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Young Heavy Souls 'Outparcels', 'The Northern Tropics' and 'Shapeshifter'

REVIEW: Detroit collective and label boasts a string of impressive releases

Vapor Eyes
A big shout out to the Young Heavy Souls camp, a Detroit-based artist collective and record label established in 2011, which, as they themselves say embraces 'all styles of hip-hop and electronic music.'

This all-encompassing approach is exemplified by three recent releases, 'Outparcels' by Vapor Eyes, 'The Northern Tropics' by Nortroniks and 'Shapeshifter' by Nunca Duerma.

Each share a musical kinship, whilst being individual enough, both in style and mood, to create a lasting impression right from first listen.

Vapor Eyes: 'Outparcel': A footwork-inspired project that will move the listener in more ways than one

Released in May, the frenetic and evocative footwork-inspired hip hop of Vapor Eyes' 'Outparcel' is able to skillfully mix pain and partying.

Says Vapor Eyes of the project:

'This EP was inspired by the City of Chicago, its art, artists and sounds, my late nights out and one harsh winter. It's hard work feeling good in a poisoned world.'

The feelings of a harsh winter and a poisoned world are evoked right from the onset, with the eerie choir samples and sharp, frenetic drum programming of 'Outchea'.  Is this mantra of 'outta my f*cking mind' coming from someone at one with the music, letting go of woes as they get loose? Or is this a cry for help from a soul for whom the attempt to 'feel good in a poisoned world' has become too much?
Is this mantra the words of someone letting go of all their worries as they get loose? Or is this a cry for help from a soul for whom the attempt to 'feel good in a poisoned world' has become too much?
A less ambiguous track is the visceral 'Enemies' which plays like the soundtrack to a horrific violent attack.  This relentless, nightmarish sonic bombardment is reminiscent to the work of fellow Chicago artist and The New Beatmaker favourite Evil Alex, especially his deeply funky but equally unsettling 'Hate' EP.

'Outparcel' is a project that succeeds in moving the listener in more ways than one at the same time.

Nortroniks: 'The Northern Tropics': An infectious outing full of reggae bounce and memorable vocal hooks

A more joyous project is Nortroniks' 'The Northern Tropics', which is full of instrumentals which mix hip hop, dub and EDM influences in a tasteful manner.

However, it's far from being one-dimensional as it's not just the styles which are blended cleverly, but on two of the projects main highlights, the emotions.

'Every chance you get, you seem to hit me more and more' wails the pitch-shifting RnB vocal of 'Halv√∂', 'it's the same old song' bemoans the melodic reggae hook of  potential crossover hit 'Something on Wax''.  Both tracks placing mournful vocals on top of otherwise lively productions which bounce along merrily.  Speaking of merry, 'Good Morning, Espresso' is just the kind of unapologetic sonic perk-up you would expect it to be, boasting a lovely line of clean, punchy brass stabs.

Nortroniks 'The Northern Tropics'
'The Northern Tropics' mixes hip hop, dub and EDM influences in a tasteful manner.'

'Dunes Part II' mixes contemporary hip hop with the type of ghostly vocal samples more akin to a Disclosure record.  Splendid.

So, is 'The Northern Tropics' destined for (whisper the next words) pop success?   It could well be, and deservedly so.

Is it dub-inspired hip hop? Is it hip hop-inspired EDM? Who cares? Just throw it on and dance to it.

Nunca Duerma: 'Shapeshifter': An Album full of Laser Sharp Focus and Intensity

Nunca Duerma's 'Shapeshifter' (Young Heavy Souls and Old Tacoma Records) is a record you could perhaps dance around your living room to, but has an intensity to it that arguably picks up where 'Outparcel' left off.

The project packs a punch right from the outset, with the epic and aggressive '$$' switching up and down tempos, horns providing a triumphant fanfare.  'Caves' shares this urgency and intensity, mixing it's relentless drums with hypnotic and atmospheric synth loops, the extra bass which comes in near the end of the track is another nice touch.  A somewhat more chilled out track is 'Rhodes', which has a hint of seventies swagger sprinkled throughout.

Nunca Duerma
Arguably however, the biggest highlights of 'Shapeshifter' comes in the way of a one-two punch near  the end of this already very rewarding album.

'Free' uses a classic drum loop from the 90's as the basis of a ride through layers of evocative and haunting synths which build and build with intensity as the track races forwards.  A lovely warm bass guitar add a further sublime touch.

This is followed 'Slap'; where nimbly chopped vocal samples and bluesy guitars sit in the middle of a set of drums that, well, slap just as hard as any you are likely to hear all year.  

Lovingly composed, masterfully executed, skillfully mixed (by Matt Black and Mark Siet at Nocturnal Sound Labs), 'Shapeshifter', like 'The Northern Tropics' is a polished, accomplished and rewarding listen from one of the most exciting beatmakers around, and could potentially be the album of the year. 
Lovingly composed, masterfully executed and skillfully mixed, Duerma's 'Shapeshifter' could prove to be the album of the year.
With this trio of releases, Young Heavy Souls shows that it is able to create potential pop smashes just as skillfully as it can create 'dance' records with under or overtones of unease and horror.  The word 'heavy' itself is synonymous with weight, a load one has to bear, a gravity.  With artists like these within it's ranks, these young souls look set to shake off gravity and enjoy a meteoric, and well deserved, rise.

For more on Young Heavy Souls: 
For all featured artists, Click here.
For all features, Click Here.
For all reviews, Click Here.

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