New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Emerald Knights, Avantist, The Young Mothers

Listening to pop music, switching radio dials and what America is listening to…yeah, most of it is derivative shlock. But, it is what people are fed and what they seem to enjoy. But I won’t fake that funk and act like it isn’t catchy because it is! Unfortunately, any will ignore or maybe not even be aware of other releases like the ones we have today. Regardless, it’s Friday.
This is Avantist. The band is a trio from Chicago and while they’ve recently released a new album in 2018, just this past April as a matter of fact, a new 3-song EP in the form of Terasoma (No Trend Records) dropped today. Everyone’s guess is as good as mine as to why, but I consider Guided By Voices, who I simply mention for the number of records they’ve released and hold no similarity to Avantist, has dropped multiple albums a year throughout the band’s own existence. But I digress. Avantist is encapsulated within a post-punk, math rocking cultural underground, and I can only assume the band feels it didn’t give enough on its self-titled album or maybe an urge to share with listeners how much they’ve grown musically from one release to the other needed to be quenched. Based on this one release, I wouldn’t need to know much about the band itself, except how catastrophes are explained through tracks that are both sonically engaging and challenging at the same time. It may sound a bit confusing but bear with me.
The opening “UVB 76” may be based around a Russian signal that’s confused a country and has intrigued a band but musically, this is one of the most hellishly intense tracks I’ve listened to since being smothered by early Don Caballero. Guitars scream and holler, distorted bass lines syncopated around drum patterns run around into an oblivious cacophony while singer Fernando Arias’ haunting vocals leave me confused. This right here! Is! Perfection! The band has thrown together an ugly beauty of a song. You can walk away at this point but there’s more. The band mores with a more melodic twist on “Violence” which is catchy and again, engaging. The band is unified here, rocking with controlled effort that leaves all three members on the same page here. There’s no false posturing here. And then on “This Could Be” the band grabs hold of elements of prog-rock but completely twist the fuck out of their own sound, which includes Arias singing in Spanish. The bizarre nature of the song makes it easy to fall in love with what the band does here.

Hip-Hop has become the genre that no longer holds an appeal to just the fractured few. From the 1970s to now, the sub-genre has become the multibillion-dollar revenue that’s found a worldwide home. Take The Young Mothers, which began with Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten moving to Chicago and then transplanted to Austin, Texas. This is where the embryotic sounds would form. Along with trumpet player & emcee Jawwaad Taylor and a collection of musicians, they’d incorporate an array of sounds for Morose (Self Sabotage Records). Jazz has been an integral part of Hip-Hop (ATCQ, Pete Rock, Adrian Younge) so to classify The Young Mothers into one genre would be doing them a disservice. Morose is filled with improvisation (“Black Tar Caviar”) filled with cacophonic sprees of guitar & bass, glorious horn interplay, and howled vocals. But the band does get funky (“Attica Black”) with Stefan Gonzalez’ spinning vibraphones, emcee spiting, all while the drummer gets wicked dropping quick-handed beats as snares hypnotically get entangled alongside trumpets in an almost 8-minute opus.
The band will incorporate loads of improvisation (“Untitled #1”) but usually revert back with a signature Hip-Hop/Jazz songwriting (“Jazz Oppression”) and fill hard rocking songs with a noisy atmosphere. The group will even eschew the notion of genre for something much cleverer like on the title track with it’s soft yet stormy feel of vibraphones and percussion driving it directly into the ground with unrestrained vocal deliveries. Flaten’s double bass antics can’t be ignored (“Osaka”) as it leads The Young Mothers, setting the timbre for a highly evolved composition with an unrelenting bottom end and improvisational antics that sometimes sounds premeditated. Not an easy task to accomplish. There’s something refreshing about The Young Mothers and it’s possibly their no-fucks-given attitude that drives each and every song here. Morose is the soundtrack for a new generation that goes against the grain, even when they’re told to do things differently. A middle finger for those that have taken the same road over and over again. They’re making a new way, and anyone can appreciate that.

This comes as a surprise but then again, it doesn’t. Emerald Knights are two emcees, one Bag Of Tricks Cat, and the other Mega Ran. This is the duo’s sophomore release which follows 2015’s The Album and had a tightly wound theme with a Beatles-esque twist. While both emcees have had success with their respective solo careers, a follow-up in the form of Emerald Knights 2 (Respect The Underground) was bound to emerge to continue putting Arizona on map where the musical landscape has been constantly evolving. With this release, the Cat and the Hero showcase a bit more of their own individuality than they had previously.
The opening “Emerald Knights A Go” is their call to arms over a hard, authoritative beat where both emcees throw barbs at naysayers stuck in place while their only interest is moving forward. Of course, it’s followed by a variety of tracks while the release stays undoubtedly identifiable as Emerald Knights. They continue their vehemence with “Rappers In Their Feelings” putting what they’ve seen into words, no fingers pointing but obviously implying and applying to any wannabe recording artists across the country. But it’s not all about beef, rappers unaccompanied by adults, or even self-braggadocio. They’re about growth, relationships, and even (gasp) love. There are love songs that abound here, which may be scoffed in a millennial age but it’s real life. If “Afraid To Love (feat. Philharmonik)” puts their emotions on sleeves, with its piano-driven upbeat motion, then “Heat Stroke (feat. G1 and Ashton Charles)” shouts out to the world, much like Titanic’s Jack shouted, “I’m King Of The World.” Given, the hook is much softer and slower but exceeds with the power in words. But there’s a lot more here as “Unbelievable” shows them taking the trap and making it their own while “Get Out The 90’s,” is pretty self-explanatory telling those still living in the 90’s to, well, get the hell out of the 90’s, all along with that huge 90’s boom-bap behind them. It’s not about regression but progression (This may make you pilfer through your collection of old joints to throw it in alongside with classics.) What makes the Emerald Knights different from most is the ability to work with off-kilter beats that wouldn’t necessarily be found within the confines of rap music. “How Do You Sleep At Night” has a beat that may sound like it’s moving backward but it works in the grand scheme of conceptualizing the song, while “Worldwide” oozes in darkness. Emerald Knights 2 is different, and by that shows maturity and growth. The point is to have fun and that’s what both Mega Ran & Bag Of Tricks Cat do here. I’m down with everything they’re about here which lingers in and around love. Love just is.