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 Geoff Ross
Yeah...Madlib has another album out...and the more I listen to it the more I realize just how great it is.
Filled with interesting percussive rhythms, that very often take all your attention away from the more meaty parts of the track, Beat Konducta in Africa highlights the complex bounce that said continent is known for, while integrating his signature blunted Hip Hop thump. Being his third installment in the Medicine Show series, a monthly release project through 2010, and the 4th (7th & 8th?) installment in his Beat Konducta catalogue started in 2006, Madlib could be thought of as a quantity not quality artist in the age of the yearly EP.
I can with no doubt tell you here today that he is the embodiment of the fact that quality and quantity can coalesce, creating a brand new type of recording, both smash-mouth and delicate.
With similarities to his past releases (especially BK in India), while listening to this record you might find yourself thinking it could be any one of his BK releases...
The percussion has a swing on it that reminds me of a constant echo in the distance, heard while you are watching Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas hunt man-eating lions.
The samples feel familiar as that pair of jeans that already have my belt, wallet and lighter in them. But for some reason there is a bottle cap in my back pocket from a beer I have never had.
The voice's littered throughout the record haunt and educate, giving me the feeling that I am listening to NPR on Goree Island, Senegal.
With BKIA, Madlib has made as strong an instrumental album as he has ever put out. He seamlessly blends the old world organics of Afro-Rock, Soul and Funk, with his own style of handcrafted Cali-basement beats. This is not African Hip Hop, this is Beat Konducta in Africa.
Posted by Todd Hamm
Seattle's Grynch begins many of his sets by announcing his standing as "a nice guy" to the crowd; a comforting sentiment for many of today's more pensive show-goers, and as a personal friend of the artist, one I happen subscribe to. In fact, in the 10+ years that I've had the privilege of knowing the gentleman, his 'nice guy' demeanor has rarely wavered, even during such trying instances as being stuffed into the overhead compartment of a Grayhound bus on a middle school jazz band trip (which I have since apologized for), or taking jabs from the local press about the primarily rap-centric nature of his rhymes (which I have seemed to avoid to this point). Hence, The Rapping About Rapping Mixtape, a light-hearted response to such criticisms by title, and a serious collection of his recent rap adventures by nature.
Writing about Rapping About Rapping
Grynch spreads a mix of intentionally ironic rap-raps and unreleased rarities across fourteen of the RAR 'tape's twenty tracks, the remainder being jocular interludes and audio drops from the likes of Prometheus Brown (Geologic of Blue Scholars), JakeOne, Macklemore, Kyle Lucas and west coast legend Warren G. The MC plays to his strengths on tracks like "The Life I Chose", a chorus-less intro (produced by Sabzi of Blue Scholars) where he lets the listener into the world he exists in: "I'm just scratchin' the surface/just givin' you a peek behind the tracks that you purchased." An extended version of "You're On" from P Smoov's Face Scrunchers EP is another definite highlight, and the "Showtime" remix with Illa J is Grynch at his storytelling best (the J Dilla beat doesn't hurt the track's cause either). The bottom line is: while there may be a few filler songs or verses to be found on the mixtape, it serves well to close this obligatory chapter in his career in light-hearted fashion, and provides more than a couple of gems along the way.
Posted by Todd Hamm
It's fair to assume that whenever you pick up a new Gorillaz album, you're going to get something futuristic, something left of center that's pushing the boundaries of mainstream accessibility, and Plastic Beach is no exception.
Released yesterday, the third album from America's UK's the world's favorite digital band finds Damon Albarn and gang in a stranger, more electronic realm than both their self-titled debut and it's follow up Demon Days, which is probably the result of a mainly self-produced project. Having previously been guided by the production of Dan the Automator and Danger Mouse, the Gorillaz sound had been defined by it's prolific backing instrumentals, and showcased the producers' masterful craftsmanship more than anything else.
This time around, the liner notes credit only "The Gorrillaz" on production, leading one to believe that it's some kind of conglomerate of guest artists working along side Albarn, the man who's been the binding factor for the 'group'; the potion in the water. As a singer, his talent shines bright on most of the tracks, although the cool twenty cameos (several artists appear more than once) trumps the guest list on either of the other Gorillaz albums.
After a string intro, the disk kicks off with "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach", where Snoop Dogg does his thing over some smooth funk from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The reggaeton "White Flag" follows then "Rhinestone Eyes" touches on the album's 'theme' of pollution (that is supposedly a result of Albarn's trip to an African landfill), and is also one of the best tracks on the album. The single "Stylo", which features Mos Def and Bobby Womack is like a more awesome Nightrider theme song, then De La Soul fills their usual goofball slot on the album with "Superfast Jellyfish". Sweden's electro quartet Little Dragon come along for the rad future-dance "Empire Ants", then The Fall's Mark E. Smith is nearly drowned in a deluge of synthesizers and bass on "Glitter Freeze". "Some Kind of Nature" featuring Lou Reed sounds like something Ween would have cooked up for Chocolate and Cheese, and both "On Melancholy Hill" and "Broken" are a little boring. Mos Def returns for "Sweepstakes" with Hypnotic Brass Ensembe, although HBE's role sounds a little more forced this time around. The title track sounds like you could do a mean robot to, then Little Dragon surfaces again for the lounge cut "To Binge". Bobby Womack again sings beautifully on "Cloud of Unknowing", then the album is closed out in neck-snapping fashion with "Pirate Jet", as the rag-tag band of animated troublemakers drifts off to make their next album.
As a whole, the disk is a little strange and not quite as focused as the first two Gorillaz efforts, but Albarn makes it work. He's a uniter, and incredibly versatile, and has yet again challenged the casual listener to tune their ears to a slightly different pitch.
Warning: this video contains kick ass shots of Bruce Willis dangling out the window of an El Camino with an oversized handgun. (Click the link, 'cause they won't let you embed the video for some reason)
Posted by Todd Hamm
The artwork's amateur, the production is lacking. The man behind the microphone, however, can rap. Gazmo, a name that brings to mind either Hunter S. Thompson's style of journalism or Trey Parker's 1997 box office flop, belongs to a recently transplanted Tacoma MC who's delivery sounds effortless, his skill natural.
Although he's recently moved down the coast to L.A., he's just released a mixtape called The Gazmo Show that, judging by his constant Seattle/Tacoma references, is very much a product of his time in the northwest. The mixtape, which can be previewed and downloaded for free HERE, features his raw lyricism over a disjointed mix of original beats and borrowed instrumentals from well known artists--in short, it's a pretty standard mixtape.
The music on TGS is a series of high and low moments as many of the tracks are backed by production simply too weak to support his talent, and in turn the verses on them are equally as forgettable. But when the beat is on the level of Biggie's "Gimme the Loot" (track five on TGS), or Lil Wayne's universal show-your-shit track "A Milli" (track thirteen) for example, Gazmo spits absolute fire.
In the do-it-yourself era of downloadable mixtapes and EPs, The Gazmo Show definitely serves it's purpose as bait for hungry producers to jump on. The kid's got potential, that's for damn sure, so listen, contact, collaborate, or just enjoy.
Gazmo - A Trillie
Posted by Todd Hamm
BeanOne is continually mentioned in the same breath as Seattle production giants JakeOne and Vitamin D by members of the press elite, and deservedly so. While his name might not ring as many bells as his Rhymesayers affiliated/Big Tune-founding counterparts (respectfully) for most of the scene's casual assemblage, the man they call Bean has been quietly cranking out classics for the better part of a decade (well, longer than that, but most notably the last ±five years, e.g. Framework's Hello World, Boom Bap Project's Reprogram and DymeDef's Panic EP).
Bean's most recent project is Short Circuit, a 32-track instrumental mix that ranges from feel good party hop to dub step fusion and quirky headphone grooves. While many of the tracks are built around samples you'll probably recognize--from the Eurythmics to Hendrix, Interpol to Chairmen of the Board--that recognition is soon followed by a 'well that's an interesting twist' feeling that comes from Bean's ever unique take on the sounds that surround him. With seamless transitions, and a decidedly uptempo pace, it's entirely possible to listen front to back roughly four times before you realize you've gone around the horn even once (as I just did). So do yourself a favor and DOWNLOAD THIS RIGHT HERE (for free!), then enjoy the next hour and six minutes of you life.
BeanOne - NeverBe4
Posted by Todd Hamm
Ohio's dynamic Ramble John "Rjd2" Krohn has been effectively bridging the gap between background music and freestanding instrumentals, beat-making and complex songwriting for a good four albums now. His arrangements have been galaxies of sampled sounds, lassoed with his MPC then dropped squeaky clean into place in his vision.
For many RJ traditionalists, however, The Third Hand marked the death of their lauded beatsmith, the heir apparent to DJ Shadow's forward thinking art-production, lost forever in the crossover jungle. While 2010's The Colussus still occasionally hovers on the fringes of soft rock and funk, it sounds far more Since We Last Spoke than it's predecessor.
The opening track "Let There Be Horns" is a spy thriller in the vein of "The Horror"--the song that kicked off his eye-popping debut Deadringer--and the video (below) is packed with bull-in-a-china-shop hilarity. There is actually a fair amount of humor on the disk, though it's mostly the kind of fun an over accomplished musician has in the studio, like making an intentionally cheesy song with tinny drums (see "The Glow"), an epic harpsichord solo ("The Glow"), or spot-on Beatles emulation ("Gypsy Caravan"). At the same time, the album also contains bangers like "A Spaceship For Now" and "A Son's Cycle" to keep the beatheads happy (the latter of which has dope guest spots from The Catalyst, Illogic and NP).
What The Colossus really sounds like is that RJ locked himself in the studio with himself from five years ago and the two cranked out a brilliant record--which is not quite a Deadringer, but it's really not supposed to be...and it's pretty fucking rad.