Posted by Todd Hamm
Expansive, yet often airy and lithe, Oceansize's complex sense of melody has drawn comparison to everyone from Radiohead to Tool. It's been their ability to evolve and create within new parameters, to bound through seldom used sectors of their "genre" while maintaining a strangely cohesive aesthetic, that has set them apart from most progressive acts of the day. With their most recent Home & Minor EP, the Manchester quintet has taken the opportunity to explore their gentler sensibilities for half an hour; something like the "Music For A Nurse" or "The Frame" arrangements, but more focused and refined. They haven't tried to pack the entire range of their catalogue into a single song (although that approach often makes for their best material) this time around, and it has worked surprisingly well.
"Legal Teens" begins blurry-eyed and curious, the reversed effects splashing between left and right channels the way water refracts light. As captured in the video, lead singer Mike Vennart drifts in falsetto with the guitar sway, Steve Hodson's bass slowly instills gravity, as Gambler's keys flutter between rhythm guitarist Steve Durose's soft, deliberate riffs and Mark Heron's warmly batted tom drums. As the track fades on the EP, "Getting Where Water Cannot" clicks on crisp in the middle of a subdued action sequence, where the tricky drum click soon picks up bits of guitar, bass, keys and trumpet as it tumbles through scenery that is as much David Gray as it is Radiohead. The melodic feedback of "Monodrones" serves preface to the title track's wobbling reverb and gregorian vocality, and while it may be the weakest--and longest--song of the collection, the lack of repetition and anticlimactic fray at the end of the song make it bearable background music. "Didnealand" has the spacious qualities of an old house, complete with creaky furniture, hardwood echoes, the family's grand piano. Not a word is spoken, nor does it need to be. "The Strand" closes out the disk in haunting fashion, with Vennart's dark lyrics whispered over the whine of industrial fans, or perhaps the quiet hum of machinery. The track nearly foreshadows a return to the deep brooding tension of "Voorhees", especially given the eery cat-wondering-in-a-warehouse sounds to wrap things up--and yet, it is the end.
Home & Minor is an exercise in patience, a six track build-up, that, while hinting at some kind of climactic resolution, is able to stand on it's own as a delightfully moody assortment of sounds. It plays perfectly into the bigger picture; it's simply the next chapter in the discography they seem to have already planned out, with vastly different spikes in plot and character development, but that follow the same extremely well thought out arc. It's hard to tell how those used to the edgy prog-metal, spastic time signatures and tangential song structures typical of previous Oceansize material will react, but by the sound of it, the band doesn't care much, or are at least confident. They are however, due for an explosion.
Here's the afore-mentioned video for the opening track "Legal Teens" from the Home & Minor EP:
Posted by Todd Hamm
The infamous young rap pusher/gutter life documentarian Avatar Young Blaze released Baptized In Vodka today, the follow up to his sinister debut LP Warm Blooded Cold Heart; a disk he says got love everywhere from his current home city of Seattle to his native Russia, and even featured a verse from star of rap stars Lil' Wayne.
Though heavily steeped in expectation, BIV actually turns out more streamline than the gaudy follow-ups so typical of the genre. With more focused production and cohesive songwriting, the tracks are musically and thematically relative, as Avatar's ice cold tenor crackles through the bulky instrumentals and carries the tracks with ease. There are features on the album, but none close to as noteworthy as Weezy, and of little consequence regardless. It's when Av is given space to breath on his own, as on the latin guitar laced "I Am King", the future-gloss opener "Put Me Under", or the mafioso tinged "Shootouts", that he sounds most in his element, and when the mood is pulled back a bit, as on the finale "Goin' Insane", his delivery works most to his advantage as the smoothed out instrumental plays sharp contrast to his gruff style, more so than ultra-hyped tracks like "Turbo Mode" and "I'm A Gangsta", although they do have definite club appeal.
Aside from the tiring shout-overs from the project's mixmaster DJ Folk, BIV is a solid hardcore record through and through, and a full step forward for the MC. To accent our take, we caught up with Sir Blaze to gain a little insight into the creative process, and find out why he wants you to know that death only scares you. Listen in...
NWmainstage: How would you describe the overall sound of Baptized In Vodka?
International. Unorthodox. Gutter. Emotional. Classy. Fly. Social. Honest.
NWM: Where did the concept for the album come from? Are there any religious undertones (since baptism is mentioned in the title)?
It evolved naturally from my previous projects, with the whole Russian theme. The baptism is the cleansing, the immersing. Vodka represents fire, passion, my Russian/ Ukrainian heritage. Baptized in Vodka is basically a metaphor for a couple different things. First, being people are baptized in holy water, not vodka. With me, and everything I been through, I feel like I've been baptized in vodka. I'm more extreme then the rest. As far as religious undertones, I believe in God. Im Russian Orthodox. This is the oldest version of Christianity, where the most important thing is humility.
NWM: Who did you work with on the album? How do you feel they affected the music?
As far as production, The Alchemist, Araab Muzik, Ty Fyffe, The Olympicks... My up & coming producer homie from New York V-Don got a couple joints on there aswell, look out for him he's a problem. Shout out to Apoulo as well, he's from Seattle he definitely got it in. As far as features, Ackrite Da Butcha from Compton, Matt Blaque from the Bay, Carey Stacks, SkiMask Spec, Eighty4Fly all from Seattle.
NWM: How would you respond to people saying your rhymes are too violent?
Everyone perceives life differently, this is an aspect of life I've been exposed to, seeing as to when I rap, I rap about my life, not somebody else's.
I guess I've seen too much death up close. Death scars you.
NWM: Do you have any plans for a tour or any upcoming projects?
I got a mixtape Im doing with Ackrite Da Butcha "From Geattle to Bompton". Im also working' with Dj Nik-One from Moscow and some artists from Russia. Also look out for BIV II which I already started working on. As far as tours, I definitely got some things under wraps, especially overseas.
NWM: What do you want your fans to know about you?
I want my fans to know that I'm for real. I also want them to know that I love them and am extremely grateful for their attention. I get amazing feedback from all over the world: Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Columbia, Australia, Seattle, NYC, LA, ext. I don't take it all for granted. I want to continue to put myself and my emotions out for my fans. Theres alot of shenanigans going on in the game right now where rappers are just not credible on what they speak on. This is really my life, Im not trying to glorify negativity, Im a positive person. Im just speaking on what I been through, and where Im going.<NWM>
Baptized In Vodka is available for zero $s for a LIMITED TIME HERE, so get it before it hits iTunes.
Here's the new two part video from Avatar for the tracks "Cry" and "Everybody Get Low"--both off of Baptized In Vodka: