by Nick Hanover
If you live in Austin then you already know there’s too much damn music to keep track of. And sometimes you just want to sift through it in bite-sized chunks. We totally understand. Allow us to introduce you to The Latest Toughs, five tracks from five bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Ex-Cousins “My Eyes Hurt”
The batshit insanity of the last couple years has sparked a number of theories that we’re living in a hologram reality and it’s glitching right the fuck out, a concept I find less absurd with every passing day. But Ex-Cousins offer a new, more depressing twist on that theory in their new track “My Eyes Hurt,” in which a man “Woke up/Deader than a doornail” only to discover “Somehow Heaven is the same as Hell,” i.e. the exact same as the shitty place he just killed himself to get out of. What makes “My Eyes Hurt” so effective, though, is that it unveils this theory not amidst a backdrop of somber strumming and maudlin vocals but a torrent of shrapnel guitar lines and broad shouldered rhythm, so when the band shouts “I got tired/So tired/And my eyes hurt” it evokes the restless rage of the exhausted rather than the defeated. 2017 is only going to get worse, but what the fuck else is there to do than to keep getting mad about that?
Corduroi “Rainbow Climber”
House music never disappeared enough to truly mount a “comeback,” but we’re still a decent length away from the era when you’d hear it funneling out of every mall shop and pretzel stand in the land, meaning the genre has begun to slink back to its roots in glittery clubs and on the harddrives of colorful basement scenesters. That’s the realm of house subterranean maestro Corduroi is nodding towards on “Rainbow Climber,” pairing a four-to-the-floor beat with vaporware synth melodies, excising diva histrionics to instead turn the spotlight over to whirring toy noises and bit crushed bass. “Rainbow Climber” makes for the rare throwback that ably juggles comforting familiarity and curious freshness, teleporting half your senses back to a 1997 Gap excursion and the other half to some alien pharmaceutical trip. Ain’t that nice?
Catch Corduroi this Friday, September 1st at Electric Church
Ike “Last Day (ft. Jon McConnell and Mélat)”
A lot has changed in the time since Ike and Haris Qureshi first started to show off material from what would become their album Paradise in 2014. Back in that altogether different world of 2014, there was a bit more hope and redemption was something that may not have been easy to attain but was at least a goal within reach. But now those things things all seem more fantastical as things fall apart and the concept of the center cannot hold. So it’s only natural that when Mélat sings “This could be the death of me/If I don’t change the way I’m living now” it now instills a sense of apocalyptic forboding instead of a firm yet supportive plea to evolve. Nonetheless, there was always a fatalist aspect to Ike’s delivery if you were looking carefully, particularly in lines like “Whichever way I go, it won’t be on my knees/Know if I’m armed I’m gonna squeeze” and the demand to “let me breathe” that follows. Given how Haris’s methodical, plodding beat matches the ceaseless marching of time and death, it also seems likely that while the lyrics explore the necessity of escaping a violent past in order to survive, the key theme is how unwilling society is to look past such a past, no matter how much it claims otherwise. Not exactly an inspiring ultimate message but looking around at the wreckage of hope, maybe that kind of harsh yet clear direction is exactly what we need right now.
Brainwavve “Depressurize (Moses on a Motorbike remix)”
When Benjamin Crowley dropped his Artificial Earth Machine moniker and reemerged as Brainwavve, it wasn’t merely a simple name change but a sign that his aesthetics on the whole had shifted. Brainwavve’s debut work Surface immediately highlighted the difference in approaches, dropping AEM’s texture-oriented ambient material to instead deliver glitched out machine pop, still coated in ethereal lightness but grounded with propulsive rhythms. Brainwavve has now handed that material over to collaborators on the remix EP Transpose Elevation and it’s remarkable how well Brainwavve’s core aesthetic holds up, particularly on Moses on a Motorbike’s superb remix of “Depressurize.” The original “Depressurize” felt like mutant house music and Moses on a Motorbike is equally mutated, except now it’s grafting The Units-style synth punk to Aphex Twin chaos, forgoing house rhythm and airy melody altogether. Too often, remixes ignore the fundamental appeal of the original work in their effort to stand out as individual works, but Moses on a Motorbike succeeds by staying true to the spirit of the original and building on it in an inventive and bold way.
Scuare “Degreatest (Couple Times a Day) ft. no1mportant”
Usually the more technical a rapper is, the less likely they are to have a handle on melody and hooks. So consider Scuare the exception that proves the rule, a freakishly gifted emcee with a talent for twisting words around the way Magneto bends metal to his will while also displaying an increasingly more confident mastery of melody. Some of the credit for that belongs to Scuare’s collaborator no1mportant and their &more project, where the two of them have been consistently breaking down the barrier between lyrical dexterity and soulful melody. “Degreatest (Couple Times a Day)” isn’t technically an &more track, it comes instead from Scuare’s new odds & sods compilation Off Days Vol. 1, but it serves as a convenient example of how well Scuare now moves between the worlds of rap and R&B. The bare bones beat, mostly comprised of light percussion and electric piano and a big ass synth bass, stays out of the way so Scuare can swerve from pleading soul singing to whiplash-enducing verses until the approaches merge together, every other line delivering a sly hook. As Scuare grows closer and closer to permanently fusing together the two worlds he occupies, it seems more and more likely the world outside Austin will take notice.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover