Music

Slash: Apocalyptic Love

The guitarist's second solo album is, not surprisingly, exactly what you'd expect. And exactly what you asked for.


Slash

Apocalyptic Love

Label: Dik Hayd International
Release Date: 2012-05-22
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If Apocalyptic Love proves anything, it’s that Slash will always, and without exception, fucking rock. Now, whether "rock" means absolutely slay guitar licks and write bone-crushing rock songs -- or just play loud music -- is up to the listener. But essentially, it will tell you that, yes, he’s done it again. When you hear Slash play guitar, you instantly know it’s him. You can practically see the top hat, long curly hair, and cigarette dangling lazily out of his mouth and floating in front of you. He shows so little enthusiasm in his face and body movement, but the overarching calm is manifested as pure furious soul in his playing. There is beauty in this fury, melody in the madness.

The album, Slash’s second as a solo artist, is, not surprisingly, exactly what you’d expect. With backing band Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, it sounds like something of a mix between early Guns ‘n’ Roses (with Appetite for Destruction-type energy) and Velvet Revolver, except perhaps with slightly less feeling. Kennedy is pretty much as close as you can get to Axl Rose, except lacking that piercing scream and low range, and The Conspirators play with the kind of energy that evokes images of smashing guitars and burning embers of stage. A lot of hard rock bands dream of emulating Guns ‘n’ Roses but fail miserably. The Conspirators, on the other hand, come damn close – just two decades late and without quite the reputation for destroying everything in their path. Thankfully though, they have Slash to corroborate their story.

The opening title track is a practical doppelganger for most of the tracks on Appetite For Destruction itself, with a head-banging guitar riff that serves as the basis for a roaring solo late in the tune, in addition to a shrieking verse/chorus. The main difference, besides the fact that it isn’t G’n’R, is that the lyrics here don’t really matter. Where Axl Rose had a tendency to write poignant, or at the least, highly offensive, lyrics – Kennedy’s are rather bland and unenticing. To an extent, that doesn’t matter here because, not only is this a different band, but most listeners will be focusing solely on Slash’s incendiary guitar playing (to steal a word from Almost Famous).

Though that remains true on most songs, the exception comes in the form of the first single, "You’re A Lie". Not only is this tune original comparatively to the rest of the album – standing apart from both G’n’R and Velvet Revolver – but Kennedy also shows his soul with lines like "I’m fragile but I’m not a fool / I won’t hear another word from you / You won’t hurt me anymore". Of course, his fragility is masked behind a façade of anger -- both in the tune as well as on the album as a whole -- but Slash’s proclivity at turning a rock song into a ballad (for at least a minute) with a singing guitar solo is apparent as ever here. That’s also true on the following track, "No More Heroes", one of the most attractive songs on the disc (at least until the chorus kicks in).

Unfortunately, that seems to be a theme for the record. The songs are far more than listenable – they are attractive, sexy – until the choruses kick in. It’s as if they’re reaching for an energy that isn’t there. Though it’s similar, Kennedy’s voice is not as grabbing as Axl Rose’s (a comparison that is impossible to avoid given the similarity in songwriting and overall flavor, not to mention the fact that Kennedy had to serve as Rose’s replacement for G’n’R’s performance at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction -- the still-bitter Rose refused to show at the last minute, though his former bandmates all seemed ready to put the past behind them and bask in the glow of the Hall.)

With each successive tune on Apocalyptic Love, the theme becomes more and more apparent. Songs don’t necessarily blend together, but there aren’t many that stand out – aside from "Anastasia", which starts as a finger-picked classical guitar tune with some Mexican influence added, before squeezing its own balls just for the simple joy of self-induced pain. Slash is at his best on this tune, with two long solos that bring the song to a whole new level. He finger-taps blues riffs and ultimately reinvents the instrument for himself, yet again. The last two minutes reach almost "November Rain" musical highs, though it’s absolutely impossible for the song itself to ever be compared to that classic.

Despite the undeniable volume of the record, it mostly slips into the background with a few true exceptions. Let’s say it has its moments, and those moments are perplexingly awesome. But, insofar as being a lasting record, one that advances the genre (if the genre can in fact be advanced any further is cause for another discussion altogether), it falls just short. In reality, it is another sampling of ridiculous guitar riffs, and for Slash, it’s a way to keep playing at a level he can dominate. Is it a new chapter in his career? No. It’s just a continuation of previous chapters. But maybe that’s OK. I'm certainly not going to question it.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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