Album reviews: Ennio Morricone's Tarantino soundtrack, Pusha T, Sunn O))), Baroness
Rap, drone metal, sludge metal and the score of western The Hateful Eight reviewed this week
King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
The second solo album from former dope dealer Terence Thornton, better known as the lyrically gifted rapper Pusha T and one half of the now defunct rap duo Clipse, comes with a list of impressive big-time beatmakers. Heavyweights Puff Daddy, Timbaland, Q-Tip and Kanye West all help to create dark off-kilter rhythms for T’s complex lyrical punches.
Still mixing raps about selling drugs (On Keep Dealing he’s “got the cape on” as the “last cocaine superhero”) and a hedonistic lifestyle (MPA, featuring A$AP Rocky and Kanye, stands for “money, pussy, alcohol” of course), with dark social commentary, Mr. T saves the best for last. A powerful tirade against institutionalised racial inequality, Sunshine is a breathtaking closer. “America you need a miracle, beyond spiritual” raps Pusha, as the soulful tones of guest vocalist Jill Scott add a weary pathos to the stinging wordplay. If this really is just the prelude, then lets keep our fingers crossed that King Push doesn’t lose any of his anger before the rumoured April release of the main event.
Southern Lord Records
A colossal triptych of dark mediative ambience, the seventh studio album by the Seattle drone metal duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley is not the type of music for doing the dishes. As the press release puts it, the literal representation of Kannon, Sunn 0)))’s first complete release in six years, “is as an aspect of Buddha: specifically ‘goddess of mercy’ or ‘Perceiving the Sounds (or Cries) of the World’,” which makes the brief 30-plus minutes of thunderous feedback something that can’t be taken too lightly. Comprising three tracks, I, II and III, Kannon is really just a nagging crawl towards a deep dark cave of foreboding doom. Beginning with a drumless wave of heavy reverb, Hungarian black metal vocalist and regular collaborator Attila Csihar drones indistinguishably over the repetitious bass line. As the second track rolls on, Csihar’s deep howling turns to solemn chanting as shrieks of guitar pierce the rumbling ear-ringing distortion, but while it builds to a suitable finale, Kannon ultimately suffers from its back-to-basics vibe when compared to 2009’s complex classic Monoliths and Dimensions.
Released on their own newly formed label, Purple is the fourth album from sludge metallers Baroness and the Georgia band’s first album since they were involved in a horrific bus crash while on tour in the UK in 2012. Singer-guitarist John Baizley recovered from a crushed arm that was nearly amputated, saying the accident only made him “more resolute and passionate about our music than ever”. However, drummer Alan Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni were too traumatised to continue.
Now with a new, equally thunderous rhythm section in place, Baroness have turned to the talents of producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Tame Impala), and while Fridmann is most likely responsible for the extra layers of psychedelic keys, these 10 tracks contain some of the catchiest and most dynamic melodies the band have written. While guitarist Peter Adams lets rip with some lean, killer riffs, Baizley’s lyrics often reference the emotional aftermath of the accident. The vocalists’ powerful performances, and the albums overall feeling, is of a triumphant spirit, but rather surprisingly, it’s the muddy sound quality that truly lets the album down.
The H8ful Eight – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Decca/Third Man Records
While it’s listed as an album of various artists, the star of the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s gruesome new western The H8ful Eight is the legendary 87-year-old Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Who better to create sweeping, tense and moody soundscapes than the man who has scored more than 500 films and soundtracked all of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns?
While music has always played an integral part in Tarantino’s films (the director has used Morricone’s compositions in Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), this is the first time that he has requested a completely original score. Recorded with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and with barely a slow whistle or twang of guitar, Morricone uses synthesisers to drive the tense overture, while his sparse and simple melodies build colourful, nail-biting momentum. The “huh huhs” of L’Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock could only be Morricone. Of course, the musical flow – as with all of Tarantino soundtracks – is interspersed with clips of movie dialogue, but these are too short to be meaningful and detract a little from Morricone’s compositions.