Vardar’s first musical outing, a 2008 underground album entitled Piyasanın adamıyım, Piyasaya karşıyım, didn’t generate the kind of response he had hoped for, but it did help him to cut his teeth on the mechanisms of putting an album together. In between composing radio jingles and music for short films, the rapper would take time to regroup and rethink his approach for the far more mature, daring and brazen work that would become Kötü Adam, his first proper commercial debut. Enlisting in the help of some key collaborators (Sinan Ceceli, Serkan Hökenek, Cüneyt Tatlıcı, respectively), Vardar would create a combustible blend of hip-hop and electronica that would melt speakers and rattle ribcages in Lamborghinis and nightclubs all over Turkey. Encompassing both the jetsetter cool reflected in the smooth, diamond-cut beats and the swagger and slang of an urban ghetto, Kötü Adam finds a musical counterpoint of shine and grime. Silver-tongued and sharp-witted rhymes are meted out with force as the rapper covers topics of love, hate, sex and violence in a city of cultural upheaval and harmony.
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With Frank Ocean and The Weeknd dominating R&B in a huge way in 2012, expectations are high for any artist attempting to step up to the mic that’s shared with artists as immensely talented as those two. It won’t be long, however, before Arthur Ashin—the man behind the Autre Ne Veut moniker—rises successfully to this challenge with the release of his sophomore album Anxiety, out on February 26th for the Mexican Summer label. The record—an almost impossibly rich and multilayered work of avant-pop and R&B—makes one even question if the term “sophomore slump” has any relevance; Anxiety is such a considerable improvement over his 2010 self-titled debut that at times it’s hard to believe it’s the same artist performing.
The one-time Massive Attack vocalist serves up this slice of electronic-pop as she prepares for her fourth solo release. A chilled layer-cake of flexible, vivacious beats, stiff sour funk and brass-section acrobatics, Nicolette offers a slipstream romance of the merits of positive-thinking and fantasy on “Fascination”. The UK artist has been working steadily and quietly on new material since the uplifting sunburst of 2005’s Life Loves Us, an album of chopped beats and melted funk that was infused with the juice of high, carefree energy.
Computer programmer by day, Fecr-i Ati moonlights as a one-man hip-hop band of sorts. The 20-something Turkish rapper has been experimenting with music in his time off from work and has come up with some pretty imaginative results. A trained musician from a very early age, Fecr-i plays a wide variety of instruments including violin, flute, darbuka (a Middle-Eastern drum) and his personal favourite, the baglama, a Turkish stringed instrument heard here in this track, “Kalkmaz Kir”. A flashy hip-hop number given a Turkish makeover, “Kalkmaz Kir” also takes a cheeky swipe at bhungra, calling all arms to the dancefloor. Described by Fecr-i as a song about rising above those with bad attitudes, his guttural raps betray an almost mischievous swagger as he ploughs through the walloping beats with agility and force. It’s hard not to submit to the gravitational pull of the seductive, muscular rhythms and there’s much to love here, from the Turkish funk that runs through the Punjabi-inspired chorus to the mess-with-me-and-die attudinizing by the rapper, who is really just smirking underneath the fury. Undoubtedly blasting out of every bachelor’s sports car in Turkey.
Hot Eskimos turn the magic and confused beauty of the Sugarcubes’ most cherished number into a sublimely lush jazz rendering that brings the song’s most furtive emotion to the fore – one of deep sadness. “Birthday” has had a number of reinventions over the years, but no artist or band could ever capture the raw, unspoiled beauty of Björk’s voice, jubilant and vicious in equal measure. The band give the song that was primed for a jazz reworking an atmosphere of swirling colour and shape, with piano scales sliding around an at once steady and fractured rhythm, and the drums and upright bass creating a cadence of tension and release. Like the original, Hot Eskimo’s version is rich with ideas and a musicality that could only have been sparked by an imagination brimming with wide-eyed wonder and a desperate need to be fulfilled. Just see if you don’t laugh… or cry.