Tag Archive: “Fake Four Inc.”

I didn’t have any “resolutions” this year because for the most part, they’re a waste of time. I still keep hearing some complain about the diets or plans they’ve had which have been failures. I don’t do all that. My only goal every year is to be better than I was the previous year and so far so good. Staying on top of projects and taking on new ones. Challenging but hey, once you complete one goal you need to set another or else you’re remain stagnant, like my neighbor’s pool water. If you do that then all you’ll get is mosquitoes sucking the life out of you.

So I think I’m up for the challenge that is Eric Slick‘s new album Palisades (Egghunt Records). As a member of Dr. Dog, Slick has known perks with the success of the band.  He’s also played as the drummer for Adrian Belew and was a part of Lithuania.  Here though, Slick starts fresh and literally from the bottom, if you can call it that. Palisades is actually his second solo release which follows up the 2014’s Out Of Habit cassette. But this sophomore album is what’s showcasing as his explosive debut. Drummers aren’t usually at the forefront and success out from behind the drum kit only happens for a select few (Dave Grohl, Phil Collins, etc.) but Slick has already proven himself.   He’s not afraid to cut loose on this quick paced opener “You Became The Light.” He sticks to a standard verse-chorus-verse formula and takes it to the bridge, but the large than life sound he gets from all the instruments is far from cacophonous, delivered impeccably and controlled. While his press release may read, “..a record that washes over you with both the power of a hurricane and the peace of light filtering through the trees,” I wouldn’t go that far but he’s able to pull a variation of styles, piece them all together and make it all sound singularly cohesive! He’s able to slow down the pace on “The Dirge” and “No” holding onto that expanse, and then later create a beautifully orchestrated track with your basic drums-guitar-bass-keyboard instrumentation on “You Are Not Your Mind” that would make Queen proud. In all honesty, this one song is what I find intriguing and is possibly the peak of the album that will have you wondering how Slick was able to incorporate so much beauty in just 3:46 minutes.

EricSlickPalisades
Eric Slick: Palisades

It doesn’t stop there though. Musically, “Evergreen” could have Slick acting as ringmaster to the rest of the world, that’s only because the world in 2017 is a circus. And “Slow Burn,” it’s captivating with the opening keyboard making way for the wall of guitars and rhythms that momentarily smother listeners with washes of sound. Eric Slick isn’t afraid. He isn’t afraid to take chances and reach into the deep corners of his mine to make Palisades such an amazing listen.

There isn’t much I can say about Tara Jane O’Neil… OK that’s not necessarily true because there’s a LOT I can say about her. In the early 90’s she became part of musical underground lore as a part of the Louisville, KY band Rodan. As part of the seminal group, they redefined a genre with alternating time signatures and creative dynamics. After the dissolution of the band she drifted with other artists, later collaborating with some then began recording her own material.  Her self-titled release (Gnomonsong) is her 8th solo album and it seems she’s honed and refined her skills into what is possibly her most beautiful work to date. Her harmonies and beautiful voice on “Flutter” are accentuated only by the guitars she’s accompanied with. O’Neil can make it seem effortless. To simply categorize her as a folk artist wouldn’t seem fair considering her musical history but the way she creates beauty with “Blow” is just astounding. The ease and flow of the soft and tantalizing rhythm section assist in bringing her gorgeous voice to the surface. The song structure itself is one that would make Carole King blush, having her wish she thought of it first.

Tara Jane O'Neil
Tara Jane O’Neil: S/T

I’m not certain if I can pick anything from this release as a favorite, with one song better than the previous. There’s the sultry “Sand,” the easy flowing “Laugh,” but it’s “Great” that’s the one that puts a smile on my face. It’s as if O’Neil is left breathless after singing the opening “Holding onto life at these ends of time / what matters now anyway?” over a slowly-paced rhythm and sparse guitars that never move faster than a light summer breeze. Oh how O’Neil makes it all so easy and simple, but that’s only because she’s mastered her art. That much is obvious from the allure of her self-titled release here.

In all seriousness, I’m at a loss with Sixo. Why? Because it doesn’t seem like he fucks around.  Scotty Trimble  is a former professional motocross racer turned indie rap producer (in actuality, both careers ran concurrently) and here on his third release  The Odds Of Free Will (Fake Four Inc.) we see yet another producer whose track manipulation is capable at handling more than one genre. While Sixo is known as a Hip Hop / electronic producer, some of his music defies singular genres. He’s able to create tracks that are fit for any singer or rapper. Although, one thing is predominant; there’s a sadness lingering around many of the tracks written here. Musically, it usually sits around a brooding timbre that’s accented by the artist he’s working with. “Eye Of The Needle” feels this way. Singer Grace Park does her best to stay on point with it as well. The sweetness of her voice makes that sadness bearable, it’s strength fighting through it…if that makes any sense. But then there’s “Christmas Past” where that sadness is overshadowed by a haunting dream on which Ceschi raps/sings over. Ceschi can make you cry with his words, accenting the music he’s highlighting, storming through in a controlled state.

Sixo

But it’s Gregory Pepper that changes things up. The mellow work Sixo pieces together on “John Connor” – an ode to Terminator – is where Pepper can sing his heart out beautifully, although the cynicism of his words shouldn’t be lost on you. He’s one artist I’d like to hear record an entire album using strictly Hip Hop production. But it’s not all fun and games though, as that Grayskul / Dark Time Sunshine man Onry Ozzborn, takes the angst Sixo puts in his music and adds his words to it perfectly on “War Games.” Misconstrued love? Misunderstandings? Possibly, but Sixo and Ozzborn leave you wallowing in anxiety. His instrumentals like “Nothing’s Perfect” and “Nothing And Hell” are beautiful but again, dark, emotive, sad, etc. and require repeated listen. Other heavy hitters are found here as well like Josh Martinez holding things down on “Fire In The Sky,” or Awol One on the bottom heavy “Starlight City, which suits his baritone perfectly. You can’t forget those wordsmiths like Open Mike Eagle, Milo and Mike 9 as well. This is a lot to take in and I feel like I’m downing. The only thing is, I keep coming back to The Odds Of Free Will in an attempt to get more water in my lungs.

Eric SlickFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
Tara Jane O’NeilFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
SixoFacebook // Twitter // Instagram

Producer/musical innovator Sixo premieres the video today for “John Connor” which features singer Gregory Pepper.  Former professional motocross racer Scotty Trimble, known as Sixo,  is set to release his third full-length studio album, The Odds of Free Will, dropping 421/17 on Fake Four Inc. This time around though, he’s included a number of indie rap giants, aside from Gregory Pepper, like Open Mike Eagle, Milo, Ceschi, Awol One and Onry Ozzborn. This album is obviously his labor of love, spending three years working on the individual tracks that comprise the whole. The album is fitted with sampling mixes and live instruments, receiving a helping hand by additional musicians, David Moss (Cello), Jinx McGee (guitar/synths), and hsi brother Maddox Trimble (bass).

“John Connor” circles around a Terminator-based imagery where you have Pepper playing the Edward Furlong role against someone else handling Schwarzenneger’s cybernetic Terminator character. I want to say it’s Trimble playing the character but only they’ll really know.

 

Sixo Album Artwork
SIXO: The Odds of Free Will

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Quote from Gregory Pepper: 

“To this day, I still think Terminator 2 is one of the best movies of all time. I remember watching the VHS with my dad in the 90’s and being transfixed by the mix of senseless violence, science-fiction, and Guns-N-Roses. The John Connor character defined my prepubescent expectations of what life would be like as a teenager: Summer afternoons spent sneering at authority and ripping around on a dirtbike, hacking ATMs. Naturally, my teen years didn’t end up being anything like that, thank heavens. This rap is sort of a meditation on that skewed nostalgia. And just to be clear: I DID ask for that Edward Furlong type haircut with the long bangs and the barber fucked it up, hard. The video (shot by Colin Harrington aka A Pocket History Of Mars) ended up being a bit of fan fiction in which we witness a 2017-era John Connor navigating the modern world, missing his T-800 father figure. The part where the terminator is smoking shatter through a glass pipe (around the 2 minute mark) cracks me up every time.”

SIXO: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram
Gregory Pepper: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Ceschi Ramos, or Ceschi as he’s been mononymously known, is quite the conundrum. I once questioned Ceschi about the two worlds he’s firmly footed in, Hip-Hop and Indie rock, and how he’s able to balance life in both.  His response was limited but definitive with, “I’m a musician.” It’s clear that his ability to work in multiple genres – sometimes all at once – lies in the act that the songs and music must come first. It works. The last few years we’ve seen in go through a few changes and a few hurdles and hiccups. Last year saw the release of his fourth album, and an amazing piece of work, Broken Bone Ballads, but it was delayed through his legal troubles. A couple of years later he’s on a rise again, putting in the hard work that he’s been accustomed to, pushing his limits.  

As a small label owner I’m constantly checking out new music whether it’s mainstream or one of hundreds of demos I receive every year.

This year I definitely enjoyed albums by David Bowie, Frank Ocean and friends such as Astronautalis & Sammus. None of those albums will be on this list. My 2016 best-of will be focused on artists that are probably not on anybody else’s lists because they are unfortunately under-publicized even on an underground level. In fact, I originally had Elucid’s “Save Yourself” on here – but took it off because it made it onto a couple of other top ten lists on prominent hip hop sites – deservedly. Yes, I know every musician on this list personally and the list is completely biased. Hope you enjoy discovering some of these acts that you may have never heard of.

P.S.

Every December my label Fake Four releases four free EPs by under-known artists that we like & respect.  This year the four hip-hop EPs we’ve chosen (by Dope Knife, Perseph One, Chisme & Ardamus) are super dope and I highly recommend visiting fakefour.bandcamp.com to download them free although they are not included on the list below.

Here is a musically diverse collection of albums that probably weren’t on your radar this year:

Andy the Doorbum and Justin Aswell – Intent 

I didn’t originally want to include any Fake Four releases on this list – but I just couldn’t write this list without including “Intent”. Andy the Doorbum is a talented singer- songwriter from Charlotte who’s been doing everything from bizarro electro punk rock to doomy-art-folk for many years now.

Justin Aswell is an electronic producer who’s turned some heads with his wildly intricate finger drumming techniques. Together they made this incredibly effective, powerful work full of existentialist poetry, atmospheric soundscapes & progressive trip hop style production. It’s easily one of my favorite albums of the year & I recommend giving it a listen or many.

Siul Hughes – The Book of Iza

A twenty-something cat from Bridgeport & New Haven CT made one of my favorite albums of the year. For lack of a better description Hughes makes music that can sit comfortably next to work by Mick Jenkins, Isaiah Rashad or Kendrick Lamar but is more deeply rooted in East Coast style with clear references to boom bap without necessarily fitting into that box. The Book of Iza is an ambitious project – artfully split into 4 digestible chapters tied together through montages of Hughes’ childhood rap cassette recordings. It’s poetic, strong & technically impressive rapping and production. It’s kinda abstract but also feels very modern & bumps hard. Siul Hughes is a hip hop artist to keep an eye on.

True Deceiver – Particles

True Deceiver is the latest project by Tom Filepp of Cars and Trains. Unlike the “folktronica” Filepp is known for, True Deceiver’s music is drenched in drawn-out heavy distortion, shoegaze style atmosphere & infectious melodic repetition. It’s loud & sludgy but remains an ultra pretty listen.

Some of the music reminds me of a heavier version of the excellent Lilys album “Eccsame The Photon Band” from good ol 1994.

Lyrics & song titles seem focused on our current remote control version of modern war. It all makes sense coming from a band called True Deceiver. Other lyrics remind me of Cars & Trains’ style of analyzing humanity. One lyric reads, “There is beauty in our failures.”

That kind of writing resonates with me.

I love the direction Tom Filepp took on this project and if any of that sounds interesting to you – take a listen.

Cheap Perfume – Nailed It 

I dig Riot Grrrl sounding stuff. Listening to Colorado Springs’ Cheap Perfume…it’s as if Bikini Kill time traveled 20 plus years forward to 2016. Complete with diss songs for Donny Trump & hilariously on point script-flipping of male perspectives – the lyrics are smart, strong & sometimes funny as fuck. The music is fast, loud and catchy. It’s solid, high energy, old school influenced punk rock that can help listeners laugh at the stupidity of hegemonic standards while successfully capturing some of the anger women must feel in this world of male-written rules.

Madadam EP 

Guelph seems like a pretty sweet hippy town up in Ontario Canada. That’s where Adam is from. Adam clearly enjoys psychedelics, percussion & making beats.He does all of those things well. For his first solo release he made a bizarre and refreshing little EP that somebody on the internet compared to Ween. I’m not sure what it is – and that’s why I liked it so much. As a fan of genre bending bands such as Mr Bungle – I can definitely vouch for this one.

Alyssa Kai – Contingency 

I first saw Alyssa when she played with a 20 piece folk punk orchestra called Speaker For The Dead. Then…then I saw her do quiet Mountain Goats covers  in a living room. Then saw her play drums for the incredible Mallory. When I finally saw her play her OWN acoustic tunes in a North Hampton, MA record store – I could not stop listening. She is one of my favorite newer singer-songwriters.  The lyrics on “Contingency” are profound & often sound like somebody reading prose or poetry. There is a darkness to it. There is an openness. There’s humor. These songs are written from the perspective of a person feeling like an outsider growing up within the Catholic Church.

“Being raised catholic gave me divine authority to say whatever I like in an exclamatory manner.”

I definitely relate to Alyssa’s words and style & feel what she’s saying.

UZOO – Do Not Feed The Animals 

I don’t think any hip hop group gets me as hype as UZOO these days. They are like a traveling mosh pit. The 13 person crew is an amalgamation of Hartford’s brightest young rappers, mixing & matching crew members & styles – spearheaded by, Hartford teacher of the year, Joey Batts. I’m not going to name them all. That will be difficult to do. There’s an underlying “professional wrestling” element to it all. One of the members, Jobo, even decided to name his solo band “Heel” after the villainous characters we love to hate in wrestling. UZOO is having fun. They’re not taking themselves seriously but they’re all seriously dope rappers (& singers in Qusharia’s case) representing an exciting young Hartford CT scene.

Political Animals – EgoBese

I put three CT hip hop groups on this list because I feel our state is deeply slept on and has some top notch talent. Political Animals is a live staple out here in New Haven and beyond. They’ve been doing their thing for many years now. It’s throwback / live band hip hop and that’s not the easiest genre to tackle – but I think PA does it really well. It’s high energy, technically tight and EgoBese is the most impressive recorded material I’ve heard from them. Songs like Bang Bang & Ultraviolence showcase PA perfecting the sound they’ve been developing over a decade. I can’t imagine how hard these guys would have crushed shit if they came out 20 years ago. As a young teen I was a fan of diy hip hop bands that played punk clubs such as Shootyz Groove & 2 Skinnee Js back in the mid 90s – I love hearing that style updated for now. PA does it well.  Catch them live. Check EgoBese.

Death Has 1000 ears 

Banjo & Tuba punk from Pittsburgh. That’s what this is. Douglas Fur is a virtuosic banjo player who’s howling voice sounds something like if John Darnielle liked hardcore more, had tons of energy & cared a lot. Mika handles the low end beautifully on Tuba. Accordion & horn also add to this beautiful ruckus of Eastern European folk / Klezmer influenced punk. There’s nothing quite like these guys and I love what they’re doing. If you like heavy stuff done with acoustic instruments – must check.

Ramshackle Glory – One Last Big Job 

Although almost completely ignored by press outlets throughout their career, this WAS probably one of the best known anarcho-folk-punk bands of all time. For that reason alone they probably don’t belong on this list. Still, I wanted to end the list this way. This is Ramshackle Glory’s final album…ever. It dropped December 30th 2016. Lead songwriter Pat The Bunny is done with music for a while. Erik Petersen of, seminal acoustic punk band, Mischief Brew passed away this summer – and the album is dedicated to his memory. That makes this album a bittersweet goodbye to 2016 & to folk punk in some ways.

Still, it’s mostly happy, upbeat punk & indie pop music written by a young curmudgeon who loves people but doesn’t want to get too close. In Ramshackle fashion, there are songs about resilience, fighting back, taking care of friends & addiction. There’s also a little gem written against Christmas “Religion is fine…I just hate Christmas. Theories are great, but I hate when you say them. I understand my heat bills, I still don’t pay them.” Haha. Good stuff.

Pat the Bunny is one of my favorite songwriters because he has a way of breaking down complex topics into simple, pretty morsels of highly quotable punkisms. This is the “most produced” I’ve ever heard this band and I like the overall sound of the project. The band sounds awesome on here. Their second album “who are your friends gonna be?” was so lo-fi that it was very difficult to hear the words. I’m glad they’ve gone the clean, pop route on this one. “One Last Big Job” is super short record. 9 songs. Soaring horns & clarinets on most songs.  This bittersweet little collection ends on a giant, epic version of the beautiful “the hand you reach out is empty (as is mine)”.  I’m happy they got their shit together and made this final album. Will miss this glorious band.  Goodbye 2016.

Ceschi:

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In case you missed it Onry Ozzborn released the video for “Flee The Colony feat. Nate Quiroga.” The song is off his album Duo, an unprecedented release which features a guest appearance on every track. That alone wouldn’t be reason to listen to but this release? It’s one amazing album. While every song is distinctively unique as his “Duo Film” showed, it’s also stunningly cohesive. Check out the new video below.

 

Sister Crayon

Sister Crayon’s has released “Armor (Zavala Remix), ” and if you don’t know Sister Crayon I just don’t know what to tell you. The indie rock duo of  vocalist Terra Lopez with Dani Fernandez, released it’s second album Devoted this past summer on Rodriguez-Lopez Productions. For the lead track they’ve enlisted Zavala, the Chicago-based production wizard who is one-half of the Hip Hop duo Dark Time Sunshine. For this remix you find both Zavala and Sister Crayon’s identities melding perfectly together.

 

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Pick up Zavala’s free E.P. Memory Traps here.

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Earlier this year Ceschi released Broken Bone Ballad, which many fans were waiting for with fervent anticipation and excitement. Five years since his last release, The One man Band Broke Up, the time in between albums was rife with legal battles with authorities, a situation that would have taken most to the breaking point. It only fueled this artist, taking those experiences and capturing them lyrically, and musically, on the album. Produced entirely by Factor Chandelier, one seriously talented artist in his own right, Broken Bone Ballads should end up on many top 10 album lists for 2015.

Ceschi & Fake Four Inc. have released the video for “This Won’t Last Forever” premiered here first.

 

Listen to the Broken Bone Ballads:

Ceschi Ramos Broken Bone Ballads

 

Years before the release of his last album The One Man Band Broke Up he’s returned with Broken Bone Ballads, a collection of tracks that embodies both the morose and joyful. Ceschi Ramos has spent time away from music and life in general, dealing with court dates, time away from friends and family and a live distanced from the one he’s back in now. …Ballads is far more than what any of his previous works are, or have been, pulling out more emotions from listeners allowing all to become a part of the moment itself while listening.

With an array of songs that volley from a straight and narrow walk of beats & rhymes, it quietly erupts with soulful narratives that are firmly rooted in Hip-Hop. Helping realize his vision was beatmaker Factor and together they’ve created a unique album of glorious proportion.

Ceschi passed through Phoenix as one stop of a relentless tour schedule and took the time to speak on his way to perform in downtown Phoenix at Lawn Gnome Publishing.

ANX

Dark Time Sunshine
ANX

That one sentence that person said or that thing that happened yesterday is still on your mind and you find yourself constantly repeating it in your head over and over again. You panic and your heart starts racing and you can’t stop questioning yourself and you wonder if you’ve done something wrong, hands get clammy, you breathe in long and count em, 1-2-3, trying to shake it off. Anxiety. There’s no denying that Dark Time Sunshine have dropped yet another masterpiece. DTS have come a long way from their previous release “Vessel” and have much to be proud of. The new album titled, Anx, short for anxiety, is the new child of masterminds Zavala and Onry Ozzborn and damn, this is most definitely worth listening to. Anx starts off with a banger called “Hosanna in the Highest” featuring one of the lovely Ramos brothers, Ceschi from Fake Four Inc., and sets the mood for the rest of the journey. All of the songs on this album are accompanied by Zavala’s brilliant, trippy, calming textured beats and moves perfectly with Onry’s flow and on point delivery, you find yourself relaxing at times and then coming hard at you is a punch in the gut strong enough to get you sweatin’ again. We need more music like this, mixing all kinds of influences into something bigger than itself that hits people where it counts. A drop of sexiness gets thrown into the mix with Reva Devito singing the chorus on “Never cry Wolf”, although the song has underlying tones of heartbreak and anger. It’s packed with special guests, such as Aesop Rock and Child Actor who own their parts with strong confidence. Anx lets you take a step into the panic and confusion and when you least expect it but need it the most, reaches a hand in and pulls you out, reminding you to always look forward because hip hop hasn’t died yet. (Fake Four Inc.) Jessica Whittington

David Ramos released his latest album, Sento La Tua Mancanza, today (May 29) via Fake Four, Inc. (Astronautalis, Busdriver) , the label he started alongside his brother Ceschi in 2008.  Here are a couple tracks from the album for your enjoyment:

MP3: David Ramos – “Forgotten Dance” (http://www.teamclermont.us4.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=3bad3a523aa6f569c729a0975&id+9e07b4850c&e=485d3bf741.)