Out Hud - S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
There's a certain energy which follows a band who has spent their formative years playing in live settings. They have a tightness to their sound almost like a layer of connective tissue which binds them all together. Their sound flexes and shifts and has, overall, a more effortless texture to it. Out Hud's S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is their first full-length record, after a number of singles and innumerable live shows. Released nearly two years after their relocation to Sacramento, S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. captures the band's vibrant energy and imprints it neatly on a platter that you can take with you. It's your very own portable rump-shaking house band.
Spun across six tracks, S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is what you would hear in a retro-futuristic western-themed saloon. The instrumentation is a couple of guitars, a violin, a rhythm section, and a beat box or two for good measure, and they all work together in an acid house spaghetti western sort of fashion. "This Bum's Paid" spools out like a Scenic track, reconfigured for the dance floor, but not at such a hurried pace that you would spill your drink. "Hair Dude, You're Stepping On My Mystique" is a back-room collision between the desert melancholy of Friends of Dean Martinez and the machine precision of Buddy Rich.
"The L Train Is A Swell Train and I Don't Want To Hear You Indies Complain" is not only the longest song title on the record, it is also the longest track, taking up nearly a quarter of the record. Fortunately the music is not deterred by its awkward name or nor its gravid responsibility of anchoring the album. Casually swinging back and forth in its emphasis between the melodies of the guitars and the strong pull of the bass, "The L Train Is A Swell Train and I Don't Want To Hear You Indies Complain" has a solid groove running through it, masking the annoying length of the track's title.
S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. winds up with "My Two Nads (Dad Reprise)," finishing out the record with just as much tongue firmly inserted in cheek as it began. It's great to hear Kranky move away from their more abstract and reflective output to something more rump-shaking. And, if Out Hud is the type of material they're looking to offer, then I say, "Bring it on." S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. is a far-ranging, free-wheelin' groove session.
The Opus - Breathing Lessons
Breathing Lessons, the new record from the tandem producer team of Mr. Echoes and The Isle of Weight, does not require any sort of artifical life support: these eleven instrumental tracks have their own heartbeat, their own pulse, and -- most assuredly -- their own breath. Working under the moniker "The Opus" the duo has done work for a number of luminaries in the beat-making and hip-hop industries, demonstrating that they know how to drop a beat, scatter a sample, and find the right echo in any room. Breathing Lessons is a series of slumbering instrumentals which quietly and effortlessly take control through their particular pacing and careful attention to structure and composition.
The opening track, "Fanum's Organs," staggers out of your speakers with a endless vocal loop, a battered drum pattern, an untuned piano with ancient strings, and a cold wind which blew into the studio a week ago and is still whispering in the corner of the room. The mood set by Mr. Echoes and The Isle of Weight is one of fear and apprehension as if the act of spinning old vinyl has released ghosts which haunt the cables and mixing deck. The analog synth melody of "Mission Control" has a decaying Theremin-esque tonality to it -- not much more than a fading breathless wail. A ghost of a piano melody hides beneath a DJ Krush style beat pattern in "Symbiotic," while a pattern of water dapples itself against the outer walls of the studio, the slash and drip of the rain caught by the mikes (and, in fact, a goodly portion of Breathing Lessons brings to mind DJ Krush's early instrumental work).
Too often hip-hop gets caught up in the flash -- the gangstas, guns and cash -- and forgets what it is that makes us listen. Breathing Lessons is a series of Buddhist mind clensing exercises, instrumental beat-scapes which take the rhythms of hip-hop and temper them with strings ("Life's Endless Cycle pt. 1" and "Life's Endless Cycle pt. 3 - Evolutions") and the subtle coloration of processed field recordings ("Symbiotic") so as to give us room to breathe. In the tiny hours of the day, all that you have in the silence of the city is a head full of fears and memory. Breathing Lessons is the soundtrack for this fading hour, eleven tracks which will temper your ghosts and calm the restlessness of your unresolved spirit. Nocturnally restful and hauntingly evocative.
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Publications I've Written For
- Eraldo Bernocchi
- Fields of the Nephilim
- Peter Gabriel
- Chris Randall
- This Morn' Omina