Beats – August 2009
August 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #68, August 2009.
Beats with Dan Rule
Chris Clark is often overlooked in an era of British electronic music signposted by the likes of Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. He is surely of their ilk. Six albums into his career, Clark is yet repeat himself, and the visceral, sweepingly beautiful scenes that comprise Totems Flare see him at his deconstructive best. Buried synth vistas are fragmented and remoulded into shapes that reference both the churning IDM of 2006’s Body Riddle and flickered tech and early rave signatures that peppered 2008’s Turning Dragon. But Totems Flare pushes beyond them both. This complex, rewarding and occasionally profound record re-imagines itself at every turn.
Melbourne’s Diafrix negotiate a path between rugged street story and expansive musicality on debut Concrete Jungle. It’s rare balance, but MCs Momo and Azmarino – political refugees from the Comoros Islands and Eritrea respectively – pull it off to remarkable effect. Tracks like Time Will Tell, the title-track, ESL and the stabbing horns of African Affair lend genuine expressions of place and displacement to organic, soul-drenched beats, while Count Bounce’s remix of In tha Place is a growling beast of a cut. There are missteps – Crazy (with N’fa) and Out of Control for two – though at its best, Concrete Jungle proves a dynamic statement of identity.
The Great Divide
When Obese CEO Pegz announced his onstage retirement in 2007, we knew it couldn’t last. What we didn’t predict was that his comeback – in the form of his Gully Platoon collaboration with young Blue Mountains signing Dialectrix – would be this damn good. From the layered explosions of opening stanza Gully Kicks, The Great Divide is flat out electric. There’s a real chemistry here, with Pegz’ strident baritone offset perfectly by Dialectrix’s nimble, elastic flow and Plutonic Lab and Jase’s maximal hooks, fluid atmospheres and stuttered beats. Forget what you’ve heard – The Great Divide is one contemporary Australian hip hop’s defining statements.
Serengeti & Polyphonic
While you don’t expect to come across anything particularly conventional from San Francisco Bay Area imprint Anticon, Terradactyl is something of an oddity even by the label’s own skewed standards. This pieced-together collage of ambience, austere string sections, free poetic introspection and unlikely swirls of glitched, digitised groove is the work of dichotomous Illinois sound-maker Serengeti and his verbose vocal foil Polyphonic, and while it may sit on the hip hop shelf, it ain’t rap as we know it. Check the drifting atmospherics of Cleveland and the alien crackle and pop of Steroids for odd, nonetheless enjoyable evidence.
Depart from me
Tales of personal turmoil and doom have become a staple of NYC rapper Cage’s tenet. The guy speaks from experience; his early life was tarnished by abusive parents, drug addiction and crime. Third album Depart from me is yet another dirge. Across a suite of gnawing rock textures and thickset beats from El-P and F. Sean, Cage unleashes a series of densely packed expressions of anguish and self-pity. But while this soul-scouring approach worked on the genuinely affecting Hell’s Winter (2005), Cage has gone a bit off the boil here. Depart from me is so deeply invested in Cage’s own despair that we’re left with almost nowhere to turn.