Holy Oker’s debut EP Diamonds is a collection of six electro-dance tracks that combine house-drenched kicks with emotional lyrics. Holy Oker is the solo act of Greg Bevis, drummer from electro-dance group Bear Mountain. Having already found success on the indie scene, Bevis is stepping out on his own to explore electronic music through a more personal approach. His style is a mix of arpeggiated synth hooks and syncopated bass with euphoric melody. Bevis’ tracks, though infused with infectious beats, are not your typical tunes for fist-pumping Fridays at the club – they are fragile and personal, precisely what makes this EP so refreshing.
Every track is a little piece of heartbreak. Synth chords act as the soft overlay of hopefulness, creating a juxtaposition of pain and optimism. The title track, “Diamonds,” is an intimate and personal track from Bevis. Attentive ears will pick out a quiet sigh near the beginning of the song as the synth hook blends with the simple guitar riff, a detail that highlights an unusual vulnerability in his music. My favourite track off the EP is “Love Like A Gun,” where the minor key and dark lyrics bring you pangs of melancholy, only for the syncopated rhythm to carry a soft, airy feel that takes you back to sweet dreams and good memories. The rest of the EP follows a similar formula, one that allows the collection of six songs to work incredibly well with each other.
Perhaps what makes this EP so pleasant is that it doesn’t follow expectations. Holy Oker is a crossover between the electronic beats of CHVRCHES and the breathy voice of Sufjan Stevens, with hints of bands like Haim and, of course, Bear Mountain. His distinctive orchestral arrangements are reminiscent of the works of Jon Brion. Here is a soft, almost fragile voice, combined with strong synth-pop chords and powerful bass beats. The tracks are punchy and edgy with a touch of whimsical, unexpected in the periodic bursts of electronic energy, deep bass, and unreal beats. Bevis’ personal spin on electro-dance has an oddly likeable dissonance that sets him apart from similar artists. His lyrics tell stories about a complicated and disillusioned addiction to love – and his music is a kind of self-medication I’d gladly take.
By: Rachel Katz
When The Silhouette interviewed Scott Helman about a month ago, he had officially released three songs. On Oct. 14, he released his first full EP, Augusta.
The seven-track record is impressive. From beginning to end it is 26 minutes, and every second is compelling. From the opening beats of “Bungalow” to the final lines of “Somewhere Sweet,” Helman has established himself as a musical force. From the quiet, intense “Machine” to the wild, meandering “Tikka,” he has proven himself an artist constrained by neither genre nor subject matter.
In many ways, the album is nearly perfect. It has the right mix of catchy beats and mellow sounds, and Helman can definitely write. His lyrics are hilarious, honest, and heartfelt all at once, and they make listening to Augusta an intimate experience. My one problem with the music is the use of an electric drum kit in some songs. No synthesized drums match the power of a real drum kit, and in some cases, it takes away from the music. But that’s a fairly minor problem, especially for a first album.
I fell in love with Augusta for two reasons. My working knowledge of music is slim, but when an artist is so captivating and shows so much promise that even I can tell how much potential he or she has, I take note, and in the time I’ve been listening to him, Helman has always proven himself to be skilled and charismatic.
Once I recovered from the initial “wow” factor of Augusta, I asked myself why I couldn’t stop listening to it. I realized that Helman’s music sounds familiar, not because we are both from Toronto, but because you can actually hear the vibrancy of the city in his music. Happiness, sadness, heartbreak, and anger are artfully arranged together, and maybe it’s just my way of being homesick, but when I listen to Augusta I feel like I’m home.
In a quick six-song EP, the world’s only “trap band” manages to create a completely unique listening experience. Almost every single track exceeds expectations. The EP as a whole is difficult to succinctly describe as anything but a carefully crafted electronic set that is recommended to anyone who is a fan of any EDM-related genre.
Each of the widely varied influences is used to great effect to add a great deal of originality to their songs. The opening track, “Understand Why,” begins with a quick buildup with vocals to the main section of the song that wastes no time. The main beat of the song constantly changes and shifts under repeated vocals that never feel like they overstay their welcome. This also applies into the short time of every song as each one clocks in at between two and four minutes, which is just enough time to get the point across and move on. “Hypnotik” has these same tendencies, but with dramatically different results as different influences are combined together. This strips away the clutter while taking it slower in pace and shifts, which unfortunately makes it a relatively poor point on an otherwise impressive EP. Keys N Krates seems to work most effectively with constant clutter, more levels, and many layers to change and craft together.
“Are We Faded” and “Yes We Faded” represent complete mirrors of one another as progressive house types of buildups and lulls with spurts of glitch production give way to steady snare and bass with plenty of layering on top. This manages to climax in an odd combination of influences from the two that on paper simply should not work, but absolutely does on the track. “Your Love” provides a change of pace with light melodies and synths with a larger amount of noticeable sampling. The last track, “She’s So High,” takes the glitch influence that represented a backdrop to the EP previously and puts it right into the forefront. Crisp treble, deep bass, and uncluttered midrange are tendencies throughout all of the songs to demonstrate fantastic mixing and mastering in using all audio ranges effectively.
All in all, your enjoyment of any one song will most likely depend on your current take on all the different forms of EDM. This EP represents the best collaboration of these subgenres and how they can be used to amplify one another, even if they are adjusted based on Keys N Krates’ own stylistic choices. It is highly recommended, and you should be continuously hearing bits and pieces in popular sets throughout the rest of the year.
Album: Black on Blonde
Impressive is the only way I can describe the latest k-os album. Black on Blonde is the fifth studio album by the Canadian rapper since his last release in 2010. The album comes as a double disc with the different types of music on each. The Black album is his rap and hip hop side, while Blonde is his rock side. The two sides are distinct but unite so well. They compliment each other perfectly.
The Black side of the album is what we’re used to. It’s what made us fall in love with k-os in the first place and features great Canadian artists like Saukrates and Shad. The Roots’ Black Thought and Travie McCoy are also featured. The Black side shows us that he can still be a great rapper while introducing elements of rock to perfect his sound.
A rock influence finds its way to the Blonde side as k-os plays his guitar on some of the tracks. The side also features great Canadian artists like Emily Haines from Metric and Sam Roberts. Even though we aren’t used to hearing just rock music from k-os, you can hear the dedication that was put into the Blonde side of the album. I’ve never been an active rock listener, but I can appreciate what k-os does.
The album as a whole is refreshing and well performed. The creative sound incorporates genres of rap, hip-hop, rock and a little bit of pop, which shows off the many talents of k-os. Instead of falling into a mainstream view of what a hip hop artist looks like, k-os has deviated from that identity with this great album. Black on Blonde deserves a listen.
Album: Laid Out
In the two years since the release of his debut LP, 2011’s Bad Vibes, Shlohmo (a.k.a. Henry Laufer) has strayed broadly from that album’s abstract hip-hop sound collages. Last year’s Vacation EP ditched field recordings in favor of mangled vocals and a more polished, emotional spin on his chilled-out sonic palette. Meanwhile, a series of remixes found him experimenting with dance, screwed, and trap, the last of which is the focus of his latest effort.
No one’s going to mistake Laid Out for, like, Flosstradamus, but trap’s signature note repeats unmistakably dominate the EP. Shlohmo’s take on trap is, of course, distinctly more mellow than those of his EDM contemporaries, all lush synths and soaring R&B melodies. The EP’s centrepiece, “Later,” pits one such vocal performance against a stuttering duet between a snare and a hat, while “Out of Hand” soulfully disfigures a more ethereal sample.
Most of the hype surrounding the EP, though, centers on opener “Don’t Say No,” a collaboration with guest vocalist How to Dress Well, which builds its frozen synths and melismatic falsetto into an anaesthetic climax. All the while, trap hats provide the perfect rhythmic counterpoint to the sepulchral tempo. The brooding latter half of the EP is a bit of a letdown in comparison, but all in all, Laid Out is an atmospheric, R&B-heavy slice of hip hop that proves Shlohmo is just as adept with a MPC as he is with a field recorder.
From the very beginning Classified’s self-titled album sounds like a work of art and different from everything else. It’s refreshing, upbeat and looks at the positives instead of the negatives.
Classified is Nova Scotia-born and doesn’t sound like your average rapper, avoiding degrading women or bragging about his money. Instead he delivers positive messages, excellent beats and talks about what it feels like to raise a daughter and all the struggles he faced during high school. His messages are relatable, which is what I think makes him a great rapper.
Classified features a lot of great Canadian artists like David Myles, Saukrates, Skratch Bastid and Kardinal Offishall. It also features the legendary Raekwon, one of the original members of Wu Tang Clan. With so many talented people on one album, it has to be a hit, and in Canada it went to number one on the Canadian Album Charts.
Classified’s message is inspirational and this album should make any Canadian proud.