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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.





Ghostie - Poltergeist Slim Music Album Reviews

The Baltimore rapper switches between singing, rapping, mumbling until there's almost no difference between the words and the beats.

When I heard the name Poltergeist Slim, I knew it could only belong to one of two types of people: a long-dead cowboy, cursed to ride the range for eternity, or a SoundCloud rapper. In this instance, it references the latter—it’s the evocatively titled new album from Baltimore rapper Ghostie—but it’s easy to imagine some long-lost piece of wax under the same name, recorded by a one-eyed and illiterate ranch hand, forgotten until some lucky soul rescued it from the bottom of a bargain bin and reissued it on 180-gram vinyl.

True to his name, there’s not much information out there about Ghostie beyond his affiliation with the collective Antiworld and the prolific catalog he’s amassed over the past several years. One thing is clear from his SoundCloud—Ghostie is a worker, regularly posting beats available for purchase or lease via the Cash App. With the exception of “Crash,” co-produced by BioQuery, and “Depressed Today,” co-produced by Koobideh, the entirety of Poltergeist Slim is self-produced.

Like any skilled producer-rapper, from Kanye West to DJ Paul, Ghostie seems keenly aware of his strengths and weaknesses as a vocalist, treating his own voice as just another shade in the palette rather than the centerpiece. When he’s rapping, Ghostie’s voice is full-bodied and deep-throated, reminiscent of fellow Internet-bred rappers like Denzel Curry or Night Lovell. When Ghostie sings, as he often does, he comes across much softer, with a monotone edge that betrays Kid Cudi’s influence. For better and worse, Ghostie’s voice bleeds into the instrumentals and eventually blends into his surroundings. His flow is consistent but fluid, sometimes aggressive, always expressive.

What keeps Poltergeist Slim fresh are Ghostie’s fickle stylistic allegiances. Ghostie switches modes frequently, sometimes in the space of a single song. “Pay For It All” opens with abstract wailing until a crunchy and compressed drum 'n' bass beat drops and Ghostie’s flow kicks into high gear. “Allyall” opens with an acoustic loop that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Baths album, but it’s soon joined by a funky bassline that transforms the track into the tape’s most laid-back jam. Ghostie’s beats are as diverse as his collection of flows: there’s a little bit of chiptune on “Fever,” and the beat to “Sorri in Somali” is built out of the infamous bed-squeak sound effect, invented by Lil Jon and perfected by Baltimore club. Sandwiched in-between the more turned-up tracks are a number of vocal-driven ballads, like “Depressed Today,” which more explicitly convey the melancholy that lurks underneath the tape.

At 20 tracks, Poltergeist Slim can start to feel sprawling and unfocused, but it’s the kind of project that wouldn’t actually benefit from cutting down. The album’s most interesting attributes are at the edges, in the kind of castaway tracks that are clearly the result of fucking around. The best example of this is “Fuck Words,” which fully delivers on the promise of “post-verbal rap” that many critics identified with the rise of Young Thug and the fear contained in the pejorative “mumble rap.” Rap has toed this line for years, and Ghostie is the first I’ve heard that’s brave enough to cross it. This is actual mumble rap—there are literally no words in the entire song, with the exception of the hook “Fuck words.” His chops as a producer and a rapper are formidable enough that it doesn’t come across as just a joke.

Rap fans often queue up along a dividing line: Do you care more about bars, or do you care more about beats? For someone like Ghostie, there’s little difference between the two, just as there’s increasingly less space between country and rap: every sound has its own unique resonance and capacity for expression. The latest generation of rappers are trying to find new ways to express their sadness, and they’re looking for ways beyond language and its failures to do it. “Fuck words” isn’t just a gag or a gimmick—it’s a creed.

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