Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #236. I am John Book, welcome.
This column is about music reviews, along with music-related books, DVD’s, etc. Each review will usually be followed by a graphic, when upon clicking you can make a purchase:
(for compact disc)
The point of this is to make readers aware of some of the good music out there, music I hope to be able to pass along to you. With that said, all MP3’s here are “legal”, which means they are being passed on to you with permission from the artist and/or publicity firm. All of you that are tech savvy should know where to get all the free music anyway, but please make a purchase whenever possible, whether it’s from your favorite store or in many instances from the artist themselves. If your tax return is coming in, get to those bills first and foremost, but with a bit of extra change buy a few albums.
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Now, the column.
Anamanaguchi are part of a collective called 8-Bit Peoples, whose goal is to share their love of old school video games and more importantly video game music. This is new music made with 8-bit technology, some of which I’ve reviewed in the past (i.e. Pixelh8, and it makes sense that this style is becoming a force since much of today’s hip-hop is based on the basic qualities of those sounds, Nintendo Hop if you will. But Anamanaguchi (ana-mana-guchi) take things to the next level (as any gamer should) with music that you wish had a visual equivalent with their album Dawn Metropolis.(Normative)
Simply put, they create cool sounds with nothing but video technology, tapping into the microchips and creating something that very much sounds like the world we live in today, whatever that may mean. It’s intense and the sounds may make your heart rate go up significantly, either that or it will make you go back to the days when small game rooms seem like stinky ass porn parlors, but with more Dr. Pepper than beer and more gum than come. I think you know what I’m getting at.
The cool thing about Dawn Metropolis is that it’s on vinyl, so for you turntablists who want to scratch the fuck out of this or create some screwed mixes, you can.
Audiopharmacy have been around for a long time, but this hip-hop collective are coming out with music and more on a regular basis to make sure people know who they are. They’ve just released a compilation called Weaspons Of Mass Production (Audiopharmacy Prescriptions), featuring 20 different tracks from the production side of things to show people that when it comes to mixing up hip-hop, reggae, jazz, and funk, these guys know how to make it and how to make it sound good.
Some of the artists here sound like Outkast, other tracks lean on the Arrested Development side but it shows a more home grown, earthy-feel to the music that hasn’t been felt in the current mainstream in years. They include Pasha Brown, Kenji, Ameba, and CI Cutz & Ras K’dee, all of which hold true to the old school hip-hop ethics while being open to new interpretations of the same manifestation, and it sounds fresh, in a literal sense.
These are also the kind of guys who could save hip-hop vinyl, and I hope they’ll release more music in the format as it would be a perfect union.
Two Fingers are a duo consisting of Amon Tobin and Joe “Doubleclick” Chapman, and their self-titled debut album on Paper Bag/Big Dada is one of the more eclectic electronic albums to be pushed to a hungry public.
The album shows the link between hip-hop and electronica, and with Tobin’s and Doubleclick’s knowledge of music and technology they create the kind of music that shows how well the cold can sound with the warm. Throughout the album you’ll hear Ms. Jade, Sway, and Ce’Cile commit themselves to the project, and whatever two fingers entail, there’s a bit of leftover juice and flavor for anyone who wishes to take a lick, and this album is indeed finger licking kid. Those whose sole audio habit is American hip-hop may be turned off by the “intrusion” of sounds, but this is about taking hybrids and slicing it create more hybrids to where any influence is almost unintelligble. “Better Get That”, one of the tracks with Ms. Jade, has a heavy Brazilian influence courtesy of Tobin, while “That Girl” is one of a number of tracks with Sway and it shows the power of the music of Outkast, which may reflect some of Andre 3000‘s own worldly intake. This will be blowing away dance floors, or it may make people’s feet burn because this is that hot. Anyone who feels electronic music has not been challenging in the last few years has obviously not heard the Two Fingers debut.
Not yet, anyway.
Is MF Woolly a descendant of MF DOOM, or someone who simply wants to cash in on DOOM’s empire? While there is a hint of DOOM-ness in the first minute of Operation: Chrome & Ivory (self-released), that’s the only think that is similar.
Operation: Chrome & Ivory is an album that could’ve easily been released anytime between 1989-1992, as it’s full of lyrical puzzles and schemes, out-of-reach samples and soundbytes that were once part of the hip-hop norm. Woolly’s passion for creating a healthy dialogue within his own songs, and constantly stopping, starting, and stopping again as if it was something out of a comic book may be a bit exhausting for those who have been dumbed down by nothing but facsimile boom bap. What you hear within MF Woolly is character not only in his style of rapping and lyrical composition, but in the production. It’s wonderful to hear an album that doesn’t sound like it’s still in the incubator, figuratively and literally. Because of how it sounds, a few may claim that this is nothing bue retro or old school, but many of these topics lean more towards Kool Keith, who people have yet to catch up to, and Large Professor, whose lyrics were often overshadowed by his production.
The concept may take awhile to grasp, and it feels more like a running theme than a solid concept, but there’s something brewing within the mind of MF Woolly and I’m about to hear the perculator bust.
Bibio is described as an artist who creates soundtrack music, which means it sounds like the perfect music you would hear in a film. I definitely agree, but how does Bibio do it? One has to figure out who Bibio is, and that’s not a problem. His name is Stephen Wilkinson, and has been known for combining electronic production with natural and found sounds. The end result is something that sounds like something you’d find in an art film, or if you are a fan of music found in surf films/videos, his music would be perfect for them. Ovals And Emeralds (Mush) are structured songs if not pieces of sound, as is the case with “The Death Of A Trapeze Artist” which sounds like meditation or mourning or both, recorded without the aid of rhythm. Other songs sound distant and foreign, whether that’s due to the type of samples he uses or his style of production (fans of tape hiss, this one is for you) I’m not sure, or maybe a combination of both. Electronic music for much of the 90’s had become simply “electronica”, and this goes back to its roots where it was about experimentation. In the process of those experiments, one discovers the pulse of the sounds. This is the sound of discovery, an earthy-type of electronic music, which may make you forget that it is electronic based.
(A 10″ EP of Ovals And Emeralds will be released later in the year, and after hearing this a lot in recent weeks, I think it’s the perfect format for this music.)
Gratitillium are a Portland creation that originally started as a one-man band, and that one-man being Nick Caceres. The project was meant to be one-man and one-man only, but Caceres felt a need to open up the project to one or two more people before he realized he liked the openness of bringing in new musicians to his own world. Volume 1 (Tender Loving Empire) is a collection of songs that were originally written in the one-man version of Gartitillium, but features contributions from outside musicians. The music here are spare and sparse, sometimes containing just Cacares and vocals, others featuring percussion, drums, bass, and other accompaniment.
On this album, each of the song titles have animal references in them: “Big Bear Mountain”, “Dragonfly Thai”, “Frog King”, “Free Elephants”, and “Horse Around” among many others. These psychedelic folk morsels are masterpieces waiting to happen. They are sounds that will definitely please fans of The Flaming Lips, Ween, and Black Moth Super Rainbow, as Gratitillium are on some mindblowing mushroom shit, and they were all done with nothing but a few microphones and a laptop. No samples of any kind were used, so you get to hear people actually making most of the sounds here (there are a few natural sounds within the mix too).
Volume 1 sounds like yet again one of those weird and eclectic albums you found in the closet of your relative while you were really looking for Black Sabbath. You open up the cover and then see it has your dad’s signature on the inner sleeve. You have no idea what your dad was on when he bought it, but when you listen to it, you think it’s one of the best things you ever heard. It will be interesting to see what kind of plants Gratitillum will end up cultivating.
(Volume 1 will be released in June, and will be available through Tender Loving Empire.)
A name like Loop 2.4.3 could lead to some thinking they were an electronic-based artist, at least that’s what I felt. As I played Zodiac Dust (Music Starts From Silence/Analog Arts) and listened to the different sounds of percussion, I thought it was really organized the way the samples sounded quite human. I began to read the liner notes and realized that Loop 2.4.3 are indeed human, and what I was hearing was not samples but instruments played in real time. I had to unwind a bit to consume reality of it.
Zodiac Dust consists of nine instrumentals. The different percussive sounds are played by a duo, Thomas Kozumplik and Lorne Watson, who bounce around between instruments to create a sonic orchestra of sounds. I enjoy percussion albums when I go thrifting or to yard sales, but this isn’t symphonic in the grand sense, but more of a human symphony because the sounds they create are full and vivid. Some of the instruments credited on the album include tuned sleigh bells, log drums, marimba, tam-tam, cowbell, suspended cymbals, and even Thai nipple gongs. They do incorporate a bit of modern technology, such as the eLog, electronic effects, and a tube amp, but what you hear is essentially played live, no editing whatsoever. Some of the songs do feature accompaniment from a cello and a violin, but the songs without them are also quite musical, it’s not just a bunch of things crashing and thumping (although those moments are nice too).
Despite the randomness of what could be nothing but than a recording of drum sounds, there is some organization and composition involved, with a bit of depth thrown in. You’re not going to get any dance floor bangers on this, but what you do get is an album that does take you on a journey far from your current experience. It sounds distant, perhaps tribal, perhaps of a time long gone, or for those who know where to go, it will take them to that exact place. It’s about creating sounds from the imagination stage into something archived, there are improvisational moments but there’s still a beginning, middle, and end to this. It’s quite enjoyable.
Saxophonist Larry Slezak and his band play some nice jazz that gets to the bebop side of things without going overboard, not that it does but some people prefer for their jazz to be on the straight and narrow. This is just that type of album, and with a title like No Worries (Tierra Studios) you get more of what you want and a bit more.
What you have here is some fine jazz courtesy of Slezak and brother Joe on drums, plus CLayton Dyess (guitar), Thomas Helton (bass), Jose-Muguel Yamal (piano and Hammond B-3 organ), Tristan Smith (English horn), Thomas Bacon (French horn), Dennis Dotson (trumpet), Fernando Ledesma (percussion), and occasional vocals from Sheri Lavo but not being too fond of vocal jazz, I ignored those songs and stayed to the instrumental pieces. The sound on this one, courtesy of engineer Glenn L. Wheeler, sounds like what a warm coat represnets: warmth and comfort. It sounds like those classic albums that you can rely on for comfort and a good listen, and when you hear “Girl Talk”, “Secret Love”, “Cry Me A River”, “and even a cover of “Chico And The Man”, you know you’re hearing the sound of musicians who know what they’re doing. Slezak’s solo in “Chico And The Man” is superb, and the fact that they even covered this song impressed me.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to the fund which gives financial assistance for medical emergencies to union musicians in the Houston area, which Slezak calls home.
This one caters to his Latin side, so the mood overall is soothing, tropical, and sensual when it has to be, as you can hear in “Street Jam” (which sounds as open and as communal as the title suggests) and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”. As with previous releases, Arroyo also has a spiritual side that he likes to share with his fans and you get to hear that in “The Whisper Of God”, “and God Bless The Child”, the latter of which deserves some airplay on smooth jazz stations. I like this a lot more than the previous album, not sure if it’s because the music and his playing is more spirited or if the music caught me in a good mood, but anyone who needs to find great party music and maybe something to wind an evening down can easily mix this up with any of their personal favorites. Overall, Arroyo’s playing seems a bit more stronger, more comfortable, more like “home”. If he makes more albums like this one and throws in a bit of variety within from time to time, he’ll have a very secure future.
Alt Tal‘s Open The Gates (Aural Imaging) is the sound of a fierce jazz trio (Andrew Ryan on drums, Kenny Annis on bass, and David Alt on saxophone) who are in control of their sonic destiny. These guys play a mixture of bebop, funk, soul, and whatever complex jazz terms you may have that describes the fluidity of imagination that happened between the 1950’s and 1970’s. They flow from styles to eras without a problem, smoothly as if everyone else has been doing this normally, but it’s not abstract or out of the ordinary despite my description of it. Alt’s solos tell the story, each described in lyrical form in the booklet even though none of the songs feature any singing, so you hear songs of closure (“Mark Time”), political struggle “Mossed”, making tea (“Jasmine”), along with lovers and friends that have come and gone. Within that you hear some incredible playing, and the rhythm section of Annis and Ryan will definitely make you look out for these two either as individuals or as a duo, because I could hear them backing a lot of musicians up, or perhaps they become the leaders of other more perfect unions.
The musicianship is very elaborate, as they play direct and to the point, occasionally drifting into a bit of freedom before falling back into the theme of the song, and I could easily see then moving crowds into a frenzy with their playing.
Between Stops (Resa) is an album bringing together the talents of Alex Clements (piano), John Abraham (drums), and Zara Tellander (vocals), and just as the title and cover photo indicate, they and other friends are on a train ride to get from here to there, and the trip they take is one that becomes the musical path towards excellence. The opening track, “We Are One Through The Music”, explains what this album is about, how three people from completely different places can come together to make something so harmonious, and it works beautifully. What makes Tellander different from other jazz vocalists is that she works her voice like an instrument rather than just a vocalist or mere interpreter of song. I also like the different textures throughout the album, as if each stop of the musical train helps them learn of different territories, different styles, different shades and colors that help provide the pallet that they take their music from. When their journey ends, one hopes they’ll go for another journey again very soon.
I was also highly impressed by the cello work of one Dena Perrico in “Waiting For You…”, and would not mind hearing more of her work.
Karli Fairbanks of Spokane, Washington is back with a brand new album, and this one is more elaborate than her debut (which I reviewed last year in my column.) This is what I said in my review of her first album:
If Norah Jones decided to dig deeper into her country roots and did something along the lines of Grey DeLisle, Harriet Wheeler or Kacey Chambers, it would sound like Bitter Blue, the debut album from Spokane, Washington’s Karli Fairbanks.
What struck me immediately was the voice, which was very emotional, ethereal, and while there is a slight delicate, angelic side to her voice, the lyrics offer a different perspective of things.
That still holds true, and the reason I made the Norah Jones comparison is due to her common love of folk, pop, and country, which she mixes up in a nice stew and makes it sound tasty, with or without rice. In other words, she’s comfortable in making her songs sound intimate when it’s just her and a guitar, while other songs are more suited in a full band setting. A perfect example of this is the countrified “Last Night’s Songs (Things We Leave Behind)”, which has a pedal slide guitar (courtesy of Scott Ellis) that is reminscent of the sound Jerry Garcia had on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s “Teach Your Children” from 39 years ago. With a song title like that you want to know more, and she takes it to the limit:
When love seems so hard to give and people seem so cruel
The simplest of the things you said is finally ringing true
Finding restitution only in your eyes
So hold me close and dry my tears, sing with me tonight
As before, Fairbanks’ lyrics come off like private diary chapters you’re not meant to read (or hear), but perhaps taking her emotions onto paper and into song is an important part of therary, and we as the audio voyeur get a chance to not only hear her sorrow, pain, and happiness (sometimes all in the same song), but to be able to appreciate her means of compositions. She is definitely a songwriter who knows the craft of not only songtelling, but to create a pop song if she needs to, but I feel (and hope) she will perfect her style of music for years to come, to where people will have to come to her to hear her stories, and not go down the Jewel route. The Breaking Of Our Days is the perfect album to cool down the summing of the hot summer days, and will no doubt add a little warmth to the mental winter chills that seem to come at any time of the year.
Want an album that is also well-produced? It was produced, engineered, and mixed by Kory Krukenberg, who runs VU Recording in Seattle, and while it may be easy for anyone and everyone to record at home and slap out an LP, CD, or digital file, you still need an outside ear to help fine tune the rough edges of your music, and Krukenberg does an excellent job in making sure Fairbanks’ ideas transfer well from the studio to the final mix. Being a musician himself (Krukenberg plays bass for Pablo Trucker), he knows what is demanded by other musicians, and if he keeps at it, his work will be noted among the likes of Jack Endino and Conrad Uno.
The Conduit Trio start off their Beyond Liquid Glass album (self-released) with a great hard rock song that demonstrate Robert Branch‘s fluidity on the electric guitar, a cross between Al DiMeola, Carlos Santana, and Captain Kirk (of The Roots) as he’s backed by a group (Joshua English on drums and David Furnas on bass) who know how to get funky by combining jazz and rock to make a nice sounding blend. It’s the heaviest song on the album, as the rest of the album has some nice mellow jazz/fusion that would sound perfect in any surf or skateboarding film, or something you’d play while riding your boat on a Sunday morning or just hanging out on the beach.
With that said, it’s not a tropical album, but these are the associations I have when listening to this style of jazz that is smooth but it’s far from being smooth jazz. Listen to the tone Branch gets with his guitar in “Disparate Measures” and you can tell this isn’t someone who just started playing. I know saying “he’s a guitarist’s guitarist” is a cliche but it suits him, as he has that Joe Satriani-like confidence and freeflows as if this is a seconnd or third language from him, it’s that natural sounding.
As I’m looking at their bio, Branch says he’s influenced by Allan Holdsworth and that makes perfect sense too. Branch holds back on this album, and I can only imagine how much more intense his playing is on stage. Whether it’s surfing through a tube or getting high off of The Conduit Trio’s supply, this is music that you’ll want to keep listening too long after the first buzz has faded.
Ryan Meagher is a guitarist who makes jazz his home but hearing his playing on Atroefy (Fresh Sound New Talent) makes me believe that this guy can run circles around most anyone if they dare challenge him. The style of jazz he and his band play on this album is very much rooted in the 70’s, crossing styles that you may have heard on CTI, Mainstream, and Tappan Zee with occasional bursts of Weather Report and Return To Forever thrown in, or at least that’s what I get out of hearing Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. He has that Tony Williams vibe to him but could easily play things that Billy Cobham or Elvin Jones could play with ease.
As for Meagher, the guy can play a mean guitar but sometimes he allows the other musicians on the album (Sperrazza plus Geoff Kraly on bass, Loren Stillman on alto saxophone, and Matt Renzi on tenor saxophone and clarinet) take over and help form the musical pictures he creates in his songs. “A Familiar Farewell” is track #2 but could have easily been the perfect way to end the album, on a funky note. Meagher’s way of getting into and under the groove is quite nice, very much in the Phelphs Collins and Al McKay tradition. “Downers” may be an appropriate title for a song that begins sounding like something you’d expect from Soundgarden or Nirvana but the saxophone solo saves it from being a downer of a song and helps take it to a new place. I wouldn’t mind hearing a version of this song performed by someone else, and the sax replaced by another guitar just to see where they’d be able to take this. Perhaps not surprisingly, Meagher does get a chance to meet up with his love of Nirvana with “Can’t Complane”. “Modern jazz for the indie rocker”? It definitely works with “Can’t Complane” and yet the union between indie rock and jazz is perfect between the musicians here, not a clash by any means.
With jazz guitarists, either it will be strictly jazz or it will drift off to the left and morph into other things suited to the guitarist’s tastes, and Atroefy is definitely the latter. Fortunately the music keeps itself in jazz so you’ll never mistake this for Tony MacAlpine, but who knows, perhaps the path of these two guitarists will cross and end up creating something incredible.
Illogic rhymes with a vibe not unlike Joe Budden, Jay-Z, or Inspectah Deck, but I wonder how anyone can be as gangsta as Bob Marley? Anyway, Diabolical Fun (Weightless) has songs that are more on the street side of things than something you’d hear in the clubs. Okay, maybe there’s really no “street side”, but there’s a grittiness that you’re not going to hear on mainstream radio stations during prime time, and you know what? Good. Illogic is well spoken and knows how to write, he speaks a lot but his words also matter, it’s not a bunch of abstract Cappadonna hoo-haa. He’s talking about doing sessions, getting a lot of action, and dominating the masses and he does it with style and confidence, over beats that come off like the best of DJ Muggs, rural Andre 3000, or sweaty DJ Babu funk. This is an MC from Columbus, Ohio, the home of the Printmatic himself, Blueprint, and both of them are currently collaborating for a project together, which should be extra sick.
In the end, Illogic is someone who speaks about wanting to bring hip-hop back, saying he doesn’t know where it’s going to go but he knows what he’s able to do with it. He does it well, and what he does with it is more than nice. Take that, Logan.
It may be arrogant to call your mix CD Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Producer (self-released), but J. Cardim has something to prove with this and he’s going to let people know he is the man to provide hits.
What you hear on this are tracks J. has recorded, call it his resume tape. You’ll hear “Holla At A Playa” by Jae Millz & Lil’ Wayne, “What Y ou Call That” by Royce Da 5’9″ and Termanology, and Tuge‘s “Star Struck”, along with 18 other tracks (and an intro from DJ Envy. You’ll want to hear this for Lil’ Wayne rhyming and singing, and the productions (which are keyboard-heavy) are nice.
Want to get a hit? Work with J. Cardim.
Coalmine Records offer up a great mix CD called The Foundation (Coalmine), produced by Shuko, mixed by DJ Dutchmaster, and hosted by none other than Heltah Skeltah. What you hear in under 57 minutes is that real hip-hop that people love, when New York City meant business and nothing could ever be second rate. Songs on here include XL featuring Heltah Skeltah‘s “Credibility”, a remix of Talib Kweli & Rakim‘s “Getting Up Anthem”, Hell Razah‘s “Thankful”, Doujah Raze‘s “Give It Up”, and more sounds that sound grimy and shady when it meant something along fans and nay-sayers. No wimpy shit here,The Foundation is a CD that’s not for people who want to weaken an artform.
GRIII: Old School 2 Nu Skool (Sobe) is an album by Urban Mystic that will appeal to fans of soul and R&B, but unfortunately their music is 3rd rate K-CI & JoJo, which means its worse than 7th rate Jodeci. Sadly, there’s going to be an audience for this shit, with lyrics as weak as:
I thank God for your mother and your father
For procreating the daughter
Some like no other
I realize in the morning when you wake up
You’re still beautiful without a drop of make-up
Rose pedals, brown sugar’s what you’re made of
You belong to me
What is that? Is that meant to be romantic, or a sly way to say “I want to fuck your daughter, so thanks for donating your genes so I can tap that ass”? The lyrics really don’t get any better than that, with talk about sweaty sheets, back scratching… I’ll be honest, I love good fuck music as much as the next man and woman, but this is just lackluster in every way. Yung Joc‘s appearance on “Main Squeeze” is a waste and, damn, if this is what R&B has become, I’m not a religious man but someone please bring it back to church so we can hear music with substance.
If there’s one song that’s half decent, it’s “So Fly” which features Ce’Cile and Beenie Man but with an album like this you know who else you can expect, right? Yeah, Shaggy shows up in “I’m Waiting” but I really wouldn’t want to wait around for these guys again.
What would help? Remove all of the vocals on this album and replace it with Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Sizzla vocal tracks. Give this album to them so they can make something out of this.
Quite Nyce & Raydar Ellis were involved in two completely different projects when a meeting lead them to talk, eventually leading to discussion about a possible collaboration. It would take awhile before it happened, but when it did, they weren’t about to stop until it suited their needs. Champs vs. The League (Brick) is an album that combines finely written lyrics and flows with real instrumentation and subtle samples.
While these two will be new to most ears, this union sounds like an anticipated comeback album, as if these two were meant to be together. Songs like “Clap”, “Lalalalala”, “Holla Bout A Dolla”, “Ms. September”, and “Love Is” (the latter featuring Project Move) are the kind of bangers people are going to want to talk about and bootleg on a regular basis. Quite and Rayday don’t do the old passing of the mic, but verse after verse you can’t help but be impressed by their schultz. Akil of Jurassic 5 appears in “If I Never” and that deserves a lot of airplay too, which will help people discover what these guys are about.
Unfortunately I received a pre-release copy with promo bots throughout so as verses were getting better, I was constantly warned that I was listening to a promo. With luck, the missing lines will sound better (and make sense) if you buy the full CD or download it officially. Speaking of which, digital downloaders will get the full album as an instrumental.
Looking around online, I had seen a few banners and graphics featuring Eprhyme‘s face and logo, to promote his Waywordwonderwill (Modular Moods). Eventually his CD found its way in my mailbox and I went to take a listen.
Eprhyme could be considered a Jewish Braille, in that they both add spiritual elements into their hip-hop without overdoing it. In Eprhyme’s case it’s his Jewish faith and culture, which he delivered with pride in tracks like “Shomer Salaam”, “It’s All God”, and “Heavy Shtetl”. He does it in the form of scholarly lessons, music you want to listen to not only for entertainment value but also as a means to learn and relearn. What I hear in his music are bits of Ludacris, Eminem, Kanye West, and Common, and it’s for different reasons. Those who like their hip-hop to be of the faith will enjoy this, and those who are not of the faith will still find this to be a powerful statement to the movement of this music.
Fans of beats and samples are going to eat this up as if this was the second coming of someone important. As one of the songs on this album indicates, Eprhyme calls his style of music “Punklezmerap” (punk, klezmer, rap), which reveals his roots, ambitions, and musical goals. The punk side comes from him living in Olympia, WA, and in fact he released a 45 on the celebrated K label, with a new one to come in June (for “Shomer Salaam”). The music isn’t punk by any means, but the means of getting his message across in a medium that some may say is “not his own” is, and he does it more effectively than others “of his kind”. He fights the stereotypes by letting people know he’s on the same page as many MC’s throughout hip-hop’s history.
(Waywordwonderwill will be available digitally on August 4th, while the CD version will hit merchants on September 8th. No word on if the full album will be released on vinyl.)
As a longtime fan of hard rock and heavy metal, I’ve heard my share of complaints over the years. One big argument is that heavy metal has always been a boys club, with women ending up as spectators (or publicists) rather than participants. When a lady does become a singer or a member of the band, a few will say that ladies still struggle in trying to be like the boys. They may tell you otherwise, but sometimes you’ll hear a song and go “oh, that just sounds like a female Udo Dirkschneider.
But there’s something vocally and musically different about 69 Chambers. If you were to combine the best elements of Pat Benatar, Carrie Akre, and Jennifer Nettles, you would end up with someone like vocalist/guitarist Nina Treml. Then you have a band who can crunch with the likes of System Of A Down, Pantera, and Linkin Park, courtesy of bassist Maddy Madarasz and drummer Diego Rapacchietti. So you have a power trio who play metal and are capable of thrashing it up with low-end riffs but aren’t afraid to play melodically to get from one point of the song to the other, as they demonstrate on their album War On The Inside (Silverwolf Productions). When it comes to truly powerful metal vocalists with a melodic and pop edge, one can easily resort to the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Joey Belladonna, Rob Halford, and Geoff Tate. Treml definitely has a pop edge to her style of singing and, as a male I hear a sensual side, but I like female voices. In truth, she carries a pop sensibility with a bit of ballsiness that comes from not wanting to limit herself, and while it may be a contradiction on paper to combine pop with heavy metal, it works perfectly with 69 Chambers as they handle songs about love lost, fear, and a touch of doom. It isn’t until the halfway point of the album when Treml rips it vocally and sounds like an anorexic Cookie Monster. In other words, the monster hasn’t had cookies in days and sounds disgusted, and you hear elongated screams and grunts followed by a beautiful vocal passage. You would never hear that from Sugarland and yet Treml at times does sound a lot like Nettles, especially in the mellower moments of their repertoire.
I didn’t realize they did it like this in Switzerland, but it’s the perfect recipe that should have been in existence 20 to 30 years ago. These three can tear through chords and riffs that bands with six members or more aren’t capable of doing, and yet through the rage and ugliness they had a bit of pop sensibility that doesn’t weaken their formula. Instead they balance each other out and in the end you’re wanting to enter their 69 Chambers and never leave.