In using only music recorded at Alabama’s FAME Studios to create what is essentially a b-boy break tape, the latest release from musical collective Parallel Thought could serve as a kind of mission statement, a sonic illustration of the shared lineage of blues, rock, R&B and hip-hop, carrying on in the tradition of Eccentric Breaks & Beats Volume 2. It’s also an undeniably cohesive mix that makes me wish I knew how to breakdance and will probably at some point cause me to injure myself pretending I do. Indeed, if one was totally ignorant of the collective/label and its myriad production credits, it wouldn’t be hard to mistake them for just some really eclectic and inspired crate diggers. Lucky for hip-hop fans, they’re more than that. FAME also functions as an aperitif for Artillery Splurgin’, Parallel Thought’s upcoming collaboration with Alabama’s own Gene the Southern Child. Due out May 7, this album marks the follow-up to 2012’s A Ride With The Southern Child. Check out the lead single, “Gangsta Shit,” here, and keep some ice handy for when you twist your ankle enjoying the stream below.
• Parallel Thought: http://pthought.com
Movie Trailer 1 Synopsis:
Open with four crouching creatures scrounging among a prehistoric undergrowth for roots to eat. They resemble humans, but a little more troll-ish, with hairy feet and large Disney-like noses and sunken eyes and long fingers that curl among the large ferns that tower above them. Show a shot of the sun causing the ground to shimmer slightly, insinuating the hot, acrid environment these creatures live in.
Cut to a shore a couple miles inland. The water leaves a salty residue as it crashes against the rocks, the camera bobs at the surface slightly, as if it were floating on the waves. A shadow is barely visible crossing in front of a tropical growth of ferns near the rocks. Below the waves, prehistoric nautili float, tentacles radiating. Cut back to the sun. This time the creatures are peering up at it in awe, as the moon slowly passes across its surface, robbing the forest of light. There is the cry of birds and the shuffling of undeveloped feet as the creatures panic. But suddenly, a human voice emerges, booming and powerful and drenched in an extra-terrestrial reverb. It tells them not to panic.
Now under the water again. Blinking lights. A large craft emerges from the depths, breaking up the sand and disturbing wildlife as it rises. It sends off a signal that creates waves that break apart corals and cause the delicate undersea flowers to tremble. The scope of the craft is fully realized when it breaks the surface of the water and stretches beyond the frame, seemingly infinite in all directions, it rises upwards out of the water propelled by a technological force beyond the comprehension of the trollish creatures that watch in awe from the edge of the primordial jungle. Again, the human voice calls, louder against the din of the rising machine. It reverberates between trees and underneath the ground to reach every inch of every brain across the entire planet. It speaks soothingly, without menace, in a language full of nuance and articulation. Almost like singing. Cut to black and title sequence.
h_h, by Marcus Rubio (TMT writer), is out now on Already Dead Tapes & Records.
• Already Dead Tapes: http://alreadydeadtapes.com
James Blackshaw & Lubomyr Melnyk
Important Records’ press materials for The Watchers call the collaborative LP “historic,” and I don’t think this is a hyperbole: James Blackshaw and Lubomyr Melnyk may have created a Holy Grail of Shred. “Holy” in that the album contains four gorgeous, pastoral duets for 12-string guitar and piano. “Shred” in that these performers can play their instruments with insane speed and technicality. If you said “Mukqs, name for me 20 digits that perform with more precision than most other digits worldwide,” I could reasonably select the 20 fingers of these two men. But that’s just one part of the package: both have proven themselves brilliant composers over the course of their prolific careers.
How’d the stars of shred ever manage to align like this, you ask? According to Blackshaw, he first witnessed a Melnyk set at a festival in 2008 and the two became quick buds (virtuosbros), eventually coming together in early 2012 to record this album’s improvisations over the course of one six-hour session.
On the album’s last track, “Haftorang,” we hear Blackshaw and Melnyk cycle together through descending chord progressions and take turns discovering new melodies, all while cramming each beat with a deluge of cascading notes. The result is a dense, post-minimalist shimmer of tone and texture — a new incarnation of Melnyk’s trademark “continuous music” with two times the fingers keeping the waves rolling and pulsing.
Allow Important Records to continue taking over your life and your bank account and order The Watchers on LP or CD. It’s available now.
Back in the day, when my friends and I grabbed for quarters underneath the couch cushions — occasionally coming up with nothing more than stale Cheerios — and considered the possession of those magical silver coins a sign of great wealth, we would waste them all at this arcade at the south end of Lake George. The lights inside hardly ever worked, and the guy who owned the place had blacked out the windows, so the only light we saw for hours on end came from the fluorescent blinking machines that each blared 8-bit-gangster rap from tinny speakers. High scores merited spiraling arpeggios that seemed to hit the ceiling and bounce in every direction.
There was one game that nobody could seem to master, though. It sat in the corner, behind a large racing simulator with a broken yellow plastic bucket seat, Dalmatian-spotted with blackened gum stains. Dubbed “C.L.A.W.S.,” it was a two-player adventure, with both gamers handling joysticks and a pair of shiny, red buttons. I remember how my best friend and I took turns at handling the two different roles: one of us drove a yellow convertible, viewed from the top down, through the streets of an alternate-reality San Francisco, a city experiencing a renaissance of debauchery and loose morals underneath violent neon billboards straight out of Blade Runner. The other player, a girl in a red-pixelated dress that blew mechanically in the wind, sat on the back of the car and operated a sub-machine gun-type thing that shot out a mechanical claw (this was all represented stylistically on the side of the arcade machine). The object of the game was to use the claw to steal jewels held by wizards who roamed the street and hid in the alleyways. This was quite difficult, because you had to simultaneously avoid all the other cars on the road as well as pedestrians. If you mis-aimed, you could accidentally tear off the head of an unassuming man in a suit, and then the severed head would trail behind the car, still attached to the car arm, spraying gallons of flashing blood onto the tarmac. Then the police would come and you had to evade them.
Needless to say, we wasted dozens of quarters trying to get the prize at the end of the game: a box at the end of an abandoned pier that could only be opened using 12 of the magic gyms. I’ll never forget that fateful day, after hours of sweating into our t-shirts, when we finally won it.
Standing there, a group of boys and girls all cheering us on, we watched as those monumental letters announcing our victory flashed across the screen, and we entered our esoteric three-letter code to represent our high score into the game (we had already agreed on a title: GOD). But then something unexpected happened. A seamless drawer concealed underneath the coin slot slid open, and within it lay a 12-inch LP recording of the game’s soundtrack, performed by C.L.A.W.S. himself and released by Ecstacy Records.
• Ecstasy: http://theecstasyblog.blogspot.com
Five weeks before his ∞th birthday, James Ferraro sits behind his desk, overlooking a parking garage in downtown Alien-Nopork, NY. The cell phone in front of him buzzes with potential music collaborations and proposals about placing ads on his stage attire. A rival producer wants his best brand connections and wants to give him nothing in return. Ferraro bristles. He holds a Cuban cigar in his hand. Smoking is allowed.
“Well, shit, being as I own the building,” he says, laughing.
Back in the office after his vacation on a 154-foot rented yacht named Baby Mitsubishi, he feels that relaxation slipping away. He feels pulled inward, toward his own most valuable and destructive traits. Slights roll through his mind, eating at him: avant-garde done incorrectly, eco-terrorist, absentee holy figure. Ferraro reads the things written about him, the fuel arriving in a packet of clips his staff prepares. He knows what people say. He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein. There’s a palpable simmering whenever you’re around Ferraro, as if Lil IceBunny is still in there, churning, trying to escape. It must be strange to be locked in combat with the ghost of your former self.
Smoke curls off the cigar. He wears slacks and a plain white dress shirt, monogrammed on the sleeve in white, understated. An ID badge hangs from one of those zip line cords on his belt, with his name on the bottom: Prince James Ferraro, just in case anyone didn’t recognize the owner of one of the largest franchises in a struggling music industry. There’s a shudder in every child of the 80s and 90s who does the math and realizes that James Ferraro is turning ∞. Where did the years go? Ferraro has trouble believing it, difficulty admitting it to himself. But he’s in the mood for admissions today, and there’s a look on his face, a half-smile, as he considers how far to go.
“I… I always thought I would die young,” he says, leaning up to rap his knuckles on the rich, dark wood of his desk.
He has kept this fact a secret from most people. A fatalist obsession didn’t go with his public image and, well, it’s sort of strange. His mother would get angry with him when he’d talk to her about it. He just could never imagine being old. He seemed too powerful, too young, and death was more likely than a slow decline. The universe might take him, but it would not permit him to suffer the graceless loss and failure of aging. A tragic flaw could undo him but never anything as common as bad knees or failing eyesight.
Later that night, standing in his kitchen, he squints across his loft at the television. His friend Vinh Ngan catches him.
“You gonna need to get some glasses,” Ngan says.
“I can see,” Ferraro says.
“Don’t be bullshitting me,” Ngan says. “I can see you struggling.”
“I can see,” Ferraro insists.
The television is built into the modern stone fireplace in his sprawling downtown condo, the windows around them overlooking Red Bull Avenue. An open bottle of Pahlmeyer merlot sits on an end table. Ngan is in town for an upcoming show. They’ve been talking, about Ferraro’s birthday and about the changes in his life, all seeming to happen at once. Ferraro feels in transition. He moved out of his house in Dubai and is moving into a new one in Florida in three weeks. He’s engaged. Inside he’s dealing, finally, with the cost of his own competitive urges, asking himself difficult questions. To what must he say goodbye? What is there to look forward to? Catching an introspective Ferraro is like finding a spotted owl, but here he is, considering himself. Ferraro relights his cigar. It keeps going out.
“Listen,” Ngan says, “Father Time ain’t lost yet.”
The idea hangs in the air.
“Damn,” Ngan continues. “∞.”
He shakes his head.
“Can you believe it?” Ferraro says quietly, and it sounds like he’s talking to himself.