Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page
Now that Flosstradamus is seeing more ink and MTV airtime, the launch pad is set for literal sister act, uh, Kid Sister. The current rocket on the docket is “Damn Girl,” a brief and bubbly jaunt produced by DJ wunderkind A-Trak. This one might be a more useful for doing the robot than the bump and grind that “Let Me Bang” lent itself to. Retro futuristic synth lines gush and dive around Sis, who lets out a characteristically hyper flow. Excited to spit, her words occasionally get tripped up in a lack of enunciation. However, she’s the only rapper I know to use the word “vestibule” and refer to “’mo’s” in a non-phobic manner – all in the same song no less. The track gets its name from its stuttering Too $hort sample from “Bossy” (“damn girl / don’t hurt ‘em”), which perfectly evokes an 80’s vibe and the commanding theme of “Bossy” at the same time. And really, it’s hard not to love a song that references Green Velvet’s “Percolator.” With more careful rhyme-pacing and continued stellar production, Kid Sister could easily push the whole Flosstradamus extended family into the spotlight.
Audio: Kid Sister, “Damn Girl”
Pyramids, the third release from Chicago’s Pit Er Pat, is anything but a smooth, simple ride. A Midwestern middle ground between Denali and later Blonde Redhead, the trio’s post-rock sound is moody and highly textured. Singer Fay Davis-Jeffers unravels her childishly simple lyrics with a likewise juvenile delivery — somewhere between Bjork and Joanna Newsom. Fat bass lines from Rob Doran provides setting for melodic plinks and pulses charging from Davis-Jeffers’ electric piano. Butchy Fuego’s sniper precise drumming is most impressive, ready to keep his bandmates in line through elastic time signatures and further complicate songs with mildly showy fills.
Combined, Pit Er Pat crafted 11 songs brimming with anxiety, apprehension and eerie cheerfulness. The album opens with shimmering “Brain Monster,” a rattling sample of the sounds to come. “Seasick (Hang Ten),” a starkly beautiful sea shanty mostly sung by the pleasantly nasal Doran, then seamlessly fades from its predecessor. As the album unfolds, the trio accessorize tracks with bits and pieces of tweaked out computer noise (“Pyramids”), thrumming guitar feedback (“Rain Clouds”) and other unidentifiable gobbledygook (the latter half of “Time Monster”).
Pit Er Pat shines brightest during its instrumental portions, especially when letting loose; the singeing and fuzzy basswork on “Swamp” alone is enough to melt listeners’ earwax. On the other hand, it’s Davis-Jeffers’ uneven vocals and odd phrasings tainting the trio’s otherwise excellent compositions. Coupled with lyrics cribbed from the nearest day care center (“I like the dark / ‘cuz I’m in disguise / lurking in the shadows you can’t see my eyes / I’m just a dark shape” from “Baby’s Fist”), her performance can be more annoying than charming. Still, Pyramids is a superb effort from a promising and still mutating band – one with plenty of time to find a balance between quirk and quality.
Audio: Pit Er Pat, “Solstice”
What is it like to be Maya Arulpragasam these days? The music public at large did a big ol’ blink on Arular despite the hype, the curse of making music without a American sound struck again (rest in your native country, Dizzee), she cameoed with Missy E and dropped out of the music presses’ collective eye. Sure, Americans would go on to adapt her delivery as we’re wont to do — Fergie and Nelly Fertado even made money on it.
So that’s got to put her in a unique position. How does the slept-on tastemaker with a Soulseeking/blog-reading/Myspace-having audience proceed? Let me ask the boyfriend. Hello, Diplo? Wes has weaved his love for funk carioca and B’more club through his production style almost completely, completely disregarding the trip-hop/downtempo sound of Florida, and kept producing for his ladyfriend. His portions of Arular worked well, tempered by Maya’s impeccable taste.
Well, mostly. “XR 2″ showed up on Dip’s Myspace recently, the proper locale for a track so characteristically his. Raved up horns made for bouncing off favela walls are manicly driven, and repetitively so. The hop-skip, double dutch Baltimore drum programming is just as relentless; verses offer a sparse reprieve, clipped and appropriately lo-tech. M.I.A. sounds less herself — scaling back her emphatic exclamations to, say, sitting on the couch, recording between commercials after she gets another hit off the blunt; and let’s give Wes a few verses so this isn’t just another practice beat. She’s confident if subdued, glad to be recording and only the slightest bit wary of the outcome.
It takes a few listens before it’s apparent this is more carefully assembled than that cursory spin suggested. Among a slew of half-assed rhymes (that whole section on anagrams makes Myspace Uffie’s look clever) slither a few hot lines. “Where were you in ’92?” references one of the most violent periods of Sri Lanka’s history and puts the audience on the defense/on blast/onto Google to figure out what happened. She gets lost in the instrumental while whispering, but “Whistle whistle / blow blow / here we here we / go go” is pretty detached and authoritarianly sexy at full volume. Cleverly enough, the lyrics and theme reach their peak when the song swallows itself: “Some people think we’re stupid but we’re not,” then vanishes for three-quarters of a beat. She doesn’t come back really strong right after, not needing to say what the silence didn’t say for her. That said, the track has a weird disposably interesting appeal, in all its enduringly straight-forward glory. Will it be reflective of her future? Being a stylistic shapeshifter makes considering the question practically moot. Personally I’d rather not hear this sound out of her; surely Diplo remembers he can make his own records.
Audio, M.I.A., “XR 2″
Die Princess Die: Lions Eat Lions
A cursory listen to Lions Eat Lions, the second full-length by Los Angeles noise punks Die Princess Die, might give audiences the impression they don’t give a shit, they just wanna make some eardrums crackle. Drawing from a palate of grating, semi-tonal sound, DPD grasp tight and ride each note into the ground several times per track. Sometimes they bounce to post-punk’s snap together beat; sometimes it’s as simple as pummeling microphones into the ground. After a handful of spins, Lions reveals itself to be a more calculated and self-aware. The guitarists coerce their instruments to grind through notes like industrial sanders, or to be flung around throwing knife style. Though the bassist’s rumble often seems to be space-filler (his rubbery melody on “Young Lady, Your Tail is Showing” notwithstanding), it’s easy to miss the subtly shifting low end, lending menacing color to the band’s work. When taken with liberal amounts of their drummer’s technical skills and lack of ego, DPD sound nightmarishly wicked. The middle section of “Sport” is balls out carnage, limbs flailing, a last ditch effort to harm. Album opener “Check” is nearly as relentless and twice as rhythmic. And “Roar of 84” re-imagines The Melvins as wiry post-punkers thrumming on uppers. Die Princess Die stumbles a bit on the minor key melodrama of whiner “The Racer,” and the short slash and burn tracks “Lights of the Night” and “Spearhorse” are too intimately familiar with Liars first two albums. Die Princess Die still get hung up on the barbs of rote post-punk; but the lacerating sound of Lions Eat Lions smacks of potential, as well as the desire to keep thrusting their vision into listeners’ ears.
Audio: Die Princess Die, “Shake”