Beats – December/January 2009-2010
December 30, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #72, December/January 2009-2010.
BEATS with Dan Rule
There are so many reasons why Blakroc shouldn’t work. Live rock and hip hop have made the most uncomfortable of bedfellows. But this collaboration between blues-rock wunderkinds The Black Keys, producer Damon Dash and a clutch of hip hop’s finest wordsmiths – think Mos Def, Q-Tip, RZA, Pharoahe Monch, Raekwon, NOE, Jim Jones and others – flips the script, and in a big way. The descriptor here is chemistry. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s rugged guitar/drums aesthetic just seems built for hip hop. Mos Def’s sprawling On the Vista and the slithering psych of RZA and Pharoahe’s Dallaz & Sense are classics in the making.
Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez
There was a time when Rhymesayers were at rap’s cutting edge. The label roster’s characteristically bounce-laden production style and densely packed rhyme schemes set a new precedent for alternative hip hop. On Felt 3, the latest instalment in marquee artists Slug and Murs’ ‘romantic’ collaboration series, the aesthetic seems more dated than ever. Slug and Murs spit as tight as ever, but their rhymes take far too effort to unpack. Ring-in producer Aesop Rock, meanwhile, offers up some intense, floor-shaking beats but his production lacks light and shade. Fans will love Felt 3. Plenty of others – perhaps including Rosie Perez – will be left scratching their heads.
The Secret Song
For some, New York’s resident turntablist-author-academic DJ Spooky is a beacon of music’s progressive, postmodernist frontier. For others, his hoity, scholarly posture and penchant for berets grate to no end. His latest kaleidoscopic musical vision, The Secret Song, will do little to ease divisions. Drawing on electrified free jazz, dub, rock, hip hop and classical tropes, you have to give Spooky props for his points of reference. But as is often the case, he seems so hell bent on pinballing amongst his influences that he never quite succeeds in presenting a stylistic vision of his own. The jury is out on Spooky, yet again.
Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen
From the faux-sleaze freak-out of its first cut, this unlikely pairing of legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and Finnish cabaret/techno/lounge/jazz odd-sod Jimi Tenor comes up trumps. Jammed out over five days in Berlin, Inspiration Information brings out the best in both of its players. Allen is on point here, firing off his full inventory of kinetic African rhythms and multifarious drum patterns, while Tenor is his usual offbeat self, bleeding nuances of noir jazz, esoteric, psych-riddled lounge and his hilariously meek vocals into the swirling analogue brew. It’s a joy. “Lean against the wall,” squeaks Tenor. “I’ve got my tightest pants on.”
Marina Rosenfeld’s arcane turntable and dub-plate excursions defy their very means. The visionary New York turntablist and composer creates sound worlds unbound from time, context and space; she pieces together instrumental recordings, deconstructed voices and sonic artefacts, only to recast them on hand-crafted dub-plates, replete with fields of underscored static, hiss and textural noise. While not for everyone, Plastic Materials makes for a fascinating, positively ethereal experience. Shimmering piano and electronic textures ring-out amid echoes movement, crackles of vinyl and decontextualised teenage voices, only to disappear into a gloomy void. It may be esoteric and obscure, but Plastic Materials is also thoroughly engaging.