Beats – October 2009
October 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #70, October 2009
BEATS with Dan Rule
When New York’s most cerebral, exploratory and downright scientific hip hop quartet called it a day 2003, most read it as a tragedy for leftfield rap. Anti-Pop Consortium built a name for remoulding mutant techno and late 70s electro-punk discord into hip hop’s ever-malleable vernacular. Six years on, Fluorescent Black proves a lithe, muscular and flat-out thrilling comeback. It may not make total sense in fragments, but the record’s true complexity emerges when absorbed end-to-end. Jarring, metallic abrasions rub up against sticky grooves; saccharine techno u-turns into angular hip hop and exemplary, double-time mic skills. Anti-Pop have again paid homage to the past in creating a new future.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx: Pt. II
It’s a task to explain just how good this record is. 14 years after he dropped the key Wu-Tang Clan solo project – sans GZA’s Liquid Swords – Raekwon’s Cuban Linx sequel exceeds all expectations. This murky, brooding, exceptionally balanced record doesn’t just take you back to the Wu’s heyday; it expands and refines the vision. All the Wu players are here. As expected, Ghostface plays Rae’s chief foil, while GZA drops a scorching verse on classic crime cut We Will Rob You. The beats – thanks to RZA, J Dilla, Marley Marl, Pete Rock and others – are as good as they get. Rae has excelled here. NY hip hop lives.
Light in August, Later
There’s a delicate, dualistic quality to whispering sound worlds and pop minutiae of Yasuhiko Fukuzono. This quiet little record from the Tokyo composer and musician (known to most as aus) is as beautifully spacious as it is intimate. Working with untreated piano, voice, peals of guitar and strings and sweep of field recordings and static-strewn electronics, Fukuzono’s art is one of layering and restraint. Tracks like Uram, Remnant and gorgeous closer A World of Dazzle recast crystalline instrumental motifs in a beauteous haze of shoegaze atmosphere and sun-streaked electronic hues. It’s a record of stunning melodic and tonal subtlety – of genuine evocation and place.
Race Against Time
There’s no doubting Wiley’s legacy. Dizzee Rascal may have taken UK grime to the charts, but Wiley was the man to plant the flag. Following the less-than-impressive See Clear Now, fifth album Race Against Time comes with a weight of expectation. It’s not a disappointment, but it’s not exactly a dam-breaker. Wiley’s diction is as meticulous as ever here and he’s on fire when the beats are raw and rugged – check Headbanger and Off the Radar – but what this serviceable record articulates more than anything is grime’s beepy, bleepy, highly synthesised limitations. Like Dizzee’s latest material, much of Race Against Time espouses a production aesthetic lacking any evidence of light and shade.
Sleeping on your Style
There’s plenty to like about Thundamentals. The Blue Mountains crew hail from a generation of young rappers and producers who’ve dared to bring groove and musicality to the once melodically barren terrain of Australian hip hop. Debut longplayer Sleeping on your Style is a prime example. Cuts like the funk-heavy I HIP HOP and buoyant dub pulse of the title-track anchor flowing arrangements with sticky, melting bass lines, while Move it Up and We Won’t Mind shine with organic soul hooks and instrumentation. At 15 tracks, Sleeping on your Style does fade a little by its end, but for the most part, it proves an intelligent, musically astute debut.