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Friday, November 15, 2013

The High Five: New Songs You Must Hear From Marijuana Deathsquads, Saol Alainn, Kenna, and More

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Marijuana Deathsquads
  • Marijuana Deathsquads

This week's tracks feel like jigsaw puzzles, each offering only glimpses of itself at first. A little patience goes a long way, though. Weather the scattered instrumentation and stuttering silences, and you'll begin to see several beautiful pictures emerge.

Marijuana Deathsquads -- "Ewok Sadness"

"Ewok Sadness" takes its time to build, bubbling and clicking for more than two minutes. It remains somewhat inert until the halfway point, when it explodes like a batch of fecklessly mixed chemicals. Ryan Olson's wailing vocals recall, in equal parts, the Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler Zivala and a pissed-off cyborg. The orchestration is somewhere along these lines, too: though wrenching and turbulent, it's hyper-precise. Listen once for the sheer, visceral hell of it. Then listen a few more times to dissect the rich stripes of zipping, blipping curio.

Saol Alainn -- "Nostroke"

Despite his assertion, repeated hauntingly, that he doesn't "want to have a stroke," Saol Alainn seems intent on giving us one with this stunning, utterly peculiar track. A symphony of elastic noise, "NoStroke" is somehow robotic and heartfelt all at once; at times, the effect is that of listening to a scratched CD of someone giving confessional. It's all we can do to try to keep up with Alainn's steadily murmured statements. And then, before we feel fully informed, it's over with staccato precision.

Sampha -- "Happens"

Sampha's glottal alto was first thrown into the limelight earlier this year on Drake's "Too Much." It was a stunning track, but he was unjustly limited there: we were only treated to a small slice of his capacities before the beat ground in and Drake began to share his woes with croaky precision. "Happens," in light of this, feels like a relief. It is spare and direct in a way that makes it feel almost naked. Finally, we are given access to Sampha's milky, un-warped voice, and it is a startling thing to marvel at.

Kenna Ft. Childish Gambino -- "Relations"

So clear is Kenna's debt to David Byrne here that Childish Gambino's verse feels a bit jarring -- as if it were plucked from the future and plugged into a much older song. And yet, against all odds, everything seems to click into place. The whirligig synths, the space funk beat, the pattering cadence of Gambino's voice, which ricochets like a well-hurled bouncy ball. Nowhere else but here can there be room for references to David Byrne, the "Nutty Professor Grandma," and Tim Tebow. God bless America.

King Avriel -- "Prelude"

There's no reason that male hip-hop artists should lay exclusive claim to the doomy, icy pleasures that the last few years have wrought on the genre. All the numbness and sadness that that artists like The Weeknd have been shaping into icicle points is present here, but with a subversive twist: a couple of gently teased Beyoncé hooks unravel into a story of abuse and neglect.

-- @ByardDuncan

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