26 March 2009

Catching up with Royksopp and MSTRKRFT

Sorry for not posting in a few days, but we all know how life can get. To play a little catch up with myself, I have started the SlowdiveMusicBlog YouTube Channel (will be updating the favorites list over the next few days). Two great CDs came out over the past few days, and luckily a friend of mine stepped up and decided he would help me out with this post. Thanks to Mirage for his review of MSTRKRFT’s “Fist of God.”

I really hate the term “electronic” as a genre – it is sort of like “alternative,” this nebulous, meaningless term that does not do justice to the range and breath of music that is lumped together. I personally go through my own phases when I either label everything really specifically (shoegazing, electric body music, dream pop, post punk revival) or just forego all labels all together. I mean, let’s be realistic, are we listening to a label or to the craftsmanship of musicians? Though a label may help us understand a range of music that a band or a specific album falls into, we should never assume the breath, the depth, and the uniqueness of composers. Having said that, here are two great albums you should definitely give a listen to.

Royksopp: “Junior”

The first half of music to be released by Rokysopp this year, “Junior” (23 March 2009) is an amazing album. (“Senior” to be released later this year, completing the entire set – start the countdown.) Easily sandwiched somewhere in between downtempo and synthpop, as I have argued over and over, Scandinavians are amazing composers of music. A duo (Tobojorn Brundtland and Svein Berge), they combine pop sensibility with quirky electronic, 80s-influenced arrangements. Avoiding darker musings, the power of the music comes from its beckoning for you to just give into the soundscape and enjoy the moment.

Guest vocalists out of the wazoo – Robyn, Anneili Drecker, Karin Drijier, and Lykke Li – the presence of female vocals add something romantic, even alluring, to this brand of synthpop. Whether the songs were written for them, or whether they are production masterminds, the songs flow from one vocalist to another with fluidity. There is never a moment on the album that there is an abrasive change of sound or style. Yet, each song is uniquely crafted – for that matter, Royksopp has never recorded the same song twice. My personal highlight is Robyn singing “The Girl and the Robot.” It is obvious that Robyn is singing out of her comfort zone, yet she sounds amazing in the suspense building background. (And let’s not forget that Drecker sings in English!)

Composers that rely on electronic equipment definitely have one advantage over traditional songwriters: the ability to change sound and textures on the drop of the dime, often midstream, even live. What will definitely catch your ear in this album is how Brundtland and Berge manipulate every synthpop trick, while adding a few new ones (like the kind of Spanish-esque “Vision One”). Give into the beckoning and listen to this album, it will not disappoint.

Track Listing:
1. Happy Up Here
2. The Girl and the Robot – Featuring Robyn
3. Vision One – Featuring Anneli Drecker
4. This Must Be It – Featuring Karin Drejier Andersson
5. Roykscopp Forever
6. Miss It So Much – Featuring Lykke Li
7. Tricky Tricky – Featuring Karin Drejier Andersson
8. You Don’t Have a Clue – Featuring Anneli Drecker
9. Silver Cruiser
10. True to Life – Featuring Anneli Drecker
11. It’s What I Want

Keep up with Royksopp at their homepage and YouTube Channel: RoyksoppMusic.

Here is their video for "Happy Up Here."

MSTRKRFT: “Fist of God”

MSTRKRFT (Pronounced “masterkraft”) does not produce a sophomore slump with their electro house “Fist of God” (17 March 2009). Continuing the dance oriented beats from their debut, “The Look” (2006), this duo (Jesse F. Keeler and Alex Poudziukas, a.k.a. AI-P) out of Canada put out there what Canadians are known for – solid musical composition. Close to an experimental album, “Fist of God” expands their sound to a grittier and dirtier feeling. You may listen to it on your iTunes, but you are going to want to dance to this album.

For this album, they have reached out to names like Lil’ Mo, N.O.R.E., and even John Legend. The different vocal styles give a different feel and wider range of melody to the album; there is no fear of being drowned in sheer electronic beats or noise – which is not a bad thing, per se. From instrumentals to an R&B edge to some rap and heartfelt singing, you will be boogying to it all. What the band never looses is the sense of themselves, what they are about. No matter whom they collaborate with, there is a feel that they know who they are sonically and what they want to achieve.

Though the debut was looked down as sub-par with Daft Punk and the like, which is debatable, MSTRKFRT truly brought their game up for this album. With a wide range of textures and sophisticated production and mixing, it may be time for critics to stop comparing them to other musicians and hear what they have to offer on their own terms.

Track Listing:
1. It Aint’ Love – featuring Lil’Mo
2. 1000 Cigarettes
3. Bounce – featuring N.O.R.E.
4. Vuvuvu
5. Heartbreaker – featuring John Legend
6. Fist of God
7. So Deep – featuring Jahmal
8. Click Click
9. Word Up – featuring Ghostface Killah
10. Breakway – featuring Jahamal
11. 1000 Cigrettes – featuring Freeway (Bonus Track)

Keep up with MSTRKRFT at their homepage, MySpace, and YouTube Channel: MSTRKRFTMUSIC.

Here is there video for "Bounce."