You’d be amazed how much great music you can legally download for free.
About a month ago, we posted about an anonymous upcoming producer named Evian Christ, whose music we’d been digging via his-or-her youtube channel. Since then 22-year-old UK-based producer Joshua Leary has been named as the man behind the mask.. Leary has signed to rising electronic label Tri Angle Records, who count oOoOO, Clams Casino, Balam Acab, Holy Other and How To Dress Well on their roster. If you’ve listened to those artists, and Evian Christ, you’d probably agree that it makes sense as a home for Leary’s cerebral anti-beats.
Now, Evian Christ has a ‘proper’ release, a mixtape, which is available to download free over at Tri Angle’s website ( http://tri-anglerecords.com/ ). Kings And Them will not, unfortunately, be anything new to those of you previously familiar with his youtube channel. Instead, it’s simply a collection of the eight songs that have been online for just over a month now. If you haven’t heard Evian Christ, this is the place to start. If you have, it’s nice to be able to get his music on your iTunes anyway, right?
First off, his beats are incredibly minimal. At times, Evian Christ makes Kompakt artists sound like Drukqs-era Aphex Twin. Over the eight tracks, Leary explores a very specific sound palette. The glue that holds Kings And Them together is the drum track, which is essentially some of the cleanest, crispest 808 sounds you’re likely to hear all year, with a tuned kick that doubles up as the bassline for ultra-minimalism. Accompaniment is sparse, and usually reduced to gently buzzing synth lines with an organ-like timbre that gently pan and slowly resonate through the mix. These sounds would generally be the jumping off point for an exercise in Pitchfork-baiting chill-wavism, but instead Leary contrasts it with a rap vocal sample that is used on virtually every track here.
That source material is Tyga’s ‘Snapbacks Back ft Chris Brown’. Kings And Them is almost a case study of that vocal, distorting it beyond recognition and back, altering the context like Warhol’s portraits do. I can’t help but be reminded of Zomby when listening to this mixtape. That’s not to say it has obvious direct sonic parallels – it doesn’t – but more in the way that it flips hip hop strut on its head, directing rap music’s extroverted swagger inwards. Like Zomby, Evian Christ explores the subconscious with expansive synth work and a masterful use of space, and like Zomby, it’s all the more interesting for the way ambience is secondary to a strong dancefloor aesthetic. That’s most explicit (literally) on tracks like ‘Fuck It None of Y’all Don’t Rap’ and ‘Go Girl’, which can both sound like two songs being played at the same time. In a good way.
There’s also a tendency here to flip that formula and bring the serene to the fore. ‘Thrown Like Jacks’ reduces the Tyga sample to a minimal input, instead focusing on an unexpected Grouper sample. Seeing as this is only a mixtape that was already finished, it’s likely that another release will be on its way in the next few months. Clearly, Leary isn’t going to be able to rely on the Tyga sample for much longer, so it’s interesting at least to see where else he could take this project.
Despite the best efforts of the FBI last month – they closed down Megaupload, if you’ve been living under a rock – the fact that there is a generation growing up who have never paid for music in their life is as inescapable as it is worrying. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend of artists combating illegal downloads by simply giving their music away for free in the first place, especially in electronic music. The idea is that, in this age of information overload, a free download is an appealing thing to spot, so the artist’s music reaches a wider audience and the artist retains the power. It’s refreshing to see the likes of Leary navigating the current music industry landscape in innovative ways; Christ knows they’ll only benefit from it.