As Yet Untitled

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Resonance - CD Reviews

These will appear in Resonance 49:


Fly School Reunion
(Tres) Repping the 206, Giant Panda-comprised of Maanumental, Chikaramanga & Newman-aren't here to tell you about our forests, clean air, and mountain views. Instead, the men of Giant Panda work on establishing themselves as something more than superficial emcees, tackling issues of status and race. The group combines bodyrocking breaks with smoothed-out samples, socially conscious lyrics with straight-up braggadocio, and modern pop trends with solid rap foundations. Beat-makers Chikaramanga and Newman build propulsive backdrops that strip away most everything but some keyboards, a single dry sample, and the ever-present beat. The words provide the rest. Coming off like LL Cool J fronting J5, Maanumental and Newman trade verses, with Chikaramanga occasionally dropping a 'graph in Japanese.

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At 12:52 PM, Blogger Tyson said...


"Just Cause" features a militaristic drum sample and spare bass line pushing against white cymbal noise. Newman and Maanumental spit lyrics about battles and toss in a hook chock full of chiasmus ("my rap might bust / well let me bust my rap"). "Diggin' In the Tapes" funks up the mix, showcasing a clacking drum track that Timbaland would be proud of, topped with criminally short horn and guitar stabs, while the group praises the obsolete cassette tape. "90's" updates a Tribe Called Quest and shares a vibe with fellow Seattle scenesters Blue Scholars, laying keyboard beds and an easy riff over down-tempo drums. "Racist" showcases the tightest flows of the album, laying out stereotypes attached to each member's race (Maanumental is black, Newman white, and Chikaramanga has a Japanese heritage) only to ridicule them in style.

Sourcing modern hip-hop squarely at its roots, celebrating the scene and excoriating the haters, Fly School Reunion is sure to please both the purist and listener wanting to get out and shake their ass.


Wrong Way
(Tres) Little has changed on Lightheaded's sophomore release from their debut. MCs Braille, Othello, and Ohmega Watts return, spinning live voltage flows over throwback hip-hop beats and soul samples. Although Watts again pulls double-duty, providing the bulk of the beats, he farms out a few tracks to other producers, including former member Muneshine. Hell, even X-ecutioner Rob Swift shows up to provide scratches. Strong the entire way through, the three MCs save some of their best cuts for the end of the album, breaking out the personal history on "Eye to Eye" ("25 years in the making / never ending / suddenly mom and pops ain't blending / conversations descend into confrontations / almost all the time now") and riding crab scratches and fat bass on "Uhh!". You feeling down? Get Lightheaded.


(Self-Released) Despite what it sounds like, there are no samples here. Much like DJ Sawka, Beatropolis' musicianship is so on-point that they approach the uncanny valley from the wrong direction. Intricate house, funk, and acoustic riffs combine with Ariah Firefly's ethereal vocals, referencing both Portishead and Juno Reactor as they head towards the dancefloor. The band eagerly pursues electronic will o' the wisps even as they keep the beat firmly on the one. "Walk With Me" sexes up your somnambulant travels with tripped-out sitar, the untitled tenth track ventures out on an exploratory jam, and "Cowboy Song" puts Spanish guitar over an Ibiza downbeat. This is chill soul for when you're too tired to bump and grind, but too high to go home. If this is a Drop, bring on the deluge.


Master C&J featuring Liz Torres
Can't Get Enough: The Classics and More
(Trax) In the context of late-eighties house, there are none better than Master C&J (Carl Bias & Jesse Jones) and their sensual muse/vocalist Liz Torres. During their reign, the trio produced countless sweaty anthems that largely defied the mainstream even as they defined the underground Chicago scene. Sadly, seen 20 years on, what was once worthy of midnight rave-ups is now barely worthy of Wednesday afternoon cocktails. Songs are little more than four on the floor 808 beats, with change coming only at track's end. Torres, too, seems listless; with no stage presence to support her, she falls flat out of the speakers. These can be powerful dance singles, but as compiled here, with no sort of build in the sequence, they are best left to a talented DJ to get them screaming again.


Ulrich Schnauss
Far Away Trains Passing By
(Domino)Although this is Ulrich Schnauss' debut, you'd be hard pressed to hear it. Finally seeing release after his sophomore album, A Strangley Isolated Place found a warm and welcoming audience, Schnauss' first go at soft, organic techno is easily as accomplished as its successor. Built layer by layer, each composition enfolds the listener into its smooth, oblique passages, essentially becoming the sonic equivalent of a security blanket or a hot bath with salts. Songs hint at the influence of the Thievery Corporation and Cocteau Twins before ultimately drifing off contentedly into a haze of synth beds and drum loops.


Available in all reputable book and music stores.


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