How Can I // 박 혜진 [Park Hye Jin]

Reviewed: 03/07/2020

Rating: 7 // 10

Genres: Deep House

Released: 26/06/20, Ninja Tune

박 혜진 Park Hye Jin returns with her second EP, another strong showing of Deep House that is just fun to vibe and chill with.

South Korean artist Park Hye Jin may have taken two years since her debut EP to release her latest project, but there are clear signs of improvement and development from the rapper, producer and musician.

This is a generally cohesive project that starts off with energy thanks to the tracks Like This and Can you. Like This has the soft cascading of a glockenspiel worked into the dreamy landscape of the song, with echoing sound effects creating a dream-like status.

The percussion sweeps us firmly into the stylings of the genre, whilst retaining that spacious and calming vibe.

Can you is similarly spacious in sound and feel, but has a more repetitive vocal to serve as the backbone of the song. It certainly has the most club-hit feel to it, but again there’s that floating feeling to the general sound of the track.

Throughout the switching between Korean and English is done seamlessly and without fuss, with the two languages effectively used as tools, catered to the music.

The titular track adds a more rigid hip-hop-esque beat to another roomy instrumental, with the lyrics delivered in a drone-like state.

NO completely diverts from the cohesive sound the opening trio of tracks fostered, with layers of different percussion at the start. The genre of house is hidden behind the layers of repetition, which dominate even after the softly-spoken vocals kick in almost a quarter of the way through the song.

It borders on monotonous, but the subtle changes throughout keep it just fresh enough.

How Come incorporates some of those similar percussion instruments, slowly layering them and upping the tempo in a more directed effort.

The closing track Beautiful has a slight elevator-music vibe to it, with washed-out vocals and gentle, calming instruments starting off in the background.

Towards the end of the project I kinda get the impression of ideas being stretched beyond their natural conclusion, but overall I haven’t got any major complaints of it being drawn out too long. The back half of the EP does rely on the instrumentals far more than the opening three tracks, and whilst I would have liked to have heard more vocals or samples, it comes with the territory of the genre.

Overall well worth 20 minutes of your time.

Track Listing

  • Like This (B+)
  • Can You (B)
  • How Can I (B+)
  • NO (B+)
  • How Come (B)
  • Beautiful (C+)

Flight Tower // Dirty Projectors

Reviewed: 03/07/2020

Rating: 0.6 // 10

Genres: Art-Pop, Alt. R&B

Released: 25/06/20, Domino

Dirty Projectors continue their 5 EP project with a simple selection of songs closer to their roots, which don’t exactly command the same respect of their earlier work.

Coming in at just 10 minutes, this EP is over in a flash – and whilst I enjoyed my time within the sonic world created, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to replay it over and over.

With the advantage of shorter, simpler songs, this entire tracklist has a united feeling to it, but this is also the detriment to the overall sound of the project, as ideas seemingly become repeated.

The opening tracks Inner World and Lose Your Love are the biggest victims of the homogenous styles, with a samey idiophone-sounding instrument linking the songs together.

However they are by no means bad songs, just very similar. There a subtle differences – Inner World carries over aspects of folk from the first EP of the year, but overall these songs could have been merged into one – and with the passing of time, do become one when I try and recall aspects of them.

Self Design does switch things up again, and is for me the standout moment of the project. However, the lyrics are safe and forgettable, a hallmark of the project. The vocals are lovely and fit in well, but I can’t recall any interesting words or phrases.

On the closing track Empty Vessel the sound is stripped back even further, with slight elements of glitch-pop in the manipulation of the multiple vocal layers. However, it does come across as a half-hearted attempt. However, just like the similarities between the first two tracks, there are elements here that link it closely to Self Design.

It seems to be that there are two pairs of connected songs that don’t link up as a quartet.

Overall there are ideas here that I wish were explored further, even within the boundaries of an EP of 20 minutes rather than 10. With the change in direction from their first EP of the year, I don’t think we’ll get a further glimpse into this sound of any other EP.

Track Listing

  • Inner World (B)
  • Lose Your Love (B)
  • Self Design (B+)
  • Empty Vessel (B-)

6pc Hot EP // 6LACK

Reviewed: 03/07/2020

Rating: 5.5 // 10

Genres: Alt. R&B, Pop-Rap, Trap Rap

Released: 26/06/20, Interscope

6LACK gives us a weak offering consisting of dropped tracks and leaks, highlighting a trend towards trap-rap from one of Alternative R&B’s rising stars.

To pretend 6LACK hasn’t dabbled with the sound of trap before would be denying history – a brief glance down the feature list of East Atlanta Love Letter from 2018 tells us otherwise by sight alone. Future, Offset, and even J Cole, all established in the sound.

But there were enough attempts and ideas to keep the sound at bay, and avoid it overwhelming everything else on the tracklist.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for 6pc Hot. The opening track of ATL Freestyle, a song we already had heard before, leans more towards R&B than strictly hip-hop, but already we can hear the overuse of autotune and manipulation over the Atlanta native’s vocals.

It sort of ends without an impression, whilst beginning the downward trend of reliance on autotune.

I was relatively intrigued by 6LACK’s last LP, but to me this feels like the weakest aspects of that record has been explored on this EP.

Long Nights is another song that isn’t repulsively awful, just disappointing compared to 6LACK’s admittedly short back catalogue.

It does feed into the general feeling of moody reminiscence, but there aren’t any super interesting lyrical ideas, or indeed any moments at all that really catch me. I’ll give it points for how it flows into Float, which is a slight improvement in itself.

It is the best track on the album by far, but isn’t saying much. It strips back the hi hats and snare pattern and follows more R&B stylings.

The song has a far more interesting concept that is more tightly followed, and the switch up on delivery is interesting.

But we’re straight back into the formula for Know My Rights, which features the albums only guest artist, Lil Baby. I haven’t really got anything to say about this track, it is basic, simple, and over quickly.

Elephant In The Room again occupies that gap of trap influenced R&B, without really breaking the mould. It’s an okay track.

The final track Outside is an interesting take on being separated from a loved one during quarantine. The lyrics are subtle and not on the nose like seemingly every other track written during this timeframe, which I do appreciate.

It sounds the most personal and has the feel of intimacy, and best of all, there isn’t a hi-hat and snare pattern in sight.

Unfortunately this is a downgrade on his previous LP, and if it is a precursor to his third full length project, I have my concerns about the direction of it. However, there is still potential here, and I hope that 6LACK can find some new spark to drive his future music.

Track Listing

  • ATL Freestyle (C)
  • Long Nights (C-)
  • Float (C+)
  • Know My Rights (D+)
  • Elephant In The Room (C)
  • Outside (C)

Wicked City // Jockstrap

Reviewed: 03/07/20

Rating: 7.5 // 10

Genres: Glitch-pop, Art-Pop

Released: 19/06/20, Warp Records

Jockstrap return with their Warp Records debut, another showing of their art and potential in the experimental space.

Yet to release a full length LP, the duo’s second EP has cemented them as up and coming in the musical world’s more experimental and abstract fringes.

Despite only being five tracks long this EP really showcases some interesting concepts and ideas, coupled with crisp production and a big name feature in the name of Injury Reserve.

The opening track Robert is quite chilling in its delivery at the start, matched with a constantly changing background of sounds and instruments. The manipulation over Injury Reserve’s flow adds to the computerised, glitchy soundscape of the track.

This EP traverses multiple genres and sounds, sometimes in one song, a prime example of which is Robert. It is quite unsettling at times, what with its rampant energy changes.

Acid starts off with the luscious strings and vocals of a Neo-soul pop hit, but already there is something off thanks to the production. Not quite as grating and whiplash inducing as the previous track, it does slowly grow in complexity towards the end of the track.

Yellow In Green is similarly more rooted in conventional art-pop, with the soft vocals of lead singer Georgia Ellery over simple piano that slowly becomes more electronic driven as the song progresses.

In fact, apart from a few teasing elements, we don’t truly get the full force of glitch-pop again until halfway through The City, which again starts with that Neo-soul-esque, traditional vocals.

However, that quickly diverts from the piano driven sound to the non-sensical lyrics with sound effects and backing track to match.

City Hell remains firmly in an experimental mindset, with pitched up vocals and similarly wacky lyrics that add to this fever dream-like experience. The song is the longest by far on this – clocking in at five and half minutes, over a quarter of the EP – but it never feels stagnant or dragging beyond its lifespan.

That’s thanks to the constant upheaval of instruments in the background – be it the space opera like organ synths, or the electronic guitar riffs that fade in and out throughout the track.

Whilst I don’t doubt that the inclusion of Injury Reserve was a bid to hype up the band, I’d argue it wasn’t exactly needed as I am genuinely awaiting a full length-project from the London-formed duo.

If you want a quick but different listen, then this is really worth your time.

Track Listing

  • Robert (A)
  • Acid (B+)
  • Yellow In Green (B)
  • The City (A-)
  • City Hell (A)

Polaris // Aitch

Reviewed: 29/05/2020

Rating: 0.7 // 10

Genres: UK Hip-Hop, Grime, Pop-Rap

Released: 29/05/2020, NQ Records

Aitch strengthens his fledging reputation in the game with an EP of no filler, incorporating American and UK styles for a fun project.

Despite no full length album under his belt, Aitch manages to drastically overhaul his sound from last year’s project AitcH20, which boasted dancehall flavoured hits Buss Down and Taste (Make It Shake), leaning towards a more pure hip-hop sound.

That move pays off instantly with the two lead tracks, produced by the prolific Kenny Beats. Whilst Kenny is more known for working with a variety of American rappers, and the projects he has done with UK based artists, such as Slowthai, have leaned more towards trap and American styles, the opening two songs are a nice collision of the two countries’ styles.

Safe To Say starts with a scratchy sample before going straight into a modern grime beat, with sinister strings in the background. Meanwhile, Zombie features some fancy horns and a synth patch to match, separating the two tracks quite well.

On these tracks we hear the first cases of Aitch relying on a repeating chorus, but it isn’t too repetitive at this stage.

Moston sees the same flow from the previous two tracks, highlighting a lack of variety in his delivery. However, there is a nice variety in the beats used, which makes up for the lack of flow changes.

However, that does change on 30, the last released single from the project. Aitch finally noticeably switches his delivery throughout this song, and thanks to the throbbing bass and more traditional beat, this is the most grime heavy track on the album.

Maybe due to how short it is, we also don’t get that reliance on repeating the chorus to fill out the song.

Triggered is also grime based, with a nice rhythm guitar that breaks up the classic grime characteristics. Again, that reliance on the chorus rears it head, but his flow is at its most dynamic on this track.

The second single, Raw, again features a more dynamic Aitch over a grime beat, but after Triggered it kinda sounds like more of the same. I like the voice manipulation to end the song, however, and how it flows into Like Them.

Whilst this is only an EP, and you can’t really expect a coherent theme, Like Them has the most interesting lyrical content. Speaking about how we only competes with himself, the acoustic guitar is also interesting, making it one of the stronger tracks.

Ironically, with fellow grime star AJ Tracey, the trappiest track is left to last, the lead single Rain.

The pair share the track just fine, with a nice level of energy between them and the beat. Whilst the drum pattern sounds more akin to a trap track, the deep piano brings a grime flavour to it. Definitely a radio hit, the stop-start at the end of the track is a nice touch.

Overall, I’d argue this Aitch’s best project to date, with a cohesive sound and interesting beats. Sometimes his songwriting ability is brought into question by repeating choruses into the ground, but this a strong statement of his talent.

Track Listing

  • Safe To Say (B+)
  • Zombie (B+)
  • Moston (B)
  • 30 (B+)
  • Triggered (B+)
  • Raw (B)
  • Like Them (B+)
  • Rain (A-)