Posts Tagged ‘album’

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As soon as the beat of the nineteen-track behemoth’s opener The Lazarus Project reaches its operating velocity – by way of a poignant Jacques Fresco sample from the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist: Addendum – Loki sets out his steadfastly uncompromising stall, hurling forth bar after bar of intelligent, witty and distinctly passionate lyricism. As the elapsed track time approaches two and a half minutes, inevitably marking at least the third instance of the listener gasping for respite from the weight of the verbal onslaught, the narrator imparts:

“I retain a fresh autonomy, a skeptic obviously,

Developing an odyssey of relevant, effectual intellectual property,

That walks the plank the day I die,

When Darren says goodbye and breaks the barricades of life.”

This declaration, a manifesto delivered in ten seconds and exhibiting a grasp of language and internal rhyme that would proudly top the pedestal of a lesser artist’s track, makes up just one of the opening salvo’s numerous cues for sharp inhalations of breath.

Next up, the listener is granted a brief respite as a string section leads into what is undoubtedly the most radio-friendly (which is to say that the hook – provided by Becca Starr – is off the scale in terms of catchiness, rather than that the material is even close to being tame enough to be entertained by the mainstream) number on Edging God Out, sporting the title Sinister and thereby doing a fine job of encapsulating the overarching feeling conjured up by the album.

As impressively proficient as the lyrics, flow and production of the album are, one could be forgiven for entertaining the concern that Edging God Out may rely too heavily on the showcasing of wit and braggadocio and not enough on the conveyance of genuine feeling. Forgiven, that is, until they reached the gritty but ultimately motivational Jump which wraps complex verses laden with confessions of an unhappy childhood around a simple refrain of ‘It’s no’ me against the world, it’s us.”

Elsewhere, Arlington Road sees a genuine storyteller in his element, as the listener is pulled along through a night of drunken paranoia, and The Wall – kicking off with a Charlie Kaufman quote that perfectly foreshadows the song’s content – exposes a captivating inner monologue that seems to seep out of the speakers and surround the listener, leaving the air pregnant with the malevolent threat of imminent suffocation, especially as the narrative comes to a close and the track fades out to the sound of distressed breathing accompanied only by fading echoes of the beat.

Interesting headphone listening…

Now, to go any further without addressing what is a truly mesmerising force behind this album would be wrong and, as such, a minute must be taken to talk about just how furiously angry some of this material sounds. This sense of barely restrained rage permeates the release to the extent that, on certain tracks, the moments when Loki isn’t rapping seem to pulse with the impression that he is having to consciously hold himself back in a concerted effort to channel his rage enough, just to stay on beat. Of course, the speed at which the rhymes peel out between the beats only serves to enhance this. Don’t Gee Me That Patter sees the needle on the anger scale hovering somewhere around the “fuckin’ ragin’” mark – perfectly complimented by an truly filthy sounding bassline – but, as he seethes through album highlight Loki’s the Name, the delivery takes a turn towards the positively venomous.

A large segment of Edging God Out evidently serves as catharsis for its purveyor and this is as clear on the album’s more reflective tracks – a la Smile at the Sky and Focus – as it is during the moments of unshackled verbal chaos, such as during the passages on title track Edging God Out where betrayals past are laid bare and What Time is it in Melbourne which stands as a compellingly transparent exorcism of personal demons.

As such, there aren’t a great deal of relevant negatives to be dealt with here. Sure, there are some tracks that may not stand up to the test of repeated listening but these are few and far between and such an outcome is an inevitable consequence of releasing an album nineteen tracks long.

One could then, of course, argue that prudence should have dictated a need for a more ruthless editing process but a fair amount of the original mix has already been dropped (available here) and, as mentioned before, the work as a whole gives the impression of serving as a release for emotions bottled up for too long and to cut it down any further would perhaps be to lose some of what is so captivating in the first place.

Being brutally realistic, Scottish hip hop is still very much a niche market and, like any work of genuine passion disseminated throughout a small scene, it would be easy for the cynical to dismiss the level of effort poured into this release as a misuse of energy that might yield greater rewards elsewhere. In addition, the deliberately provocative nature of lines such as “I’m not sexist but reserve the right to call you a cow” coupled with the prolific bandying about of the word ‘cunt’ also serve to keep the risk of Loki’s output achieving mass appeal fairly slight.

For the already initiated and those with their finger anywhere near the pulse, however, this is well worth a listen or twelve. The pages of Sixteen Sixteen Six have made no effort to hide a wealth of admiration for Scots rap duo Hector Bizerk and any fans of theirs who aren’t already familiar with Loki are guilty of a tremendous disservice to themselves. If Hector embody the swagger and flash of the Scottish hip hop scene, Loki embodies the heartfelt passion and painfully gritty realism.

Overall, with Edging God Out, Loki shows himself to be a hugely gifted storyteller with a staggering ability to channel a genuinely charismatic rage. The work feels honest and the sheer volume of material comprising this project is admirable in itself.

And who gives a fuck about the haters anyway, eh?

Edging God Out is released on Saturday 15th June and you can catch the album launch show on Friday 14th June in Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy.

Loki on Facebook

Lokis’ the Name music video

Being that the album isn’t officially released until 18th February and considering how much effort, money and deliberation has gone into the finished work, it seems only appropriate that any seminal listen of the debut Rose Parade record be as careful, private and thorough as possible. Despite most of the songs having been publically available in live or demo form over the past couple of years, this moment is sure to be a milestone in the burgeoning Ayrshire independent music scene and deserves to be treated as such.

Consequently, one finds oneself digging out one’s highest quality pair of headphones and sitting down on a dreary Scottish Sunday afternoon to absorb the eponymous work from start to finish, the only distraction being occasional pensive sips from a mug of steaming coffee.

And one is not disappointed…

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Midnight Wine provides an absorbing and atmospheric opener, allowing approximately twenty seconds of gentle wavering feedback and plucked strings to guide the listener gently towards a window to the mind of the Rose Parade quartet, before an unrepentant trifecta of assured chords, jolly glockenspiel and stomping kick drum ushers in a distinctive and instantly congenial vocal, thereby hauling said listener through said window and permitting no option of escape until the boys have had their say.

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Now, when you have an album that flows from start to finish, as one complete and considered work – which, let’s face it, is the mark of a quality offering – it’s generally desirable to set an enduring tone, for the entire piece, with the first lines and Midnight Wine’s contribution is no exception…

“Summertime has got me crazy, sitting laying in the sun.

I took my love and we got crazy but now I’m sitting by, by my loaded gun.”

In just a few bars, the listener is handed a perfect summation of the Rose Parade modus operandi – the opening line conveying happy and contented connotations of an easy life made up of long, hot, lazy days tying in with the pleasant and cheerful foot-tapping rhythms forming the calm and measured surface of the sound, juxtaposed with a nod to an unsettled mind and abrupt ruminations on violence which point to the darker depths of the band’s occasionally murky, often longing and nostalgic, lyrical content.

As the song progresses, the continuation of this lyrical theme melds with a timeless quiet-loud aesthetic and a guitar tone harking back to the golden era of the rock scene. As well as providing a succinct outline of intent, track one succeeds in emanating what is sure to be a cross-generational appeal and giving subtle rise to the notion – in the mind of anyone within earshot – that picking up a guitar might just be the perfect idea.

On the subject of Rose Parade’s cross-generational appeal, it is impossible not to notice the similarity of the track titles A Better Pill to Swallow and The Dark Side of the Sun to those belonging to The Jam and Pink Floyd, respectively. At first glance, this is easy to interpret as either coincidence or an acknowledgement of the influence of iconic bands of the past on their own sound. However, after hearing the album several times over and feeling the resultant assurance of this band’s prowess and bright future, this nod to the work of such iconic bands begins to feel more like a subtle acknowledgement and confirmation of their own confidence that this is the first major step on an exciting and fruitful upwards trajectory.

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A song-by-song analysis would only serve to cheapen the first-listen experience for others, so prudence suggests that the way forward is to examine some of the more obvious standouts and then look at the work as a whole.

The majesty of the album opener aside, looking to The Sea of Lights and Grace will exhibit material destined to, someday, warrant a slew of main stage festival appearances. Grace, in particular, feels like the track people will point the unconverted to in future, as they relate the story of the time they saw Rose Parade perform in the kitchen of an Ayr flat, long before their success.

Appearing just past the halfway mark, the instrumental Friday Night Fight provides a welcome pause for reflection, while keeping the pace going as it leads towards the captivating pairing of upbeat rhythm and doleful lyrics that is Sue.

Violent Tides and closing offering The Dark Side of the Sun serving to showcase the more sparsely introspective end of the material, the latter’s claustrophobic vibe, equal parts beauty and menace, warning that “time won’t heal too deep of a wound” and closing on the cryptically chilling refrain of “totally honest, totally honest.”

To go back to the idea of an album working as a whole, the achievement of this admirable feat can be seen in the way track one tails off effortlessly into the opening of Awake Tonight and even the later inclusion of the glockenspiel is vaguely – yet knowingly – reminiscent of the opening offering. As the album progresses, subtle lyrical throwbacks to previous tracks combine with the group’s own signature melody and consistently accomplished guitar and vocal work to ensure the continuation of this seamless eleven track journey.

There are moments which evoke long nights of lonely reflection, choruses which provoke sing-along moments while getting ready for a night on the tiles with the mates and tunes that perfectly soundtrack an exhausted but cheerful Sunday teatime, looking back over a weekend well spent.

Rose Parade’s debut is the sound of Scottish Indie rock and roll ticking all the right boxes.

It would be wrong to do them the injustice of spending too long comparing their sound to that of more established acts. With that in mind, let’s just say that their pop sensibilities should appeal to consumers of the more mainstream branches of rock and indie – there are actually, as much as this is a potential bone of contention, echoes of Be Here Now-era Oasis, which are certainly not unwelcome and are subtle enough not to be derivative – while the wistfully introspective lyrical moments and incorporation of quirkier elements into their sound should serve as a draw for the more involved or refined music fan.

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As far as criticisms go, for this offering very few are possible. That said, there are consequences of creating such a thematic and whole-sounding debut record which so perfectly encapsulates the sound previously plied on the live circuit.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to see where the band will go from here. As much as what is displayed in this first record is a most impressive achievement, it would be a tragic waste of Rose Parade’s talent and innovation if they didn’t now seek to push their sound in a new direction. How well this goes, only time will tell.

For now, however, the band should be riding high on a wave of success of their own making.

Such a triumphant debut must be celebrated and there could be no better way of doing this than to play the shit out of it at every live opportunity.

Rose Parade is officially released on 18/02/13 through the band’s website, iTunes, Amazon and Play.com.

The band will play an album launch show in Glasgow’s 13th Note on 01/02/13.

Rose Parade on Facebook

Rose Parade on Soundcloud