Monday, January 29, 2007
‘Jesus Price Supastar’
I listened to ‘Jesus Price Supastar
the newly released sophomore solo full-length from Sean Price, also known as Ruck, formerly of the group Heltah Skeltah, for the first time last Friday. Price has long been one of my favorite emcees, going back to “Lefluer Leflah Eshkoshka” and his work with Heltah Skeltah, I was bowled over by his star-making turn on the Boot Camp Clik's “And So,” and his previous solo LP ‘Monkey Barz’
had been one of my favorite Hip-Hop records of the year 2005. So it should almost go without saying that my expectations for his sophomore LP were high. In fact, I wasn't sure if I was setting the bar too
high for Price. And I wasn't confident that he'd be able to deliver the unadulterated ignorance that had made ‘Monkey Barz’
such a success. Any apprehensions I had faded fast as soon as “Jesus Price,” the PF Cuttin' produced intro track hit my eardrums. Opening with shouts of “Jesus,” his trademark “Peee” and an angry proclamation that “this is MY album,” over a mellow Mexican string and horn loop that sounds like the soundtrack for a bullfight, the track sets shit off right. Price goes on to name-drop Chaka Khan and infamous New York street-gang the Decepticons, rap about getting fellatio from your Mom and declare himself “the master” of other rappers who he likens to slaves, accompanied by the repeated sound effect of a bull-whip cracking. Like he said on the intro of his last album, “this is ignorance at it's finest.”
The first half of the LP continues on in this vein of unadulterated brutality, with hard knocking beats and Price's infinitely quotable, witty, self-deprecating, and straight up ignorant rhymes smacking you in the face on every cut like powerful shots from a heavyweight fighter. First there's “Like You,” which opens with the memorable line “back to the music, some niggaz backpack to the music, when I rap, I smoke black and sell crack to the music,” and finds Ruck distancing himself from the likes of rapper Mike Jones over a pimped-out beat courtesy of newcomer 10 for the Triad. This track closes with a sample of internet phenomenon Reverend X kicking knowledge over “Atomic Dog” as only he can. Next up is “P-Body,” this album's answer to “Onionheadz,” featuring Pee spitting raw braggadocio over a soulful 9th Wonder boom-bap production, and his former Heltah Skeltah partner The Rockness Monsta delivering the insanely alliterative pseudo-tongue-twister of a chorus. Then on “Cardiac” Sean P, who spits a verse where he brags about smacking religious leader Malachi Z. York in the face, joins forces with “the five foot gorilla” Buckshot of Black Moon, who comes off colder and sharper than he has since “Slave” on ‘Enta Da Stage’
over a surprisingly rugged Reggae-sampling beat from Illmind. After that the P-Body tells you to peep his “knap-sack backpack vibe,” explaining that he “used to ride the Amtrak with a knap-sack with crack inside,” over a beat that sounds like a 9th Wonder rework of one of Dilla's ‘Donuts’
beats on “Stop.” This is followed by “Violent,” which is sort of like the “Heartburn” of this set, with Price spitting viciously about random acts of violence over a sugary 9th Wonder track, the juxtaposition of which inspires him to note that “the beat is smooth, the rap is hard, just the way I like it, bless the mic of the God.” Appropriately enough the next track, a collabo with Brand Nubian's Sadat X and a chorus from Buckshot, is titled “Da God” and finds the duo discussing the downside of living righteous and listing the many reasons why it's hard being “da God” over another 10 for the Triad beat. The record's first song cycle is rounded out by “Oops Upside Your Head,” a cinematic Moss-produced banger featuring Price and Smif-n-Wessun's Steele trading threatening verses that reference Criss Angel Mindfreak of all people. One again, this track ends with an excerpt of Reverend X dropping science about the powers of Jesus.
At this point in my listening experience I was ready to heap mountains of praise on the album. Sean Price had done the unthinkable! With 8 consistent bangers in a row the album was shaping up to be an overall superior product compared to his last LP. While ‘Monkey Barz’
was a solid album bolstered by a handful of mind-blowingly incredible songs ( “Onionheadz,” “Boom By Yeah,” “Monkey Barz” and “Heartburn” ) it was sort of uneven, and there was definitely some filler. And although there weren't necessarily any songs as explosive as the highlight tracks from ‘Monkey Barz’
on ‘Jesus price Supastar’
the quality of every track I'd heard so far was just unbelievably high. There was no filler at all! And if the remaining half of the album contained some brain-bustingly dope tracks ‘Jesus Price Supastar’
was going to bury ‘Monkey Barz’
and take a whizz on it's grave. Had the album ended there it would have been a perfect
EP, right down to the Reverend X outro of “Oops Upside Your Head,” so my hopes were high that the next half would ratchet up the perfection. But then I heard track number nine.
Smack dab in the middle of what was shaping up to be a classic LP Sean Price and his former partner Rock drop a giant, smelly turd. That turd is the track “Church,” a lame G-Funk track, replete with P-Funk-ish sung chorus, produced by Norwegian producer Tommy Tee. After that the album picks up a little bit on the Khrysis-produced “King Kong,” a string-laced, boom-bap banger that features another Rock-assisted chorus. But the album never really seems to recover from the disruption caused by “Chruch.” Of the remaining tracks all but one feature production from 9th Wonder and Khrysis who both seem to be trying to do something “different” from the signature sound they‘ve come to be known for. The results aren’t terrible, but Sean Price's album, which needed a steady stream of unadulterated bangers, wasn't the place to experiment. This problem is compounded by the presence of 9th and Khrysis' Justus League affiliates such as Skyzoo, Chaundon and Phonte of Little Brother. Hearing Chaundon and Phonte try to hold their own when paired with a lyrical beast like Sean Price is sort of a joke. Neither of these dudes have any business rapping anywhere in the vicinity of Decepticon Sean, much less on a track with him. Despite these mis-steps the album manages to close out on a high note with “Mess You Made,” a track featuring the chorus crooning of Brooklyn Academy's Block McCloud and production from newcomer Masse of Redline Beats. The smooth-but-funky late-night-vibe track finds Sean slipping into introspective mode, seriously addressing his status as “the brokest rapper you know,” discussing his legacy in the Rap game, lamenting his place in the current Rap industry and meditating on capitalism and the futility of life in general. It's actually a revealing look into Price's private thoughts, and is a refreshingly dope way to end the album after the hit-and-miss quality of it's latter-half.
What Sean Price has given us with ‘Jesus Price Supastar’
is an album that could
have been nothing short of incredible, that unfortunately winds up being a little frustrating. I guess it's kind of like the real Jesus' legacy that way. But luckily the fact remains that when Price and his collaborators are on
on. And the instances that they’re on far
outnumber the instances that they‘re not. So, ’Jesus Price Supastar'
is essentially an almost
classic LP, and one of the standout Hip-Hop records of our era. All you‘ve got to do to hear it in it’s near classic form is cut off a handful of tracks ( specifically “Church,” “Let It Be Known” and “Hearing Aid” ), burn your own copy and slide it in the existing case. Or you can just adjust your iPod playlist if you're technologically advanced. Either way the results are gonna be “Godly.”
Saturday, January 27, 2007
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN
'The Good, The Bad and The Queen'
I think a lot of people fully expected the debut disc from The Good, The Bad and The Queen, the new super-group comprised of vocalist Damon Albarn ( Blur, Gorillaz ), guitarist Simon Tong ( The Verve ), bassist Paul Simonon ( The Clash ), and drummer Tony Allen ( Fela Kuti/Africa '70 ), produced by Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton ( Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, Danger Doom ), to turn out something like Gorillaz, just without the cartoon characters. This false assumption surely stemmed from an underestimation of the scope of Albarn's vision and of the breadth of Burton's abilities, and unfortunately resulted in fans presupposing the release of a totally different album than the one that's actually arrived in stores.
The first single "Herculean," a jittery trip to a depressed urban carnival may have played a role in so many people making an ass out of you and me. It featured Damon Albarn singing over heavy beats, which is kind of what Gorillaz is all about. But if you listen carefully you can tell that this most definitely is not Gorillaz. The whole concept of Gorillaz is based around a fantasy world that mirrors our own, reflecting the problems we face in an exaggerated manner, but offering hope for the future, that if we can imagine it, we can manifest it. The music offered up by The Good, The Bad and The Queen on the other hand is more of a post-apocalyptic, dystopian reflection of the world we live in now, but without foresight, and so, without any real hope for the future. It's the sort of music one might expect Clive Owen's character in 'Children Of Men'
to have been a fan of in his younger days, because if the world reflected in this music lasts long enough to be the world of tomorrow it's going to be just that sort of bleak, futureless existence.
Am I trying to say that The Good, The Bad and The Queen is depressing? Yes, yes I am. It's a very somber sort of record that often feels like Blur's more downbeat, Radiohead-ish moments remixed by a Dub Reggae producer of some sort. Or maybe it's a vividly post-modern, coffee-shop take on the Apocalyptic, working-class, Thatcher-era Reggae-infused Punk of The Clash? Either way, the album is both sonically cavernous and emotionally claustrophobic. The musical arrangements are often comprised of huge, wide open spaces, leading the listener to feel as though they're totally alone on a plane of reverberating bass and echo-y instruments. The result is not a feeling of quiet relaxation though, it's one of utter loneliness, of nothingness, it's just us, with our feelings, thoughts and fears collapsing on us. It's powerful, if not pleasant. Which isn't to say that the music isn't "pleasant" in the sense of being well-crafted, well orchestrated and well-executed, because it is. It's beautifully written, sung and played by a group of collaborators who are at the top of their craft. And there are melodies ( particular the vocal melodies on the eerie opener "History Song," the '50s Doo-Wop-inspired "80's Life," the Alt-Country-ish "Behind The Sun," the Electro roots-Rock of "Northern Whale" and of course "Herculean" ) that will get stuck in your head for days. But "Feel Good Inc." it ain't.
If there's one complaint I feel compelled to lodge against The Good, The Bad and The Queen it's about their criminal under-use of drummer Tony Allen throughout the album. They have one of the most incredible drummers in the history of ( moderately ) Popular music at their service and for whatever reason he somehow goes totally unheard throughout a large chunk of the album. The aforementioned "openness" of the arrangements in many cases manifests itself in a total lack of drums on many of the songs. I don't know if this is just how the songwriting and recording process played out, or if we should blame the post-production remixing of Danger Mouse. But whatever the case may be this is perplexing to say the least and infuriating to say the most. Thankfully though, there are a handful of tracks like "Hereculean," "Nature Springs," "Three Changes" and the title track where Allen gets to flex some of his distinctive, intricate stick-work.
Whether or not The Good, The Bad and The Queen delivered the exact sort of album people were expecting them to or not, in the end, the final product they've given listeners should get them marked down alongside "the good" for sure.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
When I hear hip-hop artists like RJD2 and Edan say they want to make Folk music, in my mind, I imagine them making music that sounds like that which is heard when one inserts Kansas-based one-man-band White Flight's debut self-titled disc into the sound reproduction apparatus of one's choice. That sound, made by Justin Roelofs, former vocalist and guitarist for The Anniversary, is a defiantly Punky, funkily Hip-Hop influenced take on the sometimes freaky Anti-Folk genre. There are breakbeats, samples, spaced-out synths, toy melodies, dubby effects, junkyard-band percussion, weird psychadelia, cryptic lyricism, half-whispering-half-wailing vocals and "crowd of smelly hippies" chants. It sometimes put me in mind of a less minimalist, more testosterone-laden version of CocoRosie, what El-P would sound like if he were the one who left Rap behind to persue Folk rather than RJ, or perhaps a collaborative effort between Antony and the Johnsons, Beck and Zach De La Rocha, produced entirely by Black Moth Super Rainbow.
The album opens with the uptempo "Now," which is driven by a shuffly breakbeat that sounds as if it were plucked fresh from the "fastrap" era of Hip-Hop's past, accompanied by horns, accordians and an occasional synth wiggle or bass gurgle. About halfway through, the acoustic guitar comes in and as the horns soar it turns into a cummunal neo-hippie Mariachi jam, only to break down into stuttery, half-speed drums, glitchy skittering and fuzzy guitar feedback before picking right back up to "throw your hands in the air" speed on the outro. A few tracks after that, "The Condition" switches gears, with it's bubblingly cheesy keyboard lines and doubled-up snares sounding like the Polyphonic Spree covering one of The Cure's more danceable jams. Despite the catchy New Wave-meets-Goths-on-acid jam session vibe of the track though, the lyrics, while whimsical, are actually a heartfelt plea for universal socio-spiritual unity. But White Flight really
hits his stride about halfway through the disc with the song "Obsidian." Evoking the afformentioned CocoRosie and Antony, Roelofs sings in a delicatly quivering falsetto over simple acoustic guitar chords until the track explodes in rasied voices over a slow marching drum break as synths squeal, warble, scream and gurgle sludgily behind a more sure-voiced Roelofs, issuing forth a confident De La Rocha-ish chant for good measure. Alternating betwixt the muted vulnerability of the verses and confrontational bravado of the chorus the track marches on, with Roelofs whispily singing about travelling through outer space and a feminine deity who sleeps in the streets, and assuredly declaring that "murder is the milk on their lips." As weird as it may sound, this is just the sort of song I'd be expecting Prince to be making today, if he were still operating at the same level of artistic creativity he was during the 'Sign 'O' the Times'
The latter half of the LP is highlighted by "Deathhands," a funky nightmare of psychadelic proportions. With sizzling high-hats, a messy-but-funky drum-kit, dramatically overwrought honky-tonk piano plunks that seem ripped from the soundtrack of an old silent film where a moustache twiddling villain ties a damsel to the train tracks, chicken scratch guitar, and growling synth-bass, the track comes off like the never-released Edan remix of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube's "Natural Born Killaz." It's followed-up by "Great Gold," which flips a Bollywood intro into a rowdily break-heavy, synth-laden noise-funk track that recalls 'Paul's Boutique'
era Beasties re-imagined by The Bomb Squad. And the whole thing wraps up with "Superconductor," a hymn to the "Great Mother" delivered over stuttering Hip-Hop breaks, live perscussion, Funk bass and guitars and intergalactic synthesizers, coming off sort of like a psychadelic JB's jam for the outer-space hippie set.
Defying pretty much every convention you can throw at it, White Flight's debut solo release is one of a number of current releases that epitomizes what modern music, genre-free and boundless, looking to the future blazing new trails while paying reverence to the past and wearing it's influences on it's proverbial sleeve, should be all about. And it's nothing short of amazing because of it. For fans of The Flaming Lips, Beck, Madlib, The Polyphonic Spree, CocoRosie, Rage Against The Machine, Why?, Antony and the Johnsons, Edan, El-P, Subtle and good music in general. Set up shop in White Flight's musical neighborhood... and watch the gentrifciation begin.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Only a year after dropping one of the sleeper hits of 2005, his long-awaited sophomore LP 'Experience & Education
Sadat X is back in town again
, at least temporarily, with another solid album. Presumably the quick turnaround time between albums ( there was a decade-long delay between his solo debut 'Wild Cowboys'
and 'Experience & Education'
) is due in part to a series of unfortunate incidents that resulted in Sadat getting sentenced to a prison bid which was set to begin in October of this year. A fact reflected in the title of the LP itself, as well as a four minute outro where X explains the entire situation in detail. One might assume that in a mad dash to leave the free world with something to remember him by that Sadat's output might be slapdash and a little less than focused. But the reality of the matter is that 'Black October'
is actually almost as strong an offering as 'Experience & Education'
was. Which is saying a lot, since reviewers who actually know their shit ( such as myself ) considered 'E & E'
to be one of the strongest releases from the Brand Nubian camp since their mid-'90s comeback album.
One of the main reasons Sadat succeeds where the other members of his Nubian crew have failed ( see Jamar's recent '5% Album'
for evidence, Puba's just been missing in action outside of that atrocious Brand Nubian album on Babygrande ) is that he actually has a good ear for beats. He hasn't tried to play catch-up and get with the new "hot" sound, nor is he living in the past. He just snatches up dope, traditional hip-hop beats that run the gamut of sounds and styles, and isn't afraid to call on unknown newcomers ( Scotty Blanco, Asmatik, Spencer Doran, Marco Polo, Gensu Dean, DJ PAWL of Def Jux affiliates Hangar 18 ) or slept on veterans ( Diamond D, Greg Nice, DJ Spinna, J-Zone, Beatminerz, Ayatollah ) to add fire to his sonic arsenal. The other reason is that he's just plain dope on the mic. Sadat's always been a stylish emcee, with unorthodox flows and cadences that bend and twist and distinct nasal delivery, and he hasn't done anything to change that. He was arguably ahead of his time back in the mid-to-late-nineties, and that certainly leaves him a couple of steps ahead of the average rapper now-a-days. He's also got personality, which as he's aged has only become warmer, more charming, more relatable and more engaging, even as he's gotten smarter, more world-weary, and grown in maturity. This adds up to Sadat being a rare and unusual mixture; sure he's "The God," but he's also the everyman, which makes him someone you can listen to and emphatically believe, an attribute more rappers would be lucky to possess.
Luck will only get you so far without some dope songs though, and thankfully Sadat and his collaborators didn't neglect to include a number of those. The last time out DJ Spinna got the album started off right with "The God Is Back In Town" and he does it again this time with "Black October" a menacing chunk of dark funk with eerie vocal samples once again gracing the hooks between Sadat's prison preparation narratives. Former Nice & Smooth emcee Greg Nice comes out of left-field with a crunktacular 808 and synth beat and throwback sex raps on the R. Kelly sampling "My Mind." Longtime collaborator Diamond D helps Sadat revisit one of the more memorable concepts from 'Experience & Education'
on "Tha Post," where Sadat basically opens up a newspaper and spits an entire song based around the day's headlines. Off-kilter funk loops, soulful vocal samples and hand-claps courtesy of Ayatollah provide the perfect soundtrack to Sadat's vividly crafted story of an all day picnic on "Throw Tha Ball." The X Man goes at hip-hop radio programmers, talks some real talk about chicks and pimp-slaps upstarts in the game on "X Is A Machine" over one of J-Zone's signature sloppy carnival funk beats. There's even a hidden bonus to be heard after the aforementioned outro as a soulful mellowed out reprise of "The God Is Back In Town" and the heretofore promo-only "Why? ( Lesbian )," a memorable track where Sadat raps from the point of view of a dude whose girl is being pursued by a girl, are both included for good measure. The only track that left me a little disappointed was the Brand Nubian posse cut "Chosen Few" which sports a decent, if somewhat generic track, but is weighted down but an utterly horrible chanted chorus, a lackluster performance from Brand Nubian stalwart Lord Jamar ( who is rapping about "piff" for some odd-ass reason ) and a generally listless and awkward vibe.
On the title track Sadat says he's "doing joints now to keep his name on wax" so he'll have plenty of commissary money while he's in the joint. Hopefully he'll be well supplied with snacks, smokes, stationary or whatever the fuck else you buy when you're in prison, because most of the tracks on 'Black October'
are worth a helluva lot more than that. Do your part and support The God though, cuz if he's got money for pads and pens while he's on the inside he should come out of the bing with plenty of songs written for the album he's bound to record once he's back in town.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
'Live and Learn'
Glow in the Dark
It's been 2 years since Time Machine landed their first full-length DeLorean, 'Slow Your Roll'.
Now, the group's primary producer, DJ Mekalek, is piloting his own DMC-12 with his first solo release on Glow in the Dark titled 'Live and Learn.'
The effort is backed by a solid supporting cast led by Cool Calm Pete, Percee P, and the other members of Time Machine. Mekalek continues to meld early 90's sounds and modern rap with a grittiness and ethic often missing in today's mainstream hiphop.
"Running in Place" with Sparks features thunderous 99-Problemsesque drums and a masterfully spliced-up and subdued piano lick backed by some classic vinyl hiss. Sparks spits three sentimental and emotional verses about family members who have passed on. "Yo my Pops he was sick/ he died in my hands/ back then I was too young to understand/ and time passed and I aged/ and I still don't understand." Title-track "Live and Learn (My Life)" features rapper Big Name rapping over a spry snare and hi-hat fest and some delightful organs. Along with a vocal sample crooning "My life" Big Game raps:"It's my choices my options/ it's all there there's nothing for you to not get/ however you want to see it/ love it or leave it dump it or keep it."
The ubiquitous Percee P shows up on the standout track "The Gritty Bop" which features a rolling drumbeat and heroic horns and a bit of 60s-era organs. P sounds as good as ever claiming he "ain't never fell off, still got it ya'll." Seriously, Percee P is worth the price of admission alone.
Babbletron's Cool Calm Pete makes a short-lived appearance on "Cocktail Freestyle" which includes a single horn soloing over Mekalek's standard crunchy drums and hi-hats.
The guests on the album do a superb job of maintaining a general theme for the album of, well, living and learning. They discuss death, success, dreams, and love along with the trials and tribulations which invariably surround those topics. The vibe of the album remains consistent which is different from the hodgepodge that one might expect from a producer album.
'Live and Learn'
will please fans of Time Machine and lovers of crusty, throwback rap in general. Undoubtedly, this album will end up on a slew of the pending rap "best of 2006" lists (even really long lists like the one that will surely pop up on here in a few weeks). With relevant lyrics and themes combined with solid and well-constructed beats, this album's style may leave you wondering it's age or era but not it's quality.
Friday, November 24, 2006
'Inanomie Op. 221'
I have writers block. I don't know exactly why but it's friggin' annoying. I've been listening to this album all day and I can't come up with a single line to describe how I feel about it. That's right world. I have feelings and I'm gonna let 'em shine! Damn my soul must be opaque cause nothings there people… nothing! Well at least I found this description on his labels website. Let's start here and see where it takes us.
XYZR_KX (pronounced ‘Scissor Kicks’) is Jon Monteverde, Chicago-based Chinese-Filipino indie-rock/electro-pop wunderkind. From his start as the drummer for the dissonant rockers What Now My Love, he has shown a remarkably mature musicality inherent in his work. With his XYZR_KX project, Monteverde redefines the boundaries of the traditional pop song by simultaneously incorporating hushed vocals, serrated guitars, and chaotic beats
Sorry… but for some reason I couldn't introduce XYZR_KX any better than his label. Alright… let's try this again. I gotta say right off the bat here that this album, although fairly unconventional in format, is really hot. The composition of the tracks is much more different than most of the music I'm listening to lately. Each track on 'Inanomie Op. 221'
is about 10 minutes long and packs a lot of varying approaches to songwriting. I can't say for sure if every type of genre is explored but it sure does sound like it. The album, to me, listens like a musical collage. What's most interesting to me about the songs is how within each track are what could potentially be many individual songs. But they're arranged in such a way as to blend into one another almost seamlessly. Even when the music quiets to a deafening silence, there is still a progressive linear quality to the track that captivates me.
At first, "She Looks Disruptive" is a hauntingly glitchy song with vocals that remind me an awful lot of Elliott Smith and the style in which he sung (which I guess would be his own). The foundation of this track features a solid dance beat with layers upon layers of ambient melodies that fade in and out in order to enhance the sporadic introduction of parts featuring acoustic instruments. The outcome of such thoughtful composition really makes all instruments special whether or not they repeat in a pattern or are present for one measure, or if they’re digital or analog. Although most of the individual track components progress with an up-tempo beat the overall pace of the track moves rather slow and leisurely. In the end it ends up being an alluring way to enhance the layering and overall ambience of the tracks components.
"Crusades and Silhouettes" starts off by introducing a light, almost floating melody and field recordings to place the listener in a particular scene or state of mind. From there the song seems to channel The One AM Radio and presents a beautiful upbeat melody with acoustic guitar. Right away, I was drawn to the simplicity of the track. A lot can be said about the simple presentation of a voice and guitar especially when it follows a segment of music that really works to calm the brain and focus on what the ear is hearing. Simply put, the lyrical content is really honest. "You're out of town, away on a crusade. I won't admit how much I miss our days. But I'm dying to know. But I'm dying to know." In my opinion, lyrics don't necessarily need to read as existential poetry in order to express a complex feeling. The verse above is alone, case in point. The song transitions into a rich crunching of instruments that resembles an ominous symphonic experience, which eventually fades and leads the track out.
"Lose Your Voice" begins as a boisterous proclamation full of crashing percussion and whining brass. Then the exclamation quickly stops as if it is taking a deep breath then starts again as a highly syncopated and energetic introduction to what will become a great anthem-like track. Short-lived mandolins accented with piercing cymbals dance on the ear drums but are then quickly consumed with a sweep of decay leading the song into a trancelike mashing of Squarepusher-esque break-beats and computerized melodies. The magic of this track is definitely when the beat cuts out, pushing the melody to center stage but then returns as a hot breakdown which ultimately leads the music out. The final moments of "Lose Your Voice" features a conversation between, I think, 3 people. It's an unexpected but interesting end to the album. I could have been just as happy with the way the music ended alone though.
Definitely worth a good listen, preferably with headphones, while alone, in the dark, on your bed (horizontally).
And don't forget to peep XYZR_KX at his MySpace
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
When I first heard "B-Boys Theme," a leaked track from Black Sheep's then forthcoming comeback—or is it breakup?—LP '8WM/Novakane
I was tempted to proclaim that a Black Sheep renaissance was imminent. An up-tempo jam, with celebratory horn blasts, jazzy samples, bouncy drums and emcee Dres flexing feel-good Hip-Hop-isms all over it, "B-Boys Theme" was exactly the sort of song you want to hear your Hip-Hop heroes from the days of old coming back to make. It makes you feel good about hip-hop again, but more important it just makes you feel good...Period. And when that type of song is the first song you hear from a forthcoming album it's the sort of song that makes you hope that the rest
of the joints on the full-length will be just
like it. Of course, it's this type of thinking that usually leaves you disappointed, kicking yourself for thinking real Hip-Hop will ever
have a long-hoped-for renaissance. And while the Sheep drop a few tracks on '8WM/Novakane'
that certainly negate any chance of instigating that renaissance, they also deliver more of those moments that leave you feeling as though all is right with Hip-Hop, and with the world, not to mention some filler that falls between both extremes.
The title track itself manages to inhabit all three spaces at once. Lyrically Dres flips razor-sharp social commentary in the mold of "Black With NV" from 'A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
showing that it often takes one of our elder statesmen to verbalize important issues in a way that others don't seem to be able to. Unfortunately the vocals are saddled with a listless G-Funk-ish beat that sounds like a lost out-take from Dre's 'Chronic 2001'
which detracts from the overall message with it's averageness. Luckily this miss-step can be forgiven though, because the track makes a second appearance at album's end retitled "Novakane Groove" where it's remade as a laid-back, bass-heavy, Rhodes-inflected speakeasy sermon. In its way, "Novakane Groove" is a more powerful song than "B-Boy's Anthem" and shows that even the bastard stepchildren of the Native Tongues family can still come correct with that old-school Black consciousness, even if the rest of them have stopped trying.
On "Everyday" and "Sunshine" the Sheep attempt to exhibit similarly positive philosophies to mixed results. The former has a slightly Justus League air about it, with chipmunk vocal samples and humming bass programming backing up Dres' fantasy reminiscence of better times and raps about teaching the world "a better way." While the latter finds DITC mainstay producer Showbiz dropping dusty drum programming and a surprisingly shiny keyboard, bass and synthesizer groove to compliment Dres' muddled generalities about doing good, whether with women, with money, with the mic, or just with yourself on a nice day in the sun. Both these tracks are held back by the inclusion of the ubiquitous R&B (Rap&Bullshit) style crooning on their respective choruses. It's not that the singing is intrinsically bad, but it's just a little questionable hearing a golden era Hip-Hop act succumbing to the trend of the random faceless crooner.
More Dr. Dre-isms, namely those repetitive plink-plunk piano notes that have become an omnipresent part of the Hip-Hop production lexicon over the last decade, mar an otherwise decent concoction of grimy DITC-style drums and precise scratches on "Grew Up." Fortunately it's not that big a loss, since Dres' tough-guy raps about drop tops, cocking Glocks and dropping "fags" come off as more than a little trite and out of place coming out of the mouth of a guy who's image was once that of a smoothed-out, suit-clad ladies man and who once made a song about having a "ménage" with a butt-sex-obsessed Q-Tip of all people.
Decidedly more believable, and appropriate to Dres' personality, if not necessarily more palatable to the ear, are the songs about women and sex like "Be Careful," "Shorty" and "Wonder." All three are well produced and the lyrical landscape has been well tread by Dres already over the years, so he more than knows his way around the material. The latter fact also means that we're not hearing anything we haven't heard before though, either from Dres or a thousand other emcees. These tracks are all very much middle of the road fare, with straightforward lyrics and beats rooted in today's Neo Soul milieu. Which is fine, but I know
Dres can do better than that. So if he was going to make songs about broads I would have preferred he utilize the more creative, abstract and humorous style of songwriting and production he exhibited so long ago on tunes like "Similak Child," "Strobelight Honey," "Flavor Of The Month" and the like to do so.
If Dres isn't gonna show us he's still the complex Casanova he can at least prove he's still capable of being freak-nasty though, right? Right. Which he does on the other
title track "8WM." The song's title stands for "women, with women, with weed, with wine, with me," which, as you probably already imagined, is an allusion to alcohol and drug hazed group sex. Lyrically it's as crass and filthy as you might expect, and the production sounds something like Black Sheep for the Neptunes generation (sort of like Lupe Fiasco's "I Gotcha") with raw drums, jazzy piano riffs, synth string plucks and ascending stabs that might make you wonder if Pharrell didn't go back to 1991 and remix "Flavor Of The Month." If any song on '8WM/Novakane'
officially brings that authentic Black Sheep shit into the new millennium it's "8WM."
With production from veteran beatmaker Showbiz, and up-n-comers Vitamin D and Bean One, the beats on '8WM/Novakane'
knock throughout, even if they're not exactly vintage Black Sheep. Remember, this was a duo who dropped one of the most well-produced Hip-Hop LPs in the history of the genre. They had beats! So it's slightly disappointing that Dres and Lawnge couldn't treat us to a new record that capitalized off of their early sample-fueled eclecticism in a really striking and uniquely modern way. And speaking of Lawnge (*), some listeners might wonder where the fuck he is on this album since even though it's billed as a Black Sheep product he's virtually absent for all but a brief appearance on one track. So, '8WM/Novakane'
really is the first solo release from Dres more than it is a return of Black Sheep as a group. As such, it certainly isn't gonna start that aforementioned Black Sheep renaissance, but it's got a number of tracks that won't disappoint those of us who miss Hip-Hop's bygone era but still haven't given up all hope on its modern incarnation. We all know that consuming most of the shit people drop and call Hip-Hop today can be a painful experience, but at least we get a shot of "novakane" every once in a while to make it all better.
* - If you're really wondering what's up with Lawnge he actually dropped a solo album, which sounded pretty dope, a few months ago. But this review isn't about that, so shhhhh!
Monday, November 13, 2006
Sound Sister/Pony Republic
Most young artists usually come into the spotlight and wow the public for being so young but having amazing talents that are comparable to a mature artist. Most of the time though, people can't look past the fact that these people are young and their careers become more of a freak show than a respectable venture. Take for instance Charlotte Church. The twelve-year-old prodigy absolutely stunned the world with her big voice. Granted she's still a huge star in the UK (she is a buxom beauty), but most people I talk to don't even remember her let alone her amazing voice. Sure there are some of these artists who make it out unscathed and go on to have very successful careers but to me it seems like the youngest most talented of these geniuses always get lost in the void of commercial success.
I have hope though for 16 year-old Venezuelan Alejandro Ghersi a.k.a Nuuro. This kid, in my opinion, is absolutely able to give the big boy IDM/lap-pop artists such as Milosh and The Postal Service a run for their money. Nuuro's debut album 'All Clear'
is a very well executed piece of work. Each track blends quite nicely into the next, which creates a very linear and cohesive listening experience. In fact, I got into the tracks so much that I was fairly disappointed when they were all over. As mentioned earlier, Nuuro is most comparable to such big electronic artists as Milosh and The Postal Service but also sounds as though his production technique draws its influence from artists such as Prefuse 73, Boards of Canada, and electronic pop artist extraordinaire Erlend Oye. This amalgamation of assumed influences has inspired this young but highly talented artist, to create an album full of notable content.
I don't know anything about his musical background but Nuuro appears know quite a lot about musical theory and composition and it's clearly evident all throughout the album. I try not to toss out "prodigy" or "genius" before I have a chance to really know and understand the artist and their process, but there is too much talent here to not seriously consider Nuuro a master of the craft. It's possible that he has had formal training in the musical arts, which would obviously explain a lot about the album. It is also possible that he, like many artists just seem to understand music and its intricacies. He has intense control over all aspects of his tracks especially his drum and bass compositions. His melodies are mature and fluctuate delicately with each change of the beat. His singing is quite impressive too, as his voice seems to undulate and weave in and out of the music.
My only beef with the album is that his lyrics fail to connect with me from time to time. Before I knew how old he was, I did notice that there was a slight sense of immaturity in his lyrics. If I was ten years younger I would be able to connect to this album from every angle. But in the end I can't fault him for this and I still have to give the album a standing ovation. Overall, Nuuro definitely knows how to write and produce tracks and I will be looking forward to his next release.
His site Nuuro.net
as well as his labels Sound Sister
and Pony Republic
currently do not have any live dates listed. But keep a look out!
Monday, July 31, 2006
I have never been so into someone lamenting over their dwindling stock of macaroni and cheese as I was while listening to Hot Chip's 2004 debut album 'Coming On Strong
These blokes are truly a strange bunch - an engima, really. They are simultaneously subdued and unbridled, and simultaneously goofy-as-hell and serious-as-shit. Their startling blend of electronic, soul, and pop effortlessly cracks, throbs, and soothes.
Alexis Taylor's schoolboy serenades take center stage here, but Joe Goddard's voice still shows up (although the album lacks the grizzly splendidness of his "Playboy" chorus). Goddard also seems to suffer from the same perpetual cold as James Murphy (Claritin...talk to your doctors about it).
Early single "Over and Over" is obviously one of the highlights here. The bouncing percussion and thin, waffly synth gives the distinct auditory impression of sexual intercourse. Or a monkey with a miniature cymbal. The smell of repitition really is
on you. The pulsing guitar crunch of shirtless Al Doyle is nearly-hypnotic and the song leaves me yearning for more dance-flavored gems from this outfit.
The stellar "Boy From School" is a dance song with genuine heart. Taylor delicately croons "We try....but we don't belong..."
The hi-hat infused beat and sneaky handclaps combine with the decadent synth notes and the sweet chorale to create a sincere and edgy tune which is at once both up and downbeat.
The synths on "Tchaparian" harken to my youthful victories over Dr. Robotnik in Green Hill Zone. Seriously, good work. These guys are either geniuses or got a good deal on some Japanese keys from the early '90s on Ebay. I'm looking for a face to attack...so watch yourself, I come with a smack.
The lyrics pendulate between declarations of Hot Chip's laid-backness and their Hulk-like appetite for smashing faces, breaking legs, and other acts of mindless (or mindful) violence. The words adequately represent the Hot Chip sound - eager and aggressive but also relaxed and gentle.
"No Fit State" is a warm disco-'80s-ballad which calms and entices. The airy synths and plodding drums build into the multi-vocal climax: I'm in no fit state I'm in no fit shape.
Easily a stand-out track and one of the more poignant entries on the album.
is a giant step forward in the fledgling career of Hot Chip. With their abundant remix efforts and spectacular music videos, they have proved they are a worthwhile and inspiring band. Their unique and versatile blend of electronic, pop, and soul is capable of rendering all emotions upon their listener. That skill is a truly endearing trait.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
After leaking on the internet over a month ago reviews are finally starting to pour in for 'The Eraser
the now officially released side-project from Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke. And admittedly I'm reviewing this album now mostly due to the fact that the more I read the current tide of reviews the more I believe that these reviewers just don't get
this record. Over the course of the last week I received new issues of 'SPIN'
in the mail which both contained reviews of 'The Eraser
Both magazines gave the album a rating of 3 stars. A rating that is good, but definitely not great. A rating whose "goodness" is certainly lessened when records by the likes of former Destiny's Child singer LeToya, and rappers Ray Cash and Field Mob are given 3 and a half or more stars in the very same issue. More distressing than the lukewarm ratings though are the reviews themselves. I've repeatedly seen reviewers proclaim that 'The Eraser'
sounds just like Radiohead, just without the band, and complain that the songs seem less-than-fleshed-out, truncated, or one-note. It's these sorts of statements that lead me to the aforementioned conclusion that these critics just aren't getting 'The Eraser
At it's core, 'The Eraser'
is something that a Radiohead record hasn't been since the days of "Creep," a not all that un-traditional excursion into conventional Pop music. It finds Yorke setting aside the experimentally epic sprawl of recent Radiohead releases in favor of sharp, focused bursts of straightforward, electronically assisted, song-craft. Sure, Yorke's lyrics still dwell largely on the familiar subjects of emotion, depression, alienation, and political & social collapse. And the songwriting is still smarter than it has any right to be. But these are songs dammit! Songs that bubble with a spry spontaneity and ( as on the highlight title track, "Cymbal Rush" and "Atoms For Peace" ) are more often than not downright ( I can't believe I'm saying this ) catchy. Songs that percolate with rhythms that might actually get you bopping around a little, imbued with melodies that will get you humming, if not singing, along.
exudes such accessible charm due in large part to the fact that ( contrary to what some critics have been saying ) it is unabashedly a solo project. Here, Thom Yorke lays his mind, heart and soul out for everyone to see, and communicates his thoughts, loves, hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares to us directly through buoyant laptop beats, expert song-craft, and his voice. And it is his voice more than anything which holds 'The Eraser'
together. Placed front & center amidst a soundscape of semi-organic, laptop filtered, electro-heart-beats & bleeps, and minimalist instrumentation, Yorke's voice sounds like it never has before; clear, melodic, pretty, even soulful. These are songs meant to be sung! Songs that could only be sung by Yorke. And believe me, he sings the shit out of them in a way he never could on a Radiohead record.
It should only take one listen to see how 'The Eraser'
differs from a Radiohead album; to recognize it as a unique achievement that never could have happened within the confines of the band Radiohead. No, 'The Eraser'
is not just an "unfinished" Radiohead album. It's Thom Yorke stripped bare, exposing himself in a strikingly intimate way via traditional Pop songwriting, steeped in populist Folk notions ( "Harrowdown Hill" anyone? ), and cloaked in the distinctly modern milieu of personally-produced Electronic music. And if anything in this world deserves to be "erased" it's the shortsighted fools who just can't comprehend a record as beautiful as this.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
I've finally pried myself away from actually listening to Milosh's album 'Meme'
to review it. God DAMN! It's so good. Again, as with many albums I review for Imageyenation.com, I had not heard of Milosh until DJ's Emeyesi and El Keter played one of his tracks on their Urban Alternatives
radio show. Or was it a podcast? Who knows? The point is that as soon as I heard the sweet sounds of Milosh I needed the album. This was about two and a half weeks ago and like I said, I have been listening to it non-stop.
Let's talk about the music shall we?
With the risk of sounding cheesy, I think that Milosh is the male equivalent of Sade. His music is beautifully soft and hauntingly melodic and his vocals are as equally incredible. The album opens with the track "It's Over," a beautifully heartfelt song… well, breakup song... that is competing for first place with my current favorite breakup song ( Ben Folds Five's "Selfless, Cold, and Composed" ). All of Milosh's songs are incredibly produced, which really pulls the listener into the content of the track. Meme is a very rare album that marries music and lyrics in a very thoughtful way.
bootybot28: that milosh album is awesome
elketerbentzadik: yes, i know
elketerbentzadik: i'm glad you like it
bootybot28: i've listened to it a lot today
bootybot28: all day actually
bootybot28: like 13 times
bootybot28: i'm listening to it again now
elketerbentzadik: yeah, it's really good
elketerbentzadik: he's a great producer
bootybot28: i'm not going to say this in the review
bootybot28: but ...
elketerbentzadik: and he's a fantastic singer
bootybot28: he reminds me of a male version of sade
elketerbentzadik: the songs are great
elketerbentzadik: yeah, i could sorta see that
bootybot28: cos it's all ambient
elketerbentzadik: his voice is really delicate
bootybot28: it's real good
bootybot28: it's over has some really delicate lyric melodies that are easy to miss
bootybot28: it sounds so simple but it's really complicated
bootybot28: fucking awesome
elketerbentzadik: yeah man, it's one of the best records
As I said, the production value of 'Meme'
is incredibly thoughtful. More often than not, musicians tend to write vocal melodies that come off more as an afterthought than an integrated part of the song. Milosh falls on the opposite end of such writing processes by producing beats and melodies that compliment each other instead of compete for the spotlight. What's most impressive to me is how all of his vocals are distinct but are still subtle as to not distract from the music. Milosh produces beats that sound like IDM rhythms which have been robbed of a few notes. The patterns sound like they are then spread with a thin layer of effects before they make their way into the track. Some tracks such as "The City" and "Falling Away" have fairly complicated beats that sound a lot like early Squarepusher or Aphex Twin's 'Select Ambient Works
is an intense ambient album from start to finish but since it has some hot IDM beats and melodies it fits virtually any situation that calls for music. It's actually kind of fun to listen to the album or even a single song for that matter and think of situations in your head. You'll be surprised with how diverse even a single song can be. I can picture listening to "You Fill Me" getting ready to go out, at a swanky restaurant ( note: I don't eat at restaurants cause I can't afford to ), then at a dance club ( as long as theres no cover ), then driving home on a hot summer night ( inside an air conditioned car ), then laying down with my lady ( cause making love is free… unless you accidentally make a baby in which case shit is expensive! ).
What's also good about the album is how, for lack of a better word, listener-friendly it is. It's not aggressive at all which makes it virtually playable anywhere for anybody, unless whoever is listening just simply hates good music. All in all, I would absolutely recommend listening to this album. It's a great listen from beginning to end and will probably end up in your CD player or on your MP3 player play-lists for a long time.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Originally posted at Blogcritics.org
Amid the mountains of musical garbage, it is difficult to find a new sound that is worth listening to. For this reason, Jose Gonzalez shines. His music is a rare gem, one that should appeal to young urban hipsters as well as ageing baby boomers. As someone told me, it's the kind of music you would listen to in the tub after lighting some candles and incense. With its Spanish guitar influences and his soft, gentle voice, it's easy to see that the beauty of Gonzalez's music is in its intimacy. His presence is as unassuming in his character as it is in his songs. You could be listening to his album 'Veneer'
in a room full of people and still feel like he is singing just for you.
For example, the song "Heartbeats" ( a cover of The Knife's
Electro, New Wave-ish song and a personal favorite of mine ) rings of early Simon and Garfunkel, with a beautiful guitar medley and vocal harmonies. But, unlike Simon and Garfunkel whose music was made for two parts, Gonzalez puts the piece together as a solo artist while creating a sound of more than one person. Songs like "Slow Moves" or "Deadweight on Velveteen" are lyrically poetic and musically sound. "Lovestain" takes bitter and dark lyrics and sets them against an upbeat guitar picked tune that includes hand claps and will make your head nod.
In his song "Crosses," Gonzalez makes an obvious religious connection ( "Crosses all over, heavy on your shoulders" ) but the entire song plays like a lullaby, one that could be sung to a sleeping child or a heartbroken lover. This song is also featured on Zero 7’s 'The Garden
an album on which Gonzalez also worked.
The songs on 'Veneer'
are short vignettes, the longest song being less than four minutes, which makes the entire album just about thirty minutes long. Short, but sweet. And it will make you want to play it over and over again.
Monday, July 03, 2006
KRAAK & SMAAK
The opening track on Dutch production trio Kraak & Smaak's debut LP 'Boogie Angst'
is a romping, funk-infused, Broken-Beat styled, Hip-House song called "Money In The Bag." It's the sort of opening number that makes you hope that the rest of the tunes on a given album sound just like it. And when these guys follow a formula similar to the one that works so well on "Money In The Bag" the album proves to be smashingly successful, with feel-good Dance tracks that incorporate elements of Jazz, Soul, Funk, Disco, Latin, Broken-Beat and other Electronica styles, accompanied by intense vocal performances from a handful of collaborators and the occasional vocal sample. And lucky for them, there are just enough of exactly these types of tracks spread out over their album's almost-hour-long running time to make 'Boogie Angst'
a rewarding listen, even if you don't happen to be shimmying, shaking and spinning on a darkened dance-floor somewhere while listening.
The aforementioned "Money In The Bag," hustles through the speakers utilizing a chunky Funk bass and chicken-scratch guitar loop replete with shaking tambourine and cowbell accents, twiddling organ and synth lines and samples of a decidedly old-school emcee spitting infectious toasts about sex and money over-top. Coming off like a mix of 2Step, Broken Beat, and the more mainstream Big Beat-ish "Breaks" styles of artists like Fat Boy Slim and Basement Jaxx, "One Of These Days" boasts a bouncy filtered Jazz loop, big-band horns, traditional House-style keys, an ill Broken-style breakdown, and a Latin percussion break which provide a significantly stomping backdrop for a soulfully over-the-top vocal from singer U-Gene. With it's stuttering clavinet sounds, rubbery bass, repetitive keys, warm chords, noodling woodwinds, swelling synths, and hand-claps accompanying a smoky vocal from singer Dez, "Keep Me Home" is a full on organic Disco/House assault that wouldn't sound out of place slipped into a Club Classics set, booming out of the speakers in a sweaty House club somewhere, or even smooshed between "contemporary" Acid Jazz cuts from the likes of Jamiroquai or Brand New Heavies. And "Danse Macabre," with it's moody soundscape of Honky-Tonk-y piano samples, soaring horn lines, three-note electric piano, and lightly brushed drums, topped with a haunting female vocal, could pass for a straight-ahead Jazz tune if it weren't for the Downtempo-y synth-work and electronic elements which are introduced into the mix at varying intervals.
It's those more vocal-centered songs which are, for me at least, the heart of 'Boogie Angst
And though the production by the trio is pretty fantastic throughout the disc, the other, mostly instrumental, tracks ( which run the gamut of booty-shake idioms from Funk to Jazz to Disco to Bossa Nova and back ) come off as sort-of self-indulgent. I understand that instrumental Dance music can work wonders on a crowded dance-floor, but unless there's something really special going on musically, or there are all sorts of interesting vocal samples flying in and out of the mix it's really easy for this sort of "beats for beats sake" stuff, even as musical as that of the guys from Kraak & Smaak is, to lose my attention when sitting down and listening to a compact disc.
That said, there are even some notable highlights amongst the set's collection of instrumental jams. "No Sun In The Sky" weaves a spry breakbeat and funkdafied bassline together with spacey pads, '80s New Wave-influenced synths, hand-claps and an eerie Gospel-esque vocal sample into a sublime selection that's as good as day-to-day background music as it is as a soundtrack to some good old-fashioned body-rocking. Some Prince-style Electro Funk, complete with drum machine sounds, hand-claps and muted synths creeps into the intro and breakdowns of the otherwise sophisticated MSFB-ish ( it seriously reminds me of portions of their "Love Is The Message" ) Funk that propels "Keep On Searching." While the stomping Afro-Beat rave-up "Jolie Banane," finds undulating clav sounds returning to the mix, joined this time by dissonant horn blasts, sweeping synths, Techno/Industrial stabs, and sampled shouts, all of which are filtered through numerous dubby effects plug-ins and spread out over a jumping Broken rhythm.
Though Kraak & Smaak don't exactly defy all sorts of Dance Music conventions and deliver a work of groundbreaking importance, 'Boogie Angst'
is still a surprisingly original and refreshingly warm and organic entry into a genre that is often known for being cold and digital in all it's studio-bred, producer-centered, esotericism. And while there is definitely a certain amount of repetitiously masturbatory filler and glittery clubland cheese to be heard during the disc's few less-than-stellar moments, for the most part these three Dutchmen prove that their sampling, playing, programming, and knob-tweaking skills are nothing but "money in the bag."
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Again... What's with these bands getting together with all these other musicians and making cool music?
The new and long awaited Mike Patton "project" Peeping Tom features quite an impressive line up of various artists and musicians including but certainly not limited to; Amon Tobin, Kool Keith, Massive Attack, and NORAH JONES!? I was a little surprised to find out that Norah Jones was on this album considering how I would never have imagined her and Patton's style as being compatible. Apparently, according to my fiance, Ms. Jones has many other "projects" she's currently involved with including a progressive post-punk band. To which I responded "Huh...? That's weird."
As for her contribution on 'Peeping Tom
as I said, it caught me a little off guard to see her name in the album credits but this was nothing compared to what she actually sings on the track "Sucker." "There's one born every minute sucker...sucker. So keep it in your pants will ya sucker... sucker? What makes you think you're my only... lover? The truth kinda hurts don't it... mother fucker?"
I guess I have this image of Norah as being this marketing gimmick for 50 year old easy listeners. But now that I have this new perspective on her as a somewhat edgy musician I feel like she's gained some of my respect. I can forgive her for singing those stupid songs that put me to sleep cause if you think about it, everyone has to make money somehow.
The music on 'Peeping Tom'
is, let's say... par for the course for a Patton album. Although, unlike Mr. Bungle and Fantomas, the tracks on Peeping Tom's self-titled album are much more accessible and easier to listen to. Respectfully, Peeping Tom resembles more a modern day Faith No More if they were built on a foundation of Corey Glover, Frank Zappa, and RUN DMC. Patton has referred to Peeping Tom as "pop music" in a few interviews, which may give a better understanding to the dynamics of the album.
"I don't listen to the radio, but if I did, this is what I'd want it to sound like," Patton says of the project. "This is my version of pop music. In a way, this is an exercise for me: taking all these things I've learned over the years and putting them into a pop format."
Overall, a person who is just itching for another Mike Patton album will not be disappointed by Peeping Tom. The album offers up 11 distinctly Patton-esque tracks that introduce a pretty interesting branching/merging of Patton's style with old-school hip-hop artist Kool Keith, and the smoky jazz electronic ensemble Massive Attack
. I am pretty partial to Patton's abstract rock, so if you're reading this and feel slightly deterred when you read the name Kool Keith or Massive Attack, I assure you that this album is hot. I mean, you won't get a barrage of off-the-wall schizophrenic clown tracks that you might find on a Mr. Bungle album, no. 'Peeping Tom'
offers songs that sound like Mr. Bungle joined a support group with the demented Dr. Octogan and the uber depressed Massive attack, and they're sort of helping each other with their problems, but you know deep down these people are severely messed up and no amount of therapy will help them.
I'm especially excited about the album considering that it almost ended up on the scrap pile according to Patton.
"In April of 2005, Mike Patton decided to scrap the Peeping Tom project, which was originally planned to be produced solely by Dan the Automator, stating "It's just turning into a lot of work, and its too difficult to keep everyone up to speed." The project was later unshelved, once again."
For more information on Peeping Tom visit the artists label Ipecac Recordings
Quotes c/o Wikipedia.org
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
represents the intersection between the haves and have-nots." As Mr. Lif describes in the liner notes it is "the juxtaposition of the slave and the elite with no common ground between the two." Although lacking the levels of stories which filled Lif's previous full-legnth 'I Phantom
his latest effort is also a concept-album of-sorts. 'Mo' Mega'
is the growing gap between the rich and poor; the growing commercialization of culture; and the endless spiraling of society toward a dumb and dark end.
The production on this album is stand-out. El-P handles 8 of the 11 tracks, and the beats continue the impressive evolution of Producto's creativity and output. The tracks perfectly complement Lif's lyrical doom and gloom. Piano stabs, guitar riffs, and thundering drums combine to form a series of funky yet austere backdrops for the Boston-born MC.
Lyrically, Lif brings the expected ultra-political stance but he also mixes in a couple of comedic tracks ( "Murs iz My Manager," "Washitup!" ) and he also offers up a couple introspective and truly personal tracks ( "Looking In...," "For You"). Unlike on 'I Phantom'
where the complexity of the concepts and scenarios distanced Lif from many of the serious topics which were discussed, these tracks are definitely about the man himself. The insight into his own life and background is welcomed.
The album opener, "Collapse" features a cruncy guitar riff and Lif setting the tone; Listen or leak crimson?/All over the floor from my wrists/There, now you've got Lif
. A few tracks later, "The Fries" speaks on the citizen's eagnerness to consume unquestionably; World's greatest mass murders/Entertainment for all living obervers/You'll probably watch it while you're eating some burgers/Go ahead and gobble the lies/Here's the fries!
The Edan-produced "Murs iz My Manager" is another supererb match-up between the two ( see; "Get Wise '91," "Making Planets" ) and it will leave fans clamoring for the rumored full-legnth collabo. Murs co-stars as Mr. Lif's new manager over a fast paced horn and bass frollic. I got a call from George Bush/says he knows about your trap/how you put Kanye up to saying all that/use it as a full proof scheme to distract/the government from the true political rap
. The liner notes indicate that the track was produced by Mr. Lif and co-produced by a mysteriously monikered "Big Nose." The internets says its Edan and the internets never lie.
The other more playful track, "Washitup!" is a simplistic dancehall-type beat produced by Lif which ponders the various odors of encounters with sweaty genitals. Then I get by she navel/All a sudden notice something smelling unstable/Wait! What is that, fishbait?/Unsanitary state ruining this date/Then I pause for a second and the dils went....
But Liftedly isn't done with sex yet - the following track "Long Distance" tells the story of a yearning couple finally reunited. Made her wriggle till she almost broke my finger so I figure lemme see if she can handle what I give her when within her
Akrobatik, Blueprint, and El-P stop by for the title track "Mo' Mega" This track prompted El Keter to remark that Blueprint would sound great as the third member of The Perceptionists, and your humble reviewer agrees. Ak, Lif, and Printmatic each weave a separate tale of an up-and-coming MC. Split-up between a catchy El-P chorus, each verse ends up with a different result for the character. Blueprint's; And woke up to a voice in his head so strong/It was his brother saying just what he had said all along: get off the block, put your enegey back into your songs/Revenge is wrong, show the world you grown and you came up.
features a lot of the same themes and ideas that we've come to expect from Lif. However, he has taken the time since his last solo release to develop his style and incorporate more personal aspects into his lyrics and themes. Add to that the sonic production of El-P and the range of exceptional, top-level guests ( Aesop Rock, Akrobatik, Murs, Blueprint, El-P ) and Mr. Lif has given us another underground rap gem. If you don't like Lif, this album probably won't sway you - but listeners of Def Jux and the underground in general should love Lif's most complete release yet.