Blue Lab Beats – Motherland Journey (2022 Blue Note Records)

Artist: Blue Lab Beats

Album: Motherland Journey (2022)

Label: Blue Note Records

Genre: Neo-Soul / Jazztronica

Over the last several weeks I have been teaching my junior high school music students about the cross pollination between the jazz and hip-hop music genres in modern music. There is no better contemporary example of this than with Blue Lab Beats’ masterful debut long-player for Blue Note Records, Motherland Journey.

Much like the title suggests, MJ encompasses a kaleidoscope of influences and sounds while still retaining a distinct identity. They fuse the sounds of the African diaspora with modern instruments and rhythms from the London underground music scene, resulting in a melange of jazztronica, afrobeat, neo-soul, funk, and fusion. Guest stars abound, adding contemporary pop, r&b, and hip-hop flair to the smooth fusion instrumentals laid down by producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr. DM.

At 17 tracks and an hour’s worth of listening time, one would thing that Motherland Journey might strain to maintain a sense of cohesion and unity with all the genre-skipping, but the opposite is in fact true, as MJ instead plays like an expertly-curated celebration of the London underground electronic music scene.

Thomas Jacob Jr is a Producer, Composer, Singer-Songwriter, Music Educator and Digital Artist currently based in Arizona – Bringing us rare and interesting selections from his extensive Vinyl collection! For more content follow his vinyl-dedicated Instagram account

Author & Punisher – Krüller (2022 Relapse Records)

Artist: Author & Punisher

Album: Krüller (2022)

Label: Relapse Records

Genre: Industrial Metal / Darksynth

Tristan Shone is the one-man bandleader and mastermind behind the industrial darksynth project Author & Punisher. Shone performs his music using a unique collection of hand-built electronic synthesizers and sound machines and has been doing so in earnest for the better part of the last decade.

With 2018’s ‘Beastland,’ Shone found a new audience by shifting to the roster of Relapse Records, a label better known for forward-thinking death metal than doom electronics. With his mind-blowing new album ‘Krüller’, Shone has achieved a clarity and purpose of sound previously unheard in his other work. Of particular note are collaborators Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey, better known as the rhythm section of alternative metal stalwarts Tool, who show up sporadically to fill in some of the low end of Shone’s electronics.

The music reveals shades of late 90’s industrial acts like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Type O Negative, especially in the aggressive vocals and lush layers of metallic distortion, yet ‘Krüller’ remains an absolutely singular listening experience. Shone’s songwriting chops are on display here as well – no longer content with half-finished sound collages or drones, Shone instead focuses on a more streamlined compositional style that benefits the flow of the album as a whole.

This one’s definitely one of the stronger releases of 2022 so far and a easy recommendation for fans of industrial music, alternative metal, or darkwave electronic music. 

Thomas Jacob Jr is a Producer, Composer, Singer-Songwriter, Music Educator and Digital Artist currently based in Arizona – Bringing us rare and interesting selections from his extensive Vinyl collection! For more content follow his vinyl-dedicated Instagram account

Kayo Dot – Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike (2021 Prophecy Records)

Artist: Kayo Dot

Album: Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike (2021)

Label: Prophecy Records

Genre: Avant-Garde / Gothic Metal / Darkwave

Kayo Dot are a shape-shifting experimental band from Brooklyn led by the inimitable multi-hyphenate Toby Driver. Over the course of the band’s history the group has recorded and performed music ranging from neo-classical chamber music (‘Blue Lambency Downward’) to neon-drenched synthwave (‘Coffins on Io’) and sprawling progressive metal (‘Hubardo’).

With ‘Moss,’ Toby has invoked a spiritual connection to Kayo Dot’s previous form, the experimental death metal group Maudlin of the Well. Bolstered by the soaring lead guitar of former Maudlin guitarist Greg Massi, the songs on ‘Moss’ take on a particularly epic scope, an expansion of the proof-of-concept of this style from the group’s previous album, the excellent and underrated ‘Blasphemy.’ Driver handles most of the other instrumentation, laying down rhythmic bass lines, flighty and progressive drum grooves, and layers of synth pads to create a dark, hazy, and foreboding aura that envelops the listener from track one. His vocal performance is once again stellar, crisscrossing between soaring clean choruses (‘Void in Virgo’ contains one of his finest) and piercing death metal howls (everywhere else).

This sense of eclecticism, coupled with a blurry production that doesn’t do the music any favors, make entering the world of Kayo Dot a daunting supposition, but it is well worth taking the plunge into the ether for the rewards buried within.

Thomas Jacob Jr is a Producer, Composer, Singer-Songwriter, Music Educator and Digital Artist currently based in Arizona – Bringing us rare and interesting selections from his extensive Vinyl collection! For more content follow his vinyl-dedicated Instagram account

Souls of the Disconnect of the Souls, by Darren j Holloway

Delicious improvisational post-rock from Darren j HollowaySouls of the disconnect of the soulS is a mini-album of dark atmospheric drones that are expansive and satisfying.

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Encounter Vast, by Bro Biden

I was very excited to find a new release from Vivarium Recordings in my feed – I recognized the name Bro Biden instantly and hopped over to the band camp page. When I arrived, before I could click play, I discovered another blurb had already been written – while not exactly high praise, the final words of the author read “good luck“. I read this and immediately took it as a challenge. What could be inside that is so gnarly that it would warrant such a warning? Intrigued, I dove in, and what I discovered was a nearly bottomless pool of beautiful creativity.

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Órfãs, by A/C Repair School

Somewhere between lofi sound experiments and dreamy bedroom punk lies A/C Repair School – a collaborative project by vocalist Carolina Simionato (soft verges) and multi-instrumentalist Rafael de Toledo Pedroso. Teaming up for this debut album – Órfãs, presented by the amazing Grimalkin Records.

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Super Glue, by Eternity Hotline

Warped and destroyed acid electronica sounds from Eternity Hotline, brought to us by Sacramento’s Outer Grid Records.

I personally dove into this one not knowing what to expect. I am not familiar with Outer Grid Records, but I can say for sure that I am a fan now! Same goes for Eternity Hotline (not to be biased, but we love all things Eternity here…) – a producer I was not aware of at all, but I am deeply impressed and energized by this release, Super Glue.

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Boi Borzoi – Self Titled

Beautiful experimental electronics from Finnish producer Boi Borzoi. Utilizing a unique multi-genre approach, Boi Borzoi manages to fuse together concepts from Modern Classical, Jazz and Post-Rock into something that is both familiar yet entirely fresh.

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Opera Mauve, by Tektra

Opera Mauve by Tektra Album Artwork

Somber atmospheric lo-fi from Tektra, brought to us by No Agreements as part of their Digital Series.

The tracks are tasteful and unique – claiming to have been produced entirely in one weekend, there is a cohesive energy that flows throughout the project. Despite touching all over the electronic music spectrum, Tektra manages to keep grip on the reins, taming the sounds to suit their needs.

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Wave Variations, by 36

The ever-intoxicating sounds of 36 are coming back to us on fresh waves – this time in the form of a so-called “mini-album” Wave Variations.

A collection of short flowing compositions – Wave Variations features 12 tracks (2 of which are exclusive to the vinyl release) presented as Sequences One to Twelve. Now that would typically seem like a full-length album, but I understand what the producer is going for when they dub it a mini-album. Each track floats around 3 minutes in length, which is a definite oddity in the world of ambient music. 36 explains…

‘I feel like a lot of ambient music (including my own) is often unnecessarily long and these small vignettes work as a nice counter to that. Don’t expect long build-ups or over-extended crescendos”

It may seem like a negative and/or blanketed statement, but it’s quite spot on. And in the case of this album, the brevity definitely plays to its advantage. I actually think this is a fantastic introduction of sorts to 36 in general, with each track highlighting different aspects of their signature sound – melodic and melancholy, expressive yet relaxing.

Wave Variations takes cues from it’s own name, with each track having pulsing hypnotic qualities. Tracks like “Eighth Sequence” masterfully coaxing the listener into a pensive state, floating in time for a brief reflective moment. The tempo and pacing of the noodling synthesizers and humming pads translate across the project, whether taking a more playful approach or sinking back into a numbing melancholy.

The album was originally released back in July by Past Inside The Present – and although the physical editions are currently sold out, we are lucky to have access to this digital edition. Support the artist directly via Bandcamp.