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Thursday, Nov 13, 2014
Dizraeli, Boho-hip-hop ranter and raver, has built up a steady following with his homespun grooves and twitchy raps.

As someone who has been willing to stir up a lot of shit, British rapper Dizraeli has been setting teeth on edge since his politicized hip-hop masterstroke Engurland (City Shanties) back in 2009. That album gave listeners a taste of the rapper’s ramshackled hip-hop, which fused elements as disparate as folk, Africana, spoken word, turntablism, and boho jazz.


A known wild card onstage (the artist once set a number of cars on fire for public amusement), Dizraeli is also in a minor movement of rappers who make strong appeals for social awareness, bridging the wide gap between the hedonistic throw-downs of club bangers and the invectives of social protest. His previous effort (with his band the Small Gods), explored the world outside his UK homeland after a trip to the Middle East region. An attempt to traverse cultural boundaries and dismantle stereotypes about “othered” cultures, Moving in the Dark (2013) no less captured the imagination with its message of social compassion and homebrewed grooves that were cooked and baked like homeopathic remedies.


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Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014
“This is the first day / Of my last days." Nine Inch Nails' 1992 EP begins by gradually building up tension, then releasing it in caustic (yet controlled) outbursts that earned the act a Grammy Award.

Even working within the constraints of the EP format’s short runtime, Trent Reznor takes pains to open Broken with a sense of occasion. The first track is “Pinion”, a scant one minute and three seconds of an ascending guitar pattern gradually increasing in volume. When described that way, it doesn’t sound very exciting. That’s because “Pinion” is meant to be listened to, preferably with headphones on in order to appreciate the ambient noises that are also percolating in the background, slowly building up body and dread. The guitars are heavily processed and most likely sampled—note the disjointed quality of the chords, which is audible evidence of digital cut-and-pasting.


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Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014
Nine Inch Nails' 1992 EP is half an hour of visceral, undiluted anger delivered through muscular, caustic guitars and Trent Reznor's anguished screams. It is concise, focused, and arguably the pinnacle of Nine Inch Nails' discography.

Trent Reznor: industrial auteur, Generation X icon, Grammy Award winner, lavishly-praised film composer, and, as of recent months, a first-year eligible entry on this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ballot. When Reznor was toiling late nights to piece together the first Nine Inch Nails album Pretty Hate Machine (1989), did he ever conceive that the angst-laden electronic/rock hybrid he was fashioning would immortalize him so? Whether he had or not, any dissection of a career that now spans a quarter of a century will surely confirm that the man has thoroughly earned it.


Through the popular music lens that typically views artists’ output in terms of albums and singles, Nine Inch Nails’ story starts with Pretty Hate Machine and them jumps five years later to The Downward Spiral (1994), Reznor’s ambitious magnum opus. Or to put it another way, the story moves from “Head Like a Hole” to “Closer” and “Hurt”, with little elaboration between. However, such a bare-bone narrative of the NIN story leaves out an essential chapter, one that’s easy for the uninformed skip over in the CD racks due to its slight six-item tracklist and therefore perceived inferior content-to-price value quotient.


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Monday, Nov 10, 2014
Sometimes you just want to reach out to someone who has created something that has given you such an everlasting gift. Frankie Rose has released two albums that created an entire universe for me, from nothing.

I’ll let you in on a little secret in music journalism that may, or may not surprise you: the part of this job that allows us to interview the musicians we listen to ... not all that great. I’m not being facetious or whatever. When I first started getting published writing about music six years ago, it was certainly one of the main things I was looking forward to. Took a while before I finally got to talk to someone I legitimately enjoyed as a musician (Alex Patterson of the Orb, who in fairness, was quite interesting and a delight to converse with).


Having said that, the vast majority of my interviews provided nothing of interest. It was sort of a letdown at first—“How come all these people who make vastly interesting and compelling music are such duds to talk to?” Then I figured it out. They might be duds, but they might not be—an interview is rarely a good way to figure this out, because most musicians don’t care about creating an engaging interview. They instead are using the interviewer to plug whatever upcoming or recent release they have to publicly stand behind.


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Friday, Nov 7, 2014
Another suburban family morning here at Counterbalance. We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies — and the 272nd most acclaimed album of all time. Many miles away, something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish lake.

Mendelsohn: The one thing I miss about working through the Great List in numerical order was the weekly marching orders. Don’t like the album? Too bad. Don’t know anything about? Better learn. I kind of miss the adventure of exploring music I wasn’t familiar with. So, while perusing the Great List, trying to make sense of albums that came out in the early 1980s, I noticed the Police’s Synchronicity sitting at no. 272 overall and holding down the no. 3 spot for the year 1983 (R.E.M.’s Mumur is no. 1, Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones is no. 2 and the Violent Femmes self-titled debut is no. 4, which — spoiler alert, we are going to be talking about in a couple of weeks). I don’t know anything about the Police, at least anything I wasn’t taught by their singles, and my first experience with Sting was seeing him play the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the critical wasteland that is the 1984 science fiction bomb, Dune.


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