ATMOSPHERE – THE DAY BEFORE HALLOWEEN (Rhymesayers)
“Cutting loose and eschewing their established norms, Slug and Ant have delivered the anti-pop answer to the content and compositions of previous albums. Over razor-sharp drums and distorted synths, The Day Before Halloween (Rhymesayers) explores the life of a visual artist living in an antiquated surveillance state. It’s menacing. It’s murky. It’s George Orwell meets Keith Haring at a video arcade, on New Year’s Day, 1985.” Ok, I’ll bite but I don’t know if I’m buying. Atmosphere returns with its new album which is a lot different from its predecessor, 2019’s Whenever. I have nothing to hide so I can say that release was bomb. I take nothing away from both Slug and Ant but I don’t think the world is ready for a sound like this one.
The Day Before Halloween isn’t without positive moments though. It seems it always comes back to when Slug rhymes about women that I’m paying full attention here. “She Loves My Not” has a beat and feel that’s head-nodding with tender keyboard notes Ant places down sensually as Slug’s words paint the story clearly. Other tracks like “The New People,” “Blotter Acid Reflux Syndrome,” and “Stardust” sound like horror film soundtracks with Slug rhyming over them. I don’t know. I’m not sure if I can commit much time to this release. Attempts to get “artistic” on a track like “Sleep Apnea” just makes me want to turn this off. Which I did.
LIKE A MOTORCYCLE – DEAD BROKE
The band has been around for some time. Digging up stats on the band, the group has been releasing music since 2011. It’s no surprise not many are familiar with the group, coming out of Nova Scotia, but the thing is, Like A Motorcycle’s recent release Dead Broke, is a non-conformist’s wet dream. No, the band certainly plays at delivering an assault of riffery that’s direct and in your face, but the band’s sound is a bit confusing. On the one hand, I want to love this band but on the other, I’m not sure if I can.
The group strays away from making any filler moves, its purpose and direction are notably filled with clarity. Is it enthusiastic power-pop or punked-up energy with pop enthusiasm? There’s difficulty attempting to figure out the band but that’s alright I suppose. The band can shred and “Satan Does The Numbers” shows that while the group fills the song with harmonies. The band does know how to put together sonically powerful songs, assembling them with amp levels set to 11. Like A Motorcycle seems to revel in the controlled chaos of its music but when “Swept Out” plays, all bets are off! The band clamors away here ridding itself of the sheer bombast and delivers a fucking distorted, loud pop song that I have to keep playing. And there’s a lot of distortion throughout it. Again, more harmonies but the lead vocals are sweet without being sugary.
There’s a lot more to the group, and I’d like to think the band’s aware of its influences well enough to know not to fall into mimicry trappings. Dissonant notes sometimes peek through on songs like “Hotel Halfway” but don’t detract from those gooey vocals that are hypnotic. Songs like “Paranoid” take a different approach here though as the group switches off female vocals for male and shows a different side, a more experimental groove. “Strange Adventures” does the same and accomplishes it at under a minute, although I’d be quick to say vocals could probably belong to anyone. Ok, so I’m not on the fence here. Dead Broke is the record we should all feel enthusiastic about.
K-BETA & DJ J SCRILLA – BAD RAP (Man Bites Dog)
Growing up in Brooklyn gives me a certain perspective of Hip Hop. No, I’m not saying I’m the one and all go-to for the genre, but I know a few things, and Bad Rap (Man Bites Dog Records), the latest offering by K-Beta & DJ J Scrilla doesn’t require self-deprecatory status. The album grants listeners that Boom Bap, the pivotal beats that allow listeners to move freely.
Both artists have released music of their own and Bad Rap is the duo’s long-player debut. The beats J Scrilla pieces together are heady and friendly, yet no one would expect it to morph beastly with K-Beta rhymes. “Sacrifice” opens with piano notes and a vocal sample that K-Beta completely demolishes as his words move alongside the keys & guitar lines. The thick beat J Scrilla adds is completely unexpected and the track as a whole, is a banger! “DTLR 3” feat. Sketch McGuiney & Conway The Machine moves the same way, only this time bringing alone a couple of heavy hitters. The beats are thick and the lyrics show they’re not the ones to mess with. The sampled strings bleed in and out and are the one constant we can all attach ourselves to. This is Hip Hop.
There are moments Bad Rap hits just as hard as Czarface does; now mind you, that’s the only comparison I’m making here and that’s only for its production level. “Face The Serpent” is like that, littered with a vinyl crackle, keyboards all around it and K-Beta simply killing it! “Raw Like” features Kingpin Slim and both he and K trade verses over a repetitive beat that doesn’t need much else. There’s so much more to this album that allows it to be beautifully inviting from a guttural perspective. Bad Rap is both clean and dirty at the same time and it’s difficult to pick just one side of the duo’s vibe here. Just take it all in because it’s well worth it.