Music

SpaceGhostPurrp: Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of Spaceghostpurrp

Mysterious Phonk may consist mostly of previously released material, but, with higher fidelity and the 4AD name attached, it manages to present SpaceGhostPurrp singular vision from a unique angle.


SpaceGhostPurrp

Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of Spaceghostpurrp

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2012-06-12
UK Release Date: 2012-06-11
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Of all the artists in the post Drake/J. Cole school of using mixtape outlets like Datpiff, LiveMixtapes and stoned bloggers to build a fanbase and get a record deal, few have done it as strangely as SpaceGhostPurrp. His influences are so defiantly mid-'90s (most directly Three 6 Mafia's underground collections and Da Beatminerz brooding thuggery) that he's thrown gaudy statements onto his tapes' Pen & Pixel inspired cover arts like "Best Album of 1995!" And whether one approached his NASA series of chopped & screwed ephemera or his street albums, the mix was intentionally drowned in lost noise, Mortal Kombat samples and other attempts to sound like SpaceGhostPurrp was recording on little more than a cassette deck in between blunt rips and Mortal Kombat II tournaments. Combined with his bizarre insistence on using some exceptionally awkward form of Greek formatting to title his tracks (which continues here: a song like "Osiris of the East" is lettered "Xsiriz xf thv Xxvzt") and an uncategorizable persona as likely to drop 5 % Nation references as murder you or have sex with your girl, SGP built himself a mythology that feels as confused as it does self-assured, as though it stands in the eye of a storm.

Perhaps the most immediate item of note on this debut album is the fact that most of the tracks appeared on either Blackland Radio or God of Black, two previously free "street albums" released on the aforementioned sites. This is a gambit that's been exercised by a variety of labels in a variety of ways, from stunted EPs with bonus tracks (think Drake's So Far Gone or Freddie Gibbs' All Killer, No Filler) to promising re-releases in stores that may or may not ever drop (Big K.R.I.T. and the Weeknd's trilogies come most readily to mind). So credit 4AD for being a label taking two left turns at once without doing a total 180; Mysterious Phonk may be a reissue record on paper but it feels like anything but in execution. You might have heard these tracks before, and, if you haven't, you can certainly still grab them at no cost to you, but hearing them in this sequence with this budget lifts the stuff from pseudo-novelty to aesthetic-driven craft mastery.

Most notable about this album (other than it's featureless, all-SpaceGhostPurrp rapped nature) is SpaceGhostPurrp production, which was always the highlight of his experience but really finds a new life in a remixed, remastered, non-Mortal Kombat world. His production almost entirely escapes the period-trappings so many were excited to find him exploring, instead feeling like an Atlanta kid discovered VV2: Venemous Villain and replaced all the comic book minutiae with silicone and dildos. His sonic approach is lonely and morbid in the same way Abel Tesfaye's team turns the Weeknd's tales of debauchery into desultory examinations of young life in a depressed yet active state. And then there are tracks like "No Evidence", which used to crawl around purposeless but now feel as if SpaceGhostPurrp has kept Goodie Mob's Still Standing LP on repeat for the past two years. Combined with his lyrical approach – mostly dunking in women's sexual organs like Vince Carter and achieving a God-like independence – Mysterious Phonk is an album that provides a Miami Booty Bass experience for the codeine set, a sort of crunk cousin to the Weeknd's hedonistic sad-sex series.

What's most attractive about the sound achieved here is that, for its entire 60 minutes, SpaceGhostPurrp is not nearly as defeated as his music sounds. "Bringing the Phonk" may feel like a lost Dälek banger about housing projects and obstructive governments, but it's subject matter is as simple as "yea I got that pussy leaking / and the phonk got her body tweaking / ain't no way she can stop me." For a guy that was in his teenage years at the time of most of these initial recordings, it's hard not to view SpaceGhostPurrp as a remarkably confident individual no matter the subject; just take a listen to "Osiris of the East" and admire the way his production and verbiage perfectly synchronize to deliver an anthem to part-time pimps that feels as creepy as a 4AM alleyway yet as confident as re-approaching an old high school flame who thought you'd topped out with a doctorate degree. His raps are delivered in a very deliberate, Project Pat-like monotone for the majority of the album, but his mastery of that style is evident in the multiple occasions his grandest statements are married perfectly to huge 808 drops or other, more subtle beat dynamics.

Mysterious Phonk is not for everyone. It has a five minute sex rap (well, fellatio rap) soundtracked by the sorts of bleeps and bloops you'd hear in the middle of a computer server. But if the idea of "Don't Get Yah Head Bust", a song that sounds like Uncle Luke rapping with a Baltimore accent over a beat that's part post-crunk, part Gregorian chants sounds at all intriguing to you, it's more than worth a few listens. The feel to this album is such that it takes way more than a cursory listen to appreciate all the well done elements to the arrangements and the overall vibe SpaceGhostPurrp sets, but once you've settled in it can be a plenty addictive listen that feels like very little you've heard before even as it brings to mind so many touchstones of mid-‘90s Southern rap and early ‘00s IDM. Perhaps Mysterious Phonk drags a little towards the end, which at just 14 tracks is a bit of a bummer, but as it comes to a close, Mysterious Phonk always feels like: what the fuck am I listening to, and why am I bobbing my head so hard to it?

7

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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