THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2012-PART 4.

THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2012-PART 4.

So, we get to the fourth and final installment of The Best New Albums of 2012. These five albums cover the three months period between October and December 2012. Like the first three installments, there’s an eclectic selection of albums. Here’s my final five of 2012.

BIG BOY BLOATER AND THE LIMITS-THE WORLD EXPLAINED.

Some blues singers are just born to sing the blues. It’s almost as they’re predestined to follow in the well trodden path of bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. There’s something about their world weary voices, the experiences they share, and their storytelling skills. With their weary voices, tinged with sadness and regret and hurt and pain in equal measure. One modern bluesman who has all that and much more is Big Boy Bloater. His voice has a world weary, whiskey and cigarettes soaked, lived in sound. Too many late nights and disappointments have colored this veteran of modern blues scene voice, giving it the sound that people have flocked to see for over twenty years. Soon, Big Boy Bloater and The Limits released their second album The World Explained in October 2012. This is the followup to 2011s Big Boy Bloater and The Limits. Now Big Boy Bloater and The Limits are back, with  The World Explained. It’s an exploration of “life, love and loss.” These song are a very personal exploration of relationships and ambition along with hopes and dreams. 

Quite simply Big Boy Bloater and The Limits’ The World Explained  was the best blues album of 2012. No ifs, no buts. It’s no wonder Big Boy Bloater is referred to as the elder statesman of the British blues scene. On The World Explained, one great track follows hard on the heels of the previous one. Each track have two things in common, a great story behind the song and the quality of each song. Big Boy Bloater is like a painter on The World Explained. He draws upon a wide and varied palette of musical colors. Using his memories and experiences, Big Boy Bloater has written ten songs with equally strong musical narratives. So vivid are the pictures Big Boy Bloater paints, that you can imagine the pictures unfolding before your eyes. Tales tinged with paranoia, tragicomedy and pathos. You’re introduced to a cast of colorful characters and emotions, including anger and frustration, pain and hurt and sheer joy. This is vintage blues.

Since his previous album, Big Bloater has matured even further as a singer, songwriter and storyteller. Similar, his guitar playing is breathtaking and peerless. You’ll go a long way before you hear a better guitarist than Big Boy Bloater. That’s why he’s so in-demand as a session musician. Hopefully, pretty soon, his days as a session musician will soon be over. Instead. he’ll be touring the world wooing audiences with his own unique brand of blues and swamp soul, like you’ll find on The World Explained, which is the best blues album of 2012, by far.

BIG BOY BLOATER AND THE LIMITS-THE WORLD EXPLAINED.

DJ VADIM-DON’T BE SCARED.

Often, the word innovator is used too often, but in the case of Saint Petersburg born DJ Vadim, innovator is a fitting description of this veteran DJ and producer. Over the past twenty years, DJ Vadim has DJ-ed in sixty-nine countries, played over 2,500 times and still found time to found his own record label and record nine solo albums. That number rose to ten, when DJ Vadim releases Don’t Be Scared on BBE Music, in October 2012. 

This is DJ Vadim’s fourth release for BBE Music, following 2009s U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. Like U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun, Don’t Be Scared is a fusion of styles, influences and ideas, with DJ Vadim constantly pushing the musical boundaries and reinventing his music. One thing DJ Vadim will never be accused of, is being predictable. While other artists have a “sound” and “style,” not DJ Vadim. His only rule is there are no rules. Everything and anything is possible. Although he describes his music as hip hop, DJ Vadim adds to his musical melting pot elements of electronica, funk, reggae, soul, trip hop, Afro Beat and boogie. So when you drop the needle on a DJ Vadim album, you’re about to embark on a roller-coaster journey where he reveals the contents of his musical melting pot. That’s why DJ Vadim is an innovator and why he was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002, and is known as the John Coltrane of hip hop. With this unrivaled music pedigree, DJ Vadim’s Don’t Be Scared was a roller coaster journey across genres.

Don’t Be Scared didn’t disappoint. It’s a roller-coaster musical adventure, where DJ Vadim, forever the innovator, and forever reinventing his music, constantly crosses and combines musical genres. There’s everything from Acid House, Afro Beat, ambient, drum and bass, dub, hip hop, Latin, reggae, techno and trip hop within the twelve tracks on Don’t Be Scared, which is the proverbial musical melting pot. DJ Vadim takes all these influences and mixes them up, with a little help from his musical collaborators. Each artist plays their part in the sound and success of Don’t Be Scared, adding their own inimitable vocals. When these vocals are combined with DJ Vadim’s innovative, imaginative fusion of musical genres and influences, the result is a hip-hop album for the 21st century. Although DJ Vadim is almost a veteran of modern dance music, yet again, managed to reinvent his music. In the process, DJ Vadim has created another album of cutting-edge, captivating and compelling music. Don’t Be Scared to discover one of the best hip hop albums of 2012.

DJ VADIM-DON’T BE SCARED.

 HOT 8 BRASS BAND-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF.

New Orleans has always been a city with a rich musical heritage, whether it be Dixieland, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, Afro Cuban or the city’s brass bands. Back in New Orleans in 1995, Bennie Pete, Jerome Jones and Harry Cook decided to merge two existing bands into a band steeped in the city’s musical traditions, but with a twist. A merger of the Looney Tunes Brass Band and the High Steppers Brass Band resulted in the Hot 8 Brass Band. During the next eleven years, they’ve continued to fuse the sound of New Orleans brass bands,’ hip hop, funk and jazz, while the lives of the Hot 8 Brass Band were touched by tragedy.

Indeed, tragedy repeatedly revisited the members of the Hot 8 Brass Band. Three members of the Hot 8 Brass Band died violent deaths between 1996 and 2006. During this tragedy and turmoil, the Hot 8 Brass Band decided to independently release their debut album Rock With the Hot 8 in 2005. Sadly, it never found the wider audience it deserved. Instead, with a lack of publicity, and no record label to tell the world about their music, the Hot 8 Brass Band were back where they started. They never gave up though.

Their luck changed in 2007, when they signed to the British label Tru Thoughts. They rereleased their 2005 debut album Rock With the Hot 8. Then in November 2012 the Hot 8 Brass Band’s sophomore album The Life and Times Of.

The Hot 8 Brass Band’s sophomore album The Life and Times Of is a genre-sprawling album, which showcases New Orleans’ rich musical heritage and much more. There’s everything from Dixieland, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, Afro Cuban to the unique sound of New Orleans’ brass bands. Add to that hip hop and Latin music and the result is an album chock full of musical influences and genres. This includes six new songs penned by the Hot 8 Brass Band plus and a skit entitled Skit. Then there are cover versions of Basement Jaxx’s Bingo Bango and The Specials’ Ghost Town, which breath new life into the originals. These nine tracks, are an emotive and often, joyful roller coaster journey through musical genres. During that journey, the Hot 8 Brass Band showcase their considerable skills and musical versatility. It’s also an album that tells the story of The Life and Times Of the Hot 8 Brass Band.

HOT 8 BRASS BAND-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF. 

MIND OVER MIDI-MONOLOG.

Usually, when I review albums they’re released in their thousand.  Not when I reviewed Mind Over Midi’s Monolog, released in November 2012, on the Glasgow-based Diametric label. Only 200 copies of Monolog were released. This is the norm for Diametric. Their releases are limited to 300 copies of an album on CD or lovely vinyl. I’d call Diametric a boutique label, and I admire their philosophy. Diametric are certainly not “dedicated followers of fashion.” Instead, Diametric has a “love and passion for electronic music” and realize that electronic music is an “artform.” Like myself, Diametric state on their website that: “trends and hypes are not of interest.” To me, this is admirable. For too many labels, they look to latch onto musical trends and tastes, like a surfer would catch a wave. In doing so, these labels miss out on so many talented artists, whose music deserves to be heard by a wider audience. This is the case with Mind Over Midi.

Norwegian Helge Tommervag has been immersed in electronic music since the early eighties. His career started as a member of the synth-pop group ToC, before launching a solo career with Mind Over Midi. Among Mind Over Midi’s early releases were 1994s Trancesurfer and 1995s Mindworks. Since then, Helge has continued to develop Mind Over Midi’s unique sound. Ambient and minimalist are just two words that succinctly describe the music Mind Over Midi have continued to release.

Mind Over Midi’s ninth album Monolog sees Helge Tommervag further refine his trademark brand of ambient, minimalist music. He’s been practicing, perfecting and refining this sound for nearly thirty-years. So it’s no wonder he’s one of the most practiced, practitioners of the artform of ambient music. Monolog features thirteen tracks of lo-fi ambient music. They’re guaranteed to change your mood and make you think. Moody, broody and pensive, plus dramatic, melodramatic, melancholy and beautiful are just some of the words that describe Monolog. It’s an album that variously, washes over you, embraces you, and forces you to think, as it paints pictures in your mind’s eye. Monolog is best described as the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to be made. Instead, you supply the pictures, while Mind Over Midi supply the music. 

Given the resurgence in popularity in ambient music, Monolog has been released with perfect timing. Ambient music is back, back in a big way. After falling out of flavor for several years, there’s been a resurgence in interest in ambient music. So, for anyone looking for some laid-back, late-night music, then Mind Over Midi’s Monolog is perfect. Monolog was one of the best ambient releases of 2012. Indeed, Monolog sees Mind Over Midi joining the ranks of European ambient royalty, where they’re surely to stay.

MIND OVER MIDI-MONOLOG.

FANGA AND MAALEM ABDALLAH GUINEA-FANGNAWA EXPERIENCE.

My final choice from my roundup of the best albums from 2012, is what proved to be an exciting and innovative collaboration from between two giants of the African music scene. This was Fanga and Maalem Abdallah Guinea’s Fangnawa Experience which was released in November 2012 by Strut Records. For anyone with even a passing interest in African music, Fanga’s collaboration with Maalem Abdallah Guinea was a tantalizing and mouthwatering prospect. On one hand you’ve the French-Afro eight-piece collective Fanga, who’ve been fusing Afrobeat, Moroccan Gnawa music and funk for fifteen-years and on the other hand, Abdallah Guinea, a  Gnawan maalem. It’s a coming together of musical styles and cultures. Although neither Fange nor Abdallah Guinea speak the same music, they’re united by something that transcends cultures, classes, boundaries and languages..music.

Fangnawa Experience was more than a collaboration between musicians, it was a collaboration between two continents. Fanga are based in France and among the best practitioners of Afrobeat, while Maalem Abdallah Guinea is a Moroccan gnawa master. They were united through music. The result wasn’t just a reworking of six of Fanga’s classic tracks, but a reinvention of them. These six tracks are transformed, with even more emotion, energy, drama and passion injected into them. From the opening bars of Noble Tree, right through to the closing notes of Wouarri, you’re taken on compelling, uplifting and joyous musical journey. Musical influences and genres melt into one. Everything from Afrobeat, gnawa music, funk, soul, jazz and psychedelic influences merge into one. It’s a glorious and totally irresistible fusion of styles and influences. With its unique and hypnotic sound, resistance to Fangnawa Experience is impossible. Best just to succumb to Fangnawa Experience’s rhythmic and percussive delights and enjoy this majestic musical journey through musical genres.

FANGA AND MAALEM ABDALLAH GUINEA-FANGNAWA EXPERIENCE.

Choosing my best albums of 2012 wasn’t easy. There was so much great music released during the year. Interestingly, nearly every album on my list was released by independent labels. It’s these independent labels, including BBE Music, Strut Records, Offering Recordings that are looking hardest for new and talented artists. These labels spend their time scouting the world for talented artists. They’ve succeeded in doing so. Indeed the labels I’ve mentioned during this four part review of 2012s new releases, deserved credit for unearthing so many talented artists. Another thing that’s interesting is how music is delivered and consumed.

During the last year, I’ve come across albums that were made available as free downloads by labels, seen artists release albums independently and come across albums released in small, limited runs. This shows how labels and artists are constantly seeking to reinvent themselves and keep up with an industry that’s constantly evolving. One thing that hasn’t changed is just how eclectic music has become.

It seems every month, new musical scenes and genres are taking shape. Every month music changes, with different styles of music becoming popular and fashionable. Innovative, brave and bold music is released. This is real music, not the commercial pap of so called television talent shows. These shows are reminiscent of the musical wild west, with everyone out to make a quick killing. As The O’Jays sang watch out for “those Backstabbers.” For anyone looking for music that’s meaningful, has depth and will stand the test of time, they’ll need to dig deeper. This involved the real and new music industry, where independent labels are helping to shape and define tastes. That’s where some of the best music is released, including most of The Best New Albums Of 2012. With 2013 just a day away, I’m intrigued to see where music is heading. Let’s enjoy the journey and do this again next year.

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