Various Artists: XXL 2013’s Freshmen Class
The Mixtape (hosted by DJ Drama)

Each year, XXL taps rap’s biggest up-and-comers for their Freshmen class — essentially, the genre’s version of first-round draft picks. The first class graduated in 2008, with Lupe Fiasco the undisputed valedictorian in a roster that included the likes of Papoose, Lil Boosie, and Young Dro. Since then, XXL has successfully projected many rappers’ ascent to fame: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and even ~Based God~ were Freshmen one year or another.

The Freshman class of 2013 is the most diverse yet, geographically and stylistically. This year, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q finally join the ranks of their fellow Black Hippy members and XXL alumnae, Jay Rock (Class of 2010) Kendrick Lamar (Class of 2011). Their classmates include the expected rising stars (Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James), the much-buzzed-about (Angel Haze, Chief Keef), the culinarily-blessed (Action Bronson), and more.

XXL released the official Freshman mixtape recently, and it features a collection of tracks from this year’s honorees. Collaboration is common: here, Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ team up for “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” a jazzy, Chuck Stranger-produced cruiser cut; there, Travi$ Scott struts around with T.I. and 2 Chainz on the bombastic “Upper Echelon.” The solo tracks fare well, too. Angel Haze dishes up some veritable Tumblr-core with a freestyle over Purity Ring’s “Lofticries,” an out-there choice that contrasts with bangers like Trinidad James and Gucci Mane’s “No Hook” and Schoolboy Q’s “Yay Yay.”

All in all, a pretty decent set of tracks, especially if you’re not thrilled by the prospect of sifting through the imposing 55-tack Funkmaster Flex tape that dropped recently.

• XXL Magazine: http://www.xxlmag.com/

Ekin Fil

“Anything Anywhere”

Ekin Fil is Istanbul-based multi-instrumentalist Ekin Üzeltüzenci. After the 2011 release of her arresting debut album Language — a stew of synth claustrophobia, claw-hammered guitar figures, and hushed vocal mantras — Üzeltüzenci stated in an interview with Foxy Digitalis, “I don’t think I will make another album all about electronics or I will totally abandon them.” Her self-titled album, released by San Diego-based label Students of Decay, delivers on her assertion, offering us a brightened series of compositions that fuse folk with organic ambience.

The influence of Grouper looms large here: the enveloping wall of delay, the angelic voice ‘verbed into ambiguity, the atmosphere of unease spawned by a spiraling chord structure that never seems to find a resolution. Indeed, an opening slot for Liz Harris on a bill in Istanbul in 2009 connected Üzeltüzenci with the Root Strata label and the concurrently developing ambient-folk scene on America’s west coast. But Üzeltüzenci’s cavernous stereophonic mix contains a tad more detail and tonal fidelity than many of Harris’s willfully desaturated compositions.

“Anything Anywhere” finds synth lines and electric guitar chords intermingling behind a curtain of gentle feedback drift. Üzeltüzenci layers vocal harmonies over breathy melodic phrases as layers of static build around the edges of the mix. By the end, only the vocals remain, lulling us into a heavenly stupor.

Ekin Fil is up for preorder. It ships May 14.

• Ekin Fil: https://soundcloud.com/ekin-fil
• Students of Decay: http://www.studentsofdecay.com

EGYPTIAN SPORTS NETWORK

“INTERSTITIAL LUXOR”

As the planets align, framed by a bent arm, stars swell and surround the setting sun, and windsurfing at dusk becomes a thing of the now, here on EGYPTIAN SPORTS NETWORK. Catching the rip and pulling the slalom board, Rider ONE casts a deeply gazed shadow onto our cameras, baring likeness to the levitation activity reported being seen on the eastern mountains earlier this week. Yet, today we trek on into the sea activity, catching that natural path of tidal current, while mist is blown in a breeze, likely moistening attendees’ shades, and — no doubt -— speckling rainbows in their view. Today’s rides are truly visions in reality.

On the thrones, we see the transcendent form of Charles Berlitz, at his realest Matthew Mondanile, and laughing as always Christine Amanpour. Pensive in the moment, yet joyous after every wave run, the three judges throw up their scores in hand gestures. *hang loose* *double peace fingers* *thumbs always up* *mashed potato* *raising the roof* *gotta smoke* Sometimes they just point and smile. Catch it now on EGYPTIAN SPORTS NETWORK: “INTERSTITIAL LUXOR.” When you thought everything was right there; reaching out and gripping the 45 encapsulates your imagination, beyond.

• Spencer Clark: http://pacificitysoundvisions.com
• Matthew Mondanile: http://ducktails.bandcamp.com

Mark McGuire

“In Search of the Miraculous”

Guitarist/composer/loop god Mark McGuire has released enough music alone and in collaboration since the mid aughts to fill a whole shelf of your collection, but we haven’t had a proper solo album from him since 2011’s Get Lost. In the wake of Emeralds’ last album and subsequent dissolution, McGuire took time to flesh out his DJ Road Chief moniker, offering us remixes of Zapp and Dawn Richard that served as compelling looks into his soul/R&B fixations and developing studio practices. With upcoming full-length album Along the Way, it seems like McG fans can expect material more in line with his deep canon of guitar-driven work — though with some notable additions. Synths and electronic beats popped up in the little heralded, excellent pair of EPs he self-released in late 2012 — Nightshade and Surrogate Channels — but the recently surfaced “The Instinct (Extended 12” Version)” pushed his expanded palette out of the Zone and into a dance-floor friendly territory of 80s electro/arena-rock worship. If that track exploited multi-instrumental overdubs in pursuit of a maxed-out, nocturnal euphoria, “In Search of The Miraculous” finds McGuire utilizing the same tactics in a more focused, intimate session. He coaxes a wide array of tones out of his expanded rig: a bed of chiming guitar loops, koto-like pentatonic plucks, gurgling synth sequences, and low-end pads to fill out the backdrop. McGuire has sung on record before, but his vocalizations here feel more natural than ever, owing, perhaps, to their placement in the mix as a melodic buffer behind other developing leads (catalog highlight “Dream Team” features similar vocal strategies).

McGuire’s strongest suit — aside from his infinite capacity for cosmic shreddery — has always been his attention to structure and pacing. As in his most memorable compositions, elements fall into place here in such a satisfying sequence; hear, for example, the overlapping distorted leads that hit halfway in, pushing everything up into the realm of the sublime. By the end of the track, the accumulated tones breathe together with a bright, consonant energy, and I’m left here hoping that the album sees the light of day real soon, maybe even before summer hits.

• Mark McGuire: http://mcguiremusic.blogspot.com
• Inpartmaint: http://www.inpartmaint.com

Ill Professor

Wire & Air

From Chicago’s abstract ambient trio Zelienople, multi-instrumentalist Brian Harding has released some rich and delicate music under the name Ill Professor. Wire & Air is a collection of acoustic recordings that floats into a thick electric atmosphere of echo and sustain. It gently soars through air and wires, alongside birds and moons and jellyfish and whales to finally reach a destination that isn’t far from home. Book your trip with Constellation Tatsu Airlines today.

• Brian Harding: http://zelienopleband.com
• Constellation Tatsu: http://www.ctatsu.com

Tombeau

“Rite de la chair”

Trudging within the castle pit, Tombeau paces through the filth, trapped by no jailor, but by location and curse. Swarming his body is a glowing aura comprised of flashing fragments he molds to the muck sticking to his sagging skin. Méphistophallique combines itself in a Tour de Garde with Tombeau’s flesh and begins ripping at his molecules. Bulging the veins in his neck is the last form of pain relief he can resort to as they pop from the rushing blood, while fusion between fragmented energy and human reaches its max. The pit is ablaze as he rises in a melt of glorious ember, dwarfed and crackling at the corners. Blackened in putrid sludge, dripping from crust-blasted skin, charred with thick ash now breaking from transformation, and then it’s darkness in a plume of dust. Everything slowly drips from the ceiling. “Rite de la chair” is complete. A glistening formation beams pins through the cloud of ash, and a pristine, diamond amalgamation/abomination emerges, shining crystal red and purple light.

• Tour de Garde: http://www.t-d-g.net

  

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CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.