K-Murdock - Hero Muzik Vol. 1

K-Murdock was no stranger to video games before teaming up with Mega Ran, his involvement in video game music has certainly increased since they originally teamed up to start making music. Their album Forever Famicom quickly became a classic amongst nerdcore fans, as they made great hip hop out of Nintendo samples. Now, to kick off what’s sure to be another busy year for the producer, he drops Hero Muzik Vol.

Random aka Mega Ran and Lost Perception - Black Materia: The Remixes

While his frequent collaborator K-Murdock gave us an instrumental collection of songs based on Final Fantasy 6, Random revisits his album with Lost Perception based on Final Fantasy 7. The album is called Black Materia: The Remixes, but this isn’t a straight up remix album, in that it doesn’t match up to the original album track by track with different versions. Instead, Mega Ran gives us an assortment of remixes, re-imagined songs, and completely new material in a new sequence.

Nicholas J - One of a Kind

As explained with the review of Safari Al, there is a young crop of hip hop talent emerging in Wisconsin. Milo’s I wish my brother Rob was here served as an introduction not only to his talent, but also to Safari Al and Nicholas J through some guest verses. As it turns out, Nicholas J actually beat his friends to punch with a solo release a couple of years ago with his DEMOlition mixtape, but I imagine that like myself, One of a Kind will be your first introduction to the young artist.

Pierce Warnecke - The Machine Regrets

Pierce Warnecke is an interesting person, whose travels in life have stationed him in California, Paris, Berklee School of Music, and currently, Berlin. On top of being an elecrtonic/instrumental hip hop producer/composer, he also works as a sound designer at music software company. On his latest release, The Machine Regrets, he seeks to tell the story of a machine gaining consciousness and the difficulties it encounters as a result. The first two tracks, “De-Processed,” and “Re-Processed,” do an excellent job of setting the stage.

Venice Dawn - Something About April

Adrian Younge first made a splash by scoring the 2009 film Black Dynamite, a parody of blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. It was on this score that Younge displayed his talents as songwriter and arranger, combining influences such as Ennio Morricone, Isaac Hayes, and RZA. On his latest project, he harkens back to a piece of work he did much earlier, a film score to a fictional film called Venice Dawn.

Safari Al - Hermitage Academy

One of the most exciting parts of being a music journalist is discovering talent at the beginning of a career. Or, to be more accurate in this case, when that talent taps you on the shoulder and opens a door to an exciting scene. This is precisely what happened last October, when a young Wisconsin artist named Milo submitted his solo debut, I wish my brother Rob was here. Milo was clearly talented himself, but there were hints of even more music to come due to the guest spots from Safari Al and Nicholas J.

Maggz - Soundscapes: Winter Selection

In a short amount of time I’ve become very intrigued by Columbus, Ohio’s Maggz. After being introduced to him first as a producer for another emcee, then hearing him rhyme over another producer’s beats, he released the first in a series of instrumental EPs based on the seasons. After Soundscapes: Autumn Selection came out, well, last autumn, he comes back with his winter collection. Maybe it’s because for the first time in over twenty years I’m living in a place that has discernible seasons, but this series is resonating with me.

Tensei - One EP

Tensei is the Chicago duo of Midas Wells and Simple X. The two have been working together off and on since the late ‘90s, and while they’ve had plenty of individual production credits over the years, it’s only in the past couple years that the two have reconnected and committed to working as a duo. Taking the name Tensei, which means “Heaven Star” in Japanese, they first garnered attention by winning a remix contest for Bilal, which led to Plug Research signing them.

Lazerbeak - Lava Bangers

It must be nice to be Lazerbeak. It must be nice to have a friend (in this case, DJ Plain Ole Bill) go through some unreleased beats that you’ve been working on and to emerge with an album in tact. Seriously, I’m in awe of just how talented and prolific this guy is. On the heels of working on last Decemeber’s incredible No Kings with the rest of Doomtree, he comes right back with his first instrumental album in Lava Bangers.

Yöt - Bitch Bender

Yöt is a four piece group from Helsinki, and Bitch Bender marks their third release. They’re calling it a mini-LP or mini-album, and I’m not clear as to why they’re avoiding the term EP, but that’s all just a matter of semantics. What matters most is that they released a collection of six songs of instrumental hip-hop, dub, and skweee. Before I could really listen to their music, I had to deal with Yöt’s titles on this release.