The Grimy Awards
With appearances by Shabazz the Disciple, Lil’ Fame of M.O.P., O.C., Cormega, Q-Unique of The Arsonists and el-p, and production credits including Psycho Les, Large Professor, Pete Rock, DJ Muggs and DJ Premier, the guest list for Ill Bill’s fourth studio album reads like a who’s who of 90s NY hip-hop, which, depending on who you ask, could in 2013 be a positive or a negative. On one hand, many legends have arguably tarnished their legacies by putting forth sub-par efforts in their later years; on the other, several greats – including A.G., Raekwon and Q-Tip among others – have continued to build upon already brilliant discographies with works that live up to, and in some cases surpass, the high standards they previously set for themselves.
Bill’s been recording since the early 1990s, but his formal debut didn’t come until 1999 so he probably shouldn’t be considered a “‘90s rapper.” Still, he’s been around for a while now and many of his recent ventures into rap-metal territory have been… well, at least for me, straight-up unlistenable. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Grimy Awards is not only entertaining, but really, really good, probably Bill’s best work since his days in Non Phixion, possibly even his best to date. This is the maturation of a rapper whose past work focused primarily on government conspiracy, Satanism and drug use. All that’s still present, but both the rhymes and the perspective are refined.
As for the crowded guestlist? Fortunately, it doesn’t bog down the proceedings a bit. If anything, it enhances them. Just about every guest comes correct, on topic and with a style that organically complements Bill’s own. As a result, instead of a compilation disguised as an album, The Grimy Awards sounds like the album William Braunstein, the artist and fan, always wanted to make and hear.
I haven’t seen a “Kraut Rock is Dead” t-shirt or beer koozie yet, but I imagine there’s a disgruntled posse somewhere that believes we’ve reached a saturation point of swirling, arpeggio-overloaded motorik jams. These scrooges are out there, man, at the show complaining about the band’s “nauseating repetition” or something and being all “do you know how easy this is to play?” I’ve seen this. These soulless husks of humans hear a boom boom KA boom boom boom KA boom boom boom KA boom boom boom KA and also a dee doo Dee doo dee Doo DEE doo Dee too and they just sit there unsmiling, as if these sounds aren’t drops of mana tossed earthward by a lavishly mustachioed Zeus ca. 1976.
Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas bring the tones to silence the haters. The two 17-ish-minute journeys that comprise their new Krausened EP (on Permanent Records) swell and crest beautifully, locking into long straight grooves for just long enough to zone us out before steering into a new beat or lead voice. Minimal rhythmic elements bop along as Cooper Crain (also of CAVE) and Dan Quinlivan layer repeated organ, synth, and guitar phrases through long trails of delay. Crain’s accumulating organ trills are the finest form of Terry Riley worship, while the arrival of cascading flute melodies from collaborator Rob Frye solidifies the perfect “Ruckzuck” redux vibe.
Farfetched Metaphor Alert: To krausen (kroiii-zen) beer is to combine a half-fermented batch with a fully-fermented batch, resulting in a crisper, more flavorful Frankenstein brew. So… yeah: 1970s Germany is the fully fermented stuff, Bitchin Bajas are the half-fermented young dudes wallowing in it, and the pleasure we get from listening is the natural carbonation.
There exists, if you know how to find it, a secret TV station that was created in the 1980s as a way to test out government-made algorithms for discerning questionable content and patterns in human faces. The algorithms were intended to analyze CCTV cameras to detect evidence of illegal activity.
This channel, only accessible by tuning the television set to a specific frequency, acts as a dumping ground for the thousands of hours of data that have been corrupted during the analysis process, resulting in a 24-hour, amorphous loop of random clips from the history of television, some bent beyond recognition into splashes of random colors and blistering sound static, while others are haunting pictures overlapped on soundtracks from entirely different stations. When a plane passes overhead, the show — called Cittakarnera by the cult-like following that watches it — degrades into a mountain of crumbling sound. Cell phones further disrupt the signal. Each time an image repeats, bits of pixel have peeled off, and each day thousands of hours of television simultaneously playing over each other are added to the queue like a airborne garbage yard. Nature programs, classical music concerts, news broadcasts of fires and murders…
And now, thanks to sound artist David Kirby, a one-hour selection of some of Cittakarnera’s greatest moments are collected on convenient compact disc! Available from Copy For Your Records, Cittakarnera is a can’t-live-without compilation of classics. Imagine all your favorite documentaries piled on top of one another and run through The 80s Shredding Machine. A must-have for any music fan.
More and more, people are using that nearly undefinable term “noise” to describe things that don’t really fall into other categories or maybe to combine way too many categories into one. I think “Noises” is a more fitting genre name for Austin’s Cellophane Spill. What starts as a tribal drum machine loop quickly begins to receive otherworldly radio signals, like alien voices ringing out from the metal fillings in your teeth. The use of episode and season numbers to name the tracks and albums further distances the band’s music from… well, music, like “tune in at the same time next week, and tune out to episode 4!”
The entirety of Cellophane Spill’s “Season 2” is out now on Night People, so you don’t have to get on any waiting list at your local video store to check it out.
• Night People: http://raccoo-oo-oon.org/np
Heather Woods Broderick
“Outside In Here” [Peter Broderick cover]
Peter and Heather are brother and sister.
Peter and Heather make music.
Peter makes beautiful music and Heather makes beautiful music.
One day, Peter made an album of songs.
It was a very good album, and he shared his very good album with Heather.
So Heather heard the album of songs that Peter had made.
She loved it.
So Heather decided to play one of Peter’s songs herself.
She recorded what she played.
So Heather sent her recording to Peter.
Peter loved Heather’s song.
So Peter shared it with everyone!
So we listened to it, and we listened again.
It was a beautiful compliment, and a beautiful complement.
And in the end, we keep listening to it, and we keep listening.
And in the end, Peter loves Heather, and Heather loves Peter.
And in the end, we love Peter and Heather, too.
• Heather Woods Broderick: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heather_Woods_Broderick
• Erased Tapes: http://www.erasedtapes.com
Comparing ambient works to Brian Eno is always problematic. Eno’s work is so responsible for codifying the genre that saying an ambient piece sounds Eno-esque is akin to saying that a classical piece sounds Mozart-esque. Is it a moot point to use these artists as reference points when their names are synonymous with an entire genre of music?
In many instances, the answer to this is question is yes. However, in the case of this excerpt of “Our Silhouette” from Sean McCann’s forthcoming Prelusion LP, there’s an extremely strong case for an Eno comparison.
“Our Silhouette” is composed of gorgeous, sustained synth lines that are punctuated by bursts of melodic piano fragments. This texture alone already calls to mind the ubiquitous Music for Airports, but it’s even more reminiscent of the oft-forgotten Brian Eno/Harold Budd collaborations (even down to the harmonic movement). Of course, this similarity is not a problem, and McCann tastefully handles his materials by giving the track the same muted texturally uniform sheen that we’ve come to know from his many recent recordings.
Despite being recorded (and initially released on a small scale) in 2011, “Our Sihlouette” is very different from many of McCann’s recent recordings. It lacks the lush arrangements of The Capital, the synth spazz of his early recordings, and/or the field recordings of his collaborative work. It instead revels in a deceptive simplicity. Listen closely to “Our Silhouette” and it often becomes hard to tell when/where the acoustic and electronic textures begin and end.
This brings us back to McCann’s “muted sheen.” By creating a largely static texture, McCann allows the listener to lose themselves within the piece. This ability to enter a recording at any time and leave with the same feeling of blissed-out stasis is a concept largely drawn from Eno’s approach to composition but manifested through different means in McCann’s work. All of this puts “Our Silhouette” in the narrow category of pieces truly warranting the term “Eno-esque.”
Prelusion is out March 15 via Root Strata. You can preview “Our Silhouette” below: