Beats – June 2009
July 2, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #66, June 2009
Beats with Dan Rule
Mata & Must
Paradox of Minds
This is what Australian hip hop should sound like. Melbourne crate-diggers Mata & Must bring it minimal, raw and rugged on their debut. There’s nothing glitzy about the vinyl-heavy, crackle-strewn hooks that propel Paradox of Minds – nothing flamboyant. Weaving intricate rhyme-schemes among ornate orchestral samples, splashes of piano, strings and kick/snare boom-bap, the pair of producer/MCs recall the gritty atmospheres of early RZA, Premiere and East Coast cats like G.M. Web D and X-Ray as much as the dub-inflected rhythmic structures of Bristol’s Wild Bunch. It makes for one of the most relevant and downright accomplished domestic releases you’ll hear this year.
Pang Productions/Amp Head
Nathan Fake’s 2006 debut Drowning in a Sea of Love had the press anointing him as the heir to Boards of Canada’s pastoral electronic throne. Hard Islands reveals the precocious UK producer to have had other ideas. From its opening stanza, the mini-album strips away Drowning’s softer exteriors, exposing a series of sharper, harder, tech-nuanced edges. It’s a revelation, with Fake’s innate nous for melody and atmosphere thriving amid its more jagged exteriors. Tracks like Castle Rising and Narrier are some of his best to date. The problem is, at a mere six tracks, you can’t help but feel that Hard Islands could have been so much more.
Can’t Lurn Imaginashun
DJ Vadim was once considered a key protagonist on the experimental landscape. His 1999 masterpiece U.S.S.R.: Life from the Other Side is still a signpost for abstract hip hop. But recent recordings – 2007’s The Soundcatcher included – have witnessed Vadim’s exploratory leanings veer increasingly toward to a slick, palatable middle ground. Eighth album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun typifies this shift. Riddled with guest vocalists, meticulously produced dancehall and neo-soul organics, it makes for an attractive, easy-listening piece of cafe funk. There’s nothing wrong with it as such; it’s just that we’ve come to expect more from Vadim than a cool soundtrack for your latte.
Long Story Short
Obese Records have pulled out all the bells and whistles on Long Story Short. The debut from new signing Illy glitters with flashy, maximal production (courtesy of current go-to-guy M-Phazes amongst others), plenty of guest spots (think Pegz, Spit Syndicate, Phrase and N’Fa) and poppy, high-rotation hooks. But the young Melbourne MC is up to the task and holds his own amongst the big names and even bigger beats, unfurling a conscientious – if not naïve – monologue on his generation’s place in the world. But while Illy comes across as a little green in his attempts at socio-politics (see Our Country), his skills on the mic prove anything but. He’s definitely one to watch.
Ambitiousness doesn’t always translate to great records. Take LA experimental hip hop figurehead Busdriver for example. While perhaps the world’s most hyper-syllabic, dizzyingly dexterous rapper to grip a mic, his tangential rhyme tangles are yet to result in an outwardly effective album. New record Jhelli Beam is another trip into dense, theatrical, machine-gun flows and kaleidoscopic production scope. And as you would expect, there are some positively mind-bending moments. But like the majority of Busdriver’s recorded material, there’s such information overkill here that it’s near impossible to take stead and grasp what the hell just passed you by.