Categories
Music Reviews

Rio Baile Funk

Rio Baile Funk

Favela Booty Beats

Essay Recordings

For years now, I’ve been wondering how the world music scene in our country became so lame. How, excluding electronic music’s experimentations, all we’ve been exposed to is the same stuff we were getting back in ’96, when world music started taking off in the US. I was sure it was some kind of Putumayo conspiracy (though I will give them credit for their Groove series). And thanks to some traveling I’ve been fortunate to do recently and some friends looking out for me while they’ve been away, I’m almost convinced that a conspiracy is indeed afoot. ‘Cause world music has some very interesting offerings out there that have yet to reach our shores. There’s Malaysian Indian and Maori hip-hop. There’s Taiwanese R&B, and I’m sure tons of things we’ll never know about.

But partially (I’m sure) thanks to Diplo, we Americans now can enjoy one of the funnest cultural hybrids that few of us know exists: Baile. This exciting new genre is basically Brazilian bass. That woofer-thumping, rump-shaking rap made famous by 2 Live Crew has somehow flown farther south to land in Sao Paolo and has migrated back home in the form of Rio Baile Funk. This compilation is a pelvis-thrusting good time. A hedonistic party waiting to happen.

A bunch of Brazilian MCs you’ve never heard of before bang over the Miami beat with real party stoppers like “Pavaroty” and “Mulher Coca Cola,” the rocking “Popozuda Rock’n’Roll,” ’80s-synth stoppers “Cidade de Deus” and “Cavalo de Pau” and a “Who Let the Dogs Out?” reprise, “O Baile Todo.”

Though you’ll have no clue what they’re saying, the beat is unmistakable. For bass fans, this disc will be part-reminiscence and part-multicultural experience — and all-parts fun. I don’t know how often the bass crowd and world music crowd actually mix, but each can find common ground and a good time with these Favela Booty Beats.

Essay Recordings: www.essayrecordings.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Akufen

Akufen

Fabric 17

Fabric Records

With his debut album, My Way, Akufen (Quebecois Marc Leclair) skillfully placed himself in the forefront, along with Matthew Dear, of the minimal house scene. With his mashing together of absolute noise, blips and bleeps and incredibly miniscule and unrecognizable samples, he created one of the funkiest, maddest experiments available on CD. He has now taken that terrifying talent to the Fabric series.

Armed with two turntables and a mixer, Akufen serves up a delicious, live mix that will stun in its brilliance. He absolutely obliterates the disc (and preconceived notions) with utterly danceable minimalist tracks from the likes of Herbert, Freaks, Stephen Beaupré, Matthew Dear and dub.e.us. Each song pounds with their quirky beats (with the lamentable exception of Señor Coconut’s cover of “Smoke on the Water”) and melds beautifully into the next track. Leclair provides a seamless dance experience that you simply cannot find anywhere else, and he shows that even this mind-boggling genre can really move you.

Fabric Records: www.fabriclondon.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Insight

Insight

The Maysun Project

Ascetic Music

Hip hop heads can all remember the late ’80s/early ’90s, when hard-line politics mixed with hard-ass beats. Boston’s own Insight remembers that volatile time and resurrects the spirit that feels all but dead in the present-day rap scene.

The Maysun Project feels totally old school, and yet it is still fresher than oven-baked bread. Insight brings his formidable production skills (he’s worked with the likes of KRS-One, Pete Rock, Mr. Lif and running partner Dagha) to bring you hip-hop the way it’s supposed to be: raw and in your face. With an old school cadence that’s reminiscent of the Spoonie Gs and P.U.T.S.s of the world, Insight slings pure acid on today’s political scene. W., consumerism, the military-industry complex and multinational corporations are all exposed to the burn.

On occasion, like on “Heaven and Hell” and “Confrontation,” Insight gives you distortion-heavy hardcore beats. Other times, he goes back to ’88, with songs like “Intermission” (where he gives a Big Daddy Kane rapid-fire delivery) or “The Threat.” Spoken word makes an appearance with Michael Elmoore on “Conference.” Dagha, Mr. Lif, KRS-One and Jayda round out the guest appearances. All combine for a real nice journey into hip-hop’s harder past — and future?

Ascetic Music: www.asceticmusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Lisala

Lisala

Get It

Anonka Records

For folks looking for alternatives to the pop/R&B scene when Goapele’s not enough, Lisala’s Get It is here. Like the aforementioned songstress, Lisala delivers a very compelling debut that’s worth repeated listening. She also layers her multifaceted voice into swirling, hypnotic tapestries. But that is where the comparisons end (after all, I’m not writing a Goapele review).

Lisala does add a unique talent to R&B that is gladly welcome. She combines her elastic voice with her own very idiosyncratic beats. The end result is a very new soul ride well worth taking. Her voice is somewhere between Chaka Khan and SWV: a nasally, plaintive voice that can delve deep into heartache (“At All Times” and “Last Tear”), but is best showcased on the minimal, electro hi-hat track “Apple Pie,” a master stroke. And much like Spacek (but much more accessible), Lisala brings a quirky, electronic sound to R&B that lays outside neo-soul cliché and urban radio regurgitations. Songs like “Watching Me,” “Have to Say” and “Lie to Me” are definitely R&B with a fresh perspective that is sorely lacking on today’s radio dial. Get It is not hard to grasp, and is a delight to behold. One should certainly look forward to more from Lisala.

Lisala: www.lisala.com

Categories
Music Reviews

DJ Rupture

DJ Rupture

Special Gunpowder

Tigerbeat6

Boston-born/Barcelona-residing Jace Clayton may take you around the musical globe with his debut effort, but he definitely does not beat around the bush. Special Gunpowder is live and direct, a jab to the solar plexus that may make you see stars, or even the future of popular music (though that claim has been made way too many times before).

Rupture has a kaleidoscopic, distorted vision of music that utterly captivates and moves you. It’s a discordant world sound that would never find itself on a mellow Putumayo compilation. Clayton joins the likes of Krush and Vadim in taking disparate influences and blending them with distorted, hardcore beats. He mines dancehall, dub, spoken word and straight-up noise into an intoxicating blend that is edgy, yet somehow accessible and enjoyable.

“Taqasim” is an Arabic hip-hop instrumental that is absolutely phenomenal. Equally fantastic is “Mosquito,” a minimalist Latin house-y jam that left me hitting repeat until I got metacarpal tunnels. There’s a lot of industrial-sounding dancehall, like “Little More Oil” with Sister Nancy, “Flop We” with Junior Cat and “Dem Nuh Know Me” with Wayne Lonesome, that provides a whole new take on that old genre. You could almost consider him a Krush of dancehall. “Je Suis Le Peuple Sans Visage” with Arnaud Michniak would make RZA proud. He even throws in some spoken word with Elizabeth Alevander (“Overture: Watermelon City”) and some nice melancholia with Lily on “Lonesome Side” and Sindhu Zagoren on “Mole in the Ground.”

While all these disparate influences seem to promise a schizophrenic musical experience, Special Gunpowder is impressively cohesive. Rupture has a clear, distinct style that is a bit dark, yet incurably infectious. Incredibly unique, like M.I.A., it is somehow easily accessible and eminently pleasurable. This album is a real treat that does not disappoint.

Tigerbeat6: www.tigerbeat6.com

Categories
Music Reviews

DJ Premier & Mr. Thing

DJ Premier & Mr. Thing

The Kings of Hip Hop

BBE/Rapster

BBE continues its Kings of… series with underground hip-hop legend Premier and former Scratch Pervert, Mr. Thing, exploring hip-hop (after already delving into the origins of funk and disco). Premier has the task of collecting rap’s influences. He offers up Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Jerry Butler and Rufus with Chaka Khan, among others.

Mr. Thing concentrates mostly on ’90s hip-hop, with a lot of Black Moon, a couple Pete Rock and CL Smooth cuts and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo.” There are other classics, like “Microphone Fiend,” Big Daddy Kane’s “Set It Off” and a remix of Das EFX’s “Mic Checka.”

This double disc collection’s a lot of fun, but the dilettante crate digger in all of us will be a little disappointed. There’s not much obscurity on either disc. If you’re a fan of old soul and hip-hop, most of these songs will be familiar to you and are probably already on your iPod. But it’s still worth checking out — though don’t expect many “rare gems” here. Maybe Masters at Work’s Kings of House will put the series back on its intriguing track.

BBE: www.bbemusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

Artist’s Choice: Music That Matters to Her

Hear Music

When I was a kid and a fervent baseball fan, I could never understand the Rex Hudlers of the diamond world. He was the prototypical utility infielder: not much defense, always hit 5-10 homers a year, drove in about 40 runs a season. The perfect picture of mediocrity. I could never figure out why a guy with such a limp bat could linger around the majors for over 10 years. There just had to be an exciting prospect somewhere in the minors who could do better than that.

But then it was explained to me that guys like that stuck because you knew exactly what you got with them. They didn’t produce much, but they did it consistently. With a prospect you never knew what you’d get. And it was Rex’s predictability that helped managers figure out how to win games.

When Starbucks Coffee’s Hear Music label asked Norah Jones to conceive an Artist’s Choice compilation (following others by Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Diana Krall, and others), they were thinking Rex Hudler. By no means mediocre, Norah Jones’s following her stunning debut with a rewind, carbon copy sophomore effort told us what we can expect from the ingénue in the future.

This compilation’s supposed to give us a glimpse at Jones’s record collection and, by extension, her influences. And the pop/jazz diva doesn’t surprise anyone here. While I wasn’t expecting a Primus-NWA-John Cage mix, the predictability of this disc is a bit disappointing. Of course, Norah Jones likes Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Aretha, Willie Nelson and Nina Simone. Who doesn’t? The inclusion of Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” are the closest things to mild surprises you’re gonna get here. But there just has to be more, another level of complexity. Doesn’t there?

As I said, this compilation is far from mediocre. It’s fantastic. It couldn’t help being fantastic. It’s filled with damned near every legend of twentieth century popular music. It’s as safe and inoffensive as Jones’s music is, and it is about as surprising as a sunrise. You won’t at all be disappointed, unless you were looking for deeper insight into Jones herself. Hopefully, this isn’t as deep as it gets. She’s just got to be a heavier hitter than Rex.

Hear Music: www.hearmusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

RZA and Keb Darge

RZA and Keb Darge

Kings of Funk

BBE

BBE is once again proving that they are one of the most intriguing and exciting hip-hop labels in operation today. After string after string of critically-acclaimed albums, these Brits still take nothing for granted and have now launched the incredibly compelling Kings of… series. Following the double-disc compilation Kings of Disco by Joey Negro and Dmitri from Paris, they now bring together RZA and deep funkster Keb Darge for this second tribute in the series.

As opposed to a Greatest Hits series, this is more like Six Degrees’ old Under the Influence line. Kings of Funk is a tribute to the crate digger in all of us. RZA’s disc is much more of a chill session and definitely the more recognizable of the discs. Lynn Collins, Bobbi Humphrey, Sly and Booker T. and the MGs are on this one. Ken Boothe’s “It’s Because I’m Black” is a reggae gem, Boothe’s plaintive voice haunting long after the gritty track’s finished. And Harlem Underground’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is so RZA it must’ve appeared on 36 Chambers.

Keb Darge’s compilation, however, is more for the obscure dance freak. It’s a hipster DJ’s dream. There are crypto-juke joint stomps by Sharon Jones and Quantic. MFSB’s “Family Affair” is pure adrenaline funk. And cuts by Brand New, Mighty Generation and Skying High will definitely get you moving.

The Kings of Funk has something for every dedicated funkateer and old soul fan. Whether chilling or dancing, this is a compilation you’ll quickly grow to appreciate. Once again, BBE must be commended for a job well done.

BBE: www.bbemusic.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Savath + Savalas

Savath + Savalas

Apropa’t

Warp

There is still a grievous misconception out there in the general public that these DJ/producer types aren’t really musicians. Most folks think that these artists simply cut and paste samples on top of frenetic 4/4 beats and call it a day. Now, I’m not going to say that these artists and that process don’t exist. But there is so much more.

Scott Herren (aka Savath + Savalas or Prefuse 73, depending on the day) is definitely one of those exceptions. Along with the likes of DJ Spooky, P’Taah, Flanger and Matthew Herbert, Herren has proven that there’s more than one inning in the electronic game.

On Apropa’t, Herren has teamed up with Spanish singer Eva Puyuelo to create a truly wonderful masterwork. Very rarely can one find such a daring album, no matter the genre. Herren has mixed live instrumentation and electronic wizardry to immaculate effect. Imagine Brasil 66 on acid sung in Spanish. This album is a melancholia dreamscope full of subtle tones and lush colors. It takes you to another world full of sadness and separation, a place to lose your soul in everything morose. Yet, it’s a beautiful, wondrous depression. There’s a profound poetry in every note that is truly a celebration. One can’t help but marvel at the artistry in this work, the skill and talent that both Herren and Puyuelo possess. They dip us gently into dark waters in which one can happily swim. How many musicians can accomplish that?

Warp Records: www.warprecords.com/

Categories
Music Reviews

Savath + Savalas

Savath + Savalas

Apropa’t

Warp

There is still a grievous misconception out there in the general public that these DJ/producer types aren’t really musicians. Most folks think that these artists simply cut and paste samples on top of frenetic 4/4 beats and call it a day. Now, I’m not going to say that these artists and that process don’t exist. But there is so much more.

Scott Herren (aka Savath + Savalas or Prefuse 73, depending on the day) is definitely one of those exceptions. Along with the likes of DJ Spooky, P’Taah, Flanger and Matthew Herbert, Herren has proven that there’s more than one inning in the electronic game.

On Apropa’t, Herren has teamed up with Spanish singer Eva Puyuelo to create a truly wonderful masterwork. Very rarely can one find such a daring album, no matter the genre. Herren has mixed live instrumentation and electronic wizardry to immaculate effect. Imagine Brasil 66 on acid sung in Spanish. This album is a melancholia dreamscope full of subtle tones and lush colors. It takes you to another world full of sadness and separation, a place to lose your soul in everything morose. Yet, it’s a beautiful, wondrous depression. There’s a profound poetry in every note that is truly a celebration. One can’t help but marvel at the artistry in this work, the skill and talent that both Herren and Puyuelo possess. They dip us gently into dark waters in which one can happily swim. How many musicians can accomplish that?

Warp Records: www.warprecords.com