Industrial cityscapes, a half-naked young lady among the caution tape, kush smoke billowing against a black backdrop — Freddie Gibbs welcomes you back to a stylized, police car strewn incarnation of Gary, Indiana with “Eastside Moonwalker.” After a string of solid gold mixtapes from 2009 to present, the man Madlib called “a new version of 2pac” drops a new
mixtape album on July 8th called ESGN, or Evil Seeds Grow Naturally (how’s that for a post-Wu-Tang backronym?). If “Moonwalker” and the glistening woodwind samples on other preview cut “Freddie Soprano” are any indicator, we’re in for the MC’s highest-fi, most fully-realized release to date — that is, until the full-length Beat Conducta collabo sees the light of day.
On the mic, Gibbs continues to astound. He squeezes syllables into irregular-sized rhyme schemes that spill out over the beat in double time, while spicing up his verses with some pro tactics: lapses into sing-song cadence, the strategic mid-bar pause, alignment of stressed syllables with bass hits. His delivery — half barked aggression, half seething intelligence — elevates his threats, boasts, insults, and bite-sized accounts of betrayal to a level of interwoven complexity most MCs could only begin to scratch at (see the “Corleone” / “mobile home” / “styrofoam” / “stones” / “chrome” passage he tears through in verse two). Unlike a sizable chunk of his previous mixtape output, the beat here (by GMF) matches Gibbs’ fury, as sputtering synth squelches share space with drill hi-hats and washes of low-end. When the arpeggio twinkles and Clams Casino-core vocal edits hit during the chorus, I’m willing to clear my mind of MadGibbs anticipation for a minute and enjoy the ride. (Note: this won’t stop me from looping “Thuggin’” and “Shame” for the whole foreseeable future.)
• Freddie Gibbs: http://www.freddiegibbs.com
Yasiin Bey & Preservation
Mos Def’s last album, 2009’s The Ecstatic, is easily his most progressive and polarizing release to date. Its worldly beatscape — populated by African drums, Arabic phrases, jazz/funk samples, and one song sung/rapped entirely in Spanish — alienated some of the only remaining remnants of his core fan base who’d stuck with him since the Black on Both Sides days, despite his repeated ventures away from the Rawkus-era backpacker boom-bap that made him famous. But it also propelled the MC/thespian back to critical-darling status, re-establishing him as one of the hippest cats in what had decidedly become the hippest borough on the planet. Unfortunately, though it peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200, it did so selling only 39,000 copies (not terrible, but also not great considering his debut went Gold) and has since faded from hip-hop’s notoriously faulty short-term memory. Even the most praiseful critics and loyal fans are too forgetful or preoccupied to readily acknowledge its significance, or so it would seem. No wonder Mos went and changed his name to Yasiin Bey. (That’s both a bad joke and a convenient transition to the next paragraph.)
With this remix project, one year in the making, Bey’s tour DJ and in-house producer Preservation revisits and reimagines the album in such a way that just might reawaken fans to its frenetic greatness. In describing his intent and process, Pres writes, “Because it was a sample-based album, I wanted to keep the remixes sample-based and for them to have the same pitch, key and tone as the originals. The original beats were non-traditional and the amount of singing made it very difficult to remix with this intention of the same energy. It’s the result of countless hours of digging through records to sample, constructing the beat, wrapping it around the vocal, adjusting the tempo, and so on.” The deep crate digging to which he refers is apparent throughout, and while the ecstatic energy of the original album is preserved, it’s also lent a slightly rougher texture, which might serve to bring back into the fold some former fans who unscrupulously disregarded the 2009 release. Even if it doesn’t, though, the project stands strong as a respectful contribution to the canon of remix-based art, something that can be said for very few modern rap “remixes.”
• Mos Def: http://twitter.com/MosDefOfficial
Whoaaa, new CHON!! The improbably shredular young lords of progressive instrumental metal, inspirers of over 9000 YouTube comments all like “wut? 0__0” and “how old r these kids??? lol,” have emerged from endless practice sessions to drop a new EP called Newborn Sun. Back in 2008, when you were refinancing your home or tearing up at a screening of WALL-E or resigning from your position as the dictator of a Latin American nation, CHON were living their lives in San Diego and doing exactly what they’ve always been doing: getting there. Now we find the “12 year old drummer,” “14 year old bassist,” and “16 year old guitarists” of yore in a state of five-years-olderness, and five-years-wiserness, with fifteen more minutes of material to batter and flatten all of us like the pathetic olds we are.
Pop open the Newborn Sun stream and hear guitarists Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel switch on a dime from dizzying intertwined leads to tapping-laced solo passages to crisp, jazzy chordal figures from the Cynic playbook — while the rhythm section of Drew Pelisek and Nathan Camarena executes tight breakdowns and steamrolling double-bass runs. The band fuses a bright-eyed modality and a cinematic sense of riff drama (a la Scale the Summit) with the strain of note-overloaded arrangements we’ve heard from Tosin Abasi. Their linear song structures plow through lick after lick after lick with little looking back, resulting in thrilling juxtapositions and ADD shred trajectories straight up to Valhalla. CHON!!! May you continue to evolve as musicians and deliver even more insane instrumental pyrotechnics for decades to come.
Straight up: you’re sitting in traffic, shit’s sweltering hot in the noon sun, and the beach is minutes away. However, the highway has been a parking lot for the past three hours, your tires are melting to the pavement, and vicarious thoughts are at an all-time high. “V.I.P. L.I.F.E.” by LX Sweat pops on and on and on, and it becomes almost a mantra to your thought capacity in terms of cool-breeze nights in July. The open window next to you shouts out a hair surrounded mouth, “Давайте это дерьмо двигаться!” Which is exactly what you think it means. Ripping yourself from the driver seat only shows a shadow of sweat haunting your comfort. Your phone has shut itself because of the heat, and has pretty much spit in your eyes. Oh. No, actually. And you wipe the sweat out your eyes. Cranking “V.I.P. L.I.F.E.” for the 5th or 50th time drowns out the honks and yells. But as the track comes to an end, you find the “Don’t stop get-it-get-it” lyrics have contradicted itself, and the portion of that highway you’re on has silenced and is looking at your car 8 1/2 style. You turn it down and announce, “This is the only track I got from the new LX Sweat LP City of Sweat, and it don’t come out until July 29 on Not Not Fun Records.” Only none of this happened once you find out the traffic was due to a fender bender, and you’re on the beach blasting Sweat Sweat Sweat, dreaming of City of Sweat.
“Hi!” she says, a stranger.
“Hi!” you shake her hand as she sits.
“Mother Nature’s Promise”
To the uninitiated, Ashley Eriksson might be best known as the composer/voice behind Adventure Time’s gloriously ramshackle theme song (a.k.a “Christmas Island” by her other band LAKE). Despite the fragmented context that “Christmas Island” appears in during Adventure Time’s credits, the song is able to instantly create a distinct mood of alternately wistful nostalgia and joyfully innocent exuberance.
Eriksson’s ability to instantly evoke mood is prominently on display throughout her excellent forthcoming album Colours. It’s a delightful record of lo-fi chamber pop; the arrangements are inventive yet understated; and that magic K Records sheen permeates the production aesthetic. Throughout the album, Eriksson’s lyrics and vocals manage to maintain a similar sense of reassurance and melancholy that her most well-known song captures so well.
One of Colours’ many highlights is the the track “Mother Nature’s Promise,” which sounds a lot like something right off of Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context on record. However, in her new video series,”Ashley Eriksson’s Colours Olympia” (where Eriksson performs her songs on various pianos around Olympia, WA), Eriksson reduces this tune to a simple voice/piano number, and it proves to be just as effective as the recorded version. Like the appropriation of “Christmas Island” in Adventure Time, this reduction/reinterpretation of Eriksson’s music proves that her songs can immediately conjure mood and emotion regardless of their context and/or arrangement. Check out the video for “Mother Nature’s Promise” here:
Colours is out on July 16, but you can purchase a copy now via K Records.