Album Reviews: July 2, 2018

Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch (Cleveland)

As Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor's music has changed, the intense and abrasive styles have taken so many shapes across the years. For his latest album however, Reznor makes something with a pop core, to let his more eccentric writing add flavour rather than dominate the music. The visceral rush of "Shit Mirror" hits with Reznor's usually heavy tones, while a mix of horns and vibrant energy shows tones of modern indie that he never let through before. "Ahead Of Ourselves" finds Reznor tapping into his older sounds while bringing such an electric drum performance to the record that it all feels new. The brass is even taken in unusual directions on "God Break Down The Door" as every part of the instrumentation is twisted through different filters to make a very unnerving listen. The music enters a more meditative and experimental hand on "I'm Not From This World" where Reznor tapps into a little bit of Lynchian weirdness for a startling if not quite abrasive track.

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Computronic – Navigator (Ottawa)

Indie synth work can be fun and simple, but it can also have heady concepts with the right minds behind it. For this record from Computronic, we're pulled into an intriguing new world with its own sense of style and life to it. While it starts off with abrasive and industrial tones "Positronic Sunrise" quickly opens into a wondrous and sprawling synth mood-piece. "The Navigator" however takes in some quirky pop bounce and almost sound like a vocal-less Gorillaz mixed with some of Soulwax's own earlier work in its menacing and dark riffs. As the slow blasts of synth horns open up into beats "Lost Machines" becomes a much grimier track, and one that shows the balance of life and progress in Computronic's world. Perhaps the most setting-based track is "Bonded Circuits" that while not altogether catchy or pop, really sets out what this concept album can do.

Soulwax – Essential (Ghent, Belgium)

Soulwax is a rare project where the band and their DJ act 2manydjs had been kept separate for so many years despite even having similar energies to what they do. On their spontaneous new album however the duo mix dance-floor grooves with raw instrumentation to make a concept record you can listen to again and again. After a summation of the record's concept on "Essential One" the record drops into fast and hard beats to set things in motion. "Essential Two" doesn't hold anything back after this intro, mixing its sublime grooves and amazing synths with lush sounds to take listeners away. The best marriage of all their sounds comes in the percussive powerhouse of "Essential Four" where disco vocals, deep bass and drums come together for a perfect dance track. They even expand to a movie-like breadth of tones on "Essential Ten" where they explore different avenues of their sound while deliver constantly moving music

Novusolis – Collapse (Ottawa)

With the dense mix of production and guitar effects found throughout this album "Intro (The Distance Between Us)" not only serves as a detailed intro, but a great and emotional overture to the whole album. This song's vicious guitars hit emotional peaks again and again, as they echo off and against themselves. "Bones" however opens into a hip hop infused mood-track, as Amanda Lowe's glowing vocals really warm up the track. While "Closer" doesn't quite hold the same driving energy, the smooth guitars offer a more subdued and pensive track within the band's sounds. "Breathe" pushes this range of sounds back to its limits with pop force, as Lowe's vocals punch out to make for powerful and emotional sonic dives.

Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth (Los Angeles)

Though it's still a constantly innovating genre, it would be fair to say Jazz certainly isn't a pop genre these days. On Kamasi Washington's newest offering however, the sax wonder shows just how intense and powerful the genre can be in the right hands."Fists Of Fury" hits hard with immersive, in-your-face production and a whole swath of instruments that keep the song gripping from bottom to top. With a pop take on the horns, "Can You Hear Him" finds even the drums stepping into a lead role as well, for a real sonic journey of a track. By pulling back much of the band on "Connections" Washington is able to bring more punch when he ramps things up, and makes the track all the more distinct and dramatic.