This year Halloween didn’t fall on a weekend, but you still caught me out there trick or treatin’. My neighbor was barbequing as he does every year, offering food to everyone who passes by. Take a hotdog if you want, it’s not a bad deal. But I spent part of it with my other neighbor in front of his house scaring a few kids until one little girl walked right up to me and said, “I’m not afraid of you.” Some of these kids have no respect for the macabre. They need a healthy dose of Friday The 13th and Halloween movies.
I’m sometimes the king of avoidance, and in this case, attempting to keep the posthumous release by Alias & Doseone at a distance. Of course, earlier this year Alias, known to his friends & family as Brendon Whitney, is an artist we’ve lost. The monolithic emcee was one of a number of artists to bring abstract and art-rap further towards the mainstream with cataclysmic words pounding against one another. That, and co-founding the Anticon label which is responsible for releasing albums by an assortment of artists whose names will undoubtedly find themselves amongst the pantheon of greats. But this is about a new release, you know, the one I’ve been avoiding but it’s only because Alias’ presence will be missed.
Both Alias & Doseone, a/k/a/ Adam Drucker (Clouddead, 13 & God, Nevermen, Subtle) have had a tightly knit friendship but have also worked together on numerous occasions so finding a commonality for Less Is Orchestra (Anticon) was probably a no brainer. The one significant thing about the album is how neither artist overshadows the other. Alias’ beats flow freely, melodically, and sound as if crafted with ease while Doseone’s raspy delivery is layered perfectly as his words & delivery find the perfect placement for the ups and downs of every beat. You heard that in the opening “Fact Colossal” where Does gets a little too real here. You get an understanding where he’s going when he says, “Life just needs a couple of buttons/fast forward and self-destruction.” They reprise Audio Two with their “Top Billin II,” and while musically it sounds nothing like the original, they include the key lines on this darkly timbred track. There’s just so much take in because well, it’s Alias & Doseone. “The Deadener” keeps a consistent head-bounce as Dose spins circles around with his words. “Rattle The Cage” is the track we’ll all keep coming back to though as Dose culls another one liner from elsewhere and while it’s familiar, the script is flipped and takes a different turn. You can’t avoid the beat that wouldn’t sound the same without Doseone, but Alias brings something quite unique to the mix.
They become hard and menacing on “Don’t Feed The Animal,” create epic tales on “The Doghawk” while dealing with mortality, and then the quickening pace of “Derby Of Days” will make your head spin. But “T.L.R.” is the joint that makes quick work of nonsensical rappers as they define a mainstream culture without naming names and quickly dispensing them into a non-existence. There seems to have been magic in the air when the duo pieced Less Is Orchestra together as nothing here is filler, and Alias will be remembered with his grand final opus.
This is a new project to fill the ever-expanding catalogue that belongs to one Guillermo Scott Herren, a name that’s synonymous with Savath and Savalas, as well as Prefuse 73, and others that are too many to mention in one sitting. His production has carried over to work with a number of artists like BEANS, Daedelus, TVOTR, and Amon Tobin to name a few, and so everything has led him to this point. This time around, Reto A Ichi takes a different approach delving in deeper into what seems a vast creative mind of Herren. The Lapse Of Exchange / Alone Moving Often (!K7) were actually released separately a year ago and have been compiled together here as one. It makes all the sense in the world as both parts of this release bookend one another.
Reto A Ichi is the side of Herren that has found inspiration in the Japanese fictional character Zaotichi, the blind swordsman, who existed sometime between 1603 and 1868, the Edo period. This explains much for this release which is cinematic in nature. The musical progressions pieced together here are beautifully composed and filled with emotion. For this, it seems, Herren creates with eyes closed in order to allow the expansive sound to soak in through other senses. There are moments listeners will find themselves emotionally drained, like on “It’s Her Birthday,” which encapsulates just about every semblance of heartbreaking love throughout it. Herren’s nimble fingers on piano surrounded by light washes of background noise and/or electronic strings, makes it devastatingly captivating. “Criminality” appears brooding at times, as does “So Contra” but there’s a sense of hope sprinkled throughout, which confounds. It’s mind boggling how easily instruments are combined with electronic. There’s keyboard twinkling on “Magazine PM” as noise hovers all around it, to what ends up turning into a solo piano work on “Alone Moving Often.” It’s possible listeners won’t be as taxed listening to the double release of The Lapse of Exchange / Alone Moving Often but at least for one person it has. And I can’t wait to go through the process all over again.
Mainly considered a hardcore punk band from Albany, NY, it’s probably a misnomer considering the quintet has a lot more going for it than a singular sound. Then again, it’s understandable how’d the band got tagged so since the inception of Drug Church started out as a side project for lead singer Patrick Kindlon, who once fronted Self Defense Family, releasing albums on labels like Revelation and Death Wish. It’s far too easy to get lumped into a bucket with so many other groups trying to claw their way to the top. Sorry, I digress.
On the band’s latest, Cheer (Pure Noise Records), the band plays with elements of dissonance, distorted bass, great melodies, with an explosive drive through every single song. So let’s just remove the “hardcore” label association and just let it fall under the punk umbrella, which is all encompassing because that’s what this is. “Unlicensed Guidance Counselor” is a great listen as it utilizes stop/start exchanges and drowns it with feedback to close it out. Then “Foam Pit” captures the sonic essence of changing dynamics, rupturing eardrums with flavorfully, tooth rotting, sugary sweetness. But “Dollar Story;” it’s the one song that’s frantically paced from beginning to end but if you listen closely you can hear the juxtaposition of jangly guitars within the din of rocking noise. There’s a lot to take in as “Avoidarama” brings things back to basics. Like a number of clever rock bands before them, Drug Church opening that track led away by its rhythm section just a few moments before guitars swallows up any available space around Kindlon’s vocals. All things considered, Drug Church doesn’t keep you at an arm’s length away, but instead you’re met with an urge to get down with the band, on stage or at audience level. There’s something just inviting about the band, you know like we could be friends, complain about assholes all the while listening to good music together. I’d be the one bringing the blunt.