A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Labor Day weekend is upon us, here in the United States. That means the official death of Summer and the slow creepy-crawl of the Fall. School is back in session for nearly everyone, at this point. White shoes are being mothballed for yet another year, as we slowly segue into the cool colors of Autumn.
For most of us, Labor Day means a long weekend. Entertainers know this. Labor Day weekend traditionally offers an embarrassing riches of media to explore. This year’s batch is a little ridiculous, even by these high standards. Of course, the biggest news is going to go to Tool’s first new album in 13 years, Fear Inoculum (which is really, really good btw) and Lana Del Rey’s follow-up to Lust For Life, Norman Fucking Rockwell (also really danged good.)
We figured most other music outlets are going to be salivating all over themselves over those long-players. While the ink is drying on all of those nascent thinkpieces (does this mean Taylor Swift’s Lover will be forgotten so soon? Would be alright with that.), we thought we’d shine a spotlight on some of the other exceptional albums dropping the week of August 30, which are many and varied.
From the haunting astrological drone pop of HTRK to the paint-peeling post-black metal of Hope Drone’s Void Lustre; from Tel Aviv’s Fortuna Records’ labelhead Kalbata backed by the band Tigris to the blasphemous, vomitous death metal of Witch Vomit, we’ve got truly a mind-melting, ear-expanding selection of records for you to hear this Labor Day Weekend!
Without further ado, here are 7 albums you need to hear from the week of August 30, 2019!
Black Belt Eagle Scout’s At The Party With My Brown Friends is a gorgeously haunting ode to friendship and community
A number of this week’s essential records come from our hometown of Portland, Or., a fact which fills us with no small amount of hometown pride and not a little anxiety for our wallets in the coming months. Of course, sadly, if you’ve spent any time in Portland, Or. you’ll likely have noticed the lack of People Of Color, much to our despair, as remnants and reminder’s of Oregon’s shameful racist past, which have burbling to the surface these last few years in a never-ending barrage of white supremacist rallies and hate crimes.
It’s enough to drive one to despair. And yet, we carry on marching forward into the future we want to dream into existence.
Black Belt Eagle Scout is the project of Katherine Paul, of the late, lamented, much-beloved (and excellently named) Forest Park. On At The Party With My Brown Friends, Paul dreams of a world where POC are offered a seat at the table, where we might all come together, to meet and celebrate, rejoicing and getting lost in the beat. At The Party With My Brown Friends sounds remarkably fresh and optimistic considering the grim times it’s springing from. Tracks like “Going To The Beach With Hayley” are an ode to friendship, as a shout-out to fellow Portland badass Haley Heynderickx, or the glisteningly romantic “Scorpio Moon” and “Half-Colored Hair” are some of the most gorgeous ambient Indie Pop you’re likely to hear this year. It’s the perfect soundtrack for throwing open your windows, letting the languid guitars and Paul’s delicate, emotive vocals float on the breeze.
Hope springs eternal on Common’s first album in 3 years
It’s all too common for hip-hop to get mired down in aggression, especially when it’s made by men, and for good reason. It’s easy to despair that the African-American experience will ever improve, here in the United States. It seems like all of the progress, the steps towards fairness and equality made under the Obama administration, have been undone by 3.5 years of racist dog whistles, lack of accountability for people in power, and increasing inequality for marginalized communities.
It is his to his credit that you can’t hear any of this anger on Let Love, Common‘s first album since 2016’s Black America Again. Like Black America, Let Love offers a window into the heart and soul of the African-American experience. Common doesn’t restrict himself to being a documentarian. Let Love is an exercise in hope, a dream of the world we’re hoping to build. It’s as powerful, and as empowering, as Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, but for the Cloud Rap community.
Tracks like “HER Love” are a shout-out and a roll call of the most important voices in today’s hip-hop scene, giving love to A$ap Ferg, A$ap Rocky, J Dilla, Tyler The Creator, Meek Mill, and pretty much anyone else you could imagine. It’s a breath of fresh air in a scene so rife with beefs and diss tracks.
To Common’s credit, despite being entirely of-the-moment, Let Love is the perfect mixture of old school and contemporary. Common’s flows sound refreshingly freestyle in a world of high-gloss hip-hop, while the beats seem sourced straight from two turntables, at times, complete with scratching, and more New Age hip-hop production style. The presence of a shit-ton of today’s top talents, from BJ the Chicago Kid to Leikeli47 to Jill Scott, seal the deal. Let Love will be regarded as a hip-hop classic in years to come, mark our words. Here’s to hoping it can help heal the wounds that run so deep in this country.
On Venus In Leo, Australia’s HTRK explore the dramatics of early love, in an understated way.
People born with Venus in Leo are dramatic. They’re like addicted to the early stages of love, when everything seems like a rollercoaster, full of dazzling rises and stomach-dropping pitfalls. And yet, for all of its infatuation with the highs and lows of romance and relationships, you’d never know it simply by listening to Venus in Leo by Melbourne’s HTRK (short for Hate Rock). Instead, steely New Wave guitars and antiquated drum machines shiver and float in suspended animation, as everything is dipped in half-an-inch of reverb and delay.
Venus in Leo finds HTRK stripped down to the duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang, after the tragic death of bassist Sean Steward. The starkness lets Standish’s deadpan vocals take front-and-centre, revealing her romantic tendencies in dappled half life.
Venus in Leo is a subdued, hypnotic record that rewards repeat listening. Let it play endlessly as you reflect on the death of the summer.
Australian atmospheric black metal outfit Hope Drone stare into the void on Void Drone
“Stare into the void long enough, the void stares back into you,” Nietzsche reminds us. Maybe that’s not all bad, if the sound of Void Lustre is indicative of the actual experience. This is a shining, scintillating darkness, to be sure, as evidenced by Hope Drone‘s meteoric sheets of buzzing black metal guitars and earth shattering blastbeats.
Hope Drone blend the epic crescendos of post-rock with raw, scathing pure black metal, as is common in atmospheric black-metal or post-black metal. Thank the dark gods these Australian titans get it right, however, leaning far more heavily into the raw black metal than the post-rock preciousness. Soaring starshine guitars merely punctuate the darkness, perhaps reminding us that there is a light in all of this darkness. And at least we get apocalyptic bangers like this one while the world burns.
Maybe it’s just because we’ve heard too much electronic music, fried our cerebellum on thudding 4/4 techno and house music, but straightahead quantized dance music can get a bit dull. You know exactly when the drops are coming. You know so many of the samples by name. Sometimes you need something to come along and spice things up.
Vanrock is seeped in spices. You can practically smell the cumin, tumeric, and sandalwood of Africa’s Northwest Coast with this live electronic take on traditional North African music. The African polyrhythms and melodies are made real by the presence of Tigris, a five-piece “Afrodelic Power Pop” band from Northern Africa. If you like the party vibes of Omar Souleyman or the dense polyryhythms of London’s Yussef Kamal, you’re going to flip your shit over this record!
Ritualistic black metal from Denmark’s Orm to summon the cold
Ir is a journey, taking you through a dense, spiralling maze of thorns into wide open, frost-covered tundra. We’re sorry to be so cryptic, but it’s difficult to put such lengthy, sprawling, evocative black metal tracks into words.
Ir is comprised of merely two songs, each one nearly half-an-hour long. As is not uncommon with black metal, especially the pvre variety, those songs twist and turn, twine and weave. Furious raw primitive black metal gives way, unexpectedly, into acoustic folk black metal. It’s truly magickal, transportive and trance-inducing.
Ir is the second album from Orm, both released on Copenhagen, Denmark’s Interdisciplinarian Records. With such high quality, excellent musicianship, and endless ideas, we expect to hear get things from this band, going forward. We’re also quite excited to dig through the rest of the Indisciplinarian Records discography.
We close out with another Portland album, the brutally scathing death metal of Witch Vomit
Alright, we’ve shed a lot of pretty words over the course of this roundup. We’ve theorized. We’ve wept. We’ve made metaphors. Let’s close out with some good old fashion death metal, courtesy of another excellent Portland, the excellently-named Witch Vomit.
The equally excellently-named Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave is a raw, uncompromising slab of technical death metal, shot through with just enough outside influences to keep it unique and interesting. We’re gonna put it to you plain – Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave fucking shreds! It also bangs, tears, lacerates. If it slaps, it’s slapping the clown at yr kid’s birthday party or the ref at some community hockey playoff.
Everything about this record is metal as hell. The band members have names like Tempter and Filth, who is credited as “Cranium Fucking Gore Crusher.” Even the band name is weirdly appropriate, as Tempter’s vocals sound like the bowels of hell opening up and retching over the sleeping Xtian earth.
This is pure blasphemy, foul fucking evil. We love it. We love it so much.
Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave is for those who want summer to go out with a bang, not a whimper. There will be plenty of time for that when the winter comes.
That does it for this week’s roundup of the best new music. Let us know what you think in the comments. Or tag us at @for3stpunk on Twitter or Instagram to share yr thoughts, or some of yr own favourite albums! We’ll listen to as many as we can, and try and shout-out the ones we love!
Also stay tuned, we hope to return with our thoughts on Tool’s Fear Inocolum and Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell, both of which we’ve been obsessing over all week. We also hope to share our thoughts on the new Dark Crystal prequel series on Netflix, Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance, so check back periodically over the long weekend! And happy Labor Day!
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