A(lways).$(trive).A(nd).P(rosper) Mob is back again with another all star cast of both rappers and producers including A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ant, A$AP Twelvyyy, KEY!, Tyler The Creator, Skepta, and even Playboy Carti. The varying mix of both producer and lyricist credits adds a great level of depth and variety to the overwhelming amount of outstanding sounds that A.$.A.P Mob brings forth.
Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends opens with the smash hit, “Yamborghini High.” A track that includes a small two-minute skit about just how far A.$.A.P Mob has come before launching into the booming bass, sports car samples, and a dreamy near gospel like production that allows Rocky, Ferg, Juicy J, A$AP Ant, and A$AP Nast to flow near effortlessly. The entire track feels like a call back to the past of A.$.A.P Mob and it only furthers that feeling with the use of the skit where they explain “Niggas ain’t cozy bruh. We been doing this shit, all of a sudden you see niggas out here, sweat-suited up, with they nappy-ass terry cloth and all that shit, they tryna’ look like the homies.”
Then as the bass begins to kick in, A$AP Rocky and Juicy J begin to deliver the chorus of the track “Yamborghini-high, Lambo by the crib. This is how it is, yeah, these niggas fake, no we can’t relate.” Nearly setting the tone for the rest of the record of how A.$.A.P. Mob will always do their own thing, and become unrelatable in a world full of imposters. The constant angelic background vocals that echo behind A.$.A.P Mob’s rather sinister sounding vocals are an interesting contrast. “Yamborghini High’s” beat is definitely one of the more uplifting moments of Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 and It involves a substantial beat change toward the tracks end that easily segues into the following, “Crazy Brazy.”
“Crazy Brazy” was released earlier as a teaser track for the Cozy Tapes, just like the previous track “Yamborghini High.” “Crazy Brazy” has a quick chorus delivered by Rocky before reaching into both Twelvyyy and Rocky’s verses. The chorus is actually a clever combination of both A$AP Rocky and KEY!, together the two trade verses about “[A$AP Rocky] I got a lot on my head, Gucci rag tied on my head. Put a red dot on your head, I put that guap on your head. Don’t be talking to me crazy. [KEY!] I got a lot on my mind, I put that guap on my mind, I got a lot on my mind, I put that nine to your mind. Don’t talk to me Brazy.
Once A$AP Rocky jumps into his verse, he explains how “They don’t play me on the station, press ’em like detonation.” An obvious reference to how A$AP Mob is not going to be played on the radio but it makes no difference, they will continue on and strive in other ways. The instrumentation uses a combative style beat that relies on 808 drums, some tapping hi-hats, and what sounds like a bouncing electric piano or some use of a synthesizer. It is complementary of A.$.A.P. Mob’s use of elegance and hardcore East Coast rap style that constantly conflicts, but always sounds so intriguing and unique.
The Next track, “Way Hii” features a plethora of different artists, BJ The Chicago Kid, LA based rapper Buddy, and Pittsburgh hero and native Wiz Khalifa all make public appearances. BJ The Chicago Kid delivers the chorus and a short barred verse, while Khalifa, Rocky, and Buddy deliver the primary verse of the track.
Rocky and Khalifa double team the floating and wavy beat, trading bars discussing “Niggas is talking, we living it though. Finna’ pull up in this bitch in my robe,” before letting The Chicago Kid finish the track off with the chorus “Getting hard to tell what the fuck I’m on. Every verse a half, every hook is on.”
The following track “Young Nigga Living” opens with A$AP Ant delivering some bars over a beat that sounds like it uses different distorted strings and a diverse hi-hat instrumental that constantly adapts to the feel of the verse. For the much faster sections of the track where A$AP Ant, Ferg, Twelvyyy are delivering quicker bars, the hi-hat speeds up into a rapid fire sound where the bass and snare cracks are put more towards the background. Twelvyyy delivers the chorus of the track where it also bleeds into the next track or skit, “Nasty’s World.”
The skit intertwined in “Nasty’s World” features the joking side where A.$.A.P. Mob clowns each other before having A$AP Nast completely destroy and control this track from start to finish. The track uses a string ensemble and this classic boom-bap beat that echoes the sound that New York practically originated and made famous.
Nast’s verse and the track “Nasty’s World” is actually one of the better tracks on Cozy Tapes: Volume 1, it features some great verses and lines “The pigs annoying like the sound of locusts, I style wild plus my rhymes the dopest. My squad the best, a bunch of lyrical soldiers, Just Roc-A-Fella, Hov-a-sclupture,” but also features a unique instrumental that taps into the classic sound of East Coast rap. It almost feels nostalgic and has a great sense of pride that trails behind the track.
Following is “Money Man,” it sounds similar to the track “Crazy Brazy” where the beat changes up from 808’s to a more classic style of bass in-between interludes. This is not to say that the track is not with its own personality as A$AP Rocky delivers a great closer of the track where he explains “Choose a side, suicide. You and I, crucified, you despise. I’m the best, you decide.”
The next track, “Put That On My Set” is actually another highlight of Cozy Tapes as it samples Willie Hutch’s “Brothers Gonna Work It Out.” The track is a slowdown where Rocky and Skepta trade verses and the whole track has a much darker tone than the other tracks off of Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends. A$AP Rocky delivers a line explaining his view on the world, “Understand, I’m a man tryna make it in a world of death.” Skepta also delivers a darker line “See the pain in my eyes I don’t wanna cry, put my life on the line… For my blood all the time.” The gorgeous beat mixed with the grim lines make for a constant uninviting feel throughout the track.
There is then the skit “Motivation Foreign” where a man and woman discuss going to London simply because they can. “London Town” then follows after the skit actually feels like it would have fit Skepta much better than “Put That On My Set.” This track sounds more synonymous with the United Kingdom Grime style that Skepta is well-known for. The low tuned buzzing basement sounding bass mixed with the quick snake like rattle of the hi-hat feels more suitable to artists like Kano, or Wiley rather than rappers from Harlem. But, surprisingly the track works quite well and is actually an impressive of mix of cultures from both London and New York.
The following track, “Runner” sounds rather similar to “London Town” and features Lil Uzi Vert where he controls most of the track, only letting A$AP Ant contribute to the second verse. The track is not immensely filling, but Uzi Vert does make the hook of the track feel more fun and energized. It feels like a club song, but nothing that is progressive.
“Bachelor” follows and this feels much more like a track by Future, or another artist that uses more of a “turn up” approach to their tracks. It also features Lil Yachty, who delivers the first verse of the track, but is ultimately short-lived. The later tracks on Cozy Tape: Volume 1 drastically change into more of a party bang style than the darker and less bravado like tracks of the first half.
The last track “Telephone Calls” features Tyler, The Creator, Playboy Carti, and Yung Gleesh. This instrumental is a strange mix of both 808 drums, acoustic sounding bass drums, and a near siren like sound that changes key to create a piano like instrument. The actual verses themselves are energetic and the chemistry between Rocky and Tyler, as well as the chemistry between Gleesh and Carti are just outstanding. They both bounce off of each other and create one of the more enticing tracks of Cozy Tape.
Cozy Tapes: Volume 1 – Friends is a substantial record coming from A.S.A.P. Mob. The way they use their energy, raw authentic motivation, and hustle like attitude conveys possibly one of the better records of this current year, and all around a gratifying way to pay tribute to the late A$AP YAMS.
Public Enemy’s most wanted, the multi-threat consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, DJ Lord, and Professor Griff made waves when connecting rap music to a community, bringing emotional and physical distress to the foreground of society. Public Enemy captured a unique funk/rock style into hip-hop music, blending both genre and social issues into one complete package.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the sophomore album from East Coast destroyers, Public Enemy. Starting off the record with “Countdown to Armageddon,” a track that begins as more of the opening scene to a film rather than a song, it uses blaring sirens and Professor Griff delivering lines about how “Armageddon had been in effect,” and how the “Revolution will not be televised.” Griff acts as a hype man before launching into “Bring The Noise,” a track where both Flavor Flav and Chuck D make their first appearance of the album.
Malcolm X actually begins “Bring The Noise” with a sample from his “Message to The Grassroots Speech,” where X explains “It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong.” Public Enemy samples instead where Malcolm X explains “Too Black…Too Strong.” Using Malcolm X’s strong words to begin the track and essentially the musical aspect of It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back showcases the strong political influence that Public Enemy displayed in their musical message.
“Bring The Noise” focuses on using different funk samples from James Brown, Funkadelic, and the “Soul Sister # 1” Marva Whitney. All together these samples create what sounds like a funk song created in the 90’s. It uses different drum rolls and a groovy bass line that continues to bounce the track between a shrieking amount of distorted horns and Flavor Flav continually backing Chuck D acting as the world’s greatest hype man.
The slick use of funk then perfectly cascades into “Don’t Believe The Hype,” a jamming track that uses a record scratch and more James Brown samples. The track “Synthetic Substitution” by Melvin Bliss makes up the drum beat, and Chuck D; The MC continues to aggressively control the direction of “Don’t Believe The Hype.” Chuck D has a powerful approach to his lyrics, explaining in one line that “The minute they see me, fear me. I’m the epitome of Public Enemy, Used, abused without clues. I refuse to blow a fuse, they even had it on the news.”
“Don’t Believe The Hype,” focuses more on the influence that rap music had during the 90’s and its continued focus throughout history to follow. Chuck D explains that following hype and trends will only lead to the demise of the followers. The next track, “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor” focuses more on Flavor Flav’s rapping aspect of Public Enemy. Flav uses his audacious attitude to begin the track with some of the more personal verses about how he can “Take the dopest beat and rock it,” and how his “Clock on my chest proves I don’t fess.” The constant combative style of Chuck D, mixed with the more amusing and uplifting sound of Flavor Flav creates an even balance within It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back.
The following, “Terminator X to The Edge of Panic” makes an interesting use of “Flash’s Theme” from Flash Gordon movie made famously by the prolific rock group Queen. It also contains some substantial bars asking “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy,” and how there is “No Peace to reach, that’s why he is packing his black piece.” It uses interesting wordplay and an anti-establishment style that Public Enemy was made famous for using. The group was more about moving a message among the people rather than making money or obtaining fame. The group was for the betterment of a society, not personal gain.
Chuck D once explained,
“Rap is supposed to be about keeping it real and not relinquishing your roots in the community. Without that, it’s just posturing. Somebody who claims to speak for the hood don’t need no private jet.”
He also explained why he was so anti-establishment,
“Government and culture are two diametrically opposed forces. The one blinds and oppresses, the other uplifts and unites.”
This was what Public Enemy based its roots upon, every track on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back focuses on either government or societal issues.
The track “Mind Terrorist” is only simply an instrumental, but the following track, “Louder Than a Bomb” immediately launches into speaking about why Chuck D is on file, “Cause I give you what you lack, come right and exact Our status is the saddest so I care where you at, black.” “Louder Than a Bomb” also focuses more on the instrumental side of using more funk samples of different artists like Kool & The Gang and The Fantastic Five, but also using American Hard Rock Band Mountain’s hit “Long Red.” The constant blending of sampling is just one of the ways that Public Enemy continues to change their style both through the tone and musical approach.
“Caught, Can We Get a Witness” follows and uses an outstanding sample of James Brown’s live tape “Soul Power.” It makes the track feel like a 1970’s police chase or something that would be used in a jungle style of music. The electric guitar used and the authentic drums mixed with Chuck D, Professor Griff, and Flavor Flav on the microphones continue to impress on a production aspect. The lyrical aspect is also impressive as Chuck D delivers some lines pertaining to the performers of Chuck’s time, “You singers are spineless, as you sing your senseless songs to the mindless.”
Following is “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got,” which is more of a slow down from the constant rushed tempo of most of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The sample used is a dreamy saxophone and while the track has no real lines or bars, it instead uses different samples pertaining to Black Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Adam Clayton Powell, and even the heavier hitters of the civil rights leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.
The next track, “She Watch Channel Zero?!” uses a Slayer sample from the track “Angel of Death” and a sample from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” which is a track that is constantly sampled all over It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
“Night of The Living Baseheads” trails behind and uses a sample of Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad who later served as a member of the Black Panther Party, describing “Have you forgotten that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our name, robbed of our language. We lost our religion, our culture, our god…and many of us, by the way we act, we even lost our minds.” This track uses distorted horns to lay down the framework of the instrumental, it also uses “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band for the percussion aspect of the track. There is also a sample of David Bowie’s “Fame” that acts as a small interlude into the rest of the beat.
Then the track “Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos” follows and decides to use the opening line, “I got a letter from the government the other day I opened and read it, it said they were suckers.” Still one of the more clever ways to start a track off, and the execution behind Chuck D’s voice is outstanding. This track is slower, but still the powerful use of thumping bass and bouncing piano keeps the instrumental feeling weighted and impactful. Chuck D shares on the experiences of going and sitting in a prison cell, “They got me rotting in the time that I’m serving.”
“Security of The First World” is another instrumental track, but it comes right before one of the highlight tracks of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, “Rebel Without a Pause.” It features a sample “I Don’t Know What This World is Coming to,” by The Soul Children before launching into one of the more frantic boom-bap tracks of the record. Chuck D delivers a great complementary assault of lyrics along with the instrumentation. D also throws down some lines about the other members of Public Enemy, “Flavor, a rebel in his own mind. Supporter of my rhyme, designed to scatter a line of suckers who claim I do crime.”
The last two tracks, both “Prophets of Rage,” and “Party for Your Right to Fight” focus on the political and anti-establishment style that Public Enemy made famous. Party for Your Right to Fight” sounds more like a dance or a club track than anything. It is obviously a reference to the Beastie Boys track “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right to Party.” It is also where the term “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is coined.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back will always be looked as a monumental piece in American Protest History. Public Enemy will continually shake the Earth, influencing both young and old; allowing everyone to band together and create a nation of millions.
The Body is a two-piece sludge/noise/metal band that formed in Providence, Rhode Island. Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Chip King, and drummer/programmer Lee Buford. The body has worked with many additional artists, spanning from Full of Hell, Thou, Krieg, and a plethora of different genre breaking artists that are able to constantly change the mold of The Body’s sound.
No One Deserves Happiness is the band’s attempt to make “The grossest pop album of all time.” The Body while having many different labels, pop music is most certainly not one that jumps into a listener’s head as the screaming vocals, muddy background instrumentation, and the very layered and busy production aspect of things keeps No One Deserves Happiness feeling like everything but a pop album. The Body achieves the sound of a metallic noise duo more than anything, continuing to shatter the Earth with every bass note, every drum smack, and every blood-curdling screech that lurks around every corner.
“Wanderings” is the start up track, the prime example of how The Body can combine both beauty and disgust into one sound. The angelic vocals from Chrissy Wolpert allow for the song to have a gentle build up with a quiet drum beat and dramatic trombone, before launching into the punishing noise from cymbals crashing and King’s outrageous background vocals that almost overpower the rest of the track. King’s vocals are unique in the aspect of taking a high-pitched approach where they constantly sound like he is in immense pain when singing. “Wanderings” then ends with the Wolpert’s angelic vocals being swallowed by the rest of The Body’s dominant levels, before returning to the quiet drum beat that began the track in the same way.
The following track, “Shelter Is Illusory” uses mighty tom drum hits to begin the groundwork. Then as King’s vocals begin to reign in the background, the track starts to use dramatic guitar strums that build up alongside the drums. This creates a synthetic and authentic feel to the track. It uses a wide-variety of instruments to keep the complex sound, but simple style fresh and unique to any other release of the time. No One Deserves Happiness’s unique sound can be a result of this “synthetic and authentic sound.”
The track “For You” is instantly a noise-ridden mess of atmospheric, horror-movie like sounds that uses static to convey this scrambled confusion within the song. There are distant screams heard, most likely from King as he only adds to this confusion and scrambled nature with the sound of his voice seemingly coming from nowhere. Buford also seems to come out of thin air with these rapid snare hits that are so hidden within the scrambling static that it is almost difficult to even hear them being played. “For You” then jumps right into the next track with no hesitation, a leap into the great unknown that is “Hallow / Hollow.”
“Hallow / Hollow” relies strictly on the doom-metal sound that The Body had first started with on their previous releases. The Body uses pounding percussion that feels almost crushing under the weight when paired with loud synth chords that flood the track as well. The track almost seems to use a piano but it is unclear as the surrounding instruments are so loud that it is difficult to hear anything besides the very abrasive percussion. King’s vocals also make an appearance and in this track they match well with the riotous sounds of the rest of the instruments. The lyrics “Meaning nothing, Whispering, shrieking into a void,” are synonymous with King’s style of singing. The loud, shrieks are an acquired taste, King’s vocals will not comply with everyone’s ear, but it will resonate and be remembered. “Hallow / Hollow” ends with a chorus chanting before succumbing to the darkness that No One Deserves Happiness dwells on.
“Two Snakes” follows and is one of the quicker paced tracks on No One Deserves Happiness. It uses an 808 bass line, a choir, growling screeches from King, and pounding percussion from Buford that punishes the ears of the listener. The rising synths that create this claustrophobic feel to the track felt pivotal in the way “Two Snakes” plays out, it feels constricting and near-dominant in that sense. “Two Snakes” sounds like a constant fire that rages from the second it starts to the last seconds of its length, the bass line resonates through the entire track only being added onto and using more instrumentation to further layer the track.
“Adamah” is an example of that constant layering and changing dynamic of sound coming from The Body. “Adamah” begins with a crunching percussion and rattling synth build up before launching into using more background vocals that use the lyrics “Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it Rain, On this scorched Earth,” is actually one of the more beautiful sections of No One Deserves Happiness. It relates back to Wolpert’s vocals on “Wanderings,” beautiful sounding, but ultimately daunting in the end.
“Starving Deserter” then follows and sounds closer to “Hallow / Hollow” with the doom-metal style and the rigorous weight attached to the drums and vocals. This track also uses a clock tower bell that rings continuously in the song’s second half, almost leading the track down a grim descent into a bottomless pit. It adds another layer into the already morose style from The Body, then paired with both King’s and a choir’s vocals, it is a horrendous pair matched only in Hell. “Starving Deserter” then follows the choir and Buford into a rising static synth lead, nearly being swallowed up by the noise.
The next track, “The Fall and the Guilt” completely changes up the tone of No One Deserves Happiness. It is still a depressing style of track, but it instead focuses on an intimidating, but pleasing piano and vocal combination. It feels as though there is a beauty behind all of the suffering that The Body displays. While immensely terrifying at most points, The Body and No One Deserves Happiness is able to portray a symbol of light at certain moments. While these moments are short, and the negative significantly outweighs the positive, it is still a wonderful productive masterpiece that displays both misery, and pleasure.
The following, “Prescience” goes back to the path of misery and an impending doom. The track uses the drums, and a shadowy guitar that echoes slowly and creates the atmosphere, pointing in a downfall. There is a sample used, where a reading of the book Suicide is collected. The reading explains
“Your taste for literature did not come from your father, who read little, but from your mother, who taught it. You wondered how, begins so different, they could have formed a union; but you noted that in you there was a mixture of the violence of the one and the gentleness of the other. Your father exerted his violence on others. Your mother was sympathetic to the suffering of others. One day you directed the violence you had inherited toward yourself. You dished it out like your father and you took it like your mother” (Edouard Lev – Suicide).
Painting the immensely bleak picture, using suicide as a subject matter, and ending the track with the static is just another method behind the madness of The Body.
The final track, “The Myth Arc,” uses more pounding metallic percussion, a guitar that seemingly echoes on forever, and Wolpert’s vocals stating “I will find you.” The angelic singing, paired with the atmospheric destruction is something that only The Body could make sound perfect. The Body uses two entirely different tones of music, blends them together and creates scenes with their sound. The track relies heavily on Wolpert’s vocals and the crushing static that follows throughout most of No One Deserves Happiness before finally coming to an inaudible deathly silence.
This is a slideshow that you can see… With your eyes… This is my adventure in a brand new city while I went to see one of my favorite bands ever. This is something totally different, but the usual schedule will presume with my three times a week dump of reviews/showcases. Thanks for listening, reading, watching me, and growing with me you rats.
P.S. – Shout out to Coolio, Lee said you’re weak and got jumped by juggalos. Also thanks to the kids that I hung out with before the show, you guys made my experience in Philly even tighter… TRASH TALK COLLECTIVE…ANTWON…HEIR DASH…BLACKXNOISE… IT WAS TIGHT AND ANYONE WHO DIDN’T GO MISSED OUT BIG TIME.
Mad Season, the prolific super group consisting of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Barrett Martin from Screaming Trees, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, and John Baker Saunders from The Walkabouts. Together, Mad Season combined their grunge roots and Seattle style to collaborate on a piece of American rock and roll history.
Using Staley’s iconic voice, McCready’s slithering style on guitar, Baker’s smooth bass lines, and Martin’s rapid drum work, the match was seemingly made in heaven. Mad Season began as an underground style of work, and McCready despite not having any songs prepared, scheduled a show for Mad Season at the Crocodile Café. Most surprisingly, the show was a huge success and one of the 12 tracks would emerge from this show, “Artificial Red” would appear on the album as a lead into one of the slower tracks of Above.
Above opens with “Wake Up,” a slow crawl of a track that eventually builds up into a full scale emotional battle between Staley and the instrumentalists. Baker starts the track off with a bass line that continues to buzz through the entirety of the track, this bass line and Staley also end the track and it feels almost melancholy. The entire song, even at its most climatic point has such a dark overtone and Staley’s lyrics nearly overshadow the rest of the track.
Staley calmly explains, “For all the times you let them bleed you,” and with additional lyrics contributing “Slow suicide is no way to go,” and “The cracks and lines from where you gave up,” are going to paint these extremely bleak images in a person’s head. Staley’s lyrics where almost always full of self-deprecation or misery, in Mad Season, Staley continues on this theme and this works in complement to the instrumentals.
“Wake Up” is an extremely slow and melodic constructing track. The opening is this somber walk with the bass and guitar playing eerily, to the point where it is near silent. Then as Martin’s percussion and Staley come in, the track eagerly picks up speed before coming back to the daunting sounds it first presented.
Following is the track “X-Ray Mind.” This song speeds up the momentum on the record, beginning with a gradual drum roll that launches into a full-out electric guitar and bass melody that work in tandem with Layne’s voice. “X-Ray Mind” is the first track that resembles more of the “Pearl Jam mixed with Alice in Chains” sound that Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic described so well. The use of the powerful percussion work from Martin and Staley’s voice represent the Alice in Chains aspect, while McCready’s flashy guitar work and Baker’s smooth bass line’s better represent the Pearl Jam side of things.
Trailing right behind is “River Of Deceit,” one of the bigger commercially released tracks off of Above. This track focuses more on McCready’s guitar work as the bigger, more fleshed-out sound. Mad Season seems to focus themselves more around his guitar, almost building off of it, rather than competing with it. Staley’s voice is still a pivotal point on this track and for the rest of Above, but this is a specific track where another band member takes the ropes and allows the other instrumentalists to take a backseat.
“River Of Deceit” features a melodic style of approach where rather than going for the classic rock style, this takes more a relaxed method. The sound is accompanied by these great chords that continue through most of the track, laying the ground work for the other instrumentalists to follow behind. Baker plays a slightly different groove than McCready and they again complement each other rather than compete against each other. This whole track feels like a balance, rather than trying to challenge, they simply build each other up.
Next is the track “I’m Above,” a slow rock song that uses vocals from Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees. Together both Lanegan and Staley go on a back and forth near conversation that works as a wonderful complement to the already outstanding backing instruments. The track then picks up power with Martin playing a volley of snare hits and launching into one of the quicker segment of the track with Lanegan and Stanley shouting “I’m Above, over you I’m standing above.”
This is one of the few tracks where Lanegan provides backing vocals for Mad Season, and the contrast between his gruffer style of singing and Staley’s higher melodic style of singing is the perfect parallel that together just performs outstandingly well. They are the focal point of the track, bringing in tranquility, and despair simultaneously.
The track “Artificial Red” follows and is one of the more lumbering songs on Above. It is still impactful, giving off a powerful impression from the blues style of guitar and the pounding drums that Martin is so well known for. Baker plays this shambling bass line that never picks up too much even when the rest of Mad Season is moving much faster.
Baker takes a chilled approached to his bass work, and it is a significant piece of every track. The sections where his bass shines through can live on their own within the tracks and are great additions every single time. “Artificial Red” is more a blues ensemble than a rock and roll track.
“Lifeless Dead” follows and features Staley on rhythm guitar. This is one of the more upbeat songs on Above, features harmonies and melodies between the instruments and vocal performance by Staley. Even as the tracks title suggests, “Lifeless Dead” is actually one of the livelier tracks, it adapts a new persona for Mad Season instead of the usual slower style of play that most of Above is accustom to.
Hearing the full band kick into overdrive, allowing Staley to gracefully shout over the wonderful arrangements of Martin’s drum fills and crashing cymbal work, to McCready’s impressive solo, the entire song is an excellent ride.
Carrying off of “Lifeless Dead’s” momentum, “I Don’t Know Anything” is a gritty guitar focused track that runs parallel to Staley’s bleak style of writing. Together, the two complement each other so well and create such great chemistry. Baker and Martin are also strong presences with Martin giving great percussive hits on what sounds like sheets of metal over McCready’s guitar solo, and Baker delivering a downright dirty bass rhythm throughout the track.
Mad Season takes a slower approach to most of their tracks on Above, but this is done stylistically as a progressive movement. The slower approach still keeps the same level of intensity and sounds like a darker version of Alice in Chains or a more experimental Pearl Jam. The way these artists collaborated together and formed one higher entity is just outstanding.
Mark Lanegan then returns to display another great complementary piece with Staley as the two work together to form “Long Gone Day.” This uses different ethnic percussion instruments from Martin like bongo’s and what sounds like rain sticks or maracas. This track also features an amazing saxophone from Eric Walton, better known as Sherik. His saxophone is one of the highlights of the track as it begins subtly until finally taking over the entire song. It comes in section, but seems to paint the entire mood of the track, almost changing the genre of Above entirely. There are also what sounds like a marimba being used as a backing instrument and it gives this desert rock vibe off, the entire track is a multi-genre, multi-layered masterpiece.
The lyrics of “Long Gone Day” are also shining points as Staley and Lanegan deliver some chilling lines describing “So much blood I’m starting to drown,” and “I fear again, like then, I’ve lost my way. And shout to God to bring my sunny day.” Both incredibly strong lyricists like Lanegan and Staley were able to create these morose scenarios that continue to echo even 21 years later.
“November Hotel” follows and this is the longest track on Above. The long run time adds to the tension that is presented at the song’s beginning, to the then blasting instruments that kick in around halfway through the track. It starts with McCready’s shallow and light hearted guitar to Martin very slowly launching the percussion into a pounding assault which the rest of the band seamlessly follows into. The gradual build up makes the track’s frantic ending even more worthwhile, and even as Above does not always feel guided or set on an objective, it feels like an outstanding jam album that can be repeated over and over again.
The sound focuses more on being experimental and using more resources than a usual release by any of the members’ former bands. The very noisy guitar that McCready plays with on “November Hotel” is a perfect example of just how experimental the band become as time progressed. Interestingly enough, even as the music was recorded in just about seven days, it was still an immense exploratory piece at best.
Following is “All Alone,” a track that uses more of McCready’s dreamscape guitar work, and Martin’s bongos again. The track also features Staley delivering a reverbed spacious approach to the vocals that keeps the theme of the experimental aspect. “All Alone” is a much different track than the rest of Above, but this is most certainly not a bad thing. The constant experimentation keeps the record feeling fresh and no one sound ever feeling like it is repeated. “All Alone” is the final track on Mad Season, and when the silence creeps back in on the listener, Above begs to be played again.
Woods is an American Folk Rock Band that has an impressive and engrossing résumé spanning over the course of nine different albums, and two studio records. Woods is from Brooklyn and is now formed with singer and guitar-player Jeremy Earl, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jarvis Taveniere, and the drummer Aaron Neveu.
Their newest album City Sun Eater in the River of Light is the “Woods you recognize,” but this time they are taking a fresh twist on their musical entry. The group is now experimenting with different types of Ethiopian Jazz, and using lots of primal sounding background drums, with popping horns, and a chilled approach to the vocals that represents a desert drive going nowhere. That is not to say that the album is without direction, but the echoed and near wondrous vocals leaves a six in the morning feel. There are songs on this album that sound tired, but not in a bad way. It captures the freedom of the open road and allows the listener to be put into a whole new horizon.
Woods does an amazing job with the production, City Sun Eater in the River of Light has this whole connotation on the drums, they bring so much to the table with the quick and lucid fills. It was actually most surprising to see the use of maracas and dreamscape sounding guitar that left me wondering, “How did he make that sound like this?” City Sun Eater in the River of Light is musically and fundamentally an astounding album.
Woods brings a calmer tone that paints an image of a sunset drive or a relaxing night in the desert. City Sun Eater in the River of Light is really an album about relaxation and the peace in life. The mixture of outstanding musical sound gives way to dreamy guitar, sleepy vocals, and tight percussion that brings the mind toward a night at the beach in California, with the waves gathering up, and the sun just beginning to rise as well.
This is a much shorter showcase and Wednesday will most likely also be much shorter as I am leaving to go see Trash Talk, Black Noise and, Antwon play in Philadelphia. I will most likely post some pictures and this will be my first “blog” style post that isn’t just a discussion on music… But it is still a musical topic so I figured this would be a great platform to post it on anyway.
I will only be gone for a day or so… but expect some more bullshit on Friday about an album I have been pushing back for a few weeks now. Also it might be a double review again… I’m the hardest working person you know, and no one cares yada yada yada… Anyway wish me luck and I hope I don’t get stabbed in my face, hope all is well and I sold all my t-shirts so thank you. Yes, even the person who took my shirt and spit on it… thank you ❤ I’m leaving now… Also Halloween is Monday… The same day you will read this… I might even listen to Riff-Raff for friday… Who knows! it’s a crazy swamp we live in, but I doubt it.. Peace in the Middle East, Love you, and goodnight ❤
The Black Void, a vast array of nothingness that continuously spans over centuries of time. The Void that stares back at you, the Void that sees through the soul and pierces into the deepest sector of your psyche. Adrian Younge is ready to explore the pits of the human body, the emotions, the failure, and ultimately the complication that is human beings.
The Electronique Void is a primarily synthetic work of art that challenges the thinking’s of man. The opening track, “Black Noise Interlude” begins with a rippling synth and a dominant voice describing St. Elmo’s Fire, the power of electricity and magnetism, and “Tesla’s warning to Edison, entailing “Beware the Black Noise.” The “Black Noise” is often referred to as silent noise. opposite to white noise, it allows the listener to hear nothing and eventually fall into a descent of madness.
The following track, “The Night” is a crunchy sounding synth ballad that acts as a tribute to the glory days of the 80’s. It has no lyrics, and The Electonique Void focuses primarily on the music of Younge. “The Night” is a creeping track, that follows a minimalistic approach to the percussion. The simple 1-2 step between the bass and the snare hits keeps a steady near hypnotic march. The synths that then follow behind and add almost horror-like elements to an already eerie track was outstanding. It feels like this track could reside in an old Hammer Horror film, with the gothic scenery and the way the synths keep a slow but rising tone.
“Fly Away” is the next track and it is seamlessly blended from “The Night.” “Fly Away” has more of an uplifting tone and the center of focus is still on the synth leads that take the place of horns and different stringed instruments. The way Younge used synthesizers to control the tracks and constantly changes up the sound from track to track was a substantial way to keep The Electronique Void feelings fresh and unpredictable at every turn.
“Systems” follows and this is in similar sound to the previous track “The Night.” This synthetic crawl of a track uses a rattling hi-hat, riveting synth work, and ultimately, a warping overlay that continues to echo throughout the track. Younge then finishes the track by letting the sound fade from every instrument and then launching into the next song.
“The Concept of Love” begins with what sounds like warped static before eventually becoming an assault of bass and ear-piercing synths. The white noise continues through most of the track, fading in-between the track’s foreground and background. “The Concept of Love” goes through several stages where the track feels lucid through the whole near 6 minutes. It traverses ear piercing instrumentals, to a bass focused section, before finally coming to a close with a strange near Morse code style of bouncing synths before succumbing to silence.
The Electronique Void then comes to “Voltage Controlled Orgasms,” a track that uses a boom-bap, near disco style of instrumental. The only difference here is that the instruments are much more artificial sounding, and the track contains these rising synths that build to the anticipation of the climatic ending. The ending of this track is a frantic wail of machines that cascades and has this great amount of flow about it. The instruments slowly fade out into silence, leading into “Linguistics.”
“Linguistics” is a rather short track that uses the same spoken narrator from “Black Noise Interlude.” Both tracks are the shortest works on The Electronique Void, only lasting 45 seconds each, but they still add an additional element to the record as well. They act as breathe to the tracks, instead of being simply filler on the release, they make each song stand out that much more.
The track that follows, “Black Noise” is a rather familiar sounding track that uses similar elements of “Systems” and “The Night.” While “Black Noise” is related, it still has elements that differentiate the track from its predecessors. The use of vocalization and a more authentic sounding drum kits allows for the track to feel more human-esque. The random lightning bolts of synth chords that flash in the background, and the warped sounding synths again add to the tracks mood, making it feel like more of a journey than an actual song.
“Patterns” is then segued into and the flow is instantly slowed down to a near halt. “Patterns” starts with a low tuned frequency bass that resembles an 808. The narrator returns and acts as the primary moving force behind the track. “Patterns” resembles something along the lines of Clipping.’s Splendor and Misery with these gigantic, synthetic space sounding instrumentals that reign through background. Rather than focusing on the vocalization like Clipping., Adrian Younge makes the instruments the star of his show. The track then falls into this second half where it becomes rather minimalistic and eventually like the other tracks, fades into a crushed silence.
The last track “Suicidal Love” uses a snare beat and a rising bass line that slowly changes pitch and becomes this high pitched machine that echoes through the track. It then launches into a beautiful instrumental that uses imitation horns and these subtle sirens that give the rest of the track more depth and an additional layer to the track. The narrator returns and ends the track with the quote “Everything and Nothing exactly at the same time.” The reoccurring silence comes back, and Younge leaves the listener back in the Darkness.