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Music Reviews

Blendcrafters “Melody” [Up Above Records] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   6/28/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Blendcrafters is DJ Nu-Mark (of J5 fame) and Pomo. A year after their album, they are back with a 12″ single containing two songs.

There are 4 different versions of a remix of the first song, Melody: clean, non-clean, a cappella (which translates as ‘in the style of the chapel? by the way), and instrumental. M.F. Doom is featured on the remix, spitting out tongue twisters with twisty meanings just behind the beat. In the background is a piano playing jazz chords while a tenor voice asks, ‘What good is melody? What good is music, if it ain’t possessing something sweet?’ There is also a sound effect of a bat hitting a baseball just in time for summer!

The other song is Eddie Harris‘s Bold and Black with Carol Kaye overdubbing a fantastic bass part and Derf Reklaw punching up the percussion. It’s an instrumental and definitely as strong as the A side.

It’s not easy to combine jazz elements with hip hop, based on the semi-embarrassing attempts I have heard from other groups before, but Blendcrafters makes it seem effortless.
–Hunter Gatherer

Variable Unit ?Mayhemystics Outbreaks? [Wide Hive Records]

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   CD, Hip Hop

This is the fifth release by Variable Unit, a San Francisco self-described ‘community? (as opposed to a ‘band?) with a fluctuating membership made up of experienced musicians interested in combining genres like hip hop, down tempo, dub, soul, and anything else they can get their hands on. It was released 4/20/2005

This release started out as outtakes from their previous release, Mayhemystics, and soon took on a life of its own. Only two songs of the thirteen are new versions from Mayhemistics – Second Seals (originally Seals) and Liberation 2 (originally Liberation).

The sound is a mishmash of genres listed above, bringing out the best elements of each. The great keyboard playing by Jacob Elyah Aginsky and the rhythm section of Thomas McCree (drums) and Matt Montgomery (bass) keep the music interesting and funky (especially on 8: Contradiction). DJs Quest and Zeph participate on this release as well. Azeem and Omega have a powerful delivery to match the power of the subject matter.

Most of the songs are a reaction to the second Gulf War and the general hassles of being on the less desirable end of a capitalist society combined with a healthy dose of apocalyptic vision. They get points for writing the first song I’ve heard that points out the fact that vinyl records are made from oil derivatives.

Instrumentals: 4, 7, 9, 13
–Hunter Gatherer

Flow Dynamics — ?Live In The Nation? — [Invada Records] — (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   4/9/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

This 12″ single contains two nearly perfect songs recorded by Australia’s Flow Dynamics. It’s almost as if someone hooked me up to electrodes and used bio-feedback to carefully calibrate a song to my musical taste (or lack thereof).

You could drop these tracks anywhere short of a nursing home and all available floor space will be filled with people dancing. In fact, I heard that they played this for the pope to confirm that he was dead.
Flow Dynamics is Dave McKinney, who gave up a promising career in marin biology to explore Brazilian drumming and co-found Rhibosome.

These tracks are blessed with a disco-funk beat from the 70’s, samples, flute, horn stabs, turntablism, big-sound production, and a singer named Sunny Amorganda who sounds just like James Brown.

They have a full-length coming out later in 2005 that I am looking forward to hearing.

–Hunter Gatherer

Time Machine — ?Grime Machine? — [Glow-in-the-Dark] — (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   4/9/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Released in 2/2005 on their own label, Glow In The Dark Records, this is Time Machine‘s latest offering. It is comprised of three songs in various forms. Time Machine is DJ Mekalek, Jaysonic, and Comel. They work closely with producer Stoerok. Based in LA now, they formed in Washington DC and lived a while in Rhode Island.

The three songs have a different sound:

A1: Mind In A Spin (clean) – Heaviest of the three about how the streets are a particularly unpleasant place to be. Features a cool sample of How Can You by Third World, which gives this track a reggae feel.

A2: Caught On Tape (clean) – A cautionary rap warning us that there are cameras about. Various people famous for being on tape like Tommy and Pamela, Paris Hilton, etc. are name checked. The ‘808? referred to is a police code for disturbance of the peace, not the Roland TR-808 synthesizer.

A3: Matter Transporter (clean) – A playful rap about how cool it would be to have a matter transporter so that they could beam themselves to their next show rather than having to drive by van. Moving is very stressful and it appears that the trauma of moving from DC to RI to LA has left a mark on their psyches. This track wouldn’t sound out of place on De La Soul‘s 3 Feet High and Rising.

The other tracks are dirty, instrumental, or a capella versions of one the tracks above.

Also check out the cool cover by LA artist D.W. Frydendall. Let’s get him to do an artist T-shirt.

N.B.: After track A4 there is a :12 snippet of another song before the A side runs out. Don’t let this trip you up during your back announce.

–Hunter Gatherer

Grayskul — “Prom Quiz” — [Rhymesayers Entertainment]

Hunter Gatherer   3/13/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Grayskul is three gentlemen from the Pacific Northwest: MCs Onry Ozzborn and JFK of the hip-hop collective Oldominion and Rob Castro on bass. (They also have the alter egos Reason, Fiddle Back Recluse, and Phantom Ghost El-Topo, respectively.) Produced by Mr. Hill and Fakts One.

This release is a 12″ single promo for their 1st album Deadlivers, which was released 2/15/05. Rhymesayers is the same label that brings us MF Doom and Mr. Dibbs, both recently added to the KFJC library.

The music is doomy (goth?) hip-hop with clever rhymes that go great with the heavy beats and that point out (in case you hadn’t noticed) that the world is fucked.

Three songs on this 12″ single:

Prom Quiz (radio/dirty/instrumental versions) A ‘morality rap? about the pressures that young women face in today’s culture. Sympathetic or misogynistic? You decide. Catchy sample of a whistle or something.

Cursive (radio/instro versions) Features Mr. Lif helping out with some raps about how their raps are hard to understand like cursive. There is a sped up sample, so don’t be confused. 33rpm is the right speed.

Thee Adventures (clean) Bonus track not on Deadlivers with a catchy piano sample riff.
–Hunter Gatherer

Ugly Duckling – “Fresh Mode” [Special Records]

jack soil   3/6/2005   12-inch, Format, Hip Hop

You want simple hip hop? Ugly Duckling sets it up for you on this little single.

Side A – Two MC’s, Andy C (the C stands for Capp) and Dizzy Dustin let it flow smooth
and intelligible. Accompanied by Young Einstein on the faders, this is simple and
easygoin HIP HOP for anyone. Not much info on the trio, but this leaves you
wanting more.

Side B – Young Einstein sets the environment for an Open Mic – great for a bed or
your favorite visiting MC. No swearing here, and no braggadocio either, other than
lettin’ you know that they’re in the Fresh Mode and you should be too.

DJ Shadow – ?Mashin? On The Motorway/Walkie Talkie? – [Island] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   2/27/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

This is a double 12″ single released in June 2003 and consisting mostly of remixes of tracks by DJ Shadow. Oddly enough the title tracks (and the only two radio edits) are on sides B and D.

This is turntable-ing, MC-ing, and remix-ing at its finest. If you like hip-hop even a little, then you will find something to like about this release.

Be sure to check out the Soulwax remix of Six Days (D1), which is almost a DJ Shadow/B-52s mash up, and D4, which is a fast and funny track that would work well on a drive shift.

C1 stretches out a bit, starting with a sample of DJ Shadow from the excellent Scratch documentary, then taking a detour into techno, then back to the turntables. For a more dark, techno vibe, check out B1.

Language: A1 (Check the title), B2 (Though it is a ‘radio edit,? the word motherfucking is barely concealed. I had to listen carefully to hear that the word was scrubbed.)
–Hunter Gatherer

Anticon Label Sampler: 1999-2004 [foll] – [Anticon]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, Hip Hop

An extremely long (almost 80 minutes!) compilation from east-bay hip-hop crew/label Anticon. Even though this is a collection, the tracks blend together, so careful at the start and end of tracks. I’ll split the review into three parts:
Singing: Some of the artists on Anticon are singers rather than rappers. The effect is that of indie-pop with a more hip-hip beat. Artists in this vein include Why? (2, 12, 22, 29) who answers the question ‘what if the Residents played hip-hop?, Passage (6, 18), Restiform Bodies (28), and the Alias track that features Markus Acher of The Notwist (31).
Rapping: In the more traditional hip-hop vein, Alias (4, 14, 20, 25), Sole (5, 13, 21, 32), Themselves (3, 11, 15, 27), Deep Puddle Dynamics (5), and Pedestrian (7, 19) feature skillful and dexterous rapping over backgrounds that vary from melodic and catchy (Pedestrian) to dark and mellow (Alias, plus 5 and 13 by Sole ? produced by Alias), to dark and heavy (Themselves, Deep Puddle Dynamics).
Instrumentals: Odd Nosdam provides dark, heavy, electronic instrumentals (10, 23) and a bit of comic relief (17, which features the Muppet Show bari sax baseline and sampled spoken vocals from TV/film); he also produces Sole tracks 21 and 32. Alias (26), Dosh (30), and Jel (33) provide smoother, trip-hoppier sounds.
Language: 4, 5, 12, 14*, 22, 27
*Only in the spoken outro. ‘Shit? at 3:20 of 3:37.

Stingray

Mr. Bambu — “Did Some Remixes…” — [Organik] — (33rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   1/9/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

This is an EP of four instrumental hip hop remixes by a mystery man named Mr. Bambu from Gainesville, Florida. It was released 6/2004. (This is his 2nd EP after The Disconbobulation EP.)

Tracks A1 and B1 are remixes of a song by fellow Floridians Burgundy Romance. The first one features rock guitar. The second one is longer and more down tempo with electronica sounds, including that Roland cowbell sound.

A2 is a remix of a song by Mercury Program (also from Florida and sharing a member with Burgundy Romance) that is abstract and appropriately spacey.

B2 has a harder sound with fatter drums and a rock/funk vibe.

All remixes are instrumental, and the more I listened the more it grew on me. Check it out!

–Hunter Gatherer

Science Fiction – Walls Don’t Exist – [Third Earth Music] 33 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   1/5/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

Science Fiction is Wale Oyejide, a hip hop producer who grew up in Nigeria, spent a few years living in UAE, went to college in Atlanta, and now lives in California. He has released two EPs and an instrumental LP before this full-length release. Before the hip hop bug bit him, he played guitar for an emo band and a Nirvana cover band.

This is instrumental hip hop. It’s spacey and soulful and a very personal album. Song titles like ‘Love Is A Cigarette In Gasoline Hands? give one an idea of what to expect.

Most tracks don’t have lyrics so much as fractured pieces of his interior monologue. After listening to it long enough I started to feel vaguely claustrophobic.

There is a bonus track not marked on the packaging (017), which is a remix of Hold On featuring MF Doom.

Future releases will be under his real name most likely. He has said in interviews that he finds the moniker Science Fiction ‘dorky.’ He adopted the name Sci Fi when starting out because he used to sample from B-movies all the time.

Play this album if it’s raining or if it’s too sunny.

–Hunter Gatherer

subtle – “A new white.” – [lex records]

Funkminsta Fulla   10/13/2004   Hip Hop

subtle – “A new white.” – [lex records] (US release Oct 12, 2004)

Oakland sextet subtle are Doseone, Jel, Dax Pierson (those three perform as Themselves), Alex Kort, Jordan Dalyrmple and Marty Dowers

and they invite you “to euthanize the yolk slicked white horse you rode in on”

lucious loops and synthetic silicon samples meet watery dirge of probing lyric delivered in doseone’s at times androgynous monotone

recurring images of blood & morgue accompany motif of losing one’s arm / hand which is explored literally and symbolically throughout lyrics, song titles and album art

stethoscope reveals hidden gems of fat beats, tasty teases of textures and opulent on occasion vocal phrasing

slight lang. scattered throughout, mostly of the suggestive imagery variety, marked on liner notes where audible / possible; if there’s one complaint to be made about this album it is the difficulty in discerning the highly substantive lyrics from the vox. fortunately, extensive lyrics have been provided in the line art laden pseudo-copied liner notes which have a quasi-DIY feel

subtle – reminding us that “[there’s] more to life than manicured vaginas and a saline solution”

mad hatter

Sole – “Selling Live Water ” – [Anticon.]

Daryl Licht   1/9/2003   12-inch, Hip Hop

Anticon member, Sole, returns with a very ambitious and successful
second full-length release. Musically, he throws everything but the
kitchen sink at you, as jazzy horns, vibes, ambient drones, bleeding
Krautrock electronics, and seductive pop guitars are all integrated
quite comfortably with traditional hip-hop beats, scratches, and
classic soul samples. Lyrically, he also covers a lot of ground, with
compelling rants about things we can all relate to (work, relationships,
life/death, geo-politics) and deeply personal, soul baring sketches
(that you also might be able to relate to, depending on your particular
psychoses), as well. Overall, this is a stunning release that fulfills the
goals of the Anticon’mission statement? by transcending the
traditional preconceptions/lmitations regarding what hip-hop is and/or
could/should be. Music for the advancement of hip-hop, indeed! Play! DL

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