RAGANA is the deadly duo of femme fatales that bring a crushing wave of sound, but also make use of beautiful chord progressions and incredibly daunting transitional pieces to create one of the more subtle, but punishing assaults on metal music this year. RAGANA is not a new band to the scene and both members, Nicole and Maria are no strangers to the musical background. With their newest record, YOU TAKE NOTHING; they establish newfound footing and continue to progress their overall sound another milestone.
From the gentle opening of singular notes played on a guitar, to the sudden crashing waves on the introductory track “Spare No Man,” RAGANA establishes a common duality within their music that contains both the beauty of melodic and droning styled metal instrumentation, with the howls and bitter screams of anguish that accompany the instruments. It is almost overbearing within first contact as the screams are so incredibly forceful and abrasive. Maria is the conjurer of the intense screams and does a fantastic job of creating a serious disconnect from the false beauty behind their music. Perhaps it is the sudden jump from angelic guitar work to the smashing percussion that crushes through like a hammer, RAGANA is unique in their approaches and show a strong disdain and detachment from being a place of solace.
“Spare No Man” is by no means a short track, lasting around three-minutes, but it does create a sense of blending within YOU TAKE NOTHING, as all the tracks have a sort of seguing property to them. There is no unapologetic jumps or leaps into a sudden blast of noise between tracks, the intensity is concurrent and never becomes a jarring stab. Even from “Spare No Man” to “To Leave,” RAGANA moves as a singular being where the percussion and guitar work shine immensely through the overbearing theme of darkness on YOU TAKE NOTHING. “To Leave” features the first appearance of clean vocalization and the voice is simply lovely when paired with the creeping, gentle builds that lead into the following track, “Winter’s Light.”
The percussion is something that always stands out on RAGANA’s records as of course, while only being a duo, there has to be some shining element of the band in order to create a memorable sound. Nicole does a fantastic job of switching from building sections of tom and snare hits where they continually pound and pound before reaching a tipping point of a full-frontal assault of rapid-fire cymbal and snare hits. When paired with the guitar work and the frantic vocalization as well, they make for an unforgiving combination of raw emotion, and pure power. This is also where RAGANA can illustrate their sense of adaptability as well, on the second half of “Winter’s Light,” RAGANA takes the progression down and becomes more focused on delivering a much slower, more steady sense of direction. The change is welcome as it enables RAGANA to become subtler, letting the feedback of a guitar flood out, and letting the inevitable silence to flood in.
The next two tracks, “Destroyer” and “Somewhere” are similar in style and act both as catalysts for RAGANA’s suddenly punishing touches and gentle approaches. RAGANA has such a wonderful sound and while their range is mostly consistent, it is the unanticipated changes that keep the listener on their toes and always trying to understand when the next transition will happen. This is RAGANA’s greatest ally, the element of surprise makes YOU TAKE NOTHING a constant journey of unexpected turns and gives the record a new level of replay value. From the beauty of Maria’s guitar work, the gentle build ups, and the final crushing waves of percussion from Nicole that truly make YOU TAKE NOTHING a thrill-ride from start to finish.
With the final act of the self titled track, “You Take Nothing” is the second-longest running track, but it is also the most important when looking at YOU TAKE NOTHING as a whole. It singlehandedly manages to capture RAGANA’s sound within its six-and-a-half-minute run-time while keeping consistent in building emotions and and the repetition of Maria’s words, “You Take Nothing, You Take Nothing, You Take Nothing…” which constantly builds before reaching her primal yells of the same phrase. It is a truly powerful message that becomes engrained through repetition and makes for a punishing, destructive finale to one of RAGANA’s best records yet.
Listen to YOU TAKE NOTHING Here!!! – BandCamp
Jamaica is known for traditional values, beautiful waters, famous artists and poets, and of course, Reggae music. While Bob Marley and the Wailers do hail from the “The Rock,” another artist that should be on the radar when discussing reggae music should also be Lennie Hibbert with his 1970 release, Creation. A Substantial release of feel-good musical tunes and an emphasis on creating a laid-back approach to sound, Creation is one of the best hidden gems that Jamaica has to offer.
Touching on major cornerstones of Jamaican music, Hibbert acts as simply an extension of the organs and vibraphones that make his records sound so incredibly consistent and well produced. It appears almost without effort that Hibbert creates a world of new sound and what appeared almost revolutionary at the time, has now deformed into a more modern style of using horns, strings, and slight, simple percussion to create the groundwork for his instrumentals. Hibbert’s sound is not unique, but the way that he organizes the progressions and manages the instruments is unique in their own right. Hearing his string sections and vibraphones being played together can instantly paint an image of a beach where the waves come gently, almost shuffling in; it can become a deep forest of lush greens and exotic wildlife. Through Hibbert’s musical ability and style, anything can be imagined and almost any tropical setting can be pictured along side. Creation is most simply put, lovely and has a touch of comfortable friendliness that never overstays the welcome and proceeds at a welcoming pace.
Even at moments where Creation begins to pick up and become more lively and exhilarating, it never becomes a sprint or a marathon of instrumentation. Instead, it adapts to these changes by making simpler rhythms and using a grander focus on creating sound rather than complexity. Hibbert continually adds layering to his tracks, but never do they feel overbearing or weighted, everything has a floating style around it and continues in the theme of being a gentle ocean breeze. The track that signs the brightest for these aspects is “Roselen,” it not only contains a wonderful arrangement of vibraphones and cymbals, but the bass lines and percussion truly sets “Roselen” to stand alone as a monument in music ability. The simplicity adds to the setting of “Roselen” and it truly does feel like a being caught in a gentle sea wave, or being placed during the most peaceful sunset on an exclusive island. Its solidarity works wonders for the track and makes Creation become a pleasant surprise with each incoming track.
Hibbert flew under the radar for American releases and his music is like finding a buried treasure. Creation is a record for the sun-filled days and the fire-lit nights; it begs for dancing, but can also be played to wind down an evening and take in everything nature will give you. From the creation to the deconstruction, Creation is a fantastic piece of cultural history and Jamaica has never seemed sweeter.
WOODBOOT does not care who they hurt, who stands in their way, the lo-fi duo works together to stomp their way into the scene with their 2015 release, Crime Time. Holding a candlelight to an artist is difficult, but WOODBOOT fills a mold of power, blazing riffs, and a focus on being approachable as a punk standard.
While not a hardcore punk band, they carry a beach-step sound and move in effortless strides. From track to track, they are heavyweight contenders of Australian punk music and are slowly becoming a favorite to throw on for those long drives in the summer nights. The lights on the freeway guide you home and the under-produced, Do-It-Yourself sound leads the melodies of the sudden release. Crime Time is a shorter, adrenaline filled sucker punch into the gasoline soaked fire pit where they resonate with some of the masters of underground punk music. Their expressions are filled with power, their movements sporadic, and their intentions are deadly. Like a flash of lightning, WOODBOOT springs into action and escapes with broken bones and a busted lip. They are a collection of sound and makes an effort to leave nothing but ashes in their wake.
Bones has managed to build an empire through music, clothing, art, and now even shoes; The jack of all trades now only continues to improve with his newest musical release, Unrendered. An 18-track, 40-minute masterpiece of ethereal styled music, stomach-churning production, and Bones’ ghastly, but gentle voice are going to be the substantial elements of Unrendered. Similar to Bones’ other projects, he takes several different approaches to his tracks, but stays consistent on making the overarching sound of Unrendered a heavily experimental mix of wonder and awe.
Bones will always be one of the top contenders for self-produced music and for being able to use a wide-array of different instruments of both acoustic and electronic sounds to make an entirely unique style. Unrendered is similar in these aspects as from the opening track, “Importing” uses only an acoustic guitar and a sample to construct a subtle, extension of Bones’ voice where the voice explains, “People are going to come around to your ideas, you know you were right all along, now people are going to start seeing that…” Bones then proceeds onto “CtrlAltDelete,” the first gaze into the sound of Unrendered and strikes in a distant, unpersonal touch where Bones similar style of monotone singing/rapping is present. Bones stays mostly monotone until he reaches the line, “Loaded my duffel with these blades and they just got polished, thinking about the day brings me nothing but silence.” There is a sudden jolt of energy and this is then transferred into the following, “SystemPreferences.”
Almost attacking on the vocal aspect, Bones is speaking much louder and the production is also becoming a slapping, full-frontal assault of 808 percussions and tapping hi-hats; there is also a beautiful key section that repeats through most of the track. Bones charges from the first seconds and the hook, as well as the verses are shining examples of Bones stylistic choices of rhyming, “I gotta know, bitch, I be lurking outside your door, wait wait. I gotta go, 24/7 live on the low, wait, wait.” To the then near-screaming of “Shut both my eyes, lay my head back, Envision nothing but forests that still intact. I see a place with no pavement, I right click save it.” The raw emotion in Bones’ voice is a welcome change from the monotone style and there are several tracks present on Unrendered where he puts every amount of energy into his lyrics.
A following track, “SunnyDay” is one of those tracks where Bones is yelling over the immense depth of a production scale and while the song feels incredibly short, “SunnyDay” reaches a chorus where Bones repeats, “Blunts in the backyard, Sunny days, Sunny days, Sunny days” in a short, almost stuttering style of diction. This style of rhyming is then carried over into the sudden sucker punch of “LifeRuiner” where a mere 7-seconds of introduction is played before the bass kicks the door down and Bones immediately starts rhyming in short verses, but then changes around the half-way mark when the beat changes and Bones explains, “I don’t give a fuck, whether you and your friends even fuck with us. It would be a dream, if I woke to discover you turn to dust.” This is done in an incredibly well produced stylish touch where the bass and Bones words match up perfectly and it makes for one of the stronger hitting tracks of Unrendered.
This is also the style chosen for the following track, “MustBeARealDragWakingUpAndBeingYou” where he takes a few shots at artists that only make an effort to rhyme and sing about prescriptions, “Okay you get money, okay, you fuck bitches, okay, you get higher than anyone living, okay, you be sipping, suppressants you mix them. Prescriptions, you need them like breathing, I get it. You’re cooler than who be the coolest and more, but Bones got something that you need to know.” After Bones goes on a near-minute rant, he ends the track with a small skit of “Vernon, the voice box of the fucking underground” who explains how he “can’t wait to fucking wrap my hands on this new Bones project,” but then converses with another person in the background about how Bones “drops that singing pussy shit but we can get past that as long as he keeps dropping those bangers.” Bones has made skits like these before and his past tapes, PaidProgramming and PaidProgramming2 have made efforts to show a sense of Bones’ and Team SESH’s sense of humor.
Which then brings in the second-half of Unrendered and the single/video, “TakingOutTheTrash.” A fleshed-out battery of 808’s and a creeping singing introduction that leads into the main verses and eventually leads to Bones explaining, “I don’t pop Xanax because pills are for pussies, never scared of being human I ain’t ‘fraid of feeling feelings. Got that anger, got that razor, careful do not run into it…Nobody special, that’s me, cut off your flow, now you got gangrene.” Bones takes an extremely aggressive approach on Unrendered toward any artist that glorifies taking pills in their music and through the several tracks where he mentions his influence heavily, he does a fantastic job of moving a social message and making the music attached to the message stick.
Bones then moves back into a singing style and on “MinorSetback,” Bones delivers one of the most beautiful uses of instrumental and verses in a combined effort to explain his methods of perfecting his sound, “You were asleep every night that I stayed up. Time steady passing, it’s hard to keep my balance, I know thinking’s normal but I over though to the point of damage.” Bones can create a disgusting anthem of pain and misery, then in an instant switch his style and become a beautiful specimen of deep and meaningful poetry. Bones ends “MinorSetback” with a lovely display of a hook and outro, “Tight rope walker, world down below, watch your breath and your step, for if you don’t you’ll go. Minor setback, nightmares never go on vacation. I need a second to breathe, my lungs are waiting for confirmation.” As a computerized voice then displays the word, “UNRENDERED” into frame, Bones moves onto the final steps of his latest project, Unrendered.
“TheGrandestNothing” is foreboding, and sounds similar to a horror movie organ that plays in the background as Bones then gets louder and louder, increasing with energy until he shouts, “Lights off just staring at the wall, cut to me, lights on, just nobody home.” This is the catalyst for Bones’ verse and he begins, “I’m shaking, I’m panicking, seconds I’ll never get back… Deadboy, I could never ever stop, no. Yelling underground but you making pop songs.” Bones then moves on to release one of his best hooks yet where he explains, “Stomp you in some shoes I ain’t drop yet, eyes drop to the floor, I’m a hot mess. I scream into the night like ‘stop this,’ Every time I do some shit I’m like let’s drop this.”
Bones finally reaches the end of Unrendered with an atmospheric instrumental that leads the listener into what sounds like a sewer, with dripping water and echoing synthesizer pads, “Exporting” takes the final moments of Unrendered into the next, ethereal journey. Not only has Bones continued to drop masterpiece after masterpiece with his music, but he has managed to start his own legion of loyal fans that will follow his music until the very end.
Surrenderdorothy is the collaborative efforts of SESH members, Bones and Greaf. Together, the two have a successful career in their own solo music projects, even working as partners through production on several of Bones tracks so it would only make sense to finally create a group together and release a new style of tracks under that moniker. Nobodywantsme is a beautiful combination of a different approach to making records and while Bones has been known to make softer, more easy on the ear style of songs, surrenderdorothy makes him completely abandon any past sounds and become an entirely new entity.
While only six-total tracks, nobodywantsme is a fantastic journey of mostly acoustic instruments and soft, almost spoken word singing. Beginning with a short message from Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, MacKaye states a personal disdain for record labels and major companies, similar to the members of SESH as well. “One of the main ones, is that we deal only with our friends, we don’t have to rely on business contracts or anything like that. We don’t use contracts. We don’t make them sign anything.” MacKaye then proceeds to say, “…I have a lot of contempt for the record industry and I don’t particularly want to be a part of it anymore than I have to. The fact that we started our own label is proof of that. When you don’t want to be a part of something, you do it yourself, so we did.” This has always been SESH’s personal mantra of going about making music and finding a way to distribute their music as well. Together, the members all work together as friends and allies to create the best personal product without searching for a company to rely on or to use.
As surrenderdorothy moves onto the first true musical track, “whatcouldpossiblygowrong” opens with a cheerful sample of Mr. Wizards World and conducts a conversation where an older man turns into a skeleton. As the word skeleton is said, Bones then comes in with a soft-spoken, gentle giant style where he lumbers on the dreamscape-esque production that Greaf does such an incredible job on. The creative efforts from both artists make an eerie, but graceful style of sound and Bones lyrics of “While you’re out there settling, I will turn to a skeleton. All you’ve ever longed for is relevance, I’m bursting at the seams with elegance,” make for an unforeseen match of beauty.
The following track, “Iwearyourlove,everyplaceigo” is subtle, has few lyrics, and has a focal point on the acoustic guitar and atmospheric styled bass lines that play in a droning style. The track is incredibly quiet and features no percussion as well. Even when there is a use of percussion on nobodywantsme, it is extremely subtle and that is the on-going theme of surrenderdorothy’s musical approach, subtlety over complexity. Bones is actually listed as a featured artist and is present on the track, “dontbeafraidibroughtmyknife” which uses a sampled voice that is replayed backwards to give off a creeping, more demonic tone of background noise while Bones gives off the closest thing to rap on the entirety of nobodywantsme. Bones describes, “Too many reasons why nobody can touch me. I make the door, I make the key, I make the wrist that will clutch it.” Surrenderdorothy ends the track by letting the instrumental rephrase and then reaching into an undefinable silence.
The final, self-titled track is an instrumental that uses a sample to illustrate a story of a man inside a chatroom selling “bootleg games.” The words “Bootleg Games” are the final stepping stones into the inevitable silence that follows as Bones and Greaf creep out almost as quickly as they came into frame. A short, but beautiful arrangement from two unlikely artists does truly make, for one of the best surprises coming out of Team SESH’s library.
Your Old Droog has had an incredible past two years between releasing collaborative projects with Ratking’s own Wiki, being compared to Nas, and finally dropping his second, heavily awaited studio album, PACKS. From bringing in a modern twist on a classic style, Your old Droog acts as a crusader in music and recruits Danny Brown, Wiki, Edan, Heems, Chris Crack, and Anthony Jeselnik to bring a full monster squad assortment of underground and mainstream hip-hop legends.
PACKS addresses the creative side of hip-hop and how it can become a fine piece of art and bring unity in a community of people. Opening with “G.K.A.C” or (Gotta Kill A Cop), Your Old Droog decides to jump right into a tight knit square of clasping hi-hats and clever word play that relies on describing, “Imma put that pig in a blanket. And he did, he just blanked kid.” Packs is a collection of storyboards and “G.K.A.C.” is the first layer of the 14-track record and starts off on almost the wrong foot. As Your Old Droog closes the introduction by describing a boy’s final moments before he, “bout to spend the rest of his life behind bars, Depressed, knowing he’s going down for the crime. He pressed Nicky’s lips against his one last time,” implying suicide. Your Old Droog then completely shifts on the following track, “I Only” where he takes inspiration from MF DOOM’S famous line, “I only play the games that I win at.” Droog instead switches this and samples the track for mere seconds before bringing a subtle western styled bass line and rattling percussion into frame.
From wordplay using sampling to delivering clever punchlines at the end of his bars, Droog makes an impact from his production as well but it is also where his features come in to lay down extra support does he truly become outstanding. The track “Grandma Hips” which features Danny Brown becomes a constant reminder of how flexible Danny Brown is and how he can adapt to almost any style of production. The instrumental sounds something similar to a 70’s concerto with blazing horns and delightful symphonic instruments that also combine psychedelic instruments of trills and flare ups on the brass sections. Droog delivers a substantial verse and when paired with Danny Brown, they become an outstanding combination and make for a quick, almost free transition where there is not a hook, no chorus, just straight into the next verse.
Droog then makes a stand against trying to make hip-hop an exclusively single-raced art form. Your Old Droog explains, “What matters is the beats and if the MC goes in. It’s not about the color, It’s not about the color of your skin, your skin.” Droog who is himself a Ukrainian-American makes a valid point and continues his message when Wiki and Edan who are both Caucasian rapper jump onto “Help” and together they make a trio of immaculate damage. Wiki who is well known for his word and lyrical style and Edan who is known for being an alternative hip-hop artist with a friendly attitude, they do a fantastic job of combining several different flows into one perfect package.
Your Old Droog brings back the glory styled days of bass heavy hip-hop and authentic sounding percussion which feels like a step back in the time machine. Even while sounding backwards, PACKS is actually quite progressive and makes for another great, substantial stepping stone into creativity from one of the hottest producers/rhymers in hip-hop today.
Plutocracy is incredibly angry, that is all They are the definition of anguish and aggression in a punk band. While they make a masterful combination of including portions of rap, Plutocracy is all about slamming down on oppression and blasting the hinges off the doors of music. Completely in your face, completely all about screaming and crushing every thing into a fine powder. Plutocracy invites you to pick up your guns and start an all out war with Sniping Pigz.
Sumach Ecks, better known as Gonjasufi is an American experimental/hip-hop/rock artist that combines a focus on making indescribable music and a large value upon simply using every tool at his disposal to create one of the strangest, most thought-provoking pieces of music coming from an artist. His record, Callus is a journey of sound that qualifies closer to a lo-fi and crunchy approach to most of the 19 tracks present and keeps a substantial move to capture the ever-progressing threat of too much sound at once. Callus is at times, hard to follow as it moves in slow, collective jumps but contains many different elements that makes it sound like nothing else. Distortion, aggression, and depressive qualities are present to display the bulk of the sound, and Gonjasufi uses these elements to his advantage, stemming experimental ability into a full, near-hour ride through hell.
Callus can be put under the guise of experimental and psychedelic, but not in the way that most would imagine a psychedelic experience. Gonjasufi illustrates an incredible use of production to create a storyboard for Callus, almost beginning with a sludge-rock style. “Your Maker” is the start for one of the strangest records to be stumbled across. It opens promisingly; the simple but substantial drum beat of basic snare and bass sounds like a garage kit and makes for something that is easy to follow. This beat stays consistent through “Your Maker” but is also played with through multiple distortion effects and sampling that loops over the drums to create a deeper level of layering into the mostly straight-forward beginning. Once Gonjasufi begins to open his is voice is however, where the tracks start to mostly fall flat.
Once again, the production here is solid and while almost falling into the noise genre, they are morose, foreboding, and keep a consistent theme of darkness, but the singing from Gonjasufi almost ruins these tracks as they are always out of key and sound so off beat. On tracks like “Afrikan Spaceship,” and “Prints of Sin,” the singing is not terrible, even if “Prints of Sin” sounds like the microphone is jammed in his mouth. The production is going to be the thing that keeps Callus moving alive and well, it is so well done and captures the lo-fi sound incredibly. Perfect examples are “Krishna Punk,” “Maniac Depressant,” and “When I Die” are wonderful. Even the vocal aspects are done tastefully and are great ranges between faster paced and slowed crawls.
Callus is an album that needs to be taken as an experimental mess of sound, it has rhythm and shows pockets of potential, but overall is noisy and off-putting at a first glance. Through the multiple times I have listened to it, I enjoy the record and can make it past the singing and sections of ear destroying noise with ease. It could multiple listens, but Gonjasufi does a fantastic on giving a creeping death to sound.
Stones Throw Records is home to some of the most immaculate, off-the-wall producers and musicians that the industry has ever seen, but none are more abstract, more distant from the line of normality than Vex Ruffin. Ruffin has always been wiling to work for himself and learn from his mistakes as he explains on Stones Throw’s Artist Page, “Like most people in their twenties I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until 2004 when I purchased the cheapest instrument I could find: a Boss 303 Sampler. With no formal training and just a D.I.Y. mentality, I got to work.”
Ruffin’s newest record, Conveyor is one of mystery and bitter intrigue. It makes the listener question just exactly what is being looped and replayed over and over, almost making Conveyor seem like an auditory journey through multiple genres of music. At moments, it feels like a midnight creep with paranoia, depression, and despair slowly encasing in over your shoulders; then in a moment’s notice, the mood changes entirely. Conveyor has a certain sense of wonder and awe when first approached, it appears as a large machine of a million moving parts but is also simple and unparalleled by anything that surrounds it. By standing alone and being a genre-blending, internal struggle producing record, Conveyor lives on as its own entity. It is a strange, off-kilter mix of emotion that acts as a breeding ground for obscurity and begs to be revisited over and over again.
The general sound of Vex Ruffin’s Conveyor is almost indescribable, it approaches a wide range of different fronts and combines such a large and substantial amount of sounds that it is difficult to fit the album into one single genre, and Ruffin does not want that. His music is comfortable in the distant levels of sound, it primarily keeps a hip-hop style with the instrumentals, but includes a variety of sampled instruments that keep Conveyor never feeling pigeon-holed. From starting tracks, “3 AM,” “The World,” and “The Balance,” which features Fab 5 Freddy, are all musically minimalistic and approachable. Especially, “The Balance” as it sounds like a simple two-step dance track, but included a jazz style of 70’s rumble bass and includes Vex Ruffin’s smooth, almost eerie voice over the whole mix.
Minimalistic approaches are going to be the on-running theme of Conveyor, there is not a single track that feels overly complicated or too crammed together, Ruffin does a fantastic job of keeping everything feeling spacious and full of breath. Even when the instrumentals become more complex and layered, like on the track “The Calling,” Ruffin still manages to keep levels of space and a vulnerable percussive backbeat that is easy to spot behind the chaos. These backbeats are the most important portions of the instrumentals as they keep the music moving on a steady pace, but also does not over complicate the process. Coming hot off the heels of the more dance-esque style of “The Calling,” the track “Own Lane” feels sporadic and mixes quite well with the following, “Front.” They are both mixed and cut tracks that includes a slight thirty-six-second interlude in between that has sampled screaming and cuts the voices before they can reach the full climax of the agonized yells.
“Head Hurts” is where the paranoia feeling sinks the hardest and is where Conveyor sounds more daunting, almost where the voices lead into “Front” feels like a sigh of relief as “Front” acts more of a back to business style of track where Ruffin’s uses hi-hats, tom drums, and an echoed voice to bring the synth-trance dance sound to the forefront. To see Ruffin consistently move from track to track and keep a level of atmospheric pressure on the listener is incredible, he creates and invokes pure, raw emotion with the way the percussion sounds off a certain beat, how the hi-hat slowly rattles, or when suddenly an 808 flashes into frame like a burst of lightning.
Even as Conveyor begins to reach the final acts, it still continues with the same intensity and emotion that was spawned from the start of the record. Ruffin’s makes a point to keep a trance moving through and taking over, the track “Let You Down” is something almost reminiscing of a Black Pus track if it has less screaming and softer, more approachable percussion. The sudden clicks of the 808 kit make for a sporadic style of play, as well as combining the reverbed sounds in the background that make up the supporting aspect of the instrumental are again, filled with mystery and beg for questioning.
Vex Ruffin is a one of a kind artist that stands out among the crowd for his impeccable style and his demented production that feels like a roller coaster of emotions. One second, his production is incredibly frightening and creates mass panic; the next, it is comfortable and the beat produces movement. For an artist that has a D.I.Y. attitude, Vex Ruffin goes about music correctly in every possible way.
Somewhere in the far reaches of the most abstract corners of space, lays Dr. Octagon; the homicidal, maniacal, alter-ego of rapper and producer, Kool Keith. Able to set an unprecedented style of concept rap that shook the airwaves, Kool Keith, or better known as Dr. Octagon made rap take an unexpected turn into more than just music. It became known as a story-telling device that was more advanced than human comprehension, told stories of unknown mysteries that begged to be deciphered, and showed Keith’s lyrical and productive prowess.
Dr. Octagon was not alone on his journey through creating musical science, his allies would become Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and “KutMasta” Kurt Matlin. Their skills were unmatched as the three-headed hydra of production, lyrical ability, and creativity would spawn one of the most diabolical, but overall intriguing style of records that would resonate in hip-hop as a monument in experimental success.
Including cuts from pornographic films, samples of classical music, and outlandish proportions of variety in production, Dr. Octagonecologyst moves primarily in a subtle creep. It makes slow, deep cuts with the tracks, “3000,” “Wild and Crazy,” and “Technical Difficulties,” where the drums are the focal point and relies on a synthesizer or bass line that takes a relaxed, but alert approach to the production and keeps Dr. Octagon lyrics staying in a prolific style of flow that is unlike anything else that surrounds hip-hop at the time. Hearing Dr. Octagon rap his lines on “3000” for the first time is like hearing a medical professional rattle off terms at light speed. It is near impossible to keep up with every single metaphor and punchline, especially rhymes that switch from, “Rappers that budge, making moves step in grooves, and hide the pace like at thirty-three dark shades…Suckers with the mics that end up with tooth decay, I, the Doctor, stop ya, in your world rock ya. Heads bop, forever tunes and they won’t stop like hip-hop.” Dr. Octagon continually switches his flow and that is what keeps Dr. Octagonecologyst rewarding from start to finish.
On a following track “Earth People,” Dr. Octagon moves his rhyme scheme to create a storyboard of his fictional character’s flow, “First patient, pull out the skull, remove the cancer. Breaking his back, chisel necks for the answer, Supersonic bionic robot voodoo power, equator ex my chance to flex skills on Ampex.” While the lyrical flow seems almost as if it is overkill, when mixed with the outer space style beats and his radical sense of character, Dr. Octagon becomes more rational and believable. While this is the primary functionality of Dr. Octagon, it does change once again to create a more approachable style of track like the following, “No Awareness” which contains another lyrical strike of Cobra-fast rhymes, but contains a more standard style of hip-hop beat.
The true experimental style is where Dr. Octagonecologyst truly shines however, “Blue Flowers” is another track that progresses the journey into Dr. Octagon’s descent into madness. Also released as one of the three singles from the record, “Blue Flowers” is a boom-bap styled beat that eventually fades in violins that make this instrumental truly stand out from the crowd. It is one of the strongest instrumentals on Dr. Octagonecologyst and the way that Dr. Octagon rides it and becomes engrossed inside it makes for a substantial turn into the midway mark of the album. Dr. Octagon begins a rhyming scheme that involves onomatopoeia and raw lyrical ability, “East and South with blood pouring down your mouth, I come prepared with the white suit and stethoscope. Listen to your heartbeat, delete beep…beep…beep….” Then Dr. Octagon moves on to another skit track that can be summed up as, “A Visit To The Gynecologist.”
Another hard-hitting instrumental track that acts more as an interlude before the destruction is “Bear Witness,” a rapid-fire assault of jungle like percussion, a riveting bass line, and a sample of Urban Sound Surgeon that describes almost in a Chuck D-esque anthem voice, “Create rap music cause I never dug disco.” Almost as quickly as it comes, it disappears and turns into the smooth, love-filled ballad of “Girl Let Me Touch You.”
This is the closest thing that Dr. Octagon can come to making a love song that discusses how bad he simply wants to “talk awhile.” Dr. Octagon begins by stating, “I got a mask at home, boots and some leather gear, how about me and you and black, I’m hitting from the back.” While bordering on almost comedic, Dr. Octagon goes into great length of describing his sexual fantasies with the unnamed woman of his dreams. After creating a near-fetish scene of rubber and latex, Dr. Octagon moves into polar-opposite territory where he describes a grotesque scene on “I’m Destructive.”
It is the incredible nature of consistent style changes that keeps Dr. Octagonecologyst a wonderful experience of experimental hip-hop that forever changed the ways that hip-hop was viewed. It became more than just music, more than just a cultural voice, it became an art form that was masterful and appreciated for more than just a short-lived medium. Dr. Octagon made the progressive cuts forward into the future of hip-hop, spawning a new wave of artists to break through and create their own style while staying true to themselves.
Anger and aggression has always had a place in hardcore music and U.K. band State Funeral smashes their way into ears with Tory Party Prison. A lead filled glove full of brash and bold actions that leads for one hell of an experience.
Between the incredibly short run-time, to the classic two-stepping formula; Tony Party Prison is a gasoline stricken jump from the ledge into the pavement. It is forceful in the approach and begs for some moshing and movement from the jump, so come hang out with some angry kids from Brighton and learn what it means to really be a punk.