FAME’s “Listen To This” is where you can keep up to date with what FAME’s committee and members are listening to, as well as read reviews of music new and old. Have a favourite new release you’d like to review? Or a playlist you’re currently grooving to? Submit it to us via http://bit.ly/FAMEContent – we’d love to hear you’re listening to!
The Potency of Horror: clipping. ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ (2019)
By Jacob G Warren
Experimental hip hop group clipping’s 2019 album ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ is a powerful example of the potential of the genre of horror for deep social commentary on race relations and violence.
clipping. began as an experimental project that remixed hip hop into noise music, but quickly the group began composing original music that saw rapper Daveed Diggs adding his unique style over the syncopated, sample-based score. Unmoored from adherence to a backing melody Diggs exercises his song-writing freedom liberally, weaving detail-rich narratives with highly descriptive verse effective at conjuring visual imagery.
As the musical shadow of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ revels in the tropes and history of horror cinema, from Michael Meyer’s musical theme in Halloween (1987), to cheesy one liners used to break cinematic tension (the refrain of ‘oh he dead’). The album opens with Diggs rapping on what sounds like a radio, rather than being crisp and the focus of our ear we can also catch the ambient sounds of the night, as well as another more mysterious sound we can’t quite make out. We soon realise it is the sound of a shovel digging and begin constructing the scene of a gravedigger listening to the radio, or worse, a killer burying a body.
As well as recalling the ambience and scores of horror movies with rich organs and synths, crackling filters and background noise, the narratives told in each song of ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ squarely face the legacy of blaxploitation cinema (such as Blacula (1972) or Tales from the Hood (1995)). Rather than the campy aesthetic of these earlier films however, clipping. embraces a much darker, and more bloody mood. This is emphasised through Diggs’ evocative and visceral vocabulary with strong sense-association (‘sewage’, ‘vomit’).
Since the killing of George Floyd (but also well before through blaxploitation) horror has resurfaced as a potent genre for laying bare racist violence and systemic injustice. Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us (2019), Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s debut Antebellum (2020) and Remi Weekes’ His House (2020) all take our collective familiarity with horror as a genre to open up powerful metaphors of oppression and trauma. What new meaning might the familiar and undoubtedly shocking image of the bloodied protagonist running from a crazed chainsaw-wielding cannibal (Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)) have in the context of black bodies pursued by police?
‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ earns its place among the best in this broader filmic recourse to horror as a metaphorical and political genre for telling stories of racism. The bloody lyrical vignettes and at times abrasive noise serve as well as any jump scare to shock and disquiet us, opening up the realities of contemporary black life in the US through a touch of magical-thinking and metaphor. Common among all the songs on the album is the theme of being pursued, of running for your life, of survival (‘stay alive at all costs’) that is familiar from horror: someone’s always running or trying to stay alive. The nuance of the references, the audio aesthetic and lyrical pacing evidence a clear understanding of how horror movies operate in their combination of imagery and sound (such as the much maligned ‘sting’, that giant abrasive sound that accompanies jump scares). This technical mastery of the audio tropes of horror storytelling come from the group’s beat-makers, composers Jonathan Snipes—who has scored a number of indie horror films (Starry Eyes (2014)) and documentaries (The Nightmare (2015))—and William Huston—who has likewise scored horror and thriller projects including Room 237 (2012). The cinematic styling is also enhanced by Diggs, perhaps best known for his role as Thomas Jefferson in the hit musical Hamilton along with roles in the tv show Snowpiercer and cult satire Velvet Buzzsaw (2019).
In the history of hip hop this is nothing new. Horrorcore has been around since the 1990s, most notably in the Memphis horrorcore scene (classics include Pyscho’s ‘The Return of Pyscho’ (1995) and the work of Tommy Wright III), and the early releases of Odd Future Wolfgang and Lil’ Ugly Mane (‘Mista Thug Isolation’) in the 2010s. What characterises horrorcore is bloodthirsty content that deals with the realities of gang and police violence, murder and drug abuse. In the UK a recent example can be found in the work of rapper slowthai, whose music videos directly reference the history of horror cinema (‘Cancelled’, ‘Inglorious’ and ‘Drug Dealer’ to name but a few). Clipping’s ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ extends this genre through the importation of horror’s audio tropes (in addition to visual identity and themes) which makes this album something special.
For fans of hip hop, experimental music, electronic music, metaphors, horror movies.
After hours – the weeknd
By Leah Alysandratoas
After an incredible reign in the R’n’B realm, The Weeknd has returned to the top of the charts again with After Hours, an album perfectly symbolic of its name. The beautiful choral elements elevate his new sonic direction to one with a slower and more reflective balance. This, coupled with the driving and more desperate pieces, create a selection of songs that make you want to cry, scream and evaluate life all at once.
Yeah, this sounds a bit confronting, but I think we can all agree that there is no better vibe than the one that makes you feel, rather than a shallow listening experience. The emotion unveiled with just his vocals, such as in In Your Eyes, is truly indicative of how powerful this album is.When he teased us with Heartless and Blinding Lights prior to the album’s release, we knew that we were in for a treat with ‘80s, hip hop and Las Vegas vibes coming our way. Transport your senses while you’re stuck at home this weeknd (sorry not sorry for the pun) and let The Weeknd whisk you away to the blue lights, echoes, and a little bit of darkness. After all, there is no better time to pause and reflect over the crazy parts of life if it isn’t now.
Nu Guinea – Nuova Napoli (2018)
By Art Pitchford
Ever catch yourself thinking that you need more funk in your life? Nu Guinea’s Nuova Napoli might be the answer for you. Taking influence from their hometown of Napoli, mashed with 70s and 80s disco and jazz funk Nuova Napoli makes for an excellent soundtrack for your house-based evenings and is best paired with good company and a vino in hand.
Sugar Candy Mountain – 666 (2016)
By Art Pitchford
Despite the title of the album being the number of the beast, 666 holds very little relevance to the devil. Reminiscent of Tame Impala’s earlier albums (Innerspeaker era), this is a great collection of spaced out poppy psych-rock and makes for solid Sunday morning listening at home with your nearest and dearest.
Is This Dystopia?
By Art Pitchford
King Krule – Man Alive! (2020): King Krule is the one man project of 26 year old Briton Archy Marshall. Marshall’s most recent entry is a strong follow up to his already highly regarded discography thus far. Man Alive! falls under the umbrella of post-rock / post-punk, with moody instrumentals and agony filled lyrics this album is perfect to soundtrack your entry into dystopia.
Image Credit: Album Cover for Man Alive! by Matador Records True Panther Sounds from Pitchfork
The National – Trouble Will Find Me (2013): A recent indie-rock classic, the Trouble Will Find Me is an album filled with despair from The National. Songs like ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ provide a strong sense of catharsis. If you haven’t come across The National before, there isn’t a better time than now to listen.
Image CreditL Album Cover for Trouble Will Find Me by 4AD from Pitchfork
THIS IS HOW YOU DUA IT
By Emily Tang and Eric Sofianopoulos (Third Year JD)(2020)
Let’s throwback to better times. The year is 2017. You turn on the radio. New Rules is playing on every station – the song of the summer. This is Dua Lipa, and this is her big break in the mainstream pop arena. Even before hitting the global pop market with New Rules, Dua Lipa was making waves in the UK pop scene with bangers like Blow Your Mind and Scared To Be Lonely (a song that reaches new levels of poignancy in these quarantine days).
Dua Lipa has recently dropped her new album Future Nostalgia. Here are some of our thoughts.
Verified Funky Fresh Tunes (if you are short on time and wanna smash out a listen of the real standouts):
- Love Again
- Don’t Start Now
- Break My Heart
Em: I think this is a very very solid album. It brings to the table a cohesive sound and is extremely well produced. On the whole it draws on past disco themes but still puts a pop/modern spin to it – it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for a funky bass line and she leans heavily into that. I would say my main critique is that there are some songs that I think sound like kind of generic pop songs that don’t have a funky enough melody or meaning to get my gears going. I do think it’s a shame there aren’t any ballads or slow songs but I think she is intentionally leaning into the party pop vibe for this album so I can’t blame her for having a cohesive groove.
Eric: Overall I enjoyed listening to this album. I’m a huge fan of the revival of the 90s/00s pop sound (Shoutout Rina Sawayama) and I think Future Nostalgia taps into that with (mostly) great results. While I wish the album featured more performances from Dua that made use of her lower vocal range, the album has this fantastic groove that pervades through the majority of the tracklist and really helps Dua cement her own sound, something I think she struggled with in the past. That being said, I think that the production was a bit excessive at times (most notably on the chorus to Cool which I think could have benefitted from being a bit more simple), and I really wish that Dua had showcased her lower, more distinctive, vocal range a bit more throughout, as there were a few points on the album where I found her vocal performance fairly generic.
Em: I totally back Eric’s point about wishing she showcased her lower range more. As much as I love the airy Aris of the world, I think the pop game is oversaturated with high notes and runs and falsettos. Not to say it’s impossible to do the upper range well, but in my opinion Dua Lipa’s main strength is her ability to hit low notes with attitude and own it.
Em’s Track-by-Track Review (feat. Eric)
1. Future Nostalgia: Released as the lead single and was also the album title. It wasn’t my fave song tune-wise but I respect it for setting the tone of breaking into the scene and establishing the overall mood.
2. Don’t Start Now: DID A FULL 180 nah I didn’t I already loved it from the beginning but it’s somehow grown on me even more. This was released in November and it’s been on my “on repeat” ever since so that probably says enough. I love a funky bass and a SINGLE INDEPENDENT WOMAN song.
3. Cool: I don’t vibe this too much actually. Maybe my least favourite from this album. The chorus doesn’t catch me and I think it’s very similar thematically to other songs on the album like Pretty Please so to me it doesn’t do anything more.
4. Physical: An atmospheric moody vibe. Gets you moving and that’s really all you need when it’s got the title it does. In my opinion from Levitating onwards the album picks up again from the dip it ventured into with a few hiccups here and there (see below for a helpful visual). Eric reckons that after Break My Heart the standard drops but hey different horses for different courses.
5. Levitating: Has a real fun bass line so that’s something that I dig. I like the chorus on the whole, but the “sugar boo” bit in the pre-chorus doesn’t do it for me – it kind of sticks out in the listening experience and it’s a bit jarring. But I like the different intonation in the verses she’s going for and I think overall it’s a fun tune.
6. Pretty Please: Another funky bass line! It has one of the more saucier sounds which I like for the variety, like it’s not all straight up upbeat pop. I can tell it’s going to be a grower when I listen to the song more.
7. Hallucinate: A TUNE. Catchy melody, funky bass line, solid drums, amazing production. The sort of song that is going to get you moving. A JAM. Up there on my list of faves. Eric: This song and the two that follow are really where the album hits its stride for me. Fun, groovy pop that knows exactly what it is and does it well. Going to be very hard to find a better three track run on any other pop release this year.
8. Love Again: Another banger, and mostly because I am a sucker for some mild orchestral violins. I think Dua Lipa’s lower range gets my gears going (probs why I don’t vibe with Cool as much now that I think about it) so it’s one of my faves. This is probably my favourite on this album.
9. Good In Bed: REAL SAUCY. I respect how she doesn’t mince any words in this song. The chorus gets a little repetitive so I think if I put it on repeat I might get sick of it. But I like it for a little bit of a fun upbeat tune with the piano chords in the background. And her verses are pretty fun here. Eric: Lyrically fantastic but I really can’t get behind the pretty uninspired and cliched instrumentation, particularly right after the fantastic Break My Heart.
10. Boys Will be Boys: HERE WE GO THIS HIGHKEY FEMINISM IS A VIBE. It’s the song that is the most meaningful on the album in terms of social commentary and I love that she snuck it in there on what is otherwise already a solid pop album about love/sex. To me this adds a little bit of spice/extra something that puts it above just a standard pop album. I will say that I mostly enjoy this song for being a product of the times but I don’t think it’d be a winner on sound alone.
Eric: “Boys will be boys but girls will be women” is an absolutely amazing line and I love the message this song is trying to convey, but I don’t think that this track works well as an album closer. As Em says, Dua doesn’t really touch on social issues much throughout the album until this final track, making me feel like it was shoehorned in, and perhaps that it would have been better suited as a stand-alone track released after the album dropped.
FAME’S ULTIMATE STUDY PLAYLIST
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