Requiem - Oddisee & Phonte (Persona - Mello Music Group compilation 2015)

Requiem is the lead track off the phenomenal label compilation from Mello Music Group entitled Persona.  Were this a lesser label full of lesser artists undoubtedly this release would quickly become part of the background noise and dust bunnies accumulating in the expanding/collapsing musical universe.  Mello Music Group is a constant.  Quality, Consciousness and Intelligence are their mandate.  Admittedly this shouldn't be so revolutionary in Hip Hop (admittedly Common fucked the 'genre' for micro-ages).

It's safe to say that Oddissee, who has made a name for himself on a handful of his own releases, production moves, but mostly as the braintrust behind the groundbreaking (second) Diamond District release March On Washington (along with yU and XO) is the bald wizard behind the curtain.

Requiem is an interesting opener though. Oddissee, deeply akin to producer Phonte (of the influential mid-west group Little Brother)  who is known for his phenomenal ear for soul and unique sample flips echoes the Detroit sound as championed by J Dilla, Black Milk and younger producers like Denmark Vessey.  Every hip hop reviewer hears something Dilla in the Requiem cut but its likely owing to laziness or vague ancestral sample memories (more likely lazy cellphone search engine research).  Admittedly a track was released in 2012 on Rebirth of Detroit credited to J Dilla and Allan Barnes entitled Requiem.  More recognizably Dilla, born James Yancey, samples Requiem on one of his more popular Unreleased Instrumentals Trashy.  But Trashy bares little resemblance to Requiem except perhaps in spirit.  As to who Oddissee is sampling in the opening bars and throughout that remains a minor mystery for a hot minute.  You know it though. Or you think you do.

For what it's worth later at the midpoint of the release Oddissee delivers Word To The Wise which samples indelibly - if you like - the original sample of (You) Got What I Need  by Freddie Scott as recalled through Biz Markie's Just A Friend. Slick.

Open Mike Eagle - Dark Comedy Late Show lyrics


Drew Dave - Everything's Gonna Be Alright

Three months into the year 2015 and Mello Music Group has come out with a staggering array of full-on hit releases.  While Drew Dave's SynthBased is not necessarily the best of them Everything's Gonna Be Alright drops the (Uptight) from Stevie Wonder's vernacular tune and gives us a Korg gem handily the best track on the outing.


The Barr Brothers - Lee's Palace setlist

(l to r) Joe Grass, Andrew Barr, Brad Barr

The Barr Brothers
Lee's Palace
opener: AroarA
March 12, 2015

Even The Darkness Has Arms
Deacon's Son
Come In The Water
Static Orphans
Little Lover
How The Heroine Dies
Half Crazy
Please Let Me Let It Go
Beggar In The Morning
Love Ain't Enough

Burn Card
Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying


Inventions - Maze of Woods

Inventions- the collaboration between longtime friends Mark T. Smith (Explosions In The Sky)  and Matthew Cooper (Eluvium) - has released their second album in eleven months with the sprawling Maze of Woods.  The album was mixed in a house on the Oregon coastline.

Inventions have stated that much of the inspiration for Maze of Woods comes from the closing paragraph of Denis Johnson's novel Train Dreams.

 'Johnson describes the nonverbal howl of a feral wolf boy, a pre-language that is yearning and instinctual; a statement of wordless distress and love. Maze of Woods is the product of two masters of their craft getting lost in the wilderness, "doing something that they don't know how to do," and emerging with something wholly unexpected and beguilingly beautiful.'

Maze of Woods runs from strength to strength.  At once incantation then invocation.  Some of the stronger collaborations include Peregrine, Springworlds, Moanmusic and the slow brillliant album closer Feeling The Sun Thru The Earth At Night.

The sound resembles something vaguely like Panda Bear or his Animal Collective lot but also bares a resemblance to something vaguely baroque like Fleet Foxes.  Overall the sound is gauzy, layered, moving with a sense of space and openness.

Inventions - Springworlds (official music video)


Lorn - Certain Limbs

Hot Sugar - God's Hand review

Hot Sugar's God's Hand is one of the first thoroughly inventive electronic albums to come out so far this year.  A slew of releases have already built up like a dirty snowbank since the new year and few stand out as albums on the whole.

Producer Nick Koenig was apparently moved by 'unexpected, disappointing life events' producing apparently his darkest album ever.  Oddly dark isn't a word we'd use to describe this album.   Perhaps melancholic but not maudlin and certainly not the other end of the spectrum into which so much EDM fits into - mawkish.

In an interview with Fox/Vice's Noisey Koenig had the following to say:

Despite the upbeat melodies, God’s Hand is the darkest album I’ve ever made. There’s nothing particularly evil or aggressive in any of the melodies, but a lot of the material I used as instrument voices sound bleak and sad. I tried to focus on the sadness in the mundane. “Not Afraid To Die” is a great example: the lead melody is the sound of a man across the street shoveling snow during a snowstorm (a futile, Sisyphean task in the face of nature). I had just dealt with a number of betrayals and unexpected, disappointing life events that made me very defeatist, so between the sad things, I chose to record and the happy redeeming melodies I’d turn them into. The whole thing feels bittersweet.
Personally if you want dark (we could give you a short and long list of 2014/2015 that distinguished themselves in no other way) look no further than Lorn's Certain Limbs that squeaked out a couple of months ago to not enough fanfare (that shit is Blade Runner dark and equally brilliant).  God's Hand is definitely pensive and has a lot of melancholic motifs but its the sort of left-field material one could easily see Gaslamp Killer or any of the Brainfeeder dropping live in one of their sets.

Learning more about Koenig it becomes clear that he's a real devotee of Associative Music and the belief that 'everything has a voice' and 'anything can be music'.  Koenig wants to prove that literally anything can be music, like the sound of people blowing bubbles or crushing cans on webcam for another project (Noise Collector) here represented by the track Bubblegum & Beer Cans, or the sound of a man shovelling snow across the street on Not Afraid To Die.  Elsewhere Koenig has recorded and played back the sounds of plants to themselves.


Brady Watt - Lifetronics review

Brady Watt's a hip hop session musician, and in demand bass player, whose stepping into the light with a strong release his debut Lifetronics LP.Watt's made a livelihood backing live Joey Bada$$, Ski Beatz, Statik Selektah and he's just joined DJ Premier's all-star band. Lifetronics is grounded by his understanding of the lagging beats of neo-soul and the rigeurs of hip hop which makes each of his compositions a unique springboard for the MC or sung verses from artists as varied as Talib Kweli to Melanie Fiona.

Across the board the album has a fresh, eccentric quality that is matched by the guests that compliment the beats rather than overshadow them.

Some tracks like Minds of the Future (feat. Smoke DZA) sound like they could be an outtake from Blakroc the Black Keys one-off album of hip hop collaborations.  As much as Watt's is primarily a bass player the album's most memorable hooks are slinky guitar leads a couple of which bear the deep imprint of D'AngeloSmoke Break is an obvious homage for instance - a short vamp that's just a few chords shy of the much longer tune The Root from D'Angelo's singular Voodoo album.  Watt's is joined by a slew of strong but little known MC's that bring the organic bounce of his beats to life.  It's not surprisingly on the instrumentals that Watt is strongest such as 80 Full-Color Plates (feat. Dave Gagliardi and Gary Busey).