I had two initial reasons for picking up the new LP Spaced Out from Calgary, Alberta based band Ketamines. The first, less serious reason, was that their band name reminded me of one of my favorite “ironic” T-shirts of all time. The shirt read “I am high on life…and by life I mean Ketamine.” Stupid, yes, but for whatever reason it stuck with me. The other, more pertinent reason was that the record was distributed through Southpaw Records. I was already buying the new Outer Minds record, so I decided to add this other new record to my shopping cart, as music nerds like myself are known to do. While my motives for checking out the LP gave no reason to believe that the record would be good, my blind purchase turned out to be a successful choice.
I pretty safely assumed that the record would be of the hazy garage type from my minimal experience hearing about the band and the label they were on, but knew from experience that doesn’t guarantee that it will be good. Ketamines not only proved to be a solid release, but ventures into the weird nooks and crannies of pysch-garage that help to make it stand out from the crowd. There are moments of garage rock mediocrity, like the power chords and cow bells “meh”-ness of “Teenage Rebellion Time,” but most of the record is a scintillating kaleidoscope of genres. The spectrum runs from the thick molasses groove of “1 yr” to the underwater punk ballad “Skin Trade,” with each song sending the listener down a different rabbit hole. There are a few songs that walk the tightrope of being generic, like “Kill Me Now,” “Evil Intentions” and “Spaced Out,” but the band find a way to wrap layers of fuzz around their 3 chord rock. “Midnight Dawn” sounds like it could have been off the underrated 2011 LP from UV Race, and the band even prove adapt at bringing to life a surf-garage instrumental “No Grand Design.”
While my two reasons for purchasing the record (a random T-shirt advocating drug use and a shared label with a band I like) may have seemed random, but turned out to be decent reference points for the record. Like Outer Minds (and other bands released by Southpaw Records), Spaced Out is steeped in garage rock and wrapped in a blanket of old school pysch rock. As for the T-shirt, the people who thought it would be funny to make that shirt probably think on the same wavelengths as the people who name their band after the drug, which manifests itself in the weird and eclectic left turns that pop up all over the record. Spaced Out has moments of unbridled weirdness mixed with some more straightforward material, with the end result being a solid record that, no matter why you pick it up, should give you something to like.
See the band tonight at the Turf tonight as part of the Chicago Blackout Fest Kick-Off Party with Teledrome, COZY, Teenage Strangler
Father Yod was one of the original Los Angeles weirdos. He and his Source Family commune opened LA’s first health food store, practiced psychedelic spiritualism, and recorded experimental music under the name Ya Ho Wa 13. And while Yod actually died way back in a bizarre hang gliding accident back in 1975, Drag City has unearthed a previously unreleased trove of the commune’s recordings to be released on May 22nd. You can actually stream the record in its entirety via KCET’s Artbound program, and if you dig that hoodoo vibe you can order the double LP along with an accompanying article from Caroline Ryder entitled “Meet the New Aquarians” from Drag City.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, three Takes on Blunderbuss by Jack White.
Steve Skavnak (@steveskavnak)
I’ve always enjoyed Jack White’s work in his other projects, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been a devout follower of his career. With that, I went into Blunderbuss with absolutely zero expectations. I had heard “Sixteen Saltines” and “Love Interruption,” thinking favorably of both, but not blown away by either. I came away pleasantly surprised, fond of the large majority of the record and more appreciative of the man who has become a musical icon of our generation.
Anyone that saw Jack White’s recent SNL performance witnessed the adorably campy way White switched from an all-female backing back to an all-male one of the second song of the evening. While this seemed to be all for show, when listening to Blunderbuss’ 13 punchy tracks, you can actually envision this change and understand that it’s for sound. The album alternates between White’s signature crunchy guitar hooks and a newfound (or at least more prominent) love of piano, which works the best near the middle of the record on the emotive “Hypocritical Kiss” and the urgent bellowing on “Weep Themselves to Sleep” (which also boasts one of White’s killer screeching guitar solos). Then there’s the beginning of “I’m Shakin,’” which could easily be mistaken for a tune by The Black Keys (the irony has seemingly come full circle). The standout for me, though, may very well be the most timid track on Blunderbuss. Take away the intermediate drumming and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” sounds like a White Stripes outtake done right, with White utilizing some of the same production mastery he used on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose.
Now if Mr. White would just visit Minneapolis for a night or two, it’d be nice to hear some of this new material live before he moves on to his next endeavor.
Numerous side projects, managing the day-to-day at Third Man, and a daunting task to show what’s so different about Jack White aside from the band known as The White Stripes, how does one overcome all that to create Blunderbuss? There’s really not a question as to Jack White’s virtuosity, and Blunderbuss showcases that in a lot of ways. What comes in this debut solo record from Jack White is not so much drastically different from his work with his various side projects and his work with the White Stripes, if anything it sheds another layer as to what Jack White can do with all that influence, and its evident in “Freedom At 21″ where a nice groove settles in and Jack blurts out lyrics similar to bounce type hip-hop, riding the rhythm perfectly. “Sixteen Saltines” is an outright rock jam, whereas “Love Interruption” is a nicely tinged acoustic song with some well-done keyboard work. Which brings us back to the initial question: what’s so different about Blunderbuss? Really, if you’re looking at the album from an aesthetic point of view, not much has changed. Sure there may be more mid-tempo jams around and a fair share of nicely done acoustic ones, but one thing is for sure, Jack White continues to be a man who can wear many hats and still treat every project like its something new.
I didn’t jump into the Beach House review we did last week, but despite the fact that I like Beach House much more than Jack White, I couldn’t help but having the same thoughts about both albums. How many times can you go back to the same well before people get tired? With his first solo LP Blunderbuss, Jack White goes back to the sounds that have made him so famous with the White Stripes, Dead Weather, The Raconteurs and his other various projects. White takes the listener on a tour of his previous greatest hits, ranging from the hard charging garage blues of “Sixteen Saltines” to the melody rich piano jaunt “Hypocritical Kiss” to the folk-y “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” and back to the sultry, organ groove of “Missing Pieces.” Like always, there is clear talent present on the album, with White able to wring a slightly new sound or different take on a sound that is many lifetimes older than him, but how long can you walk down the same path before it starts seeming a bit redundant? Like Beach House, most fans with previous experience with his work would be able to pinpoint that this a Jack White effort within the first minute of any of these songs. This speaks to a distinctive and meticulous sound that has been perfected over the years, but I couldn’t help but thinking what could have been if he had taken his talent in different directions. His work with Loretta Lynn was cool—why not a rustic, old school country album? He put out a White Denim LP on his Third Man Records—why not a pysched out blues meltdown? Blunderbuss will appease current fans of White, bring in a few new listeners and leave causal fans like myself feeling wildly indifferent.
For a long time – critics tend to reward production or emceeing in separate baskets. Maybe we as a fanbase have been plagued with albums that don’t contain enough of both, it makes the golden age of hip-hop tend to sound historic in terms of innovation and focus. When critics tend to note a great release – it tends to focus on taking it back to one specific sound or else developing something entirely different into rap as a whole. In addition, we tend to have a great deal of love for the guilty pleasure hip-hop, or else something that’s lyrically astonishing. Rarely do we see the two come into one focus.
Malik Watkins and Jonathan Cilby know this. It’s perhaps why after such stellar MaLLy efforts as The Letter, The Moment, and most recently, The Passion, MaLLy comes with a bravado that harks back to the golden age of East Coast legends such as Rakim, Nas, and Kool G Rap. The Sundance Kid aka Jonathan Cilby brings the epic yet thumping element of a club jam back to the forefront as well. Together the two give us The Last Great…, which for lack of better singular terminology, is an album that brings together everything we love about hip-hop and everything that has become a guilty pleasure in the club jam; an album that basically delivers a purpose and a message that is so slickly produced, that the immediate thought that comes to mind when one hears this album: classic.
MaLLy for the most part takes the focus off of personal matters, and for the next 36 minutes delivers nothing short of a performance that is worthy of his live set, and it seems with every effort MaLLy shows massive improvement, as he rides the bounce inspired flow on tunes such as “In God We Trust,” “Hands High,” and “Bounce,” all the while staying true to who he is, not having to refer to how much tuss is done or personal riches, he keeps it for the most part to his personal worth, and in addition, he still carries the battle bravado he originally wowed us with on such joints as the lead single, “Shine,” and on the verbal onslaught that caught our attention on such songs as “Swallowing The Reign” and the Brother Ali assisted “Unplugged.”
The Sundance Kid definitely helps provide MaLLy’s substance with strong synths and bouncy backing – thumping kicks and occasionally micro-sampled elements that help give his percussion that extra bump, you can hear it in “Good One,” where the synths are kept to an atmospheric high, and then there’s the orchestra-like elements blending with those synths on “My Lord,” but in addition to that, the production provided by Sundance manages to complement MaLLy’s voice very well, and allows for his oft-kilter and battle tested lyricism an equally strong backdrop track after track, leaving nothing to chance, and its rewards are constantly reaped over and over with each casual listen.
Overall, there are many moments and elements in The Last Great… that are definitely worth the praise that critics have provided. MaLLy & The Sundance Kid have managed to craft something that listeners have been longing for in The Last Great… and it is definitely sure to have everyone singing it’s praises. If you have the chance to see MaLLy live or hear his discography which carries a lot of awesome moments, its an opportunity that is not worth missing.
MaLLy and The Sundance Kid will be celebrating the release of The Last Great at 7th Street Entry with The Tribe & Big Cats!, 925ve, Jimmy2Times and MaLLy performing with DJ Last Word. It all goes down on May 18th, 2012, $8, 18+ and doors are at 8pm.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, three Takes on The Money Store by Death Grips.
My first exposure to the Cali noisenik hip-hop destructionists Death Grips was the video for “Guillotine” off the trio’s Ex-Military mixtape. Riding shotgun in a mid-sized sedan against a backdrop of digital static, vocalist Stefan Burnett lost his mind over an abrasive minimalist beat (though, oddly, he remembered to fasten his seatbelt). The striking, low-budget video was an effective statement of purpose for Ex-Military, a rap record that was punk in philosophy and, at times, practice (the Black Flag sample seemed to place it explicitly in the tradition of American underground rock – if the participation of Hella drummer Zach Hill in the proceedings wasn’t enough). The mixtape itself was bracingly urgent, all sheet metal electronics, distorted rock samples, and vocal rage.
Amazingly, this uncompromising album somehow got Death Grips signed to Epic. For its first commercial release, the trio has abandoned the sample-heavy format of the first (or was forced to, I suspect, by the realities of sample clearance) for subtler electronics – the disjointed rave of your nightmares, emceed by the absurdly apoplectic Burnett.
In comparison to the visceral Ex-Military, The Money Store is the proverbial “grower.” From the opener “Get Got” on, the album feels more refined, if less bracing. Burnett’s vocals are pulled back in the mix, blending into the off-kilter digital assemblages instead of dominating. It’s not always easy to discern individual lyrics, but memorable non-sequiturs like “teaching midgets how to swim” or “hustle bones comin’ out my mouth” stick in your head long after you’re done listening. I found I enjoyed the album more once I accepted that Burnett was just another part of the music, much in the same way The Fall’s Mark E. Smith functioned in Von Sudenfed, his electronic collaboration with Mouse on Mars.
Still, it’s becoming apparent that, for all his outsized personality, Burnett isn’t much better than average as an MC. And let’s be honest: a rapper yelling over ominous electronics isn’t as novel as most of the people writing about this album would have you believe. It’s also deceptively poppy. Strip away the distorted sonics from “I’ve Seen Footage,” and the song is a foursquare rock/rap song reminiscent of classic Run-DMC.
Musically, it’s more diverse and, in many ways, a better album than Ex-Military. If it’s not as thrilling, it will probably age better. I’ve liked it more every time I’ve listened to it.
Death Grips, the three-man group from Sacramento, CA made up of Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill and Andy Morin have put out a debut album in The Money Store that at first glance will have you jarred. Dirty percussive elements mix with the industrial sound gives the album The Money Store a feel that is almost nihilistic and fascinating. Stefan Burnett’s vocals have this haunting baritone that sounds like its on the verge of a chaotic downslide, which definitely adds character to such crazy mayhem as “Get Got”, and the dark and eerie panic that sets in on “Lost Boys.” Elsewhere on the album, you have such tunes as the laser-guided pulsating synths of “Blackjack,” whereas “Hustle Bones” sounds like the Mr. Hyde to A$AP Rocky & Schoolboy Q’s “Brand New Guy,” every line has no energy wasted, and its just as sporadic and chaotic elsewhere on this album. Given that this project is only one of two projects that are set to arrive this year, The Money Store is probably one of the most troublesome and intriguing listens this year.
It took me a long while to really come around to the Death Grips’ first record Ex-Military. My impression of the band upon first hearing them was that it sounded like a group of drunk, white boys trying to act hard while also rapping as loud as possible (to make up for a lack of rhyming ability). And yeah, I know (vocalist) Stefan Burnett isn’t white – but to me the sound immediately reminded me of the over-the-top-ness you often hear from white rappers to try and overcompensate for the fact that they are, well, white (think Vinnie Paz).
But I came around and I came around hard. There is still something about the aesthetic that turns me off, but the attitude and sheer audacity of the trio’s style is undeniably infectious. They aren’t really very good at rapping from a technical standpoint, but they have turned sloppy, hardcore rhyming into their own unique form of art. That being said, though it seems to be getting more praise, I think that the new record The Money Store isn’t quite as good. There is just something about the first album, from the Manson snippets onward, that makes it pretty much cohesively perfect. And when I say cohesive I mean from a chaotically non-cohering standpoint that in itself, forms a sort of cohesion. A cohesion of thrilling manic energy. The Money Store has great moments as well but I don’t find it quite as exciting. Maybe like Ex-Military it will just take me a while to warm up to it. I mean it is great, but from a comparative standpoint I think just a tad disappointing. Or perhaps it is just because the sound isn’t “new” anymore.
Even during their existence Lungfish stood apart from the rest of their Dischord label mates. They hailed from Baltimore, not DC, they lacked the nervous urgency of the bands from the capital, their music was generally slow & hypnotic, but also ecstatic and uplifting; they were a profoundly psychedelic band in a decidedly non-psychedelic era. Lungfish seemed to exist outside of time. A typical song was based around a simple, haunting, almost Eastern pattern played with tribal ferocity. The albums were cryptic missives from some other world. Higgs always the shaman, intimidating, impressively bearded and seeming crazed, pulling at his fingers as he howled about cosmic dread, though his stage patter was usually funny, if a bit weird. The rest of the band played with head down focus, driving these songs right into the middle of your skull. I saw them on a bill in the middle 90s with Gas Huffer of all bands and Lungfish didn’t even seem like the same species much less a rock band.
This new release, ACR Sessions 1999 chronicles the band’s first attempt at material that would mostly end up on 2000’s Necrophones. It represents Lungfish at their most anthemic and straightforward. In contrast, most of the ACR sessions takes are bit fuller sounding, but I can’t tell if that is the recording or mix, since the structure of the songs and performances are nearly identical. We do get the original, electric take of “Sex War” and “Occult Vibrations” features a clean vocal rather than the distorted and slightly buried vocal that appears on Necrophones, plus four unreleased songs (though still no version of “Armageddon”, check Youtube for that). It is amazing to think that a band as prolific as they were, an album a year for six straight years, still manages to have high quality unreleased material in the vaults.
The new songs are fantastic, so good you can hardly imagine a band casting them aside. “Symbiosis” thunders away like a ship driven over crashing waves by Nathan Bell’s taut bass line and “Screams of Joy” is the acid-drenched hit of this or any summer. Seriously, both of these tunes are classic level slabs of Lungfish noise, the only reason I could imagine for discarding them is they are almost too Lungfish-y. The churning, repetitive rhythms, the clanging guitar, the impossibly strange lyrics issued in Higgs’s throaty baritone. And it makes me wonder if the reason these recordings were originally scrapped is that they were too similar to the material on the records that had come just previous, namely The Unanimous Hour and Artificial Horizon. Because none of this is bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Necrophones would end up being a bit more varied, little stranger and sadder then what is represented on ACR Sessions 1999. Like the recent issue of the original Bat Chain Puller album by Captain Beefheart, it is fun to imagine an alternate reality where this was released instead of what was, at the same time I wouldn’t want to give up one in place of the other. Not held in as high regard by some fans, I personally love Necrophones and listening to the different takes side by side couldn’t decide if I preferred one over the other.
In spite of the current clamor for reunions of bands great and small Lungfish has remained silent. Higgs and guitarist Asa Osborne are still making music, with Skull Defekts and Zomes respectively. Maybe this new release will direct people to dig into the rest of their excellent catalog.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are Two reactions, Two impressions, Two Takes on Hair by Ty Segall and White Fence.
Every time I approach a new Ty Segall record (which happens at least twice a year) I view it through the lens of the first Ty Segall records I listened to and initially fell in love with. While not a huge amount in the artist’s sound has changed during that time frame, you can still definitely tell the difference between the Ty Segall of 2008 and the one of today. The Ty Segall of today is much sleeker, more buttoned down. Less punk, and more psychedelic sunshine. Considering the fact that his music is still pretty chaotic, that is certainly saying something. And while I do miss some of the devil-may-care rock mess of Segall’s past work, I have also grown to appreciate the fact that he has matured. His sound today is has a great deal more depth than the guy who used to sound likehe was trying to strangle himself with his guitar.
Hair is the forthcoming collaboration between Segall and hardcore punk turned fuzzy psych rocker Tim Presley. Thus far, of all of the “Hallowed Hype Records of 2012,” it seems to bethe biggest winner. As one could expect,it is full of tunes that weave back and forth between gritty punk and “paisley psychedelic rock.” Like many of Segall’s collaborative projects, it sounds pretty much like a solo effort. Presley’s sound is similar enough to Segall’s that neither artist really pushes the other in any unexpected new directions.
Still, together they sound great. Yeah, the sound a whole hell of alot like T Rex, but great, nonetheless. In the fast-growing catalogue of Ty Segall offerings, the collab withWhite Fence should rank highly – higher in fact than last year’s Goodbye Bread which was very good if not a tad bit overrated.
I am a big enough Ty Segall fan that the news of him teaming with another artist on his new LP Hair, even one I like as much as White Fence, caused me some alarm. I was worried that his trademark energy and ear for barbwire laced garage rock gems would be diluted, but was happily proven wrong. Luckily his trademark garage rock came out intact, influenced in a good way by the hazy psychedelica of Tim Presely (White Fence) and somehow continued his multiple yearlong winning streak.
When I first heard “I Am Not a Game,” the lead single from the album, didn’t knock my socks off, it has grown on me considerably since I first posted it. The album is brisk and light, melding Segall’s knack for off kilter and Presley’s deft contribution of burnt soul nostalgia. Songs like “Easy Rider” are more mellow than even Segall’s mellow-for-him Goodbye Sun album, but still have a half-speed urgency that drives the record forward.
The record jumps from noisy jangle on “(I Can’t) Get Around You” to the spastic “Crybaby,” which sounds like a demented 1950’s rave up, all the while scratching that vintage garage rock itch in the best possible way. While the album probably isn’t even going to be my favorite thing Segall does this year (he is rumored to have two more albums in the bag already), it is a fun and enjoyable trip.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are Four reactions, Four impressions, Four Takes on Bloom by Beach House.
Beach House seem to have settled on their sound. Their latest LP, Bloom, feels like a continuation of the same mournful dream pop explored on their previous full-length, Teen Dream, with Victoria Legrand’s husky alto grounding the organ / guitar interplay, all of it backed by a hollowed-out drum machine. They’re not shaking things up much here or breaking a lot of new ground, but it’s hard to see that as a bad thing. They have such a unique sound and such a gift for melody, that I’d be content with them making albums in this vein indefinitely. Bloom may lack some of the magic of Teen Dream, but it doesn’t contain a bad track, and fans of that album will find a lot to love here.
I have enjoyed every Beach House release since the duo started recording in 2006. It’s with some disappointment though that I have not been able to greet Bloom with the same enthusiasm that I did Teen Dream, which I loved. Maybe Bloom isn’t as good. Or maybe I am just getting tired of Beach House. Their sound has changed so little over the course of four records that I think it’s probably normal for a bit of fatigue to set in. The dreamy hooks, the soul-grabbing apexes, the plodding drum machine beats: the band does it here as well as they ever did, and from a completely objective standpoint, Bloom is probably awesome. If it was the first BH album I ever heard, I probably would have loved it. In fact, listening to the record I can pinpoint exactly the moment’s in it that the Jon of 2010 or earlier would have eaten right up. And sure, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scallymake some effort to mix the sound up a little –a few sound samples here, a beefed up guitar sound there. Overall it still doesn’t do much to mask the fact that these feel like slightly different variations on dozens of earlier Beach House tunes.
I don’t really know if it is me or if its them. I can still feel the band’s magic, but for whatever reason with Bloom it just isn’t as strong.
Sweeping Declaration: Beach House is the best band in the world.
Never did I think that the band that released the near perfect Teen Dream two years ago could give us a follow-up that not only lives up to its predecessor, but in fact surpasses it in many regards. There is not a single bad song on Bloom. Hell, there’s not even an average song. The gamut runs from great to excellent to untouchable. It’s almost unfair how good Beach House has become.
The lead single and album opener, “Myth,” encapsulates Beach House’s sound, descending chord structures mixed behind breezy vocals that are somehow chill and funky at the same time. This would be the best track on any album by any other band. But on “Bloom,” it’s simply one of the many standouts. “Lazuli” may be the best song they’ve ever written. “New Year” makes me pine to play music again. “Irene” is disgustingly simple in its creation and meticulously abstract in its delivery…I listened to it 6 times in a row and got pissed when the phone rang and interrupted my 7th straight spin.
I will be so disappointed in myself if I ever get tired of this record.
Following the success of Teen Dream, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally didn’t just rest on their laurels. They got right back to work, and that work expands upon the dreamy, melancholic sounds that Teen Dream provided. What came out was Bloom, their fourth record as a duo, and if anything, the work on this record continues to cement why Beach House is such a hot commodity, such as the beginning soundscape “Myth,” but then its quickly followed up by the head-nodding percussive elements in “Wild,” whereas afterwards you get “Lazuli” which hits hard at about 47 seconds inward, and then you come to the realization that Beach House has come quite a long way to get to Bloom, because as a whole it sticks with the dreamy pop aesthetics, yet keeps the arrangements lively and progressive, Victoria’s vocals continue to become the glue that cements these aesthetics together to create an atmospheric feel without getting drawn down to boredom, and the arrangements make for some of the most wonderfully produced music yet from the duo.
We’re still in the midst of a recession, on the brink of a chaotic and tumultuous presidential race, and held hostage by a stalwart congress. Meanwhile, the people who are protesting and putting a rebellious nation in check for the terrible misdeeds it’s long conducted are being reclassified as national threats. What does this all have to do with an album called The Sounds of Low Class Amerika? It’s been well over seven years since I Self Devine has released anything. But all that changes now, as I Self has provided us with a soundtrack for the desolate times we are experiencing. In I Self Devine fashion, this album proves a lot of things, but above all it showcases I Self’s unbelievable mic presence. He definitely delivers a record that perfectly states what’s going on in any city and the challenges that it faces to meet.
Perhaps this is why Amerika succeeds. The producers this go round provide perfectly crafted soundscapes that utilizes sample chops to the utmost degree—definitely well-suited to I Self Devine’s tales of low class America. Producers such as Medium Zach of Big Quarters, DJ Todda, Benzilla, King Karnov, Vitamin D, Jake One, Proh Mic, and even I Self himself deliver a wonderful array of soul, jazz, funk and R&B grooves with snapping snares and thumping kicks. Take a look at songs such as the leadoff single, “The Origin of Urban Crisis,” which features epic, blaring horns; the spacious and airy sampled synths and horns on “Power”; or the Dilla-inspired bounce on “Conditioned.” Throughout the album’s 54 minutes, it’s the sounds that make this album jittery, apocalyptic, and yet provide for a well-told narrative with a sturdy, wonderfully constructed sonic backbone.
Speaking of I Self, he’s never lost a step in making sure what he says come across vividly, chilling descriptions that put you in the center of despair. “Exist To Remain” is pretty much on the razor’s edge of “hopeful at times, but ready to go postal,” whereas on “The Origins of Urban Crisis” is all about “just victims caught up in the middle of the system” (it’s about foreclosure issues plaguing most cities). “Power” is about the fight between good and evil, and what lengths one will go to get it. Again, throughout this album, I Self uses descriptions as his tool to express the frustrations of the 99 percent, and it’s a wonderfully told narrative that sees the struggle, no matter how up-close and personal it might be.
The Sounds of Low Class Amerika plays a lot like Bob Dylan’s albums: narratives based upon modern day life. While Dylan and I Self are narrators of two different natures, both manage to manifest human struggle and suffering. Throughout their catalogs, their tales of modern-day woes are as vital and urgent as the people’s cries of fairness. Through great struggle comes music that is a reflection of such conditions, and in that way The Sounds of Low Class Amerika is an album for the times we’re in.
I Self Devine will be celebrating the release of The Sounds of Low Class Amerika on Friday, May 4th at 7th Street Entry. Performing alongside I Self Devine will be I Rule, MaLLy, Audio Perm, Toki Wright, DJ Jimmy2Times and DJ Just 9. Doors are at 8pm for this 18+ event and tickets are $10. On Tuesday, May 8th, from 6pm-8pm I Self Devine will be doing an all ages in-store event at Fifth Element.