Interview: Electric Six

Anyone listening to Heartbeats and Brainwaves, the latest studio album by the Detroit rock group Electric Six, can expect the same hyper-sexuality, cynicism and humour the act made their name with. But this doesn’t mean it’s a mere rehashing of the same material, as frontman Dick Valentine states; “We use more synthesisers, more drum machines; it’s a little stickier than some of the previous albums.” The band very much has its own unique sound, which they are very proud of.

Like all their previous work, this latest record was home-produced by their guitarist Johnny Nashinal. Valentine explains that he sees this as an advantage. “It’s much more preferable to have it done that way, rather than having to bring in some asshole.”

To promote the latest record the sextet are in the middle of a European tour this winter, and will be playing in Dublin along the way. However, this is not the first time the band have stepped foot on our island. “We always play here around Christmas; it’s the part of the year I look forward to most.”  The band prefers playing in Europe to at home in the United States for a number of reasons. This is mostly due to having a larger fanbase and generally a larger turnout at their performances than back home. “It feels more professional in Europe, we have larger rooms, and we can actually pretend for a moment that we’re actually somebody”, Valentine tells Otwo candidly.

In fact, many of the band’s singles have charted considerably higher in European countries than on home territory. Valentine partially relates this to the current state of popular music, which generally puts guitar bands on the backburner. “I don’t think any band is capable of cracking the US anymore, I don’t think it could actually happen,” he says disappointedly. He also chalks it up to the general differences in attitudes towards sexuality between the two continents. “In Europe it’s easier to do something more risqué, with more of a sense of humour. The United States has a long way to go before it completely shakes its puritanical layer.” However, the band’s relative anonymity is not a problem for Valentine, who explains that “it’s such a big country, even when you’re a band that’s relatively small like us you can make a lot of money”.

Touring is often the time when Valentine begins the song writing process. He explains that advances in technology have made a considerable impact on how the band writes music in general, as he records phrases and lyric ideas on his iPhone constantly. Due to previously not being able to instantly record any hook that came to Valentine, “there are probably two albums of amazing songs that I don’t know what happened to them”.
Many will remember Electric Six’s 2003 hits ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Danger! High Voltage’, as well a popular cover of Queen’s classic hit, ‘Radio Gaga’. A fan-made video accompanying Gay Bar that depicted George W. Bush and Tony Blair miming the lyrics was a viral hit in the early 2000’s, something which was particularly topical at the time due to the line ‘let’s start a nuclear war’ (which was removed from the radio edit of the song). Valentine was delighted with this use of their song in the internet sensation. “With our schedule and relationships with our wives and girlfriends and stuff, sometimes there’s not enough time to do everything you want to do, so it helps when people make a video and throw it out there and goes viral”.

This has not been the only video the band have released which has attracted media attention. There was some slight controversy surrounding the accompanying video to the ‘Radio Ga Ga’ cover.  It was widely interpreted at the time that Valentine, dressed as the late Freddie Mercury, was dancing on the musician’s grave. However, Valentine clarifies that this was not intentional. “It’s more like we are resurrecting Mr. Mercury for the duration of the song and his grave is the logical starting point”, as is explained on the band’s website. This was not the greatest concern of Valentine, who was more concerned that they had to release a cover song as a single. “We were just upset that we had to release a cover to begin with. We thought we had so many better songs we could release. But that was the record company’s decision and there’s nothing you can do.”

The band began in the 1990’s playing venues locally in their native Detroit, Michigan, home of the garage rock revival that included the White Stripes. Jack White sang on Electric Six’s ‘Danger! High Voltage’, a fact so often debated that it greatly puzzles Valentine. “I don’t know, we’ve all answered that many times. It’s funny how there are stated confirmations and people are like ‘there’s still some debate’.” Valentine tells Otwo that the answer is yes, he does sing on the track, but “go ahead and keep the debate going”.

Valentine looks forward to playing in Ireland and the many other destinations that the band will reach over the course of their tour, and remains positive about the future of the group. “Absolutely, one thing for sure is that, I don’t know any band still that is like us, that’s been as prolific. No-one wants to be Electric Six, and at first that doesn’t sound so good, but there’s a market for Electric Six, and we’ve got it cornered.” It’s not clear whether the band will ever release another ‘Gay Bar’, but they will continue making new music for the forseeable future. In the meantime, everyone else can simply listen to the old tunes again on YouTube, synched to footage of politician’s speeches and cats falling over.

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Rise of the Haredi

There has been some recent debate in the media over aggressive protests by ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews in Israel. The extremist faction has been protesting, often violently, against the ‘immodest’ dressing of women within the country. Haredi Judaism, the most conservative of all forms of the religion, makes up a small minority of Israel’s community (approximately ten per cent), although there are larger concentrations in cities including Jerusalem, the nation’s capital.

Israeli President Shimon Peres recently spoke out against the protesters and urged the nation “to save the majority from the hands of a small minority” amid ongoing tensions between the country’s religious and secular communities. Thousands of Israeli citizens have gathered to protest against these events, including a recent attack on an eight-year old girl by the extremist faction for dressing “immodestly”. Haredi protesters have spat and shouted “whore” and “Nazi” at schoolchildren and their mothers.

Israel is regularly celebrated as being liberal in relation to women’s rights in contrast to its Arab neighbours, where there has been alarm over newly elected Islamist leaders enforcing Hijabs and banning immodest clothing, but it is now is under threat of becoming embroiled in religious conservatism from a small minority of Israelis.

Earlier this month Haaretz, an Israeli paper that publishes in both Hebrew and English, reported that businesses in the small town of Sderot signed up to a modesty agreement over the past several months that guarantees that their female workers will dress modestly. More than twenty businesses have signed this agreement. The agreement has been described as “religious coercion” by members of the ultra-orthodox fringe by a local clothing store owner, who also stated that many of his co-workers are unhappy with this. The shops and businesses worry that by not agreeing to the modesty dress code they could harm their business interests.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has recently condemned sexist attacks by ultra-orthodox protesters, as have Haredi leaders. It is generally accepted that extremist protesters are a small minority within the Haredi community and most Haredis do not support the minority right-wing faction. The protesters have also caused alarm over religious pronouncements that men should walk out of army ceremonies that host female singers, as well as attempts to remove advertising in order to erase women’s faces from advertisements and billboards.

Jewish women, both within Israel, and in Britain and the US, have been urged to send in photographs of themselves holding signs saying “women should be seen and heard” by the New Israel Fund (NIF), who have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the extremist Haredim. The NIF plan to compile these photographs into advertisements that will be placed in parts of Jerusalem to fight back against the vandals. The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barket, has also publicly opposed this Haredi campaign and stated “We must make sure that those who want to advertise [with] women’s images in the city can do so without fear of vandalism and defacement of billboards or buses showing women.”

Of course, gender segregation within the ultra-orthodox community has always been evident, but it is only recently that there has been a rapid increase in stronger expressions of their views and the demands that those views are imposed on others. This is further adding to the ‘culture-clash’ that is now taking place within the Jewish state.

There is concern that the rise of Haredi violence is damaging Israel’s image abroad. “The violent clashes show Israel in a horrible light and cause a great deal of damage to its image in America,” one Hasidic rabbi said recently in an interview with Haaretz. The Jewish communities in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, in which ninety-five per cent of its residents are Hasidic Jews, feel that the violent extremists in Israel’s Haredi camp are giving a bad name to the “virtue of modesty” and have also denounced the somewhat tepid response of the Israeli authorities. This could be particularly problematic as the United States is Israel’s closest ally, being the largest cumulative recipient of US aid since World War Two.

This could be potentially damaging to Israel’s image as a “democratic, Western, liberal state” in the words of Netanyahu, and added that the current situation is much of a social issue as it is a legal one. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, also criticised the Haredi’s demands for gender segregation and the exclusion of women in the public sphere last month. At a private meeting in Washington, Clinton argued that the vilification of women was reminiscent of extremist regimes, and compared the practice of separating women and men on public buses (which is being heavily advocated by the orthodox groups), to racial segregation in the American south before the Civil Rights Act.

Netanyahu was right to point out Israel’s place as a liberal democracy. After the state was first accepted as a member of the United Nations in 1949, the ‘Labor Zionist’ movement led by David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics in its early years. Ben-Gurion’s Israel was largely secular, revolving around the revival of Hebrew culture and the creation of a state for the Jewish Diaspora, many of whom had been the victims of anti-Semitic crimes in Nazi Europe, and in Arab lands, rather than on religious grounds. If Israel is to maintain its reputation as a liberal democracy, it will be necessary for its government to stamp out this theocratic coercion from extremist protesters.

However, this is not to say that the Israeli Prime Minister is entirely without criticism. Netanyahu himself has been attacked in the Israeli press for including extreme right-wing Haredi parties in his government coalition. While his own party, Likud, represents the Israeli liberal-right, Shas, which holds four cabinet posts in government, align themselves with religious conservatives. Many members have been recorded previously attacking homosexuality, Palestinians, and have shown excessive leniency in punishing mosque burning and attacks on Arabs. Some have argued that this has strengthened the position of extremists, which has led to the recent problems.

This clash between the secular and religious communities should not be taken lightly, as not only does this situation affect the women who have been demonised and protested, but also the many followers of Haredi-Judaism who do not represent the minority extremist faction. The protests and violent attacks by the extremists have led to demonisation of all ultra-orthodox followers, general fear of Haredim in the Jewish state, and a divide between the secular and religious communities.

Scottish Independence

Maverick Sabre isn’t the most traditional hip hop artist. Maverick, born Michael Stafford, in Hackney, London, moved to New Ross, County Wexford during his childhood. Maverick’s debut album Lonely Are the Brave is yet to be released, but the singer-rapper has been gathering a fan following and receiving critical acclaim for the past two years. In December 2011, Sabre featured on Professor Green’s single ‘Jungle’, which reached number thirty-one in the UK Singles Charts. Since then Maverick has released two singles of his own, ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘I Need’ which have both reached the Top 20 in the UK.

The multi-talented Maverick combines soul-singing, occasional rapping, and playing guitar on the album, as well as both using backing tracks and recording with a band, as he recently did during an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland. In order to achieve his unique sound on his latest record, Sabre used a blend of many different genres. “I blend, and I mix in every instrument I’ve ever heard really. There’s a mix of hip-hop, soul, folk, all mixed into one bundle. I’m hoping that’s what people like about it,” he tells Otwo. Maverick gets his varied musical tastes from a variety of influences, including his father, who brought the twenty-one year old artist up on traditional Irish music, folk, as well as American rock and roll and soul music.

Although Maverick has signed to Mercury Records, a major label, he does not feel it has impeded his creative ability in any way. “There’s a lot more opinions to deal with; I mean

I’ve got to listen to forty other opinions, but the only pressure I put up with is the pressure I put on myself. I don’t really allow anyone else’s opinion to put too much pressure on me.” Maverick explains that a condition of his deal with the label was maintaining “one-hundred per cent artistic choice,” which allows him to make the final decision on anything musically.

Sabre first released The Lost Words, a four-track EP with the label last year. Since moving to the mainstream, Maverick has felt there is a difference in audience reaction in general. “In the underground people judge more on music. In the mainstream they judge on a lot of other things. It is different, but I want to push the music to a wider variety of people.”

Before returning to London, his place of birth, Sabre often collaborated with Irish hip-hop artists in his hometown. So what is Irish hip-hop exactly, and how is it distinct from the more widely known American and British rap scenes? Maverick believes the differences are not huge saying that, “It’s only different in size. The gigs are the same, the entertainment quality is the same, it’s just the size of the scene. It’s a smaller scene in Ireland, and it’s not massively recognised by the mainstream yet.”

Maverick believes it is important for the young Irish rap artists to use their natural accent and speaking voice when performing. The artist explained why he always uses his natural half Wexford, half London accent. “It’s obviously quite hard for young people when their getting into it, it’s hard for them to get into the accent at the start. I was doing the American thing, then trying to sound like Dizzee Rascal for a while, and I think it’s hard to get the confidence because it’s not supported by the mainstream. But at the end of the day it needs to be real, because that’s what hip-hop is about; being real to your own emotions, and your own struggles. You need to represent yourself and your community fully, and you need to push that through with your own natural accent.”

As well as different accents, Maverick has also noticed a considerable difference in audience reaction between Ireland and the UK. “Irish crowds are different, because everyone plays in London, so it’s not as special when acts come into town,” he remarks. “But when you go to Ireland, where you have less [hip-hop artists] coming, people appreciate it more.”

Maverick’s main philosophy is that he believes artists should always be true to themselves. One word of advice that Maverick has for younger artists is not to be afraid to speak out on issues they feel are important. “I can’t speak for other artists but I think it’s important for me. I think it’s important for artists to have an opinion and voice that opinion, and for it to reflect somewhat in their music, because they’re the young generation and they need to be spoken for. Music is one of my biggest influences; music reflects what society goes through. I feel that, for artists who are in the industry now, for them not to speak about it is a bit disappointing to be honest. But I can’t speak for anyone else, that’s just me.”

Interview with Maverick Sabre

Maverick Sabre isn’t the most traditional hip hop artist. Maverick, born Michael Stafford, in Hackney, London, moved to New Ross, County Wexford during his childhood. Maverick’s debut album Lonely Are the Brave is yet to be released, but the singer-rapper has been gathering a fan following and receiving critical acclaim for the past two years. In December 2011, Sabre featured on Professor Green’s single ‘Jungle’, which reached number thirty-one in the UK Singles Charts. Since then Maverick has released two singles of his own, ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘I Need’ which have both reached the Top 20 in the UK.

The multi-talented Maverick combines soul-singing, occasional rapping, and playing guitar on the album, as well as both using backing tracks and recording with a band, as he recently did during an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland. In order to achieve his unique sound on his latest record, Sabre used a blend of many different genres. “I blend, and I mix in every instrument I’ve ever heard really. There’s a mix of hip-hop, soul, folk, all mixed into one bundle. I’m hoping that’s what people like about it,” he tells Otwo. Maverick gets his varied musical tastes from a variety of influences, including his father, who brought the twenty-one year old artist up on traditional Irish music, folk, as well as American rock and roll and soul music.

Although Maverick has signed to Mercury Records, a major label, he does not feel it has impeded his creative ability in any way. “There’s a lot more opinions to deal with; I mean

I’ve got to listen to forty other opinions, but the only pressure I put up with is the pressure I put on myself. I don’t really allow anyone else’s opinion to put too much pressure on me.” Maverick explains that a condition of his deal with the label was maintaining “one-hundred per cent artistic choice,” which allows him to make the final decision on anything musically.

Sabre first released The Lost Words, a four-track EP with the label last year. Since moving to the mainstream, Maverick has felt there is a difference in audience reaction in general. “In the underground people judge more on music. In the mainstream they judge on a lot of other things. It is different, but I want to push the music to a wider variety of people.”

Before returning to London, his place of birth, Sabre often collaborated with Irish hip-hop artists in his hometown. So what is Irish hip-hop exactly, and how is it distinct from the more widely known American and British rap scenes? Maverick believes the differences are not huge saying that, “It’s only different in size. The gigs are the same, the entertainment quality is the same, it’s just the size of the scene. It’s a smaller scene in Ireland, and it’s not massively recognised by the mainstream yet.”

Maverick believes it is important for the young Irish rap artists to use their natural accent and speaking voice when performing. The artist explained why he always uses his natural half Wexford, half London accent. “It’s obviously quite hard for young people when their getting into it, it’s hard for them to get into the accent at the start. I was doing the American thing, then trying to sound like Dizzee Rascal for a while, and I think it’s hard to get the confidence because it’s not supported by the mainstream. But at the end of the day it needs to be real, because that’s what hip-hop is about; being real to your own emotions, and your own struggles. You need to represent yourself and your community fully, and you need to push that through with your own natural accent.”

As well as different accents, Maverick has also noticed a considerable difference in audience reaction between Ireland and the UK. “Irish crowds are different, because everyone plays in London, so it’s not as special when acts come into town,” he remarks. “But when you go to Ireland, where you have less [hip-hop artists] coming, people appreciate it more.”

Maverick’s main philosophy is that he believes artists should always be true to themselves. One word of advice that Maverick has for younger artists is not to be afraid to speak out on issues they feel are important. “I can’t speak for other artists but I think it’s important for me. I think it’s important for artists to have an opinion and voice that opinion, and for it to reflect somewhat in their music, because they’re the young generation and they need to be spoken for. Music is one of my biggest influences; music reflects what society goes through. I feel that, for artists who are in the industry now, for them not to speak about it is a bit disappointing to be honest. But I can’t speak for anyone else, that’s just me.”

Interview: Avenue Q

You may not have heard of Avenue Q. Well, you may think you have not heard of Avenue Q. There is a high chance however, that you have heard one of the many songs the adult musical comedy has produced. Many of the musical numbers including ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and ‘If you were gay’ have been viewed millions of times online, often in the form of original footage of the show being performed on Broadway and across the world, or in various parodies featuring characters from video games and television shows.

The musical features dirty-minded puppets in a coming of age parable, which reflects on and satirises many issues such as racism, pornography, purpose in life and growing up. After it originally premiered in 2003, the Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has been described as an adult version of Sesame Street by the likes of Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker. Chris Thatcher, one of the stars of the current cast, agrees with this comparison, telling Otwo, “It is like [an adult Sesame Street], except as a kid you learn your ABCs, as an adult you learn things about relationships and so on.”

Thatcher explains that it is the puppet element of the show that has made it so successful. “People just seem to warm to puppets, you can do things you wouldn’t be able to do as an actor. It’s a different art form. As a performer, as a human, you can’t go too big with your performance. You try not to detract too much away from the puppet. You want to match the puppet but not too much to the extent that the audience just watch you and not the puppet.”

The implementation of puppets in the musical has allowed the show to satirise and comment on events that would otherwise be more difficult. “The thing about having a puppet there is you can say things you wouldn’t be able to get away with saying. People would say, ‘That’s bad, that’s out of order.’ When a puppet says it, people say, ‘Oh it’s okay, they’re innocent.’ It’s like a puppy, or a very young child. If you were to hear a baby swearing at an adult, rather than thinking, ‘Oh god, that’s really bad’, you would [think it’s okay because] they don’t know what they’re saying.”

While generally speaking this has allowed Avenue Q to touch on subjects such as pornography without any trouble, there have been occasions where the show’s risqué material has led to awkward situations. On more than one occasion people have gone to see the musical without realising what they were subjecting themselves to. “One night we had a family, of all these aristocratic kind of people. It was the whole family: the mums, the dads, the grandma the grandpa and the son and his fiancé.  They were all in the front row. They just looked disgusted; it was hilarious. So for the rest of the show a lot of me and my friends were finding the show funnier than the audience were.” Thatcher explained that although most people know what they can expect from the show, he warned that, “If you don’t do your research, you can be in for a shock.”

The cast are not hidden during the production, and stand on stage with the puppets. However, as Thatcher explains, this has never been an issue for the audience, as they naturally watch the puppets. “A lot of people say, at the start they find themselves looking at the puppet and the puppeteer, and then they’ll say ‘Oh, by the end I was just watching the puppet’… If I have an expression of shock on my face, which will be projected onto the puppet and it will look shocked, and if I look happy, the puppet will look happy as well.”

Avenue Q has now been playing for nine years, and although it has generally kept the same form, there have been changes in references to popular culture and politics to keep up with current affairs. In the final song, ‘For Now’ the cast explain that everything, both bad and good, is only for the time being. This originally included the line “George Bush is only for now”, but since the often decried President left office, he has been replaced in the show by perhaps even more divisive figures. Last year’s show used the line, “Jedward is only for now” instead. For this current tour, it has changed again. However, Thatcher remains mysterious, saying,“If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to come along.”

This article originally appeared here in March of 2012.

Religious Apathy

Last week’s Eucharistic Congress took place in Dublin, aiming to promote awareness of the mission of the Catholic Church and to help improve understanding of the liturgy. However, a poll conducted by MRBI for the Irish Times last week showe that forty-one per cent of Irish Catholics were not aware of the festivities at all.

The same study also revealed that the majority of Catholics do not believe in general, in much of the central teachings of the church. The poll showed that under a third of people who claim to be Catholic attend Sunday mass, while another thirty-nine per cent said they never or very occasionally do. The poll also showed that while only nine per cent of Irish people believe the country would be better off without the church, forty-six per cent believe it would make no difference at all. None of this is particularly surprising. It is not a recent discovery that the Catholic Church no longer plays a large role in Irish society.

In 1932, we saw the thirty-first International Eucharistic Congress take place in Ireland. It was one of the largest in the twentieth century. This year Ireland hosts the fiftieth congress, and it would seem the location is all the two have in common. In 1932, most Irish people considered themselves to be practicing and devoted Catholics. In today’s Ireland, a majority of eighty-five per cent still identify as Catholic, although in a far more cultural than religious sense. Most in Ireland today vaguely believe in some the tenants of Christianity but reject Catholic teachings on morality and sexuality. Since the 1970′s Ireland has rapidly moved away from religious Catholicism and secularised society, and for the most part this has been for the better.

The revelations of the abuse scandals in the church have shaken many former believers, who now cannot associate with the Vatican, its crimes endless and horrific. It has become clear that there are genuine systematic and endemic problems within the church that have not been addressed substantially.

This year’s Congress has already sparked protests. There are of course the obvious ones, like those by Atheist Ireland, but also there has been the protests by LGBT groups who oppose the hostile language levelled against them by the current Pope, Pope Benedict and some other high-ranking clergy, who seem to be for the most part, utterly opposed to any kind of capitulation on this issues related to LGBT rights. In some ways the protests show above else that t is not radical to protest against religion in Ireland. It has become normal, accepted and has gone largely with little notice during the Congress. There has been no furore either largely in favour of the Congress, or against it, but rather one giant collective shrug from the Irish public.

It has become such that perhaps to protest in favour of the Congress, and of the Church in general, would appear more radical, more outside the mainstream and more out of place in Irish society. In terms of the Church’s views on morality and sexuality, it is now generally accepted that they are wrong on the issue and their view on it is totally irrelevant. The most significant protests of this week’s events were perhaps those by victims of sexual abuse.

Paddy Doyle, one survivor of abuse by the Church who protested the events, pointed out this week that despite the fact that the Vatican has put almost twelve million euro in funding towards the Congress, they continue all the while to claim there is no money that could be given as reparations towards abuse victims. This essentially sums up the Catholic Church as an entity itself. The Vatican is an embarrassment of riches, decorated from head to toe in gold, while the poor and abused are told that prayer is the only solution and they cannot help them financially.

It is for this reason the Pope did not visit last week. Relations have become tense over the past several decades due to various scandals with the Vatican and the Church, many of which have resulted in tribunals and investigations into the crimes committed by the Church, and the subsequent ‘handling’ of these scandals by the Vatican. It was announced last week that the Pope would not be giving a live address to Croke Park, but rather a pre-recorded message would be played instead.

The Eucharistic Congress has shown above all else the irrelevance of the Church in Irish politics, culture and society. As Miriam Lord pointed out in the Irish Times, the Irish public have their eyes turned to Poznan and not to Dublin this week. The lack of any revival in Catholicism this week has simply proved that Ireland has changed permanently. People still tick the Catholic box on a census form, but for the most part, Catholic Ireland is dead and gone, and with de Valera in the grave.

This article originally appeared here

Frank Ocean: Channel Orange Review

Aside

Frank Ocean’s debut album Channel Orange begins by inviting the listener to a nostalgic 1990’s world with a variety of familiar intro-music. Sounds of the original Sony PlayStation, and sounds from an old Street Fighter game feature on the opening track ‘Start’.

This is followed by Frank’s first single ‘Thinkin bout you’, a fairly standard but easy-listening RnB pop song. The record continues with another several RnB love grooves before taking a different turn with ‘Sweet Life’, the skit ‘Not Just Money’ and ‘Super Rich Kids’, all of which deal with class and money. The latter track takes aim at wealthy families whose children spend more time with their maids than they do their parents. Most other tracks on the record are typical pop-y songs, but for the most part they are good pop-y love songs.

Ocean has recently gained attention to his many guest appearances on other artist’s records. He featured with Jay-Z and Kanye West on two songs from their blockbuster ‘Watch the Throne’ last year, as well as on several collaborations with Tyler, the Creator. Surprisingly, Channel Orange features few guest appearances, and is very much a solo effort. Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 are the only guest rappers to feature on Channel Orange, while John Mayer plays guitar on a minute-long instrumental piece in which Tyler, the Creator receives a producers credit.

The record is unusual in that it is tinged in a variety of different unconventional genres and instruments, such as jazz, funk, and soul and also features many different electric piano, organ and guitar sounds. The most standout track on the album is Pyramids, one of the most talked about tracks as it leaked a few weeks early before its official release. It features an unusual variety of sounds, including video-game synth, techno-trippy psychadelia, complete with a heavily distorted guitar solo. It is like nothing else in RnB or Hip-Hop. A masterpiece of avant-garde experiments mixed with standard pop.
Ocean is impressive. His song-writing is impressively mature for a debut album, his voice has a lot of character and his artist vision is clearly evident on the record.

In a Nutshell: Some very catchy songs on this. Not much new but Channel Orange is still worthy of your time.

This article originally appeared here