REVIEW: Schlachthofbronx’s self-titled CD

Image and video hosting by TinyPic With a name like Schlachthofbronx, I was not sure what to expect, but their self-titled album (Disko B) shows a love for hard pierced electronica and a love of reggae and dancehall, with the infamous “reggae horn” on the album cover. It’s a German perspective of worldwide musics, and if you’re someone who wants to have their music drive into your heart or skull at a wicked pace, this is for you.

Some of the special guests on this include Slush Puppy Kids, Doubla J, Ete Kelly, and Mic Mo, all of whom are ready to drop anything in order to get the party jumping, and I say this because this is very much a music you want to hear loud, in a club or venue setting with people around you. It’s not a solitary music that’s meant to be confined, although it sounds incredible in that fashion too. Yet with that said, I’d like to see Schlachthofbronx do a few remixes, or collaborate with artists people may not expect to hear with this style of music.


REVIEW: Cuddle Magic’s “Picture”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The word that stood out in the album credits was ‘ukulele. I get overprotective, I become a representative and ambassador of a Hawaiian musical instrument that has been ridiculed for the foolishness Hollywood turned it into. In the last few years, there have been musicians who have taken to the ‘ukulele and rather than keep it in its novelty status, they will learn about it, play it, and incorporated into their music, often times making it a progressive extension of its original intention. Cuddle Magic are a band that merge diverse pop and rock with slight folk touches, and that comes with the use of not only the ‘ukulele (as played by vocalist Ben Davis), but the banjo, clarinet, vibraphone, cello, and other types of unique percussion and stringed instruments.

Picture (FYO) could be 2010’s most fascinating pop album of the year, but chances are this will not even be mentioned with celebrity pop albums, and I don’t mean actors or actresses, but pop is generally celebrated one way, and anyone doing something different has to be tagged “other than”. It’s indie pop, alternative pop, but it’s still very much pop. In fact, I could see Shakira singing in “Expectations”, but I don’t particularly want to hear her frog voice in a song so simply, sweet, and innocent as this. The songs are about life, interaction, relationships, and more, but they are quite poetic without sounding like they’re solely meant to be heard at a poetry slam. It’s well written music of the Todd Rundgren/Smashing Pumpkins/Pink Floyd variety, in fact think of Pink Floyd’s more quieter moments (“Wots…Uh The Deal”, “Fearless”, “If”) and you’ll start to hear more of Cuddle Magic’s… well, magic, but their folk influences come clear in their own quieter moments. I can see this band going very far with what they do, I am sure fans will be willing to join them for the the ride.

(Picture will be fully developed on February 9, 2010.)

REVIEW: General Elektriks’ “Good City For Dreamers”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic General Electriks is the brainchild of French musician Hervé Salters, who some may know for his work with Blackalicious on The Craft or being 1/3 of the group Honeycut. It’s been four years since General Elektriks released a debut album, but after hearing Good City For Dreamers (Quannum), you’ll realize it was worth the wait.

Salters is someone who will no doubt be called a one-man genius, but he loves to play a wide range of instruments and get himself locked to play it all himself. What you hear is not just some lo-fi independent funk, but there’s soul, pop, and just an independent spirit that you never heard from someone like Remy Shand, or at least something closer to Shuggie Otis. In fact, listening to this and it sounds like a long lost album that very few people know of, but you get a shit-eating grin everytime you share it with people, who will say “what the falakian is this ship, and how come this has never entered my harbor?” It’s a diverse collage that Salters stews up to create that musical soup you know will provide nourishment for days, weeks, even years to come. It makes perfect sense for him to be a part of the Quannum family, because those guys have always been about unearthing the soothingly obscure. For now allow Salters to remain just under the service, but tap into Good City For Dreamers and understand why good music like this can only stay under for so long.


DUST IT OFF: Mary J. Blige’s “My Life” (15 years later)

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November 29, 1994: the release date of Mary J. Blige‘s second full-length album, My Life (Uptown/MCA).

Depending on who you speak with, this was either the start of karaoke R&B or one of the best soul/R&B albums of the 90’s, in a decade where there were a few (Maxwell’s Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar).

One journalist had called Mary J. Blige nothing but a karaoke singer who performed over “old records”, or in her case, songs reconstructed from songs from the past, a hip-hop style of production that the genre used in order to keep itself relevant, according to them. However, what made Blige appealing to some was not only the strength in her voice, but her “around the way” vibe that appealed to B-boys and B-girls at a time when it seemed hardcore hip-hop had taken over the musical headlines. It was nothing more than Mary J. Blige singing over trusted breakbeats, and maybe she placed a feminine touch that even female MC’s were not known to do at the time.

Up until the fall of 1994, Blige was still being talked about for her debut, What’s The 411?. In a genre where singers came and went, either as groups or solo, it was hard to say what Blige was capable of doing after her debut. Uptown/MCA Records did drop a mid-way remix album which not only spawned the hit “You Don’t Have To Worry”, but made people become aware of a guy named Biggie Smalls. People did put faith in the Uptown brand, and words like Puff Daddy and Puffy Combs had not become the dirty words it would become as he gained further success in the 90’s. It was still the early 90’s, and Puffy was still the young guy at Uptown ready to make moves, we just didn’t know at what level.

People were expecting new music from Blige, but no one outside of her immediate circle knew what kind of impact it would make. But once the video for “Be Happy” was released, fans realized something was about to happen.

How can I love somebody else
If I can’t love myself enough to know
When it’s time, time to let go?

All I really want is to be happy
And to find a love that’s mine, it would be so sweet

She was no longer the around-the-way-girl, there was immense growth in lyrics that thinly disguised pain and sorrow, complimented by a view so optimistic, you couldn’t help but sing along in support. It felt like a twist to Janet Jackson‘s occasional lullaby approach in some of her songs. The chorus to “Be Happy” felt like a lullaby, or like a calming song mom used to sing to you, as if she was trying to pass some of life’s lessons on to you.

Now let it breathe

There was already a nice mixture of joy and pain in Blige’s music, whether it was metaphorically talking about angels trying to find their way home, or simply loving for the sake of loving. She wasn’t doing anything too revolutionary, in fact if she was a country singer, these lyrics would have been perfect. Love lost, love found, love the one you with, love without a limit. Yet as people bought and started to listen to My Life, people started to shape a more in-depth of Blige as a singer and as a woman. Since she was someone known, people started to hear stories of her relationships, particularly with Jodeci vocalist K-Ci Bailey. Was it a perfect union, would they live happily ever after, maybe it had nothing to do with the music but that relationship and the failure of it became a part of My Life‘s mystique.

It was an album that started off with Mary talking about how “what I got will make you spend money”, it was sassy as hell and people loved it. She did it with an appropriate “Mary Jane” loop from the Mary Jane Girls, it was weeded up and smokey, you could taste the richness. We now knew she was happy and she wanted to dance with the brilliant “You Bring Me Joy”.

While the overall vibe was of her looking and finding joy, the chorus of the song showed that something else was being veiled over:

I don’t know what I would do
Do without you
In my life, boy
I don’t know if I could live
Live without you
You bring me joy

It seemed just as when happiness entered her life, she was already looking towards something wrong. She then moves on with “I’m The Only Woman”, and it’s as if she feels if her lover must stray, she’s going to tell him why that’s not the wise thing to do:

I know that I was wrong
For all that carrying on
But are you gonna hold this
Against me for life
You know all I wanted to do
Is be your wife
And make you happy

The song was a lure towards her intended target, so there was a little sass and swagger, and the effectiveness of the Curtis Mayfield sample made it worth perfectly. The album moves on towards someone listening to the radio, where Keith Murray is dropping a freestyle of sorts. When the song is switched over, we prepare for the anthemic title track. The “peace and love and flowers” talked about in Roy Ayers‘s “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, the song that was sampled and interpolated in “My Life”, is the core of the entire album. Blige wants that good love, but for her there’s more to life than live, and she explains this in the second verse:

Take your time, baby don’t you rush a thing
Don’t you know I know, we all are struggling
I know it is hard
But we will get far
And if you don’t believe in me
Just believe in He

Cause he’ll give you peace of mind
And you’ll see the sunshine
And you’ll get to free your mind
And things will turn out fine

There’s a spiritual side that she reveals, and yet a sign of vulnerability that she seems to struggle to hide, as shown by her glance to the camera on the album cover. It may not be the hidden-eye that Aaliyah had been known for, but it was very close, if not an accurate depiction of what Mary was ready, or not ready to reveal about her life. At that point in the album, things become much clearer. This is not going to be a complete album of joy, not without pain, not without loss, not without sorrow. Maybe the blue/grey tint of the album cover is meant to represent a vibe or a feeling, Mary’s Kind Of Blue if you will. “You Gotta Believe” feels like a confessional as Mary goes deep and comes out with something so revealing, you want to turn it off. Yet, you continue:

I told you once before
That I love you
And I need you
But let me tell you once again
You were my closest friend
I’ll never leave you
So hold me tight
All through the night
Caress me with your tender care
Anytime or anywhere

What takes this song home is the combined vocals of Big Bub of the group Today and a background singer who hadn’t made it on her own yet named Faith Evans. In late 1994, Today’s career was pretty much over but people still remembered Big Bub fondly, so to hear a hint of the old and a taste of what was to come: it was perfect and it was perhaps the “angels” on Mary’s shoulders trying to guide her along the way:
Anytime, anywhere
I will go with you anywhere
Won’t you trust in me baby
Stay with me
Till death do us part
You’ll always be right in my heart
Won’t you please stay with me
Baby please believe in me

Again, guided lessons, somber in tone not unlike a lullaby, very friendly and passionate.

Just when things couldn’t feel any more heartbroken than it already was, Mary goes down deeper in “Never Wanna Live Without You”
What is this feeling? I can’t sleep at night
Just thinking ’bout being without you
Work ’til I’m tired and I can’t eat a bite
Cause I know someday you’re going away

When Evans starts to sing “baby, won’t you stay with me a little while/baby, won’t you stay with me a little while/don’t leave me”, Mary starts to ad-lib about the desires in her needs, wanting to stand up strong but she can’t take it anymore, and the song casually fades. Suddenly, we know where she is, in her cover of Rose Royce‘s classic from the Car Wash film and soundtrack, “I’m Going Down”.

By performing this song and placing it at this point in the album, it’s obvious that, as the lyric goes, “my whole world’s upside down”. In the video, as she walks down on the stairs with a strut, there’s attitude there but the lyrics show a different side. Maybe by performing this song, it was a way of saying she wishes she could go back to a much simpler time, when one didn’t have to worry about life’s problems and relationships.

Side 2 begins with one of my favorite songs, “Be With You”, and by having a hint of Mountain‘s “Long Red” in the beat, it continues the hip-hop influence that was a big part of her music. It’s a b-boy vibe, but this was no b-boy singing. You want to dance to this song, and you did, and yet even before the song begins its first verse, Mary is shaping it with a brief message:
Does he love you
Does he care for you
Does he want you
Does he even care?

The melancholy of the synth line is very old school in feel, mixed in with the slight jazz chat in the background vocals, you listen and while you wish for her happiness, you’re realizing that maybe you’ve felt these exact same feelings she’s expressing. The beat is funky, what she’s saying inspires you, but then she gets to the last minute of the song when she says:
It seems like each and every time I come around
You don’t want me there
And it’s beginning to make me so scared
So scared that I might lose you
All I wanna do is be with you, baby baby baby baby boy

As if that’s not enough, she can’t take it anymore and it’s about “I just want to pick up the phone, yeah/and “oh it’s you, you, you”” and as the song begins to fade, she sings “mmm, mmm, mmm, yeah yeah yeah,YEAH!” in jubilation. Now that it’s all in the open, she calmly sings in the “I wanna be with you/i need to be with you, all day long”. If anything, we now know that at the beginning of the album she was proudly singing about what she’d like to do “all night long” and we’ve been listening to her feel sorrow and lonely in the morning, that 3am eternal, blue moon vibe.

“Mary’s Joint” is a bit of double-entendre,because while this obviously means that this is her song, and she’s going to sing it because it’s hers, it’s almost as if she can’t take this sorrow, so she’s going to light up a fat one and pass it to herself. “Don’t Go” purposely goes back to the background vocals she did in the song that’s sampled, Guy‘s “Goodbye Love”, and by playing with that sample, one can say that this is what Mary is trying to say to the intended target of the song, especially as she sings “don’t leave me, leave me, leave me/don’t go, don’t go”. With “I Love You”, she unleashes the three words that she hopes will be able to keep her man, and by using a sample that directly leads to the charm of Biz Markie, she’s hoping for a little bit of a feeling that will return to her. In the bridge, she then realizes that things will most likely never be what they were:

I wish you’d change your ways soon enough
So we could be together
You just don’t understand good love
But now all we have is memories
Of the way we used to be

The melody in the background is very melancholy, and I also love how she vocally revisits “Be With You” as she hums to herself, going back to the first song on Side 2.

In “No One Else”, she finally gets bold and stops blaming herself, or at least tries not to take full blame for the collapse of her relationship. Now we’re at the end of the album, and the intro sounds like a Disney moment, where the birds start coming in, and the world is a much better place to be. Again, the happiness felt in the intro quickly disappears as she sings:
How can I love somebody else
If I can’t love myself enough to know
When it’s time, time to let go?

By the end of My Life, love and happiness may not have been full achieved, but Mary knows what she’s looking for and decides to venture forward to continue on in life.

Maybe the album was felt so much because for years, her target audience had grown up with hip-hop but no one was feeling the heart and emotion of the kind of music she grew up listening to. Others knew. Maybe My Life was her way of growing up, and indirectly it was an album where her fans were growing up too, passing on life’s lessons just as her family and friends passed them on to her. Her audience were learning about their lives, how to cope and deal, and how love isn’t just what you see on TV or see in a music video. As she says in the title track, “if you’d look at my life, you’d seen what I’ve seen”, which made the listener want to know what her life was about. Listeners also saw/heard it as reflection, because they could look into themselves to wonder what in life lead them to where they were. If there was sadness and grey skies, Mary proudly told everyone that you’ll one day see the sunshine, and everything will turn out fine… if you allow it.

Maybe she was the soul that some felt hip-hop lacked, which is why she has always been embraced by hip-hop audiences. People call her the Queen of hip-hop soul, but does that indicate hip-hop has no soul, or was it soul music’s way of saying “we can be relevant in the shadow of hip-hop”? Whatever way it was marketed, it’s safe to say that My Life was an album that hit the marketplace at the right time. If hip-hop heads were asking themselves if their own minds were old because they were 17, or they were Wu’d out, Mary simply said “this is me”. It’s safe to say while the hip-hop cosmetics helped her finish her mission, she really didn’t need hip-hop to make this statement. Then again, maybe she needed hip-hop to get her from point A to point B in her life, and she celebrated the music and community, and the feeling behind/within it to make her say it. Through hip-hop, perhaps she realized something that Monday Michiru refered to in one of her songs six years later, in that everything she ever needed was right… there. In other words, it went back not only to her love of hip-hop, but soul/R&B, funk, and jazz.

For those of us who listened to My Life and embraced it, we did so because it became a part of our lives. We not only wanted to support Mary so she could feel good, but we heard our own pain and sorrow, and looked towards a positive outlook so we could be happy, with whomever it was. Living life is about letting go what we can’t hold on to, to not possess what really isn’t ours. As the old saying goes, if you love something or someone, set them free. Maybe they’ll come back, maybe not, but you can’t hold on to what was never yours, because there’s a lot more to find in the road ahead.

Mary J. Blige herself talked about being in a drug and alcohol filled haze in those early days, especially in the My Life era, go to any in-depth discussion about her music and people will say “I love Mary when she was coked up”. It’s not that anyone wants her to be a drug addict, but there was a sense of power in her music in her search for something better. Maybe she knew, through her lyrics, that once you hit an all time low, you can only look up. She did, metaphorically and perhaps spiritually. The lessons she offered was for listeners to give themselves a boost when it may feel like picking yourself up was not worth the effort. 15 years later, the inspiration to “Be Happy” and “find a love that’s mine, it would be so sweet” continues, and will no doubt be an inspiration for anyone who reaches a low and looks forward to bigger and better.

Thank you, Mary J. Blige.

FREE MP3 ALBUM DOWNLOAD: The Ohana Mixtape Volume 3

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Prompted to me by Asiaticmajic, here is a mixtape from my homeland, the 808 state, Hi State, a/k/a Hawai’i.

This is only a hint of some of the hip-hop coming out of Hawai’i, but if you’ve ever been curious about the boom bap in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, feel free to start here. By seeing the Volume 3 in the title, it means there are other titles, all available as free downloads so click here and look on the right side for links. Check ’em, go check’ em, go stay go.

FREE MP3 EP DOWNLOAD: Rara’s “Krautfeuer”

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Rara are a German duo consisting of Michael Rau (one of the Ra’s) and Klaus Ratzek (the second Ra). Rau enjoys old school analog synths and keyboards, while Ratzek is a jazz fan and enthusiast. Together they create a nice sound that may bring to mind the funky and soulful jazz styles of the 1970’s, but without being too retro.

They’ve released a number of projects together, and Krautfeuer is a new, 5-song, 22-minute EP that is being made available for free via Clinical Archives. You can download the EP by clicking here.

If you like this, their previous albums can also be downloaded for free by clicking to Rau’s label,

GIFT IDEA: Yakima Craft Brewing Co. “1982”

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I’m not participating in Black Friday today, but I was looking online last night for some gift ideas and came across a number of local and regional breweries. While I don’t drink, I do support my local garbage man with a 6-pack of beer before Christmas, a tradition my dad observed as a kid and now I follow. My search lead me to the Yakima Craft Brewing Co. and one of the types of beer they sell is a “1982”, complete with an audio cassette on its label as part of the design. The company calls it “A mid-hopped amber ale that is clean, sessionable and easy to enjoy” on its website.

It may be a nice idea for the beer drinker on your holiday list. Since beer laws are different from state to state, you may want to find out if they’ll ship to you or not. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can just make a drive to Yakima and pick up some. The city of Yakima is about a 2½ hour drive East of Portland and Seattle.

VIDEO: Yasmine Kittles & Eric Wareheim have musical face to crotch harmony in “In Lust” video

From the guy who recently gave us great videos by Major Lazer comes a new one from director Eric Wareheim. This one features Tearist vocalist Yasmine Kittles, and it’s a video that the L.A. Weekly called “Hipster Crotch Porn”. It offers a new meaning to the phrase “cunning linguist”.

SOME STUFFS: New Shrinebuilder out now, featuring Melvins drummer Dale Crover

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Here are the ingredients;
Scott “Wino” Weinrich
Al Cisneros
Dale Crover
Scott Kelly

Stoners now have a reason to act hyperactive in their hazy splendor, as the four of these men are what make up Shrinebuilder, who just released their self-titled debut album on Neurot Recordings. The CD has been out for a few weeks, but the double vinyl was released yesterday, so hunt it down and scare your neighbors.

Pyramid Of The Moon” (Free Mp3 Download, 6.9mb)

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