New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Homeboy Sandman, Battles, Along With Mark Lanegan Band and Black Moon(?)

I tend to start conversations with “Yo,” so it’s probably no surprise that the only thing I’m doing today is listening to Black Moon‘s new Rise Of Da Moon (Duck Down Records). I mean come on, it’s a new Black Moon and they haven’t released an album since 2006’s Alter The Chemistry so yes, I’m all in! Or at least I was. Listening to the album in its entirety, it’s exactly what we all would expect from the group. Nothing different, nothing’s changed. Method Man makes a guest appearance but the track is at best, lukewarm. Maybe I was expecting a bit too much here. You be the judge.

Anyone that knows anything about me is aware of my fandom for Mark Lanegan‘s work. I’m not sure about his new Somebody’s Knocking (Heavenly) which I hoped would show more promise than it actually has here. Seems I’m set up today for nothing more than disappointments. Or so it may seem.

Everyone knows Battles. Well, if you didn’t, or don’t, the long-running project has been going strong for almost 18 years now and has been tapered down from its previous lineup to just include Ian Williams (Storm & Stress, Don Caballero) on guitars, keys, and electronics, along with drummer John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk). The band dropped it’s fourth album Juice B Crypts (Warp Records) and it seems tailoring the group down hasn’t affected them one bit. Or has it?

The band starts things off here with the sweet tones and textures of “Ambulance. ” Ian Williams (guitars, keys, electronics) and John Stanier (drums) obliterate anyone’s thoughts about the group being a shadow of its former self with the redefined line-up just down to the two of them. Stanier is a sonic powerhouse as he’s always and Williams is all over the place, stitching together instruments to fit the need. The creative spark is obvious and as a two-piece, it allows the two so much freedom. What follows is “A Loop So Nice…,” which sounds more like a textured intergalactic message, sent as an introduction but doom will follow from our new overlords. The second movement to it, “They Played It Twice,” features Xenia Rubinos, who is no stranger to experimentation, and she uses her voice to fit right in along Williams instrumental noodling and pummeled by Stanier’s imaginative percussion. This here is the spice of life.

One can never imagine Battles taking a direct approach to music in any way, as “Sugar Foot,” which features Jon Anderson and Prairie WWWW, shifts and alters reality with the vocal interplay, oddly patterned against the chaotic noise that makes all the sense in the world.

The great thing about Juice B Crypts is quite possibly the diversity it shows. While there is a singularity to it, the group doesn’t alter its own “sound” to fit or satisfy any guests like Tune-Yards on “Last Supper ON Shasta Pt. 1” & “Last Supper ON Shasta Pt. 2”, or as they play along with “Shabazz Palaces on the mind-altering “IZM.” From beginning to end, the songs on Juice B Crypts is highly imaginative and beautifully captivating. There’s no lack of creativity and from one song to the next, the band places itself on the next echelon of sound and fury.  

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It’s no wonder when an artist holding tight to a track record of releasing work that challenges listeners along without being a point of contention amongst critics, we all damn well know hands are going to grasp onto any new releases that follow. It’s never any different when something rolls around from someone with cache value like that of Aesop Rock but it’s no surprise to find his associate Homeboy Sandman following suit.

He’s just dropped his 10th album – which includes the 2008 mixtape There Is No SpoonDusty (Mello Music Group). Known to his friends as Angel Del Villar II, the Sandman rips through the beats here at a varying pace, filling open spaces with his eclectic and electrifying prose. The only difficulty listening to the Queens, NY rapper on his latest offering is the hypnotizing effect that has a serious affect on the psyche after continuous listening. Attempts at skipping past songs are difficult when incurring tracks like “Far Out,” with its heady bassline that repeats itself over and over again but it’s welcomed, especially when that melody on the chorus drops. The vocal melody, side-to-side with guitar notes, is simply: amazing. It takes some time to get past that track since every music player has a replay button.

But rolling through Dusty, Sandman’s backdrops shimmer like colorful curtain patterns in a home that shy away from showing any symmetry or unison in style. Bear with me here. The one thing that holds everything together is the glue that is Homeboy Sandman’s poetic lyricism. It all makes sense, but yet, it doesn’t. This seems to be the appeal I’m having with his music. The staticky “Noteworthy” revolves around a keyboard and bassline, along with some percussion that repeats itself as Sandman enters and exits with his words, holding it all together. It makes way for “Easy,” with a funky bassline, horns, and drums that get wicked as if JSBX drummer Russell Simins was behind the skins. The collection here shows much more diversity with “Yes Iyah,” and it wouldn’t be shocking to imagine the Sandman proceeding as the grand marshall in Brooklyn’s yearly West Indies Festival. And what we get more of is that skill he’s honed in the ability to wax poetic. Of course, it makes sense considering he’s hosted the Nuyorican Poet’s Café’s “ALL THAT! Hip Hop, Poetry and Jazz” just 4 months short of 2 years.

As I mentioned, diversity is what Homeboy Sandman is about, and nothing shows that better than “Pictures On The Wall,” a love song where he’s much more direct. He pieces together clever bars about his true love from the start with, “Yo baby, you the wallpaper on my phone, that’s why I look at my phone so much.” But it gets much better than that when “Don’t sweat us about PDA that’s just the way we act / See, my baby girl is a genuine nymphomaniac / And prettier than the girls I grew up watching on MTV / Hungry for my nut and won’t finish until she empties me.” It isn’t braggadocio or misogynistic, it’s a claim of love and enjoyment. He spits all this over a sample of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” He follows the beauty of one love song with, um, another.

As I mentioned, diversity is what Homeboy Sandman is about, and nothing shows that better than “Pictures On The Wall,” a love song where he’s much more direct. He pieces together clever bars about his true love from the start with, “Yo baby, you the wallpaper on my phone, that’s why I look at my phone so much.” But it gets much better than that when “Don’t sweat us about PDA that’s just the way we act / See, my baby girl is a genuine nymphomaniac / And prettier than the girls I grew up watching on MTV / Hungry for my nut and won’t finish until she empties me.” It isn’t braggadocio or misogynistic, it’s a claim of love and enjoyment. He spits all this over a sample of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.” He follows the beauty of one love song with, um, another.

“Pussy” possibly takes a lead from bluesman Andre William’s own “Pussy Stank.” Both songs have a love of the female genitalia but the Sandman goes deep (no pun intended) with prose explaining his love of it with serious wordplay in his metaphors. “I would never pay for pussy but if I could get paid in pussy I would / I’d fly the pussy on Virgin and Delta, I prefer pussy to water and shelter” is descriptive. But Sandman isn’t crude for the sake of crudity itself, he entertains and captivates here. The only track here with a guest feature is “Lookout (feat. Quelle Chris & Your Old Droog),” and I’ve mentioned once before the emcees wrap metaphors and similes around an unlikely rhythm with just a few notes that bounce continuously, but seemingly intermittent. It’s odd, but it works to their benefit.

If you prefer empty tracks filled with repetitious wording over repetitive beats, you may want to avoid Dusty and the rest Homeboy Sandman’s releases because that’s not what you’ll find here. Lyricism, off-kilter beats, funky rhythms, and well-executed deliveries are what Dusty is filled with. This is what life is about; grabbing hold of something that’ll withstand the test of time. Let’s all be happy the rest of the world has finally caught up with Homeboy Sandman.

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