Rhyme Selektah – Criminus

Projecting a dark atmosphere, the new rap track of Rhyme Selektah manages to actually make you feel the desperation and drive beyond the music.

I admit it, I’m not really a pro in the rap genre. Heck, I’m not even a novice. But as always, we’re at kms are not about analyzing on a genre specific level. We’re all about feeling and the wow-element of music. And the new track “Criminus” from the crew of Rhyme Selektah, Arnold William and Tech Masta Dee has got both feeling and the wow effect, and it’s not just a bit, it’s a truckload.
The music base does sound familiar to other genre-typical tracks, but there’s something special added, something dark. Feels like watching a batman movie. Icing on the cake is the vocals which transmit a signature element with this nothing-to-lose-attitude. This guy either is the best actor in the scene, or he is living the music style exactly the way he raps, therefore having full credibility all along.
Mixing work of the track is great, the vocals are not fighting with the synth lines, and the beat has enough room to ‘smack’ your speakers (or your headphones, which are mandatory if you want to do yourself a favor, folks). What also caught my attention while going through the online resources of Rhyme Selektah is the video that comes along with the track. Filmed in various dark locations, the video even takes that desperate atmosphere to a higher level. While watching, you don’t know if you better prepare to fight or better run for your life. The pictures support the overall theme of the music perfectly.

Rhyme Selektah released a mixtape called “The Bottom: Take Off” a month ago. This is a showcase of what those guys are capable of. Always delivering, they are bringing a portion of “watch out!” straight to your mind. Even if you’re not into that genre, I recommend giving those tracks a listen. You’ll be surprised how they manage to make you nod your head before you even realize it.

Cry Boy Cry – My Heart Is So Heavy

Melancholic tunes for the perfect ending of a seemingly endless day. The new track “My Heart Is So Heavy” has got an uplifting feel while on the same time drags you down. Until now, I don’t know how they did that, but I think it’s awesome.

I guess it’s a combination of several elements. I’d put the new track of german based Cry Boy Cry, who worked together with vocalist Hannes Neunhöffer of the german indie band “A Tale Of Golden Keys” for this track, somewhere in the future pop genre. Lightweight, with a groovy laid back beat and a soft defensive synth base, this track has sort of a uplifting feel attached to it. Well… if only the topic wouldn’t be that melancholic. So, this makes you move your head while at the same time thinking about opening another bottle of wine while reflecting on your relationship issues. Funny thing is that “My Heart Is So Heavy” had my brain forming pictures in my head which are very similar to those in the music video – and that was even BEFORE I saw the music video that comes along with the song. The whole video was done with a very close attachment to the overall theme and great sense of detail. With those grainy effects applied on several shots (I like to call those “family vacation” effects, having a look at the video clip those of you having a life before everything was shot in HD will know why), there’s a huge amount of authenticity transmitted with the music and pictures. Peter Hoppe and Bernd Batke, the core members of Cry Boy Cry, took their musical ideas and feelings and then put a vocalist on top who is perfect for this tune. Neunhöffer adds emotion and fragility to all that, which left me stunned sometimes, wondering if it’s just his outstanding vocal range or if he willingly can add this perfect amount of defenselessness.

Being released with several remixes, this track will keep you interested for more than just three minutes. The concept of Cry Boy Cry is to work with different artists along the way, and this opens up a huge variety in the future releases of the group. I’m eager to hear what’s next.

Kiara Nelson – Bulletproof

This track is a transmitter for a huge load of confidence. Thoughtful arranged, the new tune of beautiful Kiara Nelson makes you lift your head when feeling down.

Backed by defensive synths, all eyes (or better: ears) are on Nelson who gives “Bulletproof” the needed amount of confidence and drive with her voice. There are several great vocal one-shots used to emphasize on several parts. Since this is done carefully, it helps the song create that special exciting atmosphere. I love those transistions when the chorus hits; you are delivered what I like to call “wake-up-call effect”, it’s when everything sets in and the vocals are getting even stronger than they already are. Feels like changing the room, opening the door to another setting.
To name a negative aspect, there was one very stabby high eq synth melody used for a break melody, this particlar synth sounds very harsh and distorted. In my opinion this stabbing melody doesn’t really connect with the rest of the elements/tracks, but that’s just my personal feeling about it. Some would probably say it’s a nice counterpart for the soft yet confident voice of Nelson. That’s rather a matter of personal taste than a negative aspect, right.

The 18 year-old Finnish-Swedish-American (if that’s not an interesting heritage, then what is?) singer just started her career, but it clearly shows she’s serious about making a name for herself out there. The tracks she released by now are rock solid, and the vocals fit perfectly with the music. I wonder how Nelson would sound when singing cross-genre like piano-soul or something. For now she masters the art of electro pop like it was the easiest thing to do.

HyperGear – Buzz

Music is a thing of beauty. Making expressions available through music is awesome. And preserving that certain raw feeling to your sound is what makes the new track of Milan based HyperGear outstanding.

The synth rock trio states that “Hypergear stands for the overwhelming and unstoppable development of techonology, way too fast for the human being to handle it” which is one of the points of chosing their band name a couple of years ago. Taking a closer look at tracks like today’s pick “Buzz”, but also on faster paced tracks like “I Am The Dead“, I’m feeling their intention. The distorted guitars alongside sometimes desperate sung vocals, and with added piano tracks and kind of outer-space synth effects, they are using electro elements with handmade analogue instruments, making the human/electro struggle feelable.
The mix of “Buzz” isn’t that great, but that is not intended anyway, I think. The raw cut and somewhat harsh recording underlines the seriousness and authenticity of the band’s sound. I guess having a clean mix without the multi-mic recording of the drums for instance would have taken away a ton of credibility of the track. I know, nowadays everybody is expecting a super clean compressed mix with the lastest plugins and brick wall limiting, but listen closely to this arrangement, guys. This mixing work alongside an very unconventional approach to the audience (for example, it stated “don’t listen to this band. you’ve been warned!” in the email sent to us) helps building a specific signature sound and unique look-and-feel. I wonder what those guys do live on stage to keep being unique.

To add things up, although the alternative rock sound of HyperGear might not fit in everybody’s music taste, it’s handmade, it’s unique, and done with passion and the courage to step outta line once in a while, be it with raw mixes, not very harmonic harmonies or sometimes even crazy chiptune ideas or something. Make sure to check out those other tracks available on Soundcloud, you’ll get my point very quickly.

Noréll – Damage Done

Today’s pick is a lightweight scandi-pop tune which makes you groove, smile and maybe even look at everything in a different way.

What attracted me the most with this track were those female vocals you won’t hear everyday. The danish trio Viktor Hagner, Marìe Louise Persson Bjarnarson and Nichlas Malling, better known as Noréll, took a pop based idea with a defensive and clean synth line and also clear bass synth layers, and they layered those awesome crisp, slightly high pitched vocals on top of it. This alone makes you lift your head or raise an eyebrow. See what just happened? You got curious. That’s creating signature sound 101, folks. Inventing something no one else comes up with is already half of the bargain to be successful out there. Also, the official video coming along with this track is dance oriented, and although this isn’t really my cup of tea, so to speak, it is sticking to my head since I saw it yesterday. See? That’s creativity at it’s best.
The mix of the track is solid. The vocals are placed front and center, and all additional effect layers and one-shots are not disturbing the flow or anything. The created room reverb (put on headphones, guys) is chosen with great sense of detail, one bit less, it would have come out flat, too much, and you got a too big cave effect. This track is something to make you move, although it’s more of a groove feeling than a dance feeling, at least for me. Base theme is happy, I almost was reminded of some japanese pop I heard recently, but without the hectic drive attached to it.

Overall, I found myself listening to this track on repeat, constantly moving my head from left to right. Noréll brings their signature sound to the table, and the lightweight track “Damage Done” is a multi-purpose track no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Take your time to check out their other works on Soundcloud or Spotify as well, it’s really worth it. Attention, competition out there: those guys are a force to be reckoned with in the pop genre.

Hugh Macdonald – On My Way

This is a song for those moments when it seems hard to even lift your head. Filled with feeling and emotion, “On My Way” eases your mind.

Boston based singer/songwriter Hugh Macdonald did an outstanding job with this track from an EP released in November. He chose to just add a guitar to his vocals, and a couple of reverb effects. And believe me folks, this doesn’t make the task easier for the singer.
But hearing him sing, you realize that he’s not playing a role behind the microphone. He’s living what he’s doing there. What you get from Macdonald is genuine, and even if you’re not listening to the lyrics, the song and melody themselves transmit emotions. I don’t quite get why he decided to leave the intro and outro part unedited (in my opinion, this takes away something from the songs’ feeling), but besides that, the listener’s treated with a soulful track that is leaving you without knowing if to stay down or get up, so to speak. It’s rare when you’re getting hit by a glimpse of what the songwriter wants to tell you on an emotional level. “On My Way” manages to do so. The minimal setting (being backed only by a guitar) supports the feel of the song, if there would have been a full band added, it probably would have killed the intention of the song.

Hugh Macdonald released his solo EP called “MÅNGATA“, but he also has worked on a project with Olivia Barton called “Think of England” where he shows that whatever the setting might be, he just blends in just great with his style and vocal range from “soft” to “you haven’t heard anything yet”. I recommend to check out those available tracks on Soundcloud and Spotify to get what Hugh Macdonald is all about.

The City – Stronger

I guess the main words that describe best what Amoria & Jok’a’Face aka “The City” created here is “uplifting”. And “innovative”. And “surprising”.

The duo from Paris is going from “minimalistic” to “full range” with their new track “Stronger”. What starts with a carefully distorted synth and soft vocals builds quickly into a full-range bigbeat track. While picking up drive and speed on the way to their lift-off, the track all of a sudden breaks into a quite minimalistic but effective beat segment. I have to say I didn’t hear such a transition in a long time – and I’m loving it. The french producers experiment with less-is-more variations, easily merging them into more melodic parts which are supported by those nice female vocals. And boy, this isn’t easy at all. In fact, there are more ways to screw up such a track construct than there are to succeed with it. In this case, they did it like it was the easiest thing to do.
And bam – all of a sudden there’s this drum/percussion set, mixed up with several vocal chops which serve the male vocals perfectly. As if they would underline the difference between those soft female vocals and crisp male vocal parts.
Once again, this song isn’t that easy to categorize… sure there are pop elements used, but there’s something new added. This bouncy feeling alongside the main parts. How about naming it the “bounce pop” category for now? (Okay, not good, I get it. But hey, it’s late already.) You get the point, mixing up vocals with those electronic elements plus adding this unique percussion makes this track really grooveable. “Stronger” by all means isn’t the usual everyday 120 bpm track you forget as soon as you heard it.

Listening to some of the other tracks of The City, I realized that these unique synth lines alongside huge drum/percussion settings is what’s recognized as their signature sound. It’s even getting somewhat 8bit-style sometimes, but always topped with those great vocals. I don’t see anything stopping Amoria & Jok’a’Face of getting their music on floors out there.

Blonde Maze – Antarctica

Today I was abducted. I found myself in the world of Amanda Steckler aka Blonde Maze. Too bad it only lasted 3:50 minutes. But at least I got a glimpse of the landscape of Antarctica.

I guess this is the soundtrack of snowflakes falling to the ground. The newest track of New York based Blonde Maze has got an unbelievable soft feeling attached to it. Using several soft synths, a very defensive slow beat and marimba/mallet like sounds, the track offers the whole setting for the ultra-soft voice of Steckler who manages to complete the track with those reverbed vocals.
This track doesn’t necessarily want to make you move, and it’s not really a floorfiller anthem, but that wasn’t the intention anyway. It’s relaxing to listen to the melodies, nothing harsh happens, no stabbing effects are added. This track delivers that certain kind of flow to groove to. I especially like those vocal chops that were used as a synth addition. They’re not overly used, so they add up perfectly to the whole mix.

Clicking through several other tracks of the solo project known as Blonde Maze, I found a similar base to many of Stecklers tracks. Her signature sound is that soft, dreamly arrangement of layered synths and her angel-like voice. But in almost every track you stumble upon that little surprise she build in – unusual percussion, vocal chops with a load of effects added to them, backward played samples, you name it. This beautiful producer creates relaxing soothing music which never turns out boring. Sounds like the recipe to sell copies out there! I’m curious what’s next in her bag of electro tricks.

Reyna – Kill Me

Although the title of the song doesn’t point to this, I think the new song from Wisconsin based band Reyna is a lightweight, lean alternative pop track to enjoy. As if they wanted to tell you “hey, it’s not that bad, right?”

The two sisters Hannah and Victoriah aka Reyna did a great job in delivering feelings there. I really love the fact that you don’t even need to understand the lyrics to get the drift of melancholy which leads to somewhere you don’t know yet. Call it whatever you want, end of the tunnel, light after dark, turning point – these women managed to deliver this feeling through their music. And they made it sound like it was easy to do.
Beautifully produced, the track invites you for more with a held back defensive synth line and a vocal track which is reverbed in an outstanding manner. Backed by a pop beat/percussion, the song evolves into an uplifting tune that sticks to your brain instantly. The vocals are sung with the right amount of fragility, yet there’s always that constant feeling of power behind the whole song setting. Most of the things fall perfectly in line with this song. To name a negative aspect, I get the impression that sometimes the percussion is “flooding” the vocals, fighting over dominance for a second or two with the vocals – but then again, that could also be my studio monitors. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with the final mix over headphones or proper speakers.

Watch out, world. Here you have two musicians that proved with one single song that they exactly know how to make you feel the music, not just how to listen to it. When talking to a coworker here at kms about that song, she said something like “boy, that tune really makes me sad.” while I had that above mentioned “hey, after the rain there’s sunshine again” feeling. See? Those girls even managed to split feelings with “Kill Me”. That certain friction of feelings is quite rare these days, and I can’t wait for Reyna to unload more of it with new songs.

Junior Empire – Danger

There are many elements of past and present within the newest track of Junior Empire. I don’t really know if I should call it “retro” or “progressive”. Maybe I should go with “retressive” as a genre.

A calm and steady synth line in addition with a basic disco beat builds the foundation of a solid almost-disco track which has those classic dancefloor elements in it. But the guys of Junior Empire weren’t finished with that concept at all, they added a slight distorted vocal track to the mix which fits perfectly into the whole mix. Although the vocals are mixed quite flat within the high eq band, this is the “secret ingredient” which adds that signature sound to “Danger”, the newest track of London based Junior Empire.
Being backed with several higher octave vocals during the chorus – some of you will recognize the disco typical style – there’s something additional to find, like that reverbed piano melody or the time-shifted vocals during the break… while the producers knew just where to put the exact amount of effects like reverb or delay, the singer knew how to emphasize on the lyrics.
I like this feeling that comes along “Danger”. It’s like walking through empty streets at 3 am in the morning. (besides, now you know what I’ll be listening to next time I’m walking home in the morning.) The song keeps you going with a slight extra of rush, tiny enough to be felt. If you weren’t moving at all before listening to the track, now you do.

Those five guys of Junior Empire aren’t newbies at the scene. They already released several other tracks which were trending on several platforms. Listening to the other tracks available on their soundcloud account, it comes to mind that the connection between past and present (speaking music-wise) always is there. You’ll often find that very intriguing mix of “hey, I  heard that before” and “wow. I never thought that this would go THAT well together”. With the actual track “Danger” they continue to deliver that solid concept – and as a result, a really smooth… retressive track.