REVIEW: Sundance’s “Midlife Marauders”

 photo SundanceMM_cover_zps39a8d126.jpg When you name your album based on a well known hip-hop album, you’re trying to make a statement. Sundance has done this with Midlife Marauders, a slight look back at A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders but instead waiting until after 12am to find the newness in the music you love, you’re now dealing with the reality of where you’re at now. In this case, midlife can be anything from real life to ones career, taking a look from the outside and trying to understand where you’re at and what to do next.

The vibe of this album feels like something you might hear in a Roots discography, perfectly between How I Got Over and undun, as Sundance tells his story in a very genuine way with little to no metaphors, and it’s somewhat obvious on what he’s talking about. It’s also nice to hear hip-hop that isn’t afraid to sound like it’s older and mature, as if it realized it can’t be 14 forever and wants to celebrate its existence. While the album also features collaborations with Propaganda, Wonder Brown, Cas Metah, Theory Hazit, Ozay Moore, Sojourn, Elias, KJ 52, JustMe, Boombox Titans, J Givens, and Khadia Che among many, you can still hear the fact that this is a Sundance project and everyone else also knows it’s his album too.

While the album also has instrumentals to some of the songs, the true album is about eight songs long running at 30, but it’s the perfect length to tell the stories he is successful in taking. Now that we are in the concept of a midlife crisis, Sundance knows that your menstruating heart can’t bleed enough for two, and now he’s trying to find his way into some level of sanity.


AUDIO: Sundance featuring Propaganda, Wonder Brown, Cas Metah, Elias, KJ-52, JGivens & Khadia Che’s “Rain”

A few days ago I shared with you a new song by Sundance called “Choose Your Weapon”. Two days later, another song for you from his forthcoming Midlife Marauders album on Illect Recordings, and this one is jam packed with guests. It’s called “Rain”, and along with Sundance it features Cas Metah, Khadia Che, Propaganda, Elias, Wonder Brown, JGivens, and KJ-52. The album will make itself known next week Tuesday.

VIDEO: Chad Jones featuring Propaganda and Canon’s “Problem”

Who got a problem? You might have one with Chad Jones but you shouldn’t, for he is here to tell you about a “Problem” and maybe it’s best that you work together to fix it. Jones decided to work together with Propaganda and Canon to handle the situation at hand, and now you can see and hear what happened with everyone involved.

AUDIO: The Battery featuring Propaganda’s “Finna Be”

 photo TheBattery_old_zps46a83eed.jpg
The second single from The Battery’s Two (my review of which can be read by clicking here) is one that features Propaganda, and one of the songs on the album I had hoped would be a single, which means… candidate for a video perhaps? Even if not, this song is a good one.

REVIEW: The Battery’s “Two”

 photo BatteryTwo_cover_zpsc4660c51.jpg With Jurny Big on the mic and Peace 586, The Battery show what they’re about with their style of Christian hip-hop on their new album, Two (Illect). While I do not have any religious affiliation, I enjoy a wide range of styles of hip-hop, including religious/spiritual hip-hop, and when those references are made, that generally means Christian. However, don’t let that be a stereotype and clog your head so that you’re not going to listen. These guys are on the positive side of things and I think with a lot of music being passed off as “music”, it’s nice to hear messages that will motivate people to keep themselves on track and say on the up and up.

I only found one song to go a bit overboard for me, and it’s “Glass”, which is arguably the most positive song on the album. I found the repetition of some of the lyrics getting to the point where it comes off like a mantra. The funny thing is, I love mantras or repetition when it is used in other genres, be it jazz, minimalism, soul, Indian classical, or even a different type of devotional music like Qawwali. This is devotional hip-hop, and yet I found this particular song to be a bit forced, as if it’s trying to convey a message that has no alternate answers or choices, and yet I could easily see their fans saying “well, that is the point of the song, there are no alternate answers or choices”. When I hear artists like Sivion, Braille, or Ruslan, I don’t get that feeling where I feel like I’m being pushed in a corner just because I’m listening, I don’t want music to feel like a threat and it’s something I rarely feel. Is that the power of the almighty word? I understood what Jurny Big was trying to say, but it seemed a bit too much for me.

The rest of the album is well balanced, and the production has that mid to late 90’s feel where the choruses are scratched excerpts from well known tracks, and with Rip One and Kair One assisting in the DJ’ing, they help The Battery charge up the aura of the music to where their “words” are a major contribution to what Two is about. I absolutely loved the track they did with Propaganda, “Finna Be”, and the use of The Fantastic Epic’s bassline is perfect. As for “Glass”, it’s not a bad song but as the saying goes, your mileage may vary. Embrace Two and see how it affects you.

FREE DL: Sundance offer some “Remixes From The Sun”

 photo Sundance_cover_zps7d49b13f.jpg
Genre-bending hip-hop? The more the better.

This project by Sundance highlights some of the music he produced between 2009 to 2012, and if it seems that the hip-hop being pushed is just lame and flatline, you’re missing out on some of the varieties of hip-hop being made in that land called “elsewhere”, where Sundance seems to lounge around in from time to time. The album features tracks from some people you may already be familiar with, including Sivion, Theory Hazit, Mr. J. Medeiros, Lightheaded, and many more.

For those who prefer hard copy, a compact disc will be made available, but you can pre-order the CD by heading to Illect Recordings.

REVIEW: Propaganda’s “Wishful Thinking” (Deluxe Edition)”

Photobucket Once upon a time there was a group called Propaganda

It might seem odd for people outside of the UK and Europe, but Propaganda had hits, and decent hits at that: “Dr. Mabuse”, and “Duel”, and “P-Machinery” were their first three. They may have been barely a footnote for most Americans when it comes to the discussion of 80’s music, but for fans of the Zang Tuum Tumb Empire and the productions of Trevor Horn and Steven Lipson, Propaganda were an important group whose music made an impact on those who chose to “dream within a dream”, and this album represented that. It is a remix album that also served as an alternative perspective to a greatest hits package, something that most artists at the time did not do, at least not until a few more years. The mixes here of their three hits were exclusive to this album, so if you want to hear “Dr. Mabuse”, you could listen to the two-part “Abuse”. If you want “P-Machinery”, you could check out the twists in “Machined”. Or if you liked the “Duel”/”Jewel” single, you could see how it would be blended with “Jewelled”. One of my favorite moments of this mix is in the last chorus where Claudia Brucken‘s screamed vocals of “Jewel” eventually joins and collides with the silkiness of her singing from “Duel” before it comes to an end.

Artists like Bobby Brown and Jody Watley would eventually have remix albums created in their honor, featuring dance mixes you could find on their respective 12″ singles/maxi-cassingles, but Wishful Thinking featured remixes made exclusively for that album. The great thing about synth/dance pop is that even if these mixes were not the single versions, one could enjoy them so you could take an excursion through these songs, remixed so you could hear elements not in the hit, album, remixes, or alternate mixes. It was an additional to the additional. Then as bonuses, you could hear isolated bits from different songs. These isolated segments would be perfect for the DJ’s who would play this material, and today for bedroom producers/remixers to create their own megamixes.

The original Wishful Thinking was just under 40 minutes, but this Deluxe Edition features different mixes and outtakes of songs from the early Propaganda era, including outtakes of “Strength To Dream” and “Dr. Mabuse”, along with celebrated remixes of “P-Machinery” (the respected Beta mix) and instrumentals. There’s now a total of 74 minutes of music here.

If one ever had the balls to ask “how in the hell can you create a greatest hits album from a group who only had/released three singles, Wishful Thinking would be a possible answer. Yes it’s a remix album that doubles as a greatest hits album. Not a mere EP, but a full album that can honestly be experienced as a full album. It may not have the same feel or context as A Secret Wish, but within the realm of Propaganda and ZTT, as a voice said in a remix of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s “Rage Hard”, “anything can happen”.

For those outside of Europe who may only know of Propaganda as a mere footnote, this is the perfect place to start to discover what they created. It’s music, it’s exploitation, it’s temptation, it’s tomfoolery, it’s powerful, it’s egotistical, it’s sensational, and it was something quite moving. They also made songs that still drive people crazy because of how emotional Brucken’s voice is, singing lyrics that are powerful now as they were when this was originally released.

SOME STUFFS: Zang Tuum Tumb to release deluxe edition of Propaganda remix album

For some American fans, this release may come as a bit of a shock, especially since Propaganda‘s music was not heavily pushed/promoted here. After the release of their debut album, A Secret Wish, Zang Toom Toom Records decided to put together what worked as a greatest hits EP consisting of the hit singles that had come from the album, put in a few album tracks, but created brand new music of everything so that even if you bought the 45, the 12″, and the cassette singles, there would still be something unique upon listening to it. The album was (perhaps) aptly called Wishful Thinking, as if the label was perhaps aware of what they were doing, but despite the marketing plan, the album did work on its own merits. It allowed Propaganda fans to hear their favorite song in a new way, and the production work made it possible to dig deeper into the mechanics of the machine. While the album was released in the U.S. in the late 1990’s, it was a bit after the fact and did not get much attention, if at all.

Over 25 years after its original release, ZTT have remastered it and are releasing it as a deluxe edition, complete with liner notes about the album along with previously unreleased material, as the ZTT vaultmasters continue to find delightful goodies.

Here is the official track listing for the deluxe edition of Wishful Thinking:
1. Abuse
2. Machined
3. Laughed
4. Loving
5. Jewelled
6. Loved
7. Abuse
8. Thought
9. Strength to Dream (Outtake 04.02.84)
10. p:Machinery (The Beta Wraparound)
11. The Murder of Love (Murderous Instrumental)
12. Dr Mabuse (Outtake 24.04.85)
13. Frozen Faces ( A Secret Sense of Rhythm)
14. p:Machinery (The Voiceless Beta Wraparound Edit)

The original album consisted of tracks 1-8 (with the instrumental “Thought” being a personal favorite), so even if you have the original CD pressing, you have some extra goodies to dive into. This deluxe edition will be released on June 12th.

REVIEW: “The Art Of The 12″, Volume Two”

Photobucket The Zang Tuum Tumb empire has dug through the virtual vaults to put together the second volume of The Art Of The 12″ compilation series (ZTT/Salvo).

There are many, including myself, who feel that what the ZTT collective of producers and artists did was to show listeners and fans the possibilities of “the strange world of the 12 inch”, or what one can do with an extended version of the song within the context of the ingredients in the soup called a song. If you made any attempt in collecting some level of output from ZTT, you know how thorough and costly it was to simply listen to everything. You had the 7″, the 12″, the cassingle, the alternate 12″, maybe a third alternate, then you heard there was a white label promo, and that there were two different white label promos, and when the compact disc single came to light, you had to add to that. Then when ZTT released compilations describing their process, it almost feels like there were infinite mixes, remixes, and alternate takes of almost everything. Thus, that’s what makes The Art Of The 12″ a fun listen.

What you’ll hear on Volume Two is a mixture of the known and the unknown. For me, my focus has always been Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise and Propaganda, and they are represented well here. The “keep the peace” mix of “Two Tribes” is basically a compilation mix/edit piece of various remixes of the song, including Carnard, Annihilation, and Hibakusha. This “keep the peace” mix found itself on the cassingle for “Two Tribes”, but makes a nice digital presence here. If you were a fan of their cover of Edwin Starr‘s “War”, you’ll get to hear the song here, but now present as a previously-unreleased “coming out of hiding” mix. Also previously unreleased is the “Man As A Sense For The Discovery Of Beauty, Part I” mix of “Relax”. Yes, yet another mix of the almighty “Relax”, and this one begins with an element you could originally find on the cassingle of “The Power Of Love”, before hearing the Ronald Reagan impersonator from mixes of “War” revealing dialogue that in itself is previously unreleased. In a way, it becomes a hybrid of “Relax” to “Two Tribes” to “War”, and the struggle one perhaps creates as they make their way to a pleasure dome.

Propaganda are represented here with two mixes of “Dr. Mabuse” and a 12″ mix of “Sorry For Laughing”, a song that, along with the liner notes from Ian Peel, I felt should have been released as a proper single.

Art Of Noise fans are treated well here, and it shows that even with compilations and a mighty box set to their name, there’s still some music that was left unheard. While it is known that Art Of Noise had done a remix for Paul McCartney‘s “Spies Like Us”, the released 12″ version (called “(Alternative Mix-Known To His Friends As ‘Tom'”) was decent but is put to dust with the proper “Art Of Noise Remix”. In this mix, you’ll hear elements from the “Alternative Mix” but this is the one that should’ve been released. It’s more funky, more out there, and the AoN sense of continuity is here when you hear various sampled elements of what you may have heard in Malcolm McLaren songs. Also here are the much rumored, much discussed 808 State remixes of “Moments In Love”, and they appear here in two different mixes. You also have the “Close Up” mix of “Close (To The Edit)” along with my favorite, “Close Up (Hop)”, complete with samples of the pu’ili.

Also on the album are mixes of songs by Anne Pigalle, Instinct, Nasty Rox Inc., and Mint Juleps, and together they show the kind of creativity, courage, power, strength, and lengths these artists, producers, and remix engineers did in order to stretch the limits of the limited perceptions of music. People weren’t just buying ZTT records for the phenomenon, people were listening to questions, answers, solutions, and new journeys.

Peel’s liner notes reveal the kind of information that will hopefully turn up a Volume Three someday, or at least the release of certain mixes of songs that I was not aware existed. Yes, there was art in creating mixes for 12″ singles, and in every 12″ single there was art. This can be considered excavation of sound rubble, and only those who know and understand the hazards of the excavation will bother going in. It’s a lesson for anyone who loves the art of the remix. It certainly wasn’t Diddy who invented it, and to their credit it wasn’t ZTT Records who came up with it either, but with the information on how to recreate from what was created, it was a chance (or a dance) to see what could be produced from the already-produced. It’s a bit like looking at a plant and realize you are able to grow more plants. It seems like an endless journey, but I hope this journey will continue for awhile. The music hear sounds as youthful as it did when they were recorded, and hopefully will provide zest to a new generation of music creators who will learn vastly from the lessons on these two discs.

SOME STUFFS: ZTT Records to release second installment of “The Art Of The 12″” compilation series

The purveyors of the 12 inch, the extended remix? While there are many possible answers, somehow it all leads back to the Zed. That is ZTT, or Zee-T-T for us Americans, which of course stands for Zang Tuum Tumb, the mightiest of all almighty record labels. ZTT had released The Art Of The 12″ compilation last year, merely dipping in to touch some of the great remixers the labels had released in its history. They’re about to do it again with The Art Of The 12″, Volume Two, subtitled A Revelation of the Extended Remix and this one is looking even sweeter than the first.

The new collection will be a 2 CD collection, featuring tracks released by ZTT, previously-unreleased-but-highly-discussed mixes, along with items that have been items of desire for ZTT-afficionados for years. They include:

  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s “Two Tribes (keep the peace)” (15 minute mix)
  • Art Of Noise‘s “Moments In Love (Parts 1 & 2)” (remixed by 808 State‘s Graham Massey
  • Propaganda‘s “Dr Mabuse Der Spieler”
  • Paul McCartney‘s “Spies Like Us (12” remix by Art Of Noise) (press release states this one is previously released, so not sure if this means it’s a different version than the one on the “Spies Like Us” 12 single)
  • Godley & Creme‘s “Cry” (Trevor Horn‘s 12″ remix, previously unreleased on CD)
  • Scritti Politti‘s “Absolute” (a dub mix by Art of Noise’s Gary Langan)

    ZTT have been digging deep into their vaults for what seems like a wealth of riches, but in truth shows how much of today’s music they’ve influenced. As long as the goods are there, why not keep their history and legacy alive? The Art Of The 12″, Volume Two will be released on the 20th of February.