The Run-Off Groove #229

Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #229. I am John Book, and we’re a few days away from the Super Bowl. Buy those chicken wings, there’s a shortage, or just buy some decent Boca burgers with some mushrooms. Fresh!

If you are new to this column, let me tell you a little about things here. Each review features links to the artist’s home page or MySpace page, so if you want to hear them, you can do so easily. Links are also provided to make a vinyl, CD, or digital purchase, since your local mall probably doesn’t have most of these titles. If you would like to buy the compact disc, click the icon that looks like this:

If you wish to make a digital MP3 purchase, you can click the digital player icon that looks like this:

Vinyl junkies, you are in luck too:

Also please consider clicking some of the links under the “Music and more” category to the right, which will help keep this website afloat.

Now, the column.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic When going into a new column, I always make the CD’s I receive a first priority. Sometimes I receive new albums through digital files. Other times I’ll go through the intrawebs and come across something I’m curious about, and if I like it, I’ll tell someone. It doesn’t happen often, but I came across an album recently and I was immediately blown away by what I heard, moving me to play it again. Then again. The next day, and the next. Yes, also the next day. I hadn’t heard of them before, and it makes me wish I did but now I can catch up.

The album I speak of is by a group called Indigo Jam Unit, and keep in mind when I found this, I had no idea who it was or where they were from, but I knew it was jazz. Jazz can be anything and everything, but when it affects you within the first five seconds, you can sense that it’s going to be something quite brilliant. These guys are dedicated into creating and keeping a groove, making hot bebop and hard bop that’s done with the passion of hip-hop’s insistence on endless loops, to where it works like a mantra. Within that trance, a piano works its way by speaking to the rest of the musicians, and helps speak for everyone. Then the bass diverts and takes the off ramp, only to jump back on and off for the remainder of the destination. Jazz fans will love how tight their musicianship is. In the track “Rumble” it sounds like something you’d expect on a Dave Brubeck with the same kind of drive Brueck and his bands always had, complete with a slight Latin feel. All of the musicians are at one with each other, but by the end of the song the actual rumble begins, where it sounds like heavy traffic going into a tunnel and filling up to where you think no one can escape. The heat increases, and something is about to blow up, and it does. Indigo Jam Unit owes a lot to the jazz of the 50’s and 60’s, but combine that with the acid jazz funk of the late 60’s/early 70’s with a small but not-so-obvious nod to hip-hop, and I can’t get enough of it.

Who are they? Indigo Jam Unit are a quartet from Japan who have been around for a few years, and Pirates is their fourth album. Take the mentality of Jazzanova and Jaga Jazzist, remove the electronic tendencies and put them in Soulive, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and have them hang around Breakestra for a bit. Now let them reincarnate themselves as the jazz musicians they admire. While Indigo Jam Unit sounds like none of them specifically, when you hear their music you’ll understand the references. The music is perfect for an intense Sunday morning listen, but you can’t help but dance to the healthy grooves found in “Giant Baby”, it’s the perfect ass shaking music to play on a normal day of rest, or any day/week/month/year. The 7/4 time signature of “Arctic Circle” is the perfect chillout song after a long night at the club, but it may leave you wanting more satisfaction. If this is what the new movement of jazz in Japan is like, I want to move there right now.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The movie has been out for a few weeks, it has done fairly well and as used to be the tradition, if you loved the movie, you’d opt for the soundtrack. In this case, the soundtrack to Notorious is an interesting one, for it of course honors the life and music of the late but great Biggie Smalls, and before I review this CD, has anyone noticed that with the release of this movie, the mainstream media is calling him Biggie? When he released his first album, or really after the release of “Juicy”, he had always been The Notorious B.I.G. but longtime fans called him Biggie or Big. I’m curious as to why the shift.

Anyway, the soundtrack. Most of it is Biggie tracks of course, and it does feature most of his greatest hits: “Juicy”, “Warning”, “One More Chance/Stay With Me”, and “Hypnotize”, along wth key album tracks and material that came to be after his death. Sadly no “Big Poppa”, no sign of Super Cat‘s Bad Boy remix of “Dolly My Baby”, or even the remix to Craig Mack‘s “Flava In Your Ear, but we do get the classic “Party & Bullshit” from the Who’s The Man soundtrack when it was released under the name BIG. Early demos for “Microphone Murderer”, “Love No Ho”, and “Guaranteed Raw” is the perfect look at the grimey hip-hop of the early 90’s, when the East became hungry as the West dominated the charts, and it was people like Biggie who said “I don’t fuck a fuck”, and we’re all thankful for it.

Unfortunately, the soundtrack is held back by a song that should not have ever been released, yet thought of. There’s a new take of “One More Chance/Stay With Me”, but in this case the mix is called “One More Chance/The Legacy (Remix)”, and it features Biggie’s son, CJ Wallace. His role in the song is to do some of the lines that his father did, so Biggie and CJ pass the mic to each other metaphorically. The idea may have worked for Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, but to hear a 12 year old rap in a song where his father speaks about how girls urinate when they see him, and how he’ll tell their boyfriends to masturbate as he pleases the ladies by having rough sex, then he penetrates deeply until she climaxes. It doesn’t matter if they are Native American, he will step up in their homes and make her orgasm. This is not what a 12 year old needs to hear from their father, and the idea that someone thought it was a cute idea shows extremely bad taste.

I doubt they’ll release a second pressing of the album to remove the song, but without it, it’s a nice retrospective of Biggie’s work and maybe a formal introduction to those who were introduced to his music for the first time through the movie.

(explicit version)
(clean version)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic E Reece is back with a brand new album, and this time he’s backed by Core Elements, a genuine band playing genuine music for a genuine MC.

l.i.s.n. 2 this (Elevated Mental) is the next album in his catalog following 2007’s The New Breed, and anyone who enjoyed his flows and ways of writing and rhyming will find a lot to grasp onto with this new one, with the spontaneity of having a live band behind you. “Everything”, a song that celebrates all that is hip-hop from its origins to what it is and was, will definitely be a song that will move crowds to destroy the venue they’re at. The guy likes to party but they’re not party rhymes per-se, more like “around the block” rhymes where it feels like comfort food due to its familiarity, but it’s still fresh, new, exciting and inviting.

Have a band that know how to play and fill in all of the pockets at the appropriate moments, and you have a recipe for success. Now let’s hope he’ll knock down a few heads, enough for them to want to hea rmore from what he has to offer in the future.

E Reece & Core Elements "How We Do",t=1,mt=video

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Krohme has one of those laid back voices that sound like he would have been perfect in Channel Live or doing some pass the mic action with Big Daddy Kane. On The Onset Of Change (Godsendant) the album begins with a recording of President Barack Obama speaking to the world, and then Krohme himself offers up “Yes”, where he (like Jay-Z is honored to say that his/our president is black. Krohme is socially and poltically aware, and that in itself is nice to hear over someone who may talk the talk but isn’t fully aware of certain situations. Tracks like “Sound Off (Riot)” sounds like something from the Paris catalog while “Live The Dream” could have been done by a Relativity-era Common, or even Brand Nubian. Krohme tells his listeners to improve their situations and become more aware of what’s going on because “yes we can, so we did/accomplish, succeed, now feed the seeds”. It feels like hip-hop circa 1993 when people were inspired by the changes hoped for by President Bill Clinton. I think with Obama, the inspiration for change seems more real for others because it’s change that feels legitimate, and not just another false promise. Krohme represents the movement in the country today, and if someone were to ask me in ten years how the country felt, I would suggest this EP as a hint of what was experienced by the people.

(free MP3 EP download)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Caroline Peyton is a singer/songwriter who should have received a lot of attention in the 1970’s for her music, and perhaps if things had moved to where she was heard and accepted by the major labels, she would be a huge influence on many of today’s singer/songwriters, male or female. For the most part she is fairly obscure but anyone who has ever dug for private press records knows that these are the things that make those long days of digging worth it. In this case, Caroline Peyton and the band that backed her up did audition for Clive Davis when he was the head of Columbia Records, but due to a few circumstances (which you can read in the liner notes), he passed. However, someone told Peyton herself that if she ever felt a need to get rid of the band, she could be huge. So is the story of the give-and-take music industry, and so is the partial story of Caroline Peyton, who The Numero Group are focusing on with the release of two, long out of print albums also featuring a few EP’s she released along the way.

The story of Peyton begins in Bloomington, Indiana, the home of John Mellencamp although while the former Mr. Cougar was still listening to and enjoying music on the radio and his phonograph, Peyton was hard at work making music along with her companion, Mark Bingham. The music they created together ended up becoming the Mock Up (Asterisk/The Numero Group) album, featuring music performed by the two along with Peyton being backed by Bingham and a full band. The music sounds like something you might hear on a Carole King or Judy Collins album where you feel the earthiness and roots of these songs, a bit closer to the source since you’re hearing it from the person who wrote it, feeling the experiences and perhaps remembering when you too felt like that. Songs like “Engram”, “Tuna”, “Pull”, and “The Sky In Japan Is Always Close To You” are life experience songs, and they fit in perfectly with what was going on at the time in the United States, the idea that love and isolation could lead you to frustration if you don’t find the definition of freedom you’re looking for. The wildest (and for me unexpected) moment of the album happens in track #3, “Don Beggs”. Peyton starts singing a bit operatic and comes off like Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen, years before punk and new wave existed. It’s a bold move to sing these tentative folk flavored songs and splash it with a slight freakish act, but it only helps to expand the perception of what she may have been as an artist.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic If Mock Up captures 1971/1972 beautifully, the same can be said for 1977 Intution (Asterisk/The Numero Group) . In comparison, this is a very different album from Mock Up as it’s more electric, more bluesy, and it also shows the rise in popularity of the hybrid of rock and country. The thing that amazes me about hearing this album is that Peyton’s voice is ever so soulful, easily comparable to everyone from Lydia Pense to Linda Ronstadt, and unlike the open-eyed wonder of Mock Up, you hear a sense of experience, pain, sorrow, and struggle, even as she bathes herself in the disco light with a track like “Party Line”. “Still With You” could have fit in easily on an Allman Brothers Band or Dickey Betts Band album, while “Light-Years” could have sparked the Yacht Rock movement a few years earlier than normal (there’s a slight “Just The Way You Are” tinge to it too, complete with saxophone solo.)

Upon hearing this, one senses that this is an album that could have been huge in its time, and one can only imagine if this received the same kind of airplay that Tapestry, Rumours, or Back In The U.S.A. did. It has everything that makes it the perfect album: great songs, great instrumentation, produced and mixed beautifully, complimented by a voice that becomes endearing, a voice you’d like to take home to mom. If I had a way to program oldies radio, albums like these would be played along with the mainstream so music fans can discover a talent that did not get the recognition it deserved. Don’t take my word for it, the albums are back in print, pick them up immediately.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic He was an MC called Jake The Snake, but perhaps being aware of the threat of trademark infringement, he decided to shorten his moniker and call himself simply J The S.

Rooted in the West Indies, raised in Massachusetts, but now calling NYC home, J The S has been working hard in perfecting his style of rhyming, and as he gets into moving into the next phase of his career, he has put out an album for free with the help of Mr. Peter Parker and the incredible DJ Warrior for a mix-CD type situation called My Will (self-released).

The CD has the feel of a mix tape in that the DJ’s are talking over sections of each track, and for me it can be unnecessary especially when you as a rapper are trying to impress listeners with what you’re about, not established DJ’s, but that’s a minor complaint. One thing I will not complain about is his presence on the mic, or what he is able to communicate through his music. He will be the first to call his style of music “blacktop hip-hop”, and it’s very much down to the earth, of the streets, of the neighborhood, of the now and you hear the sound of today, complete with sped up samples, well recorded vocals, and production that for the most part is quite good. J The S is not a bullshit rapper, he gets to the point and then goes deeper, making sure his lyrics are embedded in your consciousness as he talks about delivering the “new slang” and “coming up fresh” while talking about one of the problems of the world: “Oil”. Yes, the man is effective in touching on the headlines and does it without sounding like he’s piggybacking on someone else’s schtick. It’s a message song with a chorus that has the T-Pain touch (courtesy of The Greater Good), and while he could build his career off of message songs alone, he lets people know throughout the rest of the CD that he’s out for the kill and if he wants to have fun, he’ll have fun every now and then. However, we live in a different world and My Will is a statement about the conditions we live in today. J The S states this is a mere tease for what he’s about to offer with his forthcoming full length, The Last Days.

If there’s only one problem with this mix CD, it’s that some of the songs do not sound like they were mixed or mastered properly, with a small handful of tracks lacking the boom and bass that’s sorely needed. Fortunately the album is available as a free download, so one hopes when the proper album is released, the boom will pound as deep as the intelligencia stored in his cranium.

(free MP3 album download)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Cityside are a Jawaiian band from Honolulu who are brand new to the scene, and you know how I am with Jawaiian music: either it’s going to be decent, or it’s going to be a huge epic fail, and in this case, Welcome To The Cityside (DDD) is far from a failure.

When you look at the three guys that are Cityside, they look like they’d be down with hip-hop, and they might be, they might hang out at A’ala Park doing freestyles or busting moves at the Hongwanji, I don’t know. Instead, what these three have is the proper sensibilities to combine reggae music, pop accessibility, and island style living to become a success. They’re not as abrasive as New Zealand’s Katchafire but what they have are quality songs that will appeal to people of all ages, but doesn’t sound like 5th grade notebook puppy love scribbles. What will impress listeners at first are the vocals of D. Kekoa Tsukiyama, who has a great voice and it will definitely take him far. Bassist Kekoa Onaga and ‘ukulele man Devin Yamada (who also plays keyboards and percussion) handle background vocal duties, and together they sound like the classic Jawaiian styles of Three Plus and early Ka’au Crater Boys.

I think what made me impressed to hear more is hearing them branch out to do other styles, showing how it’s perfectly okay to bring in other influences. There are hints of pop, rock, and soul coming through, and it’s not just reggae-fied versions of pop, rock, and soul, it’s successful attempts at simply playing and jamming the music they listen to on a regular basis, and I hope fans will welcome that as a sign for other Hawaiian bands to open up their songbooks. While “Make You Mine” will no doubt gain a lot of airplay with the interpolation of Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, the rest of the album should bring them to a wider audience, especially with songs like “Watchin’ You”, “Back To The Days”, and “Girl I”. There’s a lot of love songs too, because people in Hawai’i love to love and fall in love, but it’s not stereotypical fluff. Their songs could easily help them crossover to mainland and international audiences, with reggae being their core but not the sole reason for their existence. If these guys keep at it and dedicate themselves to their music for the next few years, they could be huge. I hope they take on the festival circuit this year so they are able to bring their music to a wider audience.

  • That’s it for this week’s Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD’s, books, or hot sauce, please contact me through my MySpace page and I’ll pass along my contact address. In the past I have generally frowned over receiving digital files, but I will accept them on a case by case basic. I still prefer hard copy as I want to hear the quality of the recording (which is important to me), but digital files are fine.
  • Thank you, and come back next week for #230.
  • SOME STUFFS: Kurious Jorge to release new album with very special guests

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    MF DOOM? MC Serch? Beatnuts? Hi-Tek? 88-Keys? No, this is not your made-up fantasy hip-hop football league, but rather some of the guests that will be appearing on Kurious Jorge‘s forthcoming album, II.

    Longtime heads will no doubt be thinking “wait, THE Kurious Jorge?” The one and only, who released the infamous Constipated Monkey album back in 1994, which was promoted alongside NasIllmatic. One of those albums would become the first to get a 5 Mic rating from The Source, while the other would gain a good amount of underground support. While he may have been obscure for the last decade, fans have not forgotten and he hasn’t forgotten his fans, so it will be a chance to see what he’s capable of doing on the eve of a new decade.

    Here is the confirmed track listing:
    1.) Take What is Given (produced by Dame Grease)
    2.) Back with VIC (produced by VIC)
    3.) Work It (produced by 88-Keys)
    4.) Sittin’ In My Car (produced by Ed Noodles)
    5.) Drinks In The Air f/Vanessa Liftig (produced by Boola)
    6.) Animals and Horses f/Kadi (produced by Yogi)
    7.) Rubberbandz (produced by The Beatnuts)
    8.) Benetton f/MC Serch & Mf Doom (produced by Sosa)
    9.) Rain On f/Co Campbell (produced by Dame Grease)
    10.) Wake Up f/Vanessa Liftig (produced by Team Demolition)
    11.) Smiling (produced by Domingo)
    12.) Brand New Day f/Dave Dar & Co Campbell (produced by Hi-Tek)
    13.) Mysterious (produced by Boola)
    14.) New Heights (produced by Oner)
    15.) Back From Up Under f/Max B (produced by Dame Grease)
    16.) Is This the End (produced by Sosa)
    17.) Prosperous (produced by Fyre Dept.)
    18.) The Magician f/ Del The Funky Homosapien (produced by James Strong)**** Amalgam Digital BONUS TRACK

    II will be released on March 24th through Amalgam Digital. Until then, here’s the first single, “Back From Up Unda”:

    SOME STUFFS: Australia’s Youth Group to release new album in April

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    Fans of Youth Group will not have to wait too long for a new album, as the band will release The Night Is Ours in April through Ivy League Records. The band will be in Austin, Texas for this year’s SXSW, which means they are ready to work as hard as possible to get the music out to the people.

    The band says they wanted to try something new for the album, and it’s being called both accessible and mature, catchy and intricate, an album that finds Youth Group at the pinnacle of their creative powers and of the life of the band itself.

    Here’s a look at the final cover:
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    FREE MP3 DOWN: L.E.G.A.C.Y.’s “The NC Chainsaw Massacre”

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    This one is put together by L.E.G.A.C.Y. and hosted by DJ Flash. Link at the end of the post.

    1. Intro produced by Soul Professa
    2. Off The Man f/K Hill,Panama G.A.T. produced by Khrysis
    3. Leatherface(freestyle)
    4. That Me Shit f/Sean Boog produced by Khrysis
    5. Heat Rises f/KAZE,Nervous Reck produced by Khrysis
    6. I’m A Star(remix) f/Joe Scudda,Chaundon,Median produced by 9th Wonder
    7. No Regrets pt 2 f/Lunatic Messiah,Spec Boogie,Dynas produced by K Hill
    8. 4 Cornered Room produced by Khrysis
    9 .freestyle
    10. The Underworld pt 2 produced by Soul Professa
    11. freestyle
    12. Man Next Door produced by Dox
    13. 14 Grams produced by Khrysis
    14. freestyle


    SOME STUFFS: Prince Paul & Peanut Butter Wolf to help you fall in love this Valentine’s Day weekend

    Think I’m joking? Nope. The Egyptian Lover will be there to help marinate the festivities as well.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    This will follow with an exclusive Prince Paul/Peanut Butter Wolf Valentine’s Day podcast, which you will be able to download exclusively at Stones Throw. Fresh.

    The Run-Off Groove #228

    Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #228. I am John Book, welcome to a new era in American history. Old with the mold, and in with e ku’u morning dew.

    Also, each review features links to the artist’s home page or MySpace page, so if you want to hear them, you can do so easily. Links are also provided to make a vinyl, CD, or digital purchase, since your local mall probably doesn’t have most of these titles. If you would like to buy the compact disc, click the icon that looks like this:

    If you wish to make a digital MP3 purchase, you can click the digital player icon that looks like this:

    Vinyl junkies, you are in luck too:

    Apple iTunes

    Now, the column.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Educated Consumers were favorably reviewed by me a few years ago with their awesome Write/Hear album, and they have returned with a brand new EP that seems to be a temporary hallucinogen before they offer up a major pill to overdose on again. The appropriately titled The Waiting Room is a 7-song EP that shows the next phase of t.E.C.K. and Seezmics, as they get deeper into their own defined sound which involves carefully written lyrics and composed sound pieces. Some might say it sounds like the recent works of Atmosphere but those who enjoy the recent works of El-P, Dilated Peoples, and Blueprint will dig this album immensely. Seezmics is very lyrical in every sense of the word, from the structure of the voices, the strength of the choruses, and just an overall attitude that shows confidence and pride towards his craft, and that’s so nice to hear, as one word leads to another, which plays with the next, which prepares people for what happens in the next line, which may refer to something to come in the third verse. This is very much of the “pen and paper” variety, or to say that this sounds like it had taken time and effort to write these songs where you want to hear the bulk of the verses and the choruses are just a brief time out to the next adventure.

    With t.E.C.K. on the beats, you are able to hear someone who does not want to make his songs sound like the one before, check out the string sample in “Swallow Your Pride”, which at first reminded me of the ‘ukulele in Sunday Manoa‘s “Kawika” (listen to the last 20 seconds):

    Then you check out some of the other tracks, and he’ll get neck deep into a Meters-type groove, or then make something that will make every one head nod until they snap. Even though this is an EP, and EP’s generally carry the stigma of being “not worthy as an album”, it is a recording that was made with the utmost attention to fine detail, it’s not a toss-off release by any means and it’s more of a shock that they decided to release this for free. Fortunately if they keep offering music like this to their fans as freebie, they can’t resist buying other projects when they are made available. Educated Consumers are very much about their name, hoping their fans are the same as they look for hip-hop recorded and written with the utmost respect. Get these guys some tour dates so they can eat too, gunfunnit.

    (free MP3 EP download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Chaos: 1978: 86 (Em) is a compilation album by an obscure Washington, DC funk/soul band called Wicked Witch, fronted by Richard Simms. The CD I received didn’t arrive with a booklet so I can’t provide any extra information but this is what I can come up with.

    One of Simms’ first bands was Paradiagm, whose “Vera’s Back” from 1978 is represented here. They only released one album that was a mixture of funk, soul and jazz, and it’s the jazzy/fusion side that should have been their bread and butter, right alongside Return To Forever and Weather Report. They were very much of the time, but for whatever reason, Simms gave that up and wanted to venture solo, which included writing and playing everything in his music. Perhaps Prince and Rick James made an impact on his life, as that would become the sound of Wicked Witch. The album actually starts out with what sounds like a rough demo mix of “Fancy Dancer”, which sounds like it came from an nth generation cassette dub. I had hoped that this wouldn’t be how the entire album sounded, but fortunately it isn’t, as “Erratic Behavior” and “X-Rated” both sound like professional recordings…almost. Simms himself mixed “Erratic Behavior”, with Nick (no last name, but he is credited as playing the Synclavier III) engineering it, but you almost can’t hear the vocals that are buried deep in the mix. It sounds very clustered, if not sloppy, and it leads me to believe that these are not from the multi-tracks, as it would have been easy to tweak it. “X-Rated” fares a lot better, with vocalist Michelle McCoy letting everyone know that she would like to do X-rated things, and perhaps would like to have X-rated things done to her. It seems so innocent, even during a time when someone like Millie Jackson wasn’t afraid to talk about her sexuality in music. 1984’s “Electric War” fares a lot better, with Simms doing his best to emulate the Prince/Rick James sound, so had they ever worked together on a full album, with Bootsy Collins sitting in, it would sound exactly like this.

    It’s quirky and yet still funky in an “ooh damn, can’t believe I’m hearing this” fashion. It’s not as tight as their contemporaries, in fact it’s very loose. While these tracks were primarily recorded between 1983 and 1986, there’s no sign of DC’s go-go sound. What I wished this compilation had was more from Paradiagm, as I feel the 12-minute “Vera’s Back” will become the primary reason people will want to hear this CD, it’s a lost gem that should have been on a major label and mixed in quadraphonic. Not sure of any more songs were recorded or if those multi-tracks exist, but if they do, it deserves to be released on Em with the same standards they’ve had for previous releases.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Scotland’s The Magnificents sound like what would happen if David Byrne joined Echo & The Bunnymen. It’s melodic, rootsy new wave rock punk hybrid things, and with Year Of Explorers (self-released) they offer a sound that’s loud and ballsy without having to wear suits. In other words, it doesn’t sound like corporate schlock, and with songs like “Cant’ Explode”, “Learn One Thing”, and the ugly yet tasty “No Dialogue With Cunts”, it’s safe to say they’re also not catering to the Wizards Of Waverly Place crowds either.

    Even in a studio setting they seem to be unpredictable, as they like to change style and tempo in each song and also add different effects and textures that add to their plate. These guys need to be massive, even bigger than Peter North. Fist off, fuaka!

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic If Damon Dash had been a rapper, I’d like to think he would make the kind of music A. Pinks makes. He created Will Rap 4 Food (self-released) along with DJ Dutchmaster, and it’s a mix CD featuring an assortment of tracks that show what he’s capable of doing. He can handle the club tracks, but he’s a lot better doing stuff that’s a bit more street friendly, or perhaps Kanye West without the sarcastic ego. He also handles songs with a reggaeton feel, so he’s not afraid to crash down boundaries to let people hear what he does. He can be smoothed out in his flow, even as he confronts the grimey Canibus in “The Illest”.

    Since this is a mix CD (and a free one at that), one can only hope he’s upping his game with a proper album, and I can see that one killing people immediately.

    (free MP3 album download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic When Decomposure released his last album, Vertical Lines A, I felt it was one of the best albums of the year. His creative way of combining natural sound with electronics, done systematically, methodically, and perhaps mathematically, made me an instant fan and I’ve been wanting to know what he would come up with next. The answer is here in the form of Humanity Patient Guide (Blank Squirrel), where Decomposure, a/k/a Caleb Mueller, is at it again combining pop, hip-hop, electronica, and folk songs (twist it in any combination) to create the kind of thematic music that should rightfully either make him a superstar, or a devoted artist for fans of the isolated and humbled.

    For this album, Decomposure gets happy, shy, and dark all at the same time, sometimes within the same song, in an album that features no proper song titles but is divided into 12 distinct pieces. Some tracks, such as “Excerpt 3” and “Excerpt 4”, dig deep into nine inch nails/Rise Robots Rise territories, and yet turn around and sound as delicate at Jandek, and within the same sound it may sound like a mean ass Mike Shinoda remix. The sound of a piece of equipment feedbacking on itself will segue into something that sounds like a wooden piano played in a log cabin, and before you know it, you discover the sound of Justin Timberlake taking ludes given to him by Donald Fagen. The ingredients alone may leave some to think it’s going to be an audio clash, and you would be right. However when they are mixed together, you get sound flavors that you never expected and you want to come back for seconds, thirds, and sevenths. Decomposure is music done without fear, so may the fearless surface and bring elation to those who thought it had been lost years ago.

    (free MP3 album download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Naked Hearts are a duo who some have called “pop grunge” even though they are more pop rock with an edgy side than grunge, it makes believe that those who call it “grunge” didn’t get what grunge was about.

    Anyway, The Naked Hearts released These Knees (self-released) this week, and sound more like a cross between Soul Asylum, The Pixies mixed in with Luscious Jackson and a pinch of Lush, due to the powerful vocals of Amy Cooper, whose first two solo albums got a faithful buzz from those who heard about her, and Noah Wheeler. As singers, songwriters, and musicians, they combine their talents to create an EP with songs that speak about their hopes, fears, and dreams in a way that seems oddly inviting. Then again, why should I say “oddly” since that’s why they do what they do, and that’s why we want to hear it. It’s a touch of pop/punk mixed in with addictive verses and addicting choruses, and while CMJ felt they are minimalist, I felt they packed a lot of audio information within their own self-made limitations, not quite My Bloody Valentine but definitely not Beat Happening either. “Only For You” comes off like a skeptical love song, resisting the temptation to open ones self before being consumed by the tentative inevitable. It’s effective, because while the lyrics may be about the clash of the minds (and emotions), the song isn’t. Harmony through alternate tunings? Mmmaybe.

    If one listens to this EP carefully, you’ll note the openness of the recordings since it was recorded and mixed in analog from start to finish. Diehards will love the fact that this is coming out on vinyl too, making the analog experience complete.

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    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Mark Mallman is a guy who could make huge pop/rock anthems if he wanted to, and perhaps with the old regime behind us, he will be someone people will be open to enjoy and worship (in a musical manner of course).

    As I listen to Loneliness in America (Best of 1998-2008) (Badman Recording Company), I remember a time when music like his was all over MTV, a cross between The White Stripes, Nick Lowe, Rockpile, Ben Folds Five and Split Enz. It’s bigger than pop, but it’s not as loud or bold as System Of A Down, Slipknot, or Tiny Tim, he’s that guilty pleasure you never want to be ashamed of liking. His pop sensibility is incredible, going back to the Brit-pop of the 1960’s, the new wave abrasiveness of the late 70’s/early 80’s, and at times a knack to be bold and confident in an Elton John/Billy Joel manner. “Butcher’s Ballad” could easily be a Thin Lizzy stadium rocker if it wasn’t for the fact the song consists of piano and vocals. You may hints of Queen and Squeeze in this too, and perhaps this Mallman has studied his collection enough to know this type of music inside and out. If they ever made High School Musical 4: The Drop-Outs, Mallman should be consulted to do its soundtrack. If you’re a fan of daring pop music, get this.

    (free MP3 album download for a limited time)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic The AcornsFinding Roots (Candlewax) sounds like the kind of raps I used to when I rapped over my own tracks, but slightly off.

    What I mean to say is, Finding Roots sounds like it was done cheaply in a basement and they gave it their all to rock the mic and make some beats, even though some of the beats are slightly off. Mad Squirrel sounds like a cross between Milk D. of Audio Two and MC Paul Barman, with much less of the novelty factor. I’ll admit that at times it’s hard to listen to because while I tend to like monotone voices, his is on the high end of things and it had taken awhile to get used to. As the album goes on, his rhymes get tighter and the beats of Blake 9 seem to dig much deeper into the dust crevices of the crates, with some obscure beats that made me smile. Plus he has a 9 in his name, an omen of greatness to many of the sub-9 world.

    I wasn’t sure if I could take hearing this all the way through because the slightly off-tempo beats and nasaly vocal tones is not something I regularly listen to, but I allowed it to simmer, enough to make me want to play this a few times more. The Acorns can get fairly gritty, and it would be interesting to hear them collaborate with others for future tracks to see how much they can stretch themselves in a Joanie Greggains-type manner.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Reviews should not start with the word “I” because I feel that it immediately distracts from what you’re trying to review, and places the spotlight on the reviewer. But you are reviewing this column, a slightly different scenario and to make a long story short, I feel it’s better to start the second sentence or paragraph with “I”, and I will choose the latter.

    I wanted to give Meryl Romer the benefit of the doubt, as her story about being someone who never had courage to sing or release a CD until now is respectful. Her So Sure (self-released) is decent, it sounds like the kind of jazz I would hear at a lounge if Holiday Inn had decent lounge acts, and that’s not exactly a bad thing. The band, featuring Brian McRae (drums), Robert Kyle (tenor sax, flute), Bill Kopper (guitar), Marc Dalio (drums), Erik Deutsch (piano, organ, accordion, glockenspiel), and Jonti Siman (bass), are really tight and they would work very well together, I would buy their CD’s immediately.

    I think Romer’s voice is pleasant, and at least she keeps herself in tune, unlike some of the other jazz vocalists I’ve heard recently. The arrangement of “Lady Is A Tramp” shows promise, at least musically, until they steer it into a jazz motif. Yes, I understand that’s the whole point but I think it would have better suited her voice if they kept the arrangement to how the song is played during the intro. Overall, she’s the kind of singer you would prefer listening to at a bar or club and not at home, and maybe that’s not a bad thing either.

    (So Sure will be released on April 7th.)

    Basement hip-hop is a great thing, or at least it sounds like it was done at the spur of the moment with the same intensity, if not more, as a major label release. Flux will be known by fans of the Binkis Recs crew, and as he puts together a full length, he has put out a free EP in the form of Wondabat… Where Out Thou? (Domination). Here is shows how true he is to family, friends, and hip-hop, and his dedication is obvious in each of the 9 songs on this album.

    Flux is a guy who isn’t afraid to speak or let his views be known, and he does it in a manner that ranges from aggro-fucked up punch hoogy to half-drunk/half-stoned but still stable enough to pounce on your head from the upper balcony, as he offers “metaphorical charms” (which is how Flux decribes what he does in “Yo!”.) He sounds at times like a less-abstract (and arguably more cohesive) Cappadonna, and in “Relay” (produced by DJ Pocket) he rhymes over a beat that could have easily been turned into a romantic/sexual track, but here Flux talks about making it out in the world to make an effort and impact:
    this is my story
    only 20 years and I’m in it for the glory
    call me selfish or sellout but hell’s out hunting
    and my hands are feelin’ helpless
    plus my lungs are steady pumpin’

    The track he did with Madlib, “Don’t Get Confused”, is a low-end reconstruction of a bit of that Architectual Abdabs cash flow, and the only bad part of it is that the track is a mere 1:19, I hope there’s a much longer version ready to be released later in the year. Other producers on the album include Ras, DJ Static, King Lenario, Willie Evans, and Zo, and what they all do with Flux is make him rap and rhyme with open eyes and ears, there’s a youthful vibe to it but you also hear someone who carries on the traditions of his elders, and that to me shows how dedicated he is in making serious music that isn’t afraid to be fun and creative.

    (free MP3 EP download)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Linda Presgrave is a pianist that I’ve never heard before, and I was almost afraid to listen to this when I saw the cover but as they say, “never judge a book by its cover”, right? I assumed it would be another ugly vocal jazz turd, I never know what to expect, and as someone who doesn’t read album biographies until after I’m done (I try not to let a bio influence my reviews, so I avoid them unless necessary), I really didn’t know what to think. I hopped in Inspiration (Metropolitan), a 10-track album and just expected for the dreck to begin. It begins with “Insomnia”, and the intro is nice. I’m hearing the rest of her band on the album (Allison Miller on drums, Todd Herbert on sax, Stan Chovnick on sax, and Harvie S on bass) and they are playing incredibly well but I’m hearing no voice. I’m waiting for it, and… nothing. I’m getting lost in the playing, especially that of the piano. I should also say that I did not know who played the piano on this just yet, I didn’t read the credits until about three minutes into the song and it was then I discovered Presgrave is not only the pianist, but an arranger and composer. While she sounds nothing like her, the first person that came to mind was Pamela Hines in terms of fluidity and space with her playing, and I looked at her and the other musicians credited: no vocals. I want to hear more.

    Inspiration is the kind of album all young pianists and jazz musicians should hear in order to know what to play and how to play it. With the sax work of Chovnick and Herbert (who play on 4 and 2 of the songs respective), one senses an old John Coltrane vibe circa Ole or Black Pearls, but Presgrave is the one making sure everyone plays in the appropriate sounds, going down the path she wants the listener to go to. Her own “Struttin’ In Manhattan” sounds like a walk in NYC circa 1956, because we don’t want to see Times Square without seeing the cast of High School Musical jumping 25 stories above me, it sounds carefree and dare I say magical. I think I almost sensed a few keys from “We’re In The Money” during the song’s first minutes, but maybe that’s just me. She can easily play something that’s melancholy and somber, while other tracks are full of power and may make you want to dance, but she is someone who brings out a lot of (or puts in quite a bit of) emotion in her playing and arrangements. For a bit of blues, listen to “Don’t Explain” where she takes the song solo and if you know the song, you feel a bit of that joy and pain that Billie Holiday spoke of in her version. She ends with a song that is the epic of the album, “Rome”, where she allows the other instruments to play almost in a meditiative manner, almost as prayer before they join in as one a minute into the song. While she does it throughout the album, drummer Miller shines in this one and shows of her skills in a way that shows how she commands the drums by playing every part of her kit before maintaining things. When she adds a little extra inbetween, it feels like you’re hearing a classic jazz album from the past, this isn’t a drum machine, Sears keyboard, and a soprano sax. What I also like about it is Presgrave’s performance, which is subtle but lets the listener knows who is the boss of these sessions. Inspiration represents the things that move Presgrave to play and perform, and after hearing this, I hope she is inspired to continue her musical journey. Don’t miss this.

    Inspiration will be released on February 17th through Metropolitan Records.)

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Putting together clarinetist
    Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway may be a no brainer, and if so, good. The both of them got together for a live performance that ended up becoming A Duet Of One (a href=””>Ipo), signifying the fact that when the both of them play together, it is as if they are one being, and that is definitely true here.

    Both of them at times sound worlds away from each other, but it has the feel of other similar jazz duo albums where the listener is able to place an emphasis on just two musicians, jamming and having fun. When you hear the 8-minute “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, it reminds me of two best friends getting out of band class after being stuck in there for hours without an instruments. What you are also hearing are two musicians who know these songs inside and out, but are free to paint out of the picture which doesn’t change anything from the original piece. You’re also hearing appreciative audiences who accept this and can’t be nothing but amazed by what they’re hearing and seeing. As they go through “New Orleans”, “I Want To Be Happy”, “After You’ve Gone”, and the touching Daniels piece “We’ll Always Be Together”, it’s much more than friendship and love of music between the two, and while it may be just that, the knack for them to go in and out of the comfort zone of these songs throughout the album is too irresistible to ignore. If you’ve ever seen a Daniels/Kellaway show in the last twenty years, you know what to expect. Or maybe “you know not to expect the expected” is a better way of putting it. This is of the moment, spontaneous jazz that makes you wish all jazz was this moving.

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    Aaron Novik is one of those guys who seems on the edge, which is different from being edgy. What I am suggesting is that through his music, there is a bit of antsiness in his music where if it was possible for him to release 24 albums a year, two a month, it still wouldn’t be enough. The Samuel Suite/Dancing Into One (Evander) is his third album under his own name, and consists of two different suites. He calls it “sad and melodic Jewish avant chamber jazz”, and while that might conjure up an audio picture in your mind, this is how I describe it. You hear the best in jazz and Klezmer, but what Novik does with it when he places it in the sonic washing machine ends up sounding like both and none. It is a bit reminiscent of what Carla Kihlstedt does within the context of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. “Betty” is performed as a 3/4 waltz and may sound more classical than pop or rock, but he dips into those worlds that would be perfect within the Tzadik catalog. When things become drenched in one style, he shakes it off and it turns into something completely different, and things never stay in one place at any given time. The jazz influence is very much there, both in how things are played and how they sound, but in The Samuel Suite anything and everything goes. In “Blackrock Turnpike” it sounds like nothing but the stroking of a string section, but then it gets into this medieval funk, as if someone told James Brown or Sun Ra to head to a renaissance fair and get with it. Outside of the main sounds in the front there are things going on in the back of the song, be it a counter melody or extra sounds, that may lead it to another path and another style.

    The Dancing Into One half of the album is more of a classical piece (the bio states it was commissioned by the St. Joseph Ballet in Southern California), and sounds like some of the other work Kihlsteft would be comfortable in playing in. It sounds very different from the first half of the album, but you still hear that on-the-edge emotion that comes from wanting to make beautiful sounds and then taking it further. The drone heard in “Birth” may represent the miracle of life in some fashion, while the saw (yes, as in the type to cut wood) could be the agony of the pain. All of the sounds heard in the track (instruments credited includ bass trombone, bass accordion, and bass clarinet) might be mistaken for something heavier (in a Melvins or Earth sort of way), and the heaviness changes into something more colorful with “Duo”, where the delicate sounds can be heard in jade and red. Once you listen to Dancing Into One, it is then understood what Novik is trying to accomplish, but what that is may be different from the next listener. Once you listen to the album as a whole, one may want to hear what he comes up with next.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic Fortunately what he came up with next wasn’t so far away.

    Simulacra is a project that Novik put together as a way to, as he describes it, to “share my enthusiasm to the development and proliferation of one of the most widespread and popular of underground American art forms, heavy metal”. Of course you and I know that heavy metal has heavy British origins too, but we take this at face value and see how he does it. One look at the album credits and you’ll know that this isn’t your typical metal album:

    Jesse Quattro – voice effects
    Aaron Novik – electric clarinet
    Cornelius Boots – robot bass clarinet
    Matthias Bossi – drums

    He then goes out of his way to state “there is no guitar, bass, or keyboard on this record”. So how in the hell is this going to sound? Glad you asked.

    A cacophony of sound begins the self titled album (Evander) and oddly enough it doesn’t sound American at all, more like something you’d hear on a Mercyful Fate or Kreator album, although some of the clarinet work sounds like Jimi Hendrix and Possessed, I know I kept on thinking “this is the sound of a clarinet?” But it’s an “electric” clarinet playing in feedback and distortion, and as Quattro sings songs where the lyrics are unintelligible (for now at least), you feel like you’re hearing a mutated version of Blackfoot. It is very much a metal album but not in a stereotypical way, more like Tomahawk and Isis bathing in the sweat of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (which makes sense, since drummer Bossi is from the band). There’s something that sounds like a funky mini-Moog, but it’s probably the robot bass clarinet. It’s electronic, but it’s more about the electronics than anything, and when something is haunting (such as “White Light”), you wonder if that’s how you’re supposed to feel or you want to think it’s cool and play your own mutated music. Some parts may sound like Iron Maiden but you have to keep on reminding yourself that most of the heavy sounds are made by clarinets. It may very well be metal, but it would fit in as prog rock too.

    Sooner or later, Mike Patton will approve of these guys, tour with them, and create even more mayhem, but this album is worthy without him, it’s psychotic, loose, and dribbly at the same time. Cry into its heart and hear the sound of self. Make your own Simulacra patches and stitch it on your denim jacket, then scribble their name on your digital Peechee.

  • That’s it for this week’s Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD’s, books, or hot sauce, please contact me through my MySpace page and I’ll pass along my contact address. In the past I have generally frowned over receiving digital files, but I will accept them on a case by case basic. I still prefer hard copy as I want to hear the quality of the recording (which is important to me), but digital files are fine.
  • Thank you, and come back next week for #229.
  • VIDEO: State Shirt’s “Fell Out Of The Sky”

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    There’s a band out there called State Shirt, but they’re not a band nor are they a they. It’s one man, Ethan Tufts, and he likes to wear state shirts. See how that works? Cool.

    You may have heard of his album This Is Out (released through Los Fucking Angeles Records but also available directly from his website) on radio or maybe a website or two, but now you can see what State Shirts is about by checking out the video for “Fell Out Of The Sky”