let my music journalism fall to the wayside (with exception to a couple of good friend's hip-hop albums), and as a result, I had let plenty of amazing albums get released without having the opportunity to write a solid review of them. I vowed to not let my writing sit on the sidelines again as I developed further musically, and last April, I released my first review in over a year, for Jack White's funky, experimental rock album Boarding House Reach!

During this late spring and summertime of 2018, I also unearthed a work of written fiction I had written while in college, inspired by heavy, dark electronic and industrial music. I was just under 50 pages into my horror story, and I had left it unfinished, but over 90% outlined since nearly 7 years prior. I pledged, as I worked on my full length debut electronic album, and while regularly writing music reviews, that I would also commit to finishing my first original literature, Crimson Sky.

Crimson Sky was originally inspired by the industrial, dark, orchestral music of Nine Inch Nails's album The Fragile, a huge musical influence for me and an incredibly visual album for the amount of different sounds that flows through it. It was an album that inspired story ideas in my head, and these story ideas became what's now known as Crimson Sky. Because of this early inspiration and listening to my own instrumental playlists while reading books, I always desired to create a written work, but also to compose an original soundtrack to accompany this written work. I saw this as the ultimate combination of both of my passions for music and for storytelling. After my writing was finished (I was feverishly aiming to hit my personal deadline of release before Halloween and my 30th birthday, October 29), the music came almost magically. It flowed right through me and into my production program, Logic Pro, and before I knew it, I was a creator of a project and a story that I had been dreaming up since my days in high school!

Crimson Sky, the book and original soundtrack, was released on October 20, 2018, on Amazon and all music platforms, in Kindle and paperback editions. I had a great amount of support for this release and I still intend on sustaining its momentum into its 1 year anniversary. This April of 2019 is my 1 year since pledging to write more regular music reviews, and become a valuable press asset to any independent artist who needs promoting. Since a year ago, I have written 17 unique album reviews and several personal update posts. I have been continually impressed by my turnaround time for new albums which come out and catch me by surprise, and I have opened up the door for "retrospective" reviews, as well as "masterpiece" albums (as I would rate them) that have been released during my lifetime.

Ultimately, I am not going to let writing fall away from me again. Once my debut full length album, Crystallize, is released in May, I will be putting together my third publication, my second poetry collection in my ongoing poetry series, Poetry in Motion: Oceans Overflowin', for a hopeful release this coming October, and I'll continue developing my next couple of novels in the genres of a science fiction thriller, and an epic psychological fantasy. There are a lot of stories I have to tell and poems I have to share before my time is up. I hope to have the chance to share this with you. 

April 3, 2019

Marvin Gaye - You're The Man Review

Preserved in a time capsule and shelved for decades, Marvin Gaye’s “lost album” You’re The Man finally sees the light of day on March 29, 2019, nearly half a century after its originally intended release, and I can’t believe that I have the pleasure of reviewing a Marvin Gaye album as a “brand new” release! The original sequel to his landmark classic album What’s Going On, You’re The Man was shelved due to political differences between Gaye and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, and also due to poor reception of his title track lead single, but whereas What’s Going On was intended as an anti-war album, You’re The Man is a triumphant anti-hate album.

Opening with the title track which originally put Gaye off from releasing this wonderful album, "You're The Man, Pt. I & II", introduces this LP with catchy, guitar licks and Marvin's calls for a good leader to step up in our country. "If you've got the master plan, I've got the vote for you. You're the man." His experience with our war-torn country was exhausting and inspired his best work to this day. You're The Man, from its lead single on, is the next logical step to healing our nation.

Another spot on reflection of the kind of world that we're living in is his second track, "The World Is Rated X", which begs the question: how could Gaye have his finger so well on the pulse of our world's tribulations? It proves this album would have been absolutely timely, during its original release year in 1972, all the way up to our year in 2019. It's a call to take a more active role in being a part of the solution that our world so desperately needs. Afterwards, in a more slower paced tune, Marvin croons with a heart that aches in “Piece of Clay”, singing “children are told to give, not just to take, if we were all children, the world would be a better place”, in a beautiful gospel-soul number, complete with a full backup choir, and Gaye’s spiritually healing falsetto.

It's tracks like this and a lineup, which makes Gaye's vocal talents, messages, and backing band a completely needed therapeutic listen to battle the evils of this world that's going on in the background. Other tracks focus on loving your woman or significant other, with "I'm Gonna Give You Respect", "You Are That Special One", and "Woman of The World". They are all designed to remind us what's most important while we're here on this earth, and it's these reasons You're The Man becomes elevated as another classic album by Marvin Gaye, and a piece of required listening for all people.

You're The Man - 9.25/10

Recommended Tracks: You're The Man, Try It, You'll Like It, We Can Make It Baby