Archive for the Not Riffs Category

For the Homies

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on January 4, 2018 by Ben

Not being ironic.

ICP got some pretty good tracks.




Lost the Plot: Aesop Rock, Darkhouse Family & Jackie Shane

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2017 by Ben

For the last couple weeks I’ve been on a steady streak of new musical consumption but the majority of it has been far to the left of the usual fare posted here. I can’t exactly have an establishment called Church of the Riff and be posting stuff without riffs can I?

But I will anyway. Here’s a taste of where my tastes have been for the last little while.

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

Aesop Rock is a long in the tooth rapper that has been putting out music since the 90’s. His distinct style is staked out by his complex and far reaching lyricism, rapid-fire slabs of dense references and tangential verbiage. It’s like listening to an audio book on fast-forward, delivered with a nasally twang and slapped over some excellent beats. An artist that is definitely not everyone’s cup of coffee, I personally love his shit, the combination of esoteric rhymes and unexpected flows always hit home for me. The album streaming above is his latest, released last year, and you can also check out 2012’s Skelethon on that Bandcamp as well.

Darkhouse Family – The Offering

This is another random stumble from the Bandcamp homepage and was one of my most pleasant surprises this year. Darkhouse Family is the name given to a pair of producers, Metabeats and Jamal, working together on this newest effort, The Offering. A masterclass in electronic fusion and hip-hop instrumentals, these guys weave together myriad influences and sounds over the 11 tracks on this record. Tasteful combinations of live instrumentals and vocals with electronic ambience are weaved together to make some seriously dank grooves. Mellow. Classy. Rock solid.

Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

Another excellent production from the The Numero GroupAny Other Way is a collection of tracks by Jackie Shane, a little-known soul singer who reached her peak in Toronto in the 60’s. A perfect slice of gritty R&B and soul delivered with all that tasty 60’s dirt intact. Easily on par with her contemporaries of the day, there’s plenty of ass-shaking groove and soulful swagger to be found across these 25 tracks.

Music Video Oscar; DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , on March 14, 2017 by Ben

I was on a work trip to the UAE for the last week. The hotel TV didn’t have anything to watch so I spent a lot of time on Youtube, leading me to find the music video for “Nobody Speak” from the newest DJ Shadow album. I’d never heard of DJ Shadow before but I knew who Run the Jewels were, so I decided to give it a go.

Hip-hop may or may not be your thing (I dig it) but genre aside, this video is fucking superb. Goddamn Academy Award-level shit. The setup, production, acting, song beats, the song itself. The whole thing gels so damn well it almost brings a tear to my eye. Usually the actors are the weak link in the lip-syncing-a-rapper video segment but in this case, these actors fucking kill it.


Boom-Bap: 2014 Golden Era Records Cypher

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on February 20, 2014 by Ben

Y’all know by now that I’ve always liked me some good hip-hop. I’ve even had the audacity to mention it here before. Well, it’s another one of those times with the release of the 2014 Golden Era Records Cypher. Released in anticipation of their 2014 mixtape (coming next week), it features the full Golden Era crew spitting verses across seven minutes of smooth beats.

Golden Era have been a long-standing part of my musical history, as I discovered them in high school and their roster has been in steady rotation since. While they aren’t boundary pushing or headline breaking like Odd Future or Death Grips, they have been delivering solid bangers year after year after year. Everyone has some sick flows as usual, with K21 providing the strongest entry in opinion.

Watch below and I’ll post up about the mixtape when it finally gets released. Last years was sick and this years should be no exception.

Whiskey + Youtube = Leningrad

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on January 25, 2014 by Ben

I live with a bunch of really chill people. We not be very exciting but everything vibes so well I can forgive our Friday night ritual of getting drunk and watching movies or browsing Youtube. Last night was decidedly a Youtube night but it has the distinction of being the first to point me at some new music.

At some point in our evening of shuffling through videos like a deck of cards, we stumbled on a video of a group of musicians playing on a beach-front backyard. The video looks as is if it was filmed on a handheld but the quality of the musicianship hinted at something much more than amateur.

This is the video in question:

The vocal hook and brass riffs sunk themselves in brain real deep, deep enough for me to remember to track whatever the hell this was down in the morning. It took a bit of searching, mainly because I had no idea what the fuck this was called. I was eventually successful though and now know this video belongs to a very long-running Russian band called Leningrad.

They have been cranking out albums since 1999 according to Wikipedia and have become infamous not only for their infectious music but also for their exceptionally vulgar lyrics and stage presence. From what I’ve gathered they either sing about booze, sex or nonsense (The above song is about not finding a pair of shoes that fit). They don’t get radio play because of this and have all of their attempts at large shows shut down by Moscow’s mayor.

Musically they play modern big-band compositions with a really rich sound thanks to a massive ensemble of musicians. Bouncing somewhere between ska, polka and swing, their music is a lot of fun to listen to even if you have no idea what they’re saying. Vocals are either provided by a drunk homeless man or a svelte jazz singer, which provides one hell of a contrast.

I’m not even going to start diving into their discog yet, with all of 20+ albums in it. This post was more to raise some attention and share it with y’all. I included one more song and links to their wiki and Facebook below. Most of their albums are on iTunes and you can get the album “Fish” for free from their website.

Leningrad Wiki

Leningrad Facebook

That Funk: X-Ray Zebras – Raw Beat

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on January 17, 2014 by Ben

I love funk. It’s undeniable how enjoyable a solid funky jam is and I’m always ecstatic to find new artists that bring the funk through a variety of different mediums. Sadly, when it comes to browsing Bandcamp I have a pretty bad habit of looking through the same tags, letting a lot of gems pass me by. On the bright side, my good friend and housemate always seems to have his ear to the ground when it comes to these releases, keeping me well stocked with bangers like this.

X-Ray Zebras are a Quebec-based band who have been making music since 2010. “Raw Beat” is their newest EP and was released on January 15th. Musically they bring a stellar combination of sampled, live and electronic based jazz/funk jams to the dinner table. A diverse combination of styles, they blend everything from bottom-heavy modern electronic sounds to lighter guitar chords and a couple various examples of some hip-hop rhymes and beats.

The key to any type of musical mixing pot like this is being able to blend all of your chosen ingredients in a way that makes them greater than the sum of their parts. This is no small feat but is one Zebras pull of with considerable aplomb. These 4 tracks just groooove in all right the ways and make your backbone wiggle in all the right places. Even on a slower, more emotional track like “Bears”, they still manage to inject a bounce throughout the whole damn thing.

“Raw Beat” is also defined by a much mellower tone than you might here in other electro-funk releases. You’re not beat over the brain with insatiable rhythms and a wall-rockin’ beat, instead they choose to take a much more subtle and refined route. All their songs are heavily structured and take their time to get where they are going, layering different sounds and melodies, dipping and diving through your ears instead of just blowing the door wide open. Smooth would probably be the best word for these guys. Or suave. Yeah, I like that one better.

Probably the number reason I love music and bands like this is due to the amount of energy and just straight up fun that gets packed into the music. I love a blackened monolith of a guitar riff as much as the next person but limiting yourself to any set number of genres means you miss out on excellent releases like this. There is a time and place for every type of music and this is for those times you just wanna jam.

Name-your-price on Bandcamp, so don’t be a bum and throw these guys some coin. Links and stream below.

X-Ray Zebras Facebook

X-Ray Zebras Bandcamp

Delightfully Weird: New Apple Taste – Abuseum

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on December 19, 2013 by Ben

I sat down last night and realized I didn’t have any new music to write about. I had been cruising along for a while just catching up on all of the stuff that had been accumulating in my library. So now that I’m all caught it up, it was time to drag the net out and go Bandcamp trawling once again. Luckily my first haul had plenty of solid jams which I’ll be writing about during the holidays.

Starting us off is an wonderfully odd combination of jazz, rap and funk that goes by the name New Apple Taste. A Montreal based group of several musicians and two MC’s, they released their second album, “Abuseum”, during September of this year. This is a fairly unusual hybrid, with the rhymes being backed by fancy jazz and funk sounds as opposed to syncopated beats or guitars.

It’s a combination that initially gave me pause, as I really wasn’t sure what to expect from my speakers. However I was more than pleased when I realized the amount of polish, performance and panache put into this collection of 14 tracks. They manage to strike an elegant balance between the vocal and instrumental delivery, carefully blending ear-pleasing grooves with equally matched rapping.

Now I don’t know shit about the intricacies of jazz and I have pretty loose standards for rapping, so I’m not the best authority to talk technically on a band like this. Just on just sheer enjoyment factor however, “Abuseum” is pretty damn stellar, a gratifying listen from open to close. Everything plays well together, with the vocals falling into perfect step with the intricate rhythms. Neither one overpowers or steals the spotlight from another, always doing their level best to keep your head a’nodding.

Bands like this make just a little bit excited for the future of music. As much as I love the tried and true classics it is always nice to find a group of people who are pushing and playing with modern to music to see what they can come up with. In the case of New Apple Taste they know exactly what the hell they are doing and it will be exciting to see what they spawn in the future.

New Apple Taste Facebook

New Apple Taste Bandcamp

Earworm Music: Bill Murray

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , on February 14, 2013 by Ben

I wasn’t going to post about this song but goddamit it’s been rattling around my brain all damn day.

So here you go, Sweatshop Union with “Bill Murray” from the aptly titled “Bill Murray EP”.

Aside from Sweatshop Union being one of the greater Canadian hip-hop groups, it’s a song about Bill Murray.

Bill. Murray.

New music from Wiht tomorrow!

Guilty Pleasures: Groovy Shiva EP

Posted in Not Riffs with tags on February 12, 2013 by Ben


I’ve finally got a nice little lull before I have to start caring about midterms and the like, so I’m going to try and crank out as much new music as I can.

Today your getting a band I have mixed feelings about, hence the guilty pleasures title. The band is Groovy Shiva, they hail from France and play a combination of reggae/dub, hardcore and hip-hop. While most people, myself include, would have written this off as a terrible musical idea dreamt up by some half-drunk fratboys, the weird thing is, it all works.

I know there will be those who would raise contention with what is essential a French Limp Cookie/Linkin Park mashup but if your willing to give it a listen through you’ll find a solid collection of  crowd-surfing, party rock style anthems that are pretty damn catchy. The only real point of contention I have is them using a hardcore label, since they’re just playing bare-bones groove metal riffs/vocals. It’s not hardcore in any past or present form of the word.

Genre nitpicking aside, Groovy Shiva do an excellent job of hybridizing their three styles, giving each of them plenty of breathing room, instead of just jumbling everything together. The aforementioned groove metal riffage serves as the cement of the foundation. It’s not original, it’s not technical and it’s not pushing any boundaries. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, infectious or groovy, attributes they have in spades.

The riffs are frequently mixed with some turntable work, giving way to the Limp Cookie feel I mentioned. These sections are blended smoothly into the hip-hop or reggae sections, with dropping the pace or the figurative ball. I think the reason they can pull this off is because on their own, all of the elements are extremely simple, which is beneficially when your going to be jumping through styles like these guys do.

The vocals are predominately in French, with some snatches of English thrown in. I personally prefer this, French has a nice inherent musicality and adds a unique flavor to what would have been considerably more bland is sung in only English.

They live up to their name, with all of the tracks having their own unique, yet still unshakable groove. This music isn’t hip, it isn’t fashionable but it’s loud, wreckless and fun as hell, and really, what else do you need?

I get the feeling this will be a love/hate thing for most people, so I’ve got your usual streams below for you to formulate your own opinions. The 8 track EP can be downloaded for a “Name Your Price” option on Bandcamp. Now I’ve got to get to class.

Groovy Shiva Facebook

Groovy Shiva Bandcamp

Divergence from Down Under: Golden Era Records 2013 Sampler

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2013 by Ben

Good afternoon. Today I’ve got some divergence from down under in the form of the Golden Era Records “2013 Sampler”. For those who have never heard of them (most of you I’m guessing), Golden Era is an Australian record label that has been responsible for pretty much all of the stellar hip-hop coming out of that patch of ocean. I was first exposed to Australian hip-hop back in high school thanks to the label’s founders, the Hilltop Hoods.

I’ve always loved Australian hip-hop for it’s emphasis on catchy hooks, funk laden grooves and some of the best MC’s and DJ’s in my opinion. To me there was always a sense of flow that I had never heard before, just solid rhymes and beats, without any frivolous choruses or other bullshit. Over time I found many other Australian artists as there’s a lot of cameo’s and features between each of the groups. This gives the music a great feeling of community, where everybody was making music for the same reasons.

Since I’d been meaning to write a piece about this music for a while, finding this fresh mixtape was the perfect reason to write something up and also serves as a great introduction into a scene that’s relatively unheard of in North America. Packed with 22 bangers from Australia’s biggest and brightest groups, from Briggs, Vents, Funkoars, K21, and the aforementioned Hilltop Hoods. All of these tracks are expertly tied together, with the mixer, Jaytee, using a variety of samples and international shout-outs to seamlessly stitch the entire thing together.

The flavor is most definitely hip-hop but each of the artists has their own signature style to bring to the table. Bass heavy tracks by Briggs sit beside the more aggressive  party-rock styled Funkoars jams. The Hilltop Hoods have a fairly established sound, something that’s a bit more melodic than other offerings. K21 is a relatively new name to me but I’m enjoying his lightning quick delivery and complex rhymes.

I’m really bad at writing about hip-hop some I’m just going to keep things short. If your still reading and in the mood to listen to some of this music you can find the entire mixtape streaming on Soundcloud or you can head on over to the Golden Era website to download it for free. You can find those links plus a freestyle video that showcases all the artists in this mix below. Enjoy!

Golden Era Mixtape

Golden Era Facebook