Beats – November 2009
November 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #71, November 2009.
BEATS with Dan Rule
Curse Ov Dialect
Melbourne crew Curse Ov Dialect have covered all manner of internationalist musical obscura in a decade-plus career. Lost in the Real Sky (2003) and Wooden Tongues (2006) veered between shrill ethnic folk, Captain Beefheart samples and surrealist, politically-charged vocal experiments. While as untethered as ever, new record Crisis Tales is also Curse’s most concise. Even with jaunts into previously unexplored terrains – the unhinged synth-pop of Paradigm and brutal, Suicide-esque electronic dirge Draindrops – there’s an unswerving quality to the production that harnesses each of Crisis Tales’ disparate strands. The flourishing folk hooks of Media Moguls and Conscious Terror are two of their finest moments to date.
In the last few years, Minneapolis rapper Brother Ali has gone from a battle-savvy spitter to one of hip hop’s supreme lyricists. Third album Us is definitive proof. An extensive, multi-part narrative, this virtual hip hop opera sees the albino MC transcend his once purely autobiographical flows to delve into complex characterisation and biography. Slippin’ Away is one of the more moving stories of the street cycle that you’ll hear. Still, there are some issues with Us. Producer Ant’s thick funk lacks light and shade, while if taken the wrong way, Ali’s hip hop-preacher guise tends to grate. Notwithstanding, Us remains one of 2009’s most ambitious efforts.
Hudson Mohawke can’t sit still. Where the precocious Scottish producer’s Polyfolk Dance EP trawled a suite of kiddie-funk excursions, chopped-up vocal samples and wonderfully realised melodies, debut longplayer Butter sees him complicate and proliferate his sound. It’s wild ride, from the hyper, sex-funk and neo-soul of cuts like Joy Fantastic and Just Decided (both featuring vocal foil Olivier DaySoul), to the droning bleep-fest of ZOo00Oom. Butter isn’t completely successful, and a number of tracks sit comfortably in the mix. That said, when Hud Mo hits the melodic highs – the wondrous Velvet Peel for one – he’s something to behold.
Oh No comes from a likely bloodline. The son of cult 70s soul singer Otis Jackson Sr., the Oxnard, California native also just happens to be little brother of crate-digging iconoclast Madlib. But Oh No is very much his own man. If 2007’s voyage into Mediterranean psychedelia, Dr. No’s Oxperiment, wasn’t enough of a case in point, brand new beat tape Ethiopium should serve as proof. Mining an archive of rare 60s Ethiopian rock, funk, psych, folk and jazz, this rugged joint proves an ear-opening exploration, rich in wiry guitar lines, raw melodics and organic percussive intonations. With Ethiopium, Oh No’s striking canon of hip hop exotica only grows.
Sydney’s Horroshow are at the pointy end of Australian hip hop’s next wave. Intelligent, socially aware and musically minded, duo do most things right on second album Inside Story. Somewhat of travelogue, the record unfurls effortlessly, flitting from hook to hook, with MC Solo’s impeccable turn of phrase (check In and Itchy Feet for proof) and reflective narratives punctuating Adit’s layered grooves. But the album’s strengths also reveal Horrorshow’s limitations. The pair earnest delivery – both behind the mic and the boards – may be seamless, but it’s also lacking in personality and charisma. When they find that, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.