Tag Archive: “Grey Market”

I’ve come to realize something: There’s no one person quite like me. I’m the shit. Me, me, me. Narcissist. Self-gratuitous…. Just kidding, that’s not me but there isn’t another like me, which doesn’t sit well with me. Who else is going to direct others without the ego to blow his or her own horn? If there are any around me like that, I haven’t found them. Yeah, we live in a world of people that are so self-absorbed that constantly regurgitate the same BS that others have done before them, AND who refuse to even acknowledge their own influences. I’m not just referring to musicians but there are writers, journalists, photographers, etc. who all, for lack of a better term, copy. OK, so maybe some consider copying as the greatest form of flattery but for God’s sake man, note what’s influenced you! I have a lot to get off my chest at times and at most points, it doesn’t make sense, even to myself. I just hope that maybe some can take what I’ve written and decipher the jumbled mess that sits in my head. This leads us to today’s Friday’s Roll Out(!) where my excitement couldn’t be contained as I’m focusing on a sophomore release that came to fruition 15 years after an artist’s solo debut surfaced back in 2002. That was when I first talked to him, bu that’s a story for another time.

Spooky Action (Joyful Noise Recordings) appeared in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. It was as if inside I was screaming “FINALLY!”  There were other things that ran through my mind as well like “Please don’t suck” and “You better be fucking good.” I wasn’t putting the pressure on Jason Loewnstein but I was laying it all on the album itself. He’s kept busy performing with Fiery Furnaces after Sebadoh went on an extended hiatus, which started up again in 2007 with the original line-up touring in support of re-releasing early Sebadoh albums, and later in 2012 the band once again toured with a different drummer in support of the Bakesale reissue. In 2013 Sebadoh recorded the new album Defend Yourself, again giving me what I need. But I digress from Loewnstein and the …Action he’s released. it doesn’t sound like he’s lost a step since his 2002 solo debut At Sixes And Sevens, which I had to make my way back to. The years have roughed up his voice. Not as weathered as say a Tom Waits but gruff enough, giving the music an added charm. You can hear it blistering through your speakers, or headphones, on the entrancing “Dead.” I refer to this one song first because it’s probably my favorite off the album. It opens with a cacophony of guttural guitar noise but it’s when Loewenstein bellows it out here, where he sounds like he’s become more punk as the years have progressed than he had early on in his career. If such a thing is possible. And the song structure here will leave listeners enthralled, did I mention that? Well it will. He’s also continued to play with a crazed abandon, hitting sharper notes like on the opening “Navigate,” which hits like stinging rain on your face if you didn’t have a protective umbrella. It’s frantic, it’s blistering, and it’s completely glorious. “Machinery” is the best of both worlds with power blasts that are full-frontal assaults and complex melodies that are undoubtedly masked as simple ones when it’s far from the case. The shit literally hits the fan with “New Rocker” though, where the bottom end is liable make your spine fall right out of the orifice you’d think it would come out of. This(!) is the power jam we’ve been waiting for Loewenstein to give us. But there’s more! So much more. “Superstitious” follows suit here, capitalizing on that low end theory that I just can’t seem to get enough of. Oh dear Lord, after listening to Spooky Action I’m spent. There are 11 proper songs here and the beauty of this album lingers on, long after it ends. Hell yes.

JasonLowenstein

JASON-LOEWENSTEIN_Spooky-Action_web

Every time I think about it I wonder “Why do I know this name, because Imaad Wasif wouldn’t be hard to forget?” Of course I know it because I have a number of other albums he’s released. He was a founding member of the lowercase (Amphetamine Reptile) that played a strange amalgam of lo-fi post rock. Throughout the years he’s collaborated with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Folk Implosion but he’s always worked on his own material Dzi (Grey Market) is Wasif’s fourth full-length album of blistering psychedelic rock and to be honest, tagging the album into a sub-genre of “psychedelia” is probably pigeonholing his music. It’s obviously influential but it doesn’t overtake the album. Wasif may get trippy but his song writing, it’s on point from beginning to end. The opening “Far East” builds up with one instrument being added after then next before Wasif comes in with a pseudo-falsetto. The dark timbre of the track is urgent and builds around Wasif’s beautiful vocals. It’s masterfully assembled. He then heads into the rallying “Astronomy,” with washes of guitar that make you believe he’s heading into a desert-rock or stoner-metal wet dream. Does he? Yeah, he heads in that direction but you’ll be pressed to raise the volume here and hit that repeat button. But it’s far from being reckless, showing he can handle himself alongside all comers. Wasif can obviously move at a frenetic pace but can slow things down when needed like with “Carry The Scar” where the song is built around a singular melody with a lot going on underneath. Lasers, squealing overdubbed guitar solos; there’s much to be offered up here. And then he slows things down a bit more with “Marie,” a captivating track that never moves faster than a snail at it’s top speed until right before the very end. That’s where there’s a slow rising crescendo, all the while though, Wasif never raises his voice singing blissfully until oblivion.  That oblivion comes in the form of “Dream Metal,” a wondrous journey into a world full of sharp objects and blood soaked roads. That’s the imagery I get from the music itself. The lyrical aspect of it seems heart-wrenching but avoids heartbreak. There’s strength here, and lots of it. “Mirror Image” sounds like the escape from oblivion but Wasif changes gears with “I’m Changing.” This is the point where shit gets real. It’s a ravaged pop song that showcases he’s not a one-trick pony. You can’t do anything but love this song. Imaad Wasif has outdone himself yet again with Dzi. You’d be hard pressed to figure out what he has in store next. I know I am.

ImaadWasif

Album Cover

Now the Charms is a band I’ve never heard of and so I know next to nothing about the Seattle, WA trio. What I do know is today the band released its debut album Human Error (Killroom Records) today. The group’s self-description of being  “a biomechanical noise punk trio whose necro-electro sound is akin to a thousand broken computers surging with blue crystal power” is probably right on point there. When describing the northwest I’m sure the Charms would be far removed from descriptions and comparisons of the groups that came before them. No, Human Error showcases something much darker and malignant. When I reference “darker,” I’m not referring to Twilight-era glittery vampire bitches, but rather a poignant cacophony of dark matter covering light. It’s a darkness that falls along the lines of A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste – era Ministry but far removed from the pretension and “industrial” tag. It has that feel of darkness. Yes I’ve been repeating myself now and again but one listen to Human Error and it will infuse your mind and spirit with everything that’s right about music. There is no pretense here, simply three guys who will bludgeon your mind until you succumb to their will. “C.O.D.” is the opening track and the band seems to throw conventionality right out the window. That repetitive bassline is hypnotic and you’ll realize that it was always there after repeated listens. “Sirens” has you believing the group will be slowing things down once it begins but it doesn’t. They do throw in a sublime melody that’s pretty, um, charming. The band keeps up the pace throughout the album with songs like “Only is Gone” creating noise for over a minute before they explode into it or when they rip into “Dream Fever” that has noticeable space, obviously included for the eventual changes in dynamics.  From beginning to end, the Charms just don’t stop, won’t stop. Human Error takes you on a journey, one that flows intensely throughout, questioning the meaning of your own miserable life. It’s something that we all need.

Charms-1024x576

Charms2

 

Jason LowensteinFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
CharmsFacebook // Twitter // Instagram
Imaad WasifFacebook // Twitter // Instagram

Grey Market, the Ohio-based rapper/DJ trio consisting of Dialogue, Wes (Dub) Hunter, and COMP-B, have been gaining momentum in the Buckeye State since their formation in January 2012.  While their current stomping grounds of Athens, Ohio, a college town in Appalachia, is certainly no Compton, Brooklyn or Orange County, these dudes realize it and use it to their advantage.  In fact COMP-B (Don Johnson) nods to their rural surroundings in the musical samples on both “Drift’n” and “I Always Knew,” from their late-September self-release of the Summer Sessions & Life Lessons album, the group’s first LP 

Grey Market also realize Ohio’s legacy as a proving grounds for indie/underground rappers and DJs; and that their Buckeye peers (J Rawls, RJD2, Soul Position, Blueprint, etc.) have forged a considerable scene that includes some of the country’s best.  Following suit, their self-released debut showcases a swag-rejecting, light-hearted collective whose sound is fully-formed, whose narratives are clever, and who have an acerbic wit, even when being introspective. 

Ghettoblaster caught up with Grey Market a month ago prior to Cyclops Festival in Yellow Springs, but didn’t have the opportunity to properly address their debut opus.  So we backed that thang up, and caught up with COMP-B via phone to ask about the album, their roots, and future plans.  Here’s what he told us about doing it for the true heads…

You guys have only been around since January of 2012, right?

Yeah, we formed in January we finished and released an EP in February.  It has not yet been a year.

How did you meet Wes and Dialogue and decide that they were the guys you wanted to collaborate with?

Well, I’m also a drummer.  When I moved to Athens, Ohio, I took a break from hip-hop.  I’d moved down here to go to school and was looking for people to play with.  There was a band who was looking for a drummer and I hooked up with them.  Brandon (Dialogue) played guitar and sang in the band.  When that group ended and everybody went their separate ways, I told Brandon I was getting into making beats again and he said, “Well I can rhyme.” And we just started doing it. 

Brandon and Wes had gone to school together at Hocking College for music and had done stuff together before I came along.  That fizzled out for them also, but when we started doing this, Brandon said, “Hey, my boy from Cincy rhymes too.”  I said, “Let’s bring him up.  Let’s meet.”  Within a couple hours of meeting it was obvious that we were going to get along great.  We had the same vision of where we wanted to go with what we were doing, what we wanted to talk about, and the sound that we were going to have. 

From day one it was on.  We knew that we needed to do something together.

That natural chemistry is apparent.  I think it is unusual to be able to find two such strong MCs so easily…

Yeah.  I think it helped that they’d worked together before.  They never had a producer before and they were doing the mixtape thing, or what people call a mixtape these days where you get instrumentals from other places and throw them together.  They’d never tried any really serious effort at writing for a hip hop album.  I fit in with what they were trying to do and they told me that I was the person they’d been looking for for years too. 

The first song from the EP was one of the first pieces of music that we wrote together.  When we were done laying down the vocals for this, I thought, “This is it.  This is what we need to do.” They have such an amazing chemistry during their back and forth stuff they can do.  It just fit naturally.  We put a lot of work into this album…a lot of work, but in a lot of ways it also seemed pretty effortless.  When it came to the creative process things just clicked.

When did you guys start writing the material for the full length?

We started in March.  We got about six songs together, which we still play out, but we ended up scrapping them all for the album.  All those songs were great on their own, but they didn’t sound like they should be on the same album.  We started over from scratch, went through all the beats, picked the ones we wanted, and came up with what to write about for each song.  We listened to the beat and said, “What’s the first thing you think about when you hear this?”  We wrote those ideas down and picked the best one.  Before long we realized we sort of had a concept album going. 

By May or June is really when we started writing hardcore for what is now Summer Sessions & Life Lessons.  And all these songs sound like they should be on the same album.  I worked very hard to mix it that way so that it would be cohesive.  Our first track is a song about the beginning of the Summer, and our last track is a song about the end of the Summer.  The inbetween is what we learned throughout the Summer.  Each song was written write after the experiences that inspired the songs.  It is a pretty accurate timeline of what we experienced. 

One of the things that works best about the album for me is that you aren’t from a large city currently, you’re from a more rural setting, and that’s reflected in the samples you’ve chosen.  Was that deliberate on your part?

Sort of…well, not really.  We just matched the feeling of the instrumentals with what the MCs were wanting to say.  The songs talk about what we’ve experienced living in this area.  I definitely look for more of a blues or acoustic guitar type influence, and that happens to be the music that comes out of this area I guess.  But I don’t know if it was that deliberate.  It turned out that way, that’s for sure. 

I don’t know, when I hear something and find a sample I want to take it just works out sometimes that they all lean in a similar direction.  It was more happenstance than deliberate.

You actually have the production credits on this as well, correct?

Yeah, I produced all the instrumentals on the album.  I did the work with that, with their help.  They are both audio students too.  It helps a lot having them around.  They have a lot of input on the way something sounds and what they’re trying to get out of it too.  I’d say I’m definitely the leader in the production stuff, but as far as input, things are collaborative to ensure it gets done a certain way. 

Here’s a little history about me; I grew up outside of Yellow Springs and started DJing when I was 16.  I started producing when I turned 18, and worked with some guys who went to Antioch in a group called School for the Deaf.  It went on a few years.  We played a lot of shows, played a lot of big hip hop shows at Antioch.  They left, it fizzled out, and I continued making beats for a while until I got more interested in playing the drums.  In 2006 I joined the military for a few years; during that time I actually met The Latebloomer, who is on “Time Travel” the track with Wes about going back to the ‘30s and stuff.  Then when I moved here I got back into making beats. 

I took a pretty long break from doing it, and I think I have a completely different style now than I did then.  The sound that we have came from the other guys.  They’ve influenced me tremendously.  These guys really drive me to make beats a certain way.  I live to make a beat to hear what those guys are going to sound like on it.

Was there ever a decision to have a deliberate, overarching concept behind the lyrics on the album?

Like I said, we started in the beginning of the Summer and wrote tracks about what went on over the Summer.  When we realized the other album wasn’t going in the direction that we wanted, we sat down and mapped it out, and set goals to make it happen.  We knew what we wanted, but not what we were going to experience yet.  We had to wait for that to play out, and record them as we went. 

Did you always anticipate that you were going to self-release the record, or did you ever shop the record to labels?

We knew this was our first shot and we really just wanted something that we could enjoy.  We’d love to have the opportunity to distribute this on a larger scale though.  Going to school for music stuff, we’ve seen the direction the industry is going, and the only real perk to having a major or big indie backing you is distribution.  That is one of the only things they have to offer anymore.  Everything else you can do yourself.  We always just felt like we were going to do this, distribute it ourselves, and see where it went and what would happen.  And already people have started to pick up on it and spread it around.  We’ve been very fortunate in that aspect.

Is the end goal to be a well respected hip hop artist, or is it to be a high profile artist with Jay Z money?

No, no, no.  Everyone wishes they had Jay Z money, but just to be respected in the craft of true heads is what we want.  I’ve played shows before and looked into the crowd and could tell who the true heads were.  You can tell who is actually into it.  There are people that come to hip hop events who would be there if it was swagged out radio rap also.  It wouldn’t make a difference to them at all.  But to see people who are there because they respect us as true hip hop is amazing too.  I would rather play in a bedroom for 10 true fans who are in it for the love of the culture and the art then to play in front of 1,000 people who are there no matter what hip hop artist is playing.

We talk about things people have experienced, can relate to, or knows someone who has.  We talk about what we know.  We talk about life experiences.  To us, that is hip hop; expressing ourselves and telling what we’ve experienced in this life, and putting it out there for the world to hear.  We’re not very happy with what’s available to us in the mainstream.  It’s ruining the culture we grew up loving.  Our goal is to put our love and appreciation for the hip hop we grew up with, and that influence into our music, for the kids who didn’t get to experience that stuff.  A lot of people listen to rap, searching for hip hop that isn’t really out there anymore.  There was a time on MTV and BET that they were playing good hip hop.  There was a time when real hip hop was on there.  But it is rare to hear that in the mainstream or media today.  A lot of people get into Kanye and Lupe Fiasco who are teetering on that mainstream hip hop border.  A lot of kids are searching for a hip hop sound that they’ve never experienced before and then when you give it to them, they’re really into it.

I use a lot of samples that have been used before.  I know they have.  And I use them for a reason.  I use them because these are the breaks that I heard on hip hop albums growing up.  My love for jazz, funk and soul came from that place.  I was a fan of hip hop and then got into jazz and soul.  I want to do that for the other kids.  I want them to hear what I heard in a hip hop song in ’97 that unless they’re doing hardcore YouTube searching they will never be exposed to.  I want to put that out there, not to try to educate the masses or anything like that, but to put it out there and let them educate themselves. 

Nothing is ever more fun than turning people on to music that you love…

Right. 

Where can people get your album?

It will be available on the Grey Market bandcamp for $3.  We’re not trying to bust heads on the price of getting our album.

That’s Fugazi money…

Yep.  Exactly.  Ian MacKaye was ahead of the game.  We have no overhead in online, so we want to offer it at a price that reflects us getting a little something for our work, but not at a price that will turn someone who could potential become a fan away.  For a hard copy CD we are only charging $7.

Do you have a bunch of live shows scheduled in support of the record?

We’re playing on the 24th or 25th here in Athens at Casa Nueva with Blueprint.  I’ve had the pleasure of playing with him before and it will be good to reconnect with him.  We’re doing a charity thing for the Zombie Walk in Yellow Springs on the 20th of October.  We’re headlining that.  After that we’re in the market to book stuff.  We’d like to play Columbus.  We’ve been out of the booking game for a while, so a lot of our connections are out of date.  So we’re just hoping to do some networking, meet other artists who have the same vision and love for the culture that we do, and spread the culture that we’ve loved so much.  We want to form those alliances and work together to offer good music to people.  That is a win-win situation for everyone.

(Pick up Summer Sessions & Life Lessons here: http://thegreymarket.bandcamp.com/.)

Grey Market

Athens, Ohio, a rural college town in Southeast, Ohio overrun with beer guzzling liberal arts students may not seem like the ideal breading grounds for a hip-hop trio…or maybe it is.  Athens’ Grey Market, a crew named after the trade of a commodity through distribution channels which, while legal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer, emerged from their Appalachian habitat in January 2012 and are already making a significant impact on Ohio’s hip hop underground.  The trio, consisting of COMP-B, Dialogue , and Wes (Dub) Hunter, take as many cues from old school hip-hop as they do from influences as broad as Atmosphere and Dilated Peoples.

Ghettoblaster caught up with the group’s DJ, COMP-B, as they prepared their forthcoming self-titled, self-released LP for its September 27 release date, and for an appearance at the second annual Cyclops Festival in Yellow Springs on September 15 (with homeys Dysfunktional Family).  This is what he told us about the group’s origins, the Ohio hip-hop scene, and their forthcoming record…

How long have you guys been together and how did you meet? 

We have been a group since January of this year, Dialogue and I played in a jazz band together and when that fizzled out we started a hip hop group. Wes and Dialogue had been long time friends so he joined in and we recorded the Out of Nowhere EP the first weekend we hung out. 
 
How did you come to the name Grey Market?

Stumbled on the term in some reading and thought it fit our style of making and putting out our music. 
 
For those who haven’t heard you, how would you describe your sound and mission?

My beats are heavily sample based and the lyrics are honest and relate to everybody because we just talk about everyday life. As far as our mission, to keep the raw hip hop sound alive and stand united against “swaged” out radio rap. 

 
What is the hip hop scene in Ohio like?  What is it about Ohio that lends itself to expression through hip hop? 

I don’t know what it is about Ohio that breeds good hip hop, except Machine Gun Kelly. Ohio has been the home of some of the scenes heavy hitters, J raws, Mood, RJD2, Mhz, I could go on all day. As far as the scene it’s still here and it’s not going anywhere as long as we have anything to do with it.
 
You guys recently completed your first album, recording and releasing it yourselves?  What drove the decision to do this in-house and release it on your own? 

Today’s technology makes it really easy to do it all yourself, we are trying to build this from the ground up. Let’s be honest..it’s not like we are the sound that a major label is looking for and we are proud of that.  So if you don’t make moves yourself, nobody is gonna do it for ya. I make beats, DJ, and I am a recording engineer, Wes is good at online networking, and Dialogue is great at talking with venues and booking shows, so we try to use each other’s strengths to get the job done.  
 
Who is The Dysfunktional Family and what is their relationship to Grey Market? 

They are our partners in the war on swag. Shortly after we formed Grey Market we looked on the web for other groups in Athens and we came across Dysfunk.  We contacted them and partnered on organizing a monthly hip hop night at the Union bar in Athens.  We have been working together ever since.
 
Have you performed at a festival outdoors before?  Are there challenges to performing outdoors that you’re anxious about?

 We have played a lot of outdoor fests. We enjoy them, but nothing is better than rocking a packed small venue.  Outdoor is often less intimate 

How did you become involved in the Cyclops Festival? 

I dropped a few copies of the EP off at Urban Handmade.  Shortly thereafter, I got a email from Justin Galvin wanting to know more about us. I grew up in the Yellow Springs area, but never knew Justin until then.  So he hooked us up with a show in the fest.  Urban Handmade is great and the Galvin family are good folks who care about good music.
 
Have you performed in Dayton before?

Never in Dayton, but in Yellow Springs a few times.  Looking to play in Dayton soon.

What does Grey Market have planned for the rest of 2012 and early 2013?

We will release the album the 27th of September and hope to have another EP by the first year anniversary of starting the group. We are trying to play as many shows as possible to get our music out there in mean time. 

The album will be available here on the 27th:  http://thegreymarket.bandcamp.com/.