I ALWAYS get disappointed when listening to a Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip album for the first time, and Repent Replenish Repeat was no different.
It’s a funny little paradox – I love the work of both acerbic hirsute frontman Pip and shady knob twiddler le Sac individually, but rarely do they seem to both fire on all cylinders on the same track.
For example, Pip’s standout tracks here – evilly dark and dextrous opener Stunner, or the sublime storytelling work of Terminal – don’t coincide with the best instrumentals underneath – such as the slinky groove of Nightbus Sleepers.
The comparison of these pair’s fluctuations is only amplified by the fact that both are completely on point on closing track You Will See Me, which is a mle ahead of the rest of this album.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good album, possibly a great album after a couple more listens – it’s just a frustration that these two can’t get in complete sync more often during its course, because when they do they’re peerless.
OF ALL the bands you’d have expected to spawn a side project of groovy dance-floor filling hip-hop, screaming hardcore outfit Glassjaw would be pretty far down the list.
However frontman Daryl Palumbo, whose inimitable vocal style is more heavily influenced by his Chrone’s disease than any singer, created Head Automatica in 2004 to indulge his love for the distinctly un-Glassjaw genres of hip hop and Britpop.
With Dan The Automator of Gorillaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School fame at the mixing desk, the resulting Decadance album is a triumphant clash of styles.
With reggae-influenced skanking hip-hop beats meeting glittery electronica and funk-soaked indie guitar licking backing a toned-down Palumbo, Decadance was a classic that woefully slipped under the radar.
ANTICON found Jel’s latest LP Late Pass sees the producer open with a title track featuring the repeated mantra “don’t get too comfortable”.
Which is odd, because Jel – real name Jeffery James Logan – sounds totally at ease with his sound here.
The beats are head-noddingly crisp, over sparse bass throbs, turntablist scratching and sampling, and a smattering of other instrumentation, plus now and then a little vocal.
But throughout nothing is forced or OTT, no particular sound dominates proceedings, no overpowering basslines or furious lyrical flows – it’s just a well produced, if short, collection of largely instrumental hip hop, and business as usual for Anticon.
RAS G, leader of the Afrikan Space Programme, claims to be from another planet, and you know what, I’m not gonna argue.
In this life, you’ll never reach the stars if you don’t aim for them, and the cosmic musician’s latest LP, Back On The Planet, is certainly full of this ambition.
The sound is an experimental one, a tacked together fusion of Hudson Mohawke-esque electronica, a scattering of hip hop beats, plus psychedelia, Afrobeat, dub, jazz, and much more – aiming to bridge the gap between black music’s past and future.
It’s a wide-ranging aim, which does result in a scattergun approach coming though, meaning at times the results are cosmic, at others the results are a bit too alien to my ears.
ALTHOUGH only released in 2006 but recorded almost a decade before, Darc Mind’s long-awaited, almost forgotten album was still a breath of fresh air.
Originally recorded between 1995 and 1997 for Loud Records, the New York label went bust and Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill never saw the light of day recently, when Anticon unearthed it and put it out to a muted response.
But the Darc Mind duo of rapper Kevroc and producer X-Ray are two treasures that had to be found.
Kevroc’s rap style is a laid back one, but with metronome-sharp timing, instrumental old-school phrasing of inplausibly dense lyrics and a Grand Canyon-deep rumble of a voice with which to deliver it.
Add to this sultry boom-bap beats from DJ X-Ray, also known as GM Webb D, and this turns into what would surely have been a grade A classic, forward thinking and with a nod to its predecessors, had it been around in the correct context.
But even 10 years too late, driven by the percussive interplay between drum and vocal and laced with sultry horns, despite being a small fish in a big dog’s pond, the album still struts fearlessly in the company of the Kanye Wests, Eminems and 50 Cents of today’s charts.
THE theory behind Medline’s People Make the World Go Round LP is a sound one.
Who wouldn’t want to hear fresh life breathed into classic jazz and soul cuts by the likes of Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard, the sort of tracks which were sampled to death during the golden age of hip hop by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Pete Rock?
And the results teeter on the edge of brilliance – when the group grab a groove by the scruff, they really grab it, and sound cooler than a frozen Blue Note record.
But on the flip side, the results constantly teeter on the verge of cheese – at times sounding like incidental music, muzak, or just corny vocal soul.
But despite laying along that fine line, for me Medline still sound mighty fine enough of the time.
WHEN was the last time you heard some hip-hop so different from the norm that you just had to make some noise about it?
Clipping are just such a group – with fast-paced flows backed by harsh noise and barely a semblance of a beat to be gleaned from the overpowering onslaught of white noise.
A spokesman said: “Rather than beats, clipping. use harsh noise and musique concrète to construct their tracks.
“This is not an exercise in anti-music. It just is rap. A return to a philosophy popularized by Bomb Squad’s production for Public Enemy: to make music that sounds as threatening as the the environments we live in.”
Hard to picture this in your mind’s eye? Lucky for you you can grab a free mp3, Get.It, from Clipping’s debut album Midcity here – get.it (ft. kill rogers & TiVO)
BAY Blue’s eponymous LP shows an artist diving deep into his musical heritage.
The hip-hop sampler, real name Matt Chang, has forged an album from smokin’ jazz quartet cuts, grizzled bluesmen, cool swing band rhythms and brassy New Orleans combos – resulting in a collection with a vintage, sepia-tinged feel.
The closest modern references that come to mind are the likes of The Avalanches and Kid Koala, but their scattergun approach doesn’t quite compare to the reverential feel of these tracks.
Because Bay Blue isn’t plundering the past here, he’s paying his respects to it and bringing it up to date at the same time, with a sort of B-boy bebop sound that’s all his own.
ON ROOTS Manuva’s new EP, Banana Skank, his sound has been peeled back to basics.
Never one to rest on his laurels, rapper Rodney Smith can be relied upon to bring something fresh and stimulating with each album, but I have to say as an appetiser Banana Skank – which takes a track from his previous album 4everevolution and reworks it with a new sound – doesn’t leave your mouth watering for the results this time around.
Because these productions are icy affairs. Opener Natural is a slice of barren computerised hip hop, Banana Skank (Wafa Remix) and Part 2 both have a dance beat but a cold, dark vibe, and Party Time leaves you head-nodding but ultimately stony-faced.
Of course, Roots’ flow and delivery are on point as always – as you would expect from a legend of British hip hop – but listeners may just be frozen out by the cold production.
SCOTTISH rap group Young Fathers have taken their first baby steps on Tape One, fathering a sound representative of the grey Edinburgh basement backdrop it was conjured up in.
But don’t let that put you off the Shabazz Palaces-esque Anticon trio – despite the foreboding feeling to the beats and bleak rhymes there’s plenty here to suggest that the group will grow into themselves when the full-length arrives.
Even here, there’s a progression running from opener Deadline through the dark likes of Rumbling to the excellent production on Remains through to the dark humour of Rramada – there’s already substance to the twinkle in the trio’s eyes.
Based on these baby steps, Young Fathers will be making strides soon enough.