Aaron Levitt

New Artist: Psychologist

It takes a brave man to make music through minimal sound effects and the raw power of his own voice. Before James Blake took such a leap of faith at the end of last year, there was Iain Woods, the man behind Psychologist. And whilst the former basks in his critical acclaim, the latter carries on creating less recognised, yet equally magnificent music. His sound falls somewhere in between two ends of the minimalist spectrum – the bass-driven Blake and the piano-led melodies of Oupa and Perfume Genius.Recorded in a church, Waves Of OK is the first of two EPs released by Psychologist this year and, as a result, each of its five unnerving songs have a real hymnal quality. The standout is Come In Waves, which sees Woods’ voice take centre stage, so distinguishable that the piano and bassy sound effects are just an afterthought. Be sure to explore some other highlights on Psychologist’s Hype Machine page, and watch out for the second EP release later this year, which contains further electronic explorations.

New Release: Nu Brand Flexxx – Spellbound

“Nu brand flexxx is not just a group, it’s a lifestyle”. So reads the about-box on the group’s Facebook page – an elaborate claim, but one that is justified in the video of their latest release, Spellbound. In a world where rappers have a lot to say for themselves, the message of this drug and Haribo fuelled affair is simple: sit back, relax and take time to enjoy life. With a chilled, hypnotic beat and lyrical flow to match, Spellbound creates the perfect soundtrack for such an occasion. Given their approach to music, Nu Brand have drawn comparisons to Wiz Khalifa, but these guys have been doing their thing for much longer. If any connection is to be made, it should be to Outkast, simply for the variety of material they produce. With a Conservative Party anthem, a poppier ode to London Fashion Week, and more traditional grime tracks backing up Spellbound, all are produced with a touch of style and humour that makes Nu Brand a very interesting prospect.

New Artist: Kyla La Grange

Even the most ardent followers of underground music need a powerhouse of a pop song to sing in the shower. For those looking for something more contemporary and guilt-free than Diana Ross or Whitney Houston, the answer can be found in Kyla La Grange’s indie-pop anthem Walk Through Walls. It’s certainly not a conventional career path for a Cambridge Philosophy graduate, but with a voice so strong and compelling it was a risk worth taking. With a catchy chorus and impressive vocal range shown in the numerous “Wooohoooo”s throughout, it is easy to see why the single has been lauded by Radio 1′s Huw Stephens and Rob Da Bank. If you like what you hear, listen to Vampire Smile, also available as a free download and equally appropriate for those shower sing-a-longs.

New Release: Rashaan Ahmad – Pain On Black

As emotive hip-hop songs go, Raashan Ahmad’s Pain On Black is up there with the best. On a hiatus from rap-group the Crown City Rockers, the New Jersey born rapper has used the time to focus on making jazz-infused Hip-hop. His most recent album, For What You’ve Lost was released rather discreetly last year and Pain On Black is its second single. And what a gem. In Ahmad’s own words it was written as the world was crumbling around him, and you get the sense of his heart and soul being poured into the lyrics. Rapping in one continuous verse, Ahmed barely pauses for breath, so pressing is his desire to tell the listeners about his struggle. But this is no ego-trip and Ahmed seems truly thankful for where he is now. Musically, Pain on Black is made by the triumphant trumpet sample, which compliments the song’s message. The struggle that made the song is the listener’s gain, and by this reckoning Raashan Ahmed’s next release will be a much better-known affair.

New Release: Drake – Dreams Money Can Buy

Following our previous post on Jai Paul, we wanted to express our pride that his brilliant BTSTU has been sampled by Drake in a song leaked this week off his forthcoming album. In terms of composition and sound,Dream Money Can Buy doesn’t differ too much from previous work, but the sample choice indicates a more experimental direction for the Canadian rapper. He has decided not to reproduce the formula that made his debut so successful, but rather form collaborations with UK bass artists that make his music more interesting. He has recently worked with producer SBTRKT and will seek the help of Jamie xx on LP Take Care, due in September. It is an encouraging sign both for a UK music scene going from strength to strength, and also the integrity of an already-successful rapper.

New Artist: Grey Reverend

Fans of The Cinematic Orchestra will be familiar with singer-songwriter Grey Reverend, who remixed the band’s To Build A Home in 2007 and has supported them live numerous times. For everyone else… Grey Reverend is made up of the modest voice and guitar-playing of L.D. Brown, but represents a much bigger talent. He was discovered by The Cinematic Orchestra front man Jason Swinscoe at the coffee shop run by Brown’s sister. He has since joined Swinscoe’s Motion Audio label and this month released his first single, One By One, under their banner. Similar to Fink and Jose Gonzalez, this is stripped down acoustic singer-songwriting at its finest and Motion Audio have latched onto a talent. We look forward to hearing more in his upcoming album Of The Days, released in July.