New Music | Friday Roll Out: Brycon & Ill Sugi, Soul Assassins, Raw Poetic, Danger Mouse & Jemini, Drab Majesty, Pleasure Forever

Drab Majesty is the project by Deb Demure (aka Andrew Clinco of Marriages) and keyboardist / vocalist Mona D. For the duo’s four-song release, An Object In Motion (DAIS Records), the duo moves around different spaces that are enraptured within shoegaze and psychedelia. Or we can simply refer to this as a psychedelic shoegaze menagerie. It’s intriguing. On the opening “Vanity” the atmosphere is filled with airy vocals thanks to Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) who lends her voice to the backdrop as Demure leads the way. It’s a grand exhibition of sound. It’s expansive without need of much instrumentation. It really is quite beautiful. “Cape Perpetua” takes on aspects of Spanish guitar, but literally psyches the senses. It’s an instrumental endeavor as is the repetitive “Yield To Force,” which is hypnotic. But it’s “The Skin and The Glove” that harks back to 90s shoegaze without wallowing in nostalgia. It’s a catchy melody as guitars drift in and out with a song structure reminiscent of early Chapterhouse. It’s a cheap comparison but apropos without a hint of cynicism. It’s quite good.

No one really cares about a comeback of a band that never really broke through. I mean, why would you? Well, I’ll tell you why. Now while Pleasure Forever hasn’t released an album in 20 years, I’ll tell you why you should actually give more than two fucks of the band’s return. Well, Distal (Sub Pop), is slow-moving from track to track but it’s completely overwhelming! Voices are distant and the lyricism at times is nearly inaudible, but it makes no difference because the compositions could be comparative to an orchestrated rock design. What the hell am I getting at here? Well, at times, like on “A Heavy Involvement In Unreality,” could be an orchestrated piece translated through rock instrumentation. The sounds the band delivers are thick and fill every available space within every track but you can really hear it on “Sunshine Super Hits” which is unrelenting. While the words may be almost inaudible as I mentioned before, the melodies are extraordinary. Honestly, I wish I spent more time with this album because there’s so much to dissect and the few words here can’t express its true glory. Finally, another album that shakes this year up and makes life worth living.

Brycon and ILL Sugi are a couple of production wizards and on their Devastating! Force Of Nature! (Star Bakery Records) instrumental they prove they know what their doing. On the first half of the release, Brycon’s trippy compositions are sometimes Boom-Bap masterpieces that could fit countless emcees. I’m here for it while ILL Sugi joints move through psych or trip-hop vibes. Easily an interesting collaboration and meeting of minds. This delivers quantity without having to give up anything in quality.  


Let’s talk about the elephant in the room OK? There have been countless groups that have created a masterpiece or two and then vanished from sight soon after. It’s that “WTF” moment that probably leaves you wondering with the hows and whys, always hoping something changes, something happens, anything at all! To no one’s chagrin, it seems like that moment is now when something has been all but forgotten, a spark is lit and helps us find our way to it.

Ghetto Pop Life exploded onto the scene two decades ago, which left listeners craving and anticipating more. More never came. There were whispers as to what happened with Danger Mouse & Jemini The Gifted One, most notably Jemini’s arrest on narcotics charges which didn’t allow him to follow up the success of their debut album. Instead, we found Danger Mouse maneuvering on a path through production and collaborations with an assortment of artists like MF Doom, with Ceelo Green as Gnarls Barkley, producing artists Adele, Shins’ James Mercer as Broken Bells, The Black Keys, and most recently, a collaboration with Black Thought. Sure his works whetted the appetite but Ghetto Pop Life, that first release of his, always lingered in the back recesses of our minds. Well, all that changes now. There was truth to the rumors regarding an album recorded by Danger Mouse & Jemini and the proof is in Born Again (Lex Records).

Although the album was recorded back in 2004, it seems to have withstood the test of time; we still have Jemini’s soulful voice flowing through it with Danger Mouse’s canopy of sound and it’s consistent. This is an intriguing listen and while my comments and remarks might be biased, it’s well deserved. Danger Mouse’s stop/starts on the opening “All I” seems prophetic as Jemini’s words seem self-introspective, knowing he’s all that he has. It sets the tone for the album on which Jemini offers an array of thoughts running through his mind. While Ghetto Pop Life was Jemini’s obvious braggadocio, through Born Again, he’s become the storyteller diving deep through his own experiences. “Locked Up,” is a tale of street life, moving weight, and losing it all with nothing left, and as he raps, “They got me locked up, locked down, all that I got now is time on my hands…” he doesn’t mince his words. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel though and with the title track, it says it all. Keys, thick drums, and subtle grooving bassline are almost atmospheric combined here but it’s Jemini’s positive outlook through his words and his layered backing vocal that are also captivating. In reality, it’s completely captivating.

On “Brooklyn Basquiat” we get a taste of Jemini’s boastfulness and it’s fine because it’s expected. This is what we want to hear coming from him. But it’s the Danger Mouse’s playful beat that’s a bit unnerving although quite interesting. It’s the one track that’s different but familiar and you’ll want to hear it over and over again. The Slick Rick-referenced hook is a nice touch as well. “Dear Poppa,” is an interesting take on Pac’s “Dear Momma,” flipping the script here, focusing on the contributions – or lack of – by fathers. This one hits in a number of ways as Jemini releases so much of his own pent-up emotions through his words.

When it comes to Danger Mouse & Jemini, there are no low expectations going into it. Born Again finds the duo moving along and doing their thing. We can only imagine what life would have been had life moved in a different direction. What’s there to lose in releasing this album? Nothing. What’s there to gain? The world.


Sleep. Is it even imaginable how an artist can remain on the fringes although the contribution has been extensive while the quality of mainstream Hip-Hop suffers; Watered-down radio hits filled with nonsensical lyricism pollutes the airwaves. Where has the musical quality of Hip-Hop gone? For the most part, it’s almost nonexistent.

For decades, DJ Muggs has been a force to be reckoned with, if not for his production work with Cypress Hill and House Of Pain, with the ever-extensive palette of sound drawn across Soul Assassins and his solo career. With over 30 albums, collaborative or otherwise, under his belt, not including his mixtape or Cypress Hill catalog, this is about Soul Assassins 3: Death Valley (Soul Assassins Records). While the release isn’t a proper DJ Muggs album, this is the 11th album bearing his name as a singular force behind it. Into the Soul Assassins fold this time around is an assortment of heavy hitters throughout Death Valley, which isn’t surprising. This is a beast of a different nature.

On the 19-track release, Muggs litters thick bass lines across heavy beats that linger along boom-bap stylings. He offers an array of interludes, but they always lead back to the dark storminess of his beats. The opening “The Time Has Come” leads directly into the 70s soulful of “It’s On” with Boldly James offering up, street life through his lyricism. His laidback delivery is inviting and fits well over the vibe Muggs offers. His journey is only beginning here and both Jay Worthy & Spanto uplift things with “Check In,” which moves in the same manner but could be reimagined as a modern-day Blaxploitation track. It moves smoothly and without hesitation. While we all know Ghostface Killah can slide into any joint in the same manner, on “Sicilian Gold” he and Westside Gunn drip lyrics in just under two minutes. But you’ll want to play that shit back again and again.

Probably one of the more surprising moments here is “Jokers Wild.” Filled with West Coast street antics taking a trip through East Los with CeeLo Green’s storytelling and delivery has him pushing his own boundaries. We expect to hear Green singing but his rhymes are just as potent as his powerful voice can be. With his backdrop, Muggs moves through alleyways and the side streets we all may fear walking through. It’s a tricky meeting of the minds as both artists are able to collide with one another blissfully. Speaking of meetings of the minds, Scarface & Freddie Gibbs are an unlikely pairing but on “Street Made” you want to step aside as they walk down. Muggs juxtaposes sweet voices against brooding beats as Face and Gibbs process their words through the aggression. Along the same lines, you’ll find Method Mad aligning himself with Slick Rick, and it never sounded better! Over Muggs’ shadowy beats Meth and the Ruler, deliver dexterous lyricism. This! That’s all, no more, no less.

There’s an assortment of artistry layered throughout the album, like on the spacey “Burn The Playbook” where both Evidence (Dilated Peoples) and Domo Genesis (Odd Future) find their way, volleying rhymes against one another. Roc Marciano, Meyhem Lauren, & Rome Streetz do things their own way on “67 Keys” while B-Real, Ice Cube, and MC Ren bring L.A. together for all to hear on “Dump On Em.” Muggs’ repetitive bassline is infectious and there’s no other way that would have been better without these emcees. Yes!

It’s interesting. Seems every ten years or so DJ Muggs offers up something that is expansive, changing things up. 2003’s Dust went in unexpected directions (no one expected Greg Dulli) on that, 2013 witnessed Bass In Your Face, where Muggs’ experiments within dubstep, glitch, trip-hop, and anything else he could find took things to an entirely new level. Now with Death Valley, Muggs still moves unlike anyone else and we should all be here for it.


What was once a one-man project has morphed into a duo. Lyrical wizard Jason Moore and guitarist Patrick Fritz offer up the new album Away Back In (Def Pressé). After last year’s epic triple LP Space Beyond The Solar System, this time around, Raw Poetic seems to take a more subdued approach within the confines of its musical structures. Or am I just getting ahead of myself? Possibly.

Listening to Away Back In, it’s obvious P-Fritz’ guitar plays a prominent role throughout the album, as it bounces blissfully against Moore’s melodiously detailed rhymes. It’s clear and poignant on the opening “Ease Side,” with Fritz’ guitar layered throughout with lead and rhythm parts set throughout. There’s something seriously happening across the foundation of Hip-Hop and he and his cohort Damu The Fudgemunk– along with the likes of 85-year-old jazz musician Archie Shepp – are at the center of it. There’s something greater than what we’ve all known within rap music, just a part of Hip-Hop, that moves in a different direction but yet, still the same. Take “When The Mind Goes” for instance. It begins with drums taking on a free jazz persona for just a couple of seconds before launching into funky hard-edged expletive of a track as guitars swell around thick beats and Moore’s liquidy flow. If that isn’t enough, spacey guitar notes linger in the air around it, much like a psychedelic mind-fuck.

There’s an airiness surrounding the album and it isn’t better expressed than on “Dank Ish.” Drums & guitar coalesce, blending becoming one as hauntingly atmospheric backing vocals always allow listeners in. It’s the music here that Moore’s melodic words surround that’s intriguing. This isn’t easy listening Hip-Hop though, there’s complexity throughout. The unrelenting “Rehab” never lets up obviously as Moore offers up an assortment of similes. Moore barely takes time to breathe, with an expressiveness that’s unlike many of his own contemporaries. But damn if Raw Poetic doesn’t do things its own way. “Bird’s Eye” brings together distorted guitar notes and deep-throated vocals much like a popular 1960s black guitarist would (you don’t have to think too much about who the reference is). It’s the closing “Human Kindness (Acoustic Mix)” that further places Raw Poetic in a space all its own. With clean folk-like guitars as Moore waxes poetic – no pun intended – this is where a different all-around look is given, drifting, floating, but with direction and vitality.

We might believe Away Back In is an album that can be shelved and forgotten but that would be a disservice to a release that’s larger than life itself. There’s an organic feel to the album and it’s obviously the instrumentation utilized throughout the release. It seems Hip-Hop is moving in a direction where we’ll find more instruments filling space instead of samples and Raw Poetic is one group at the forefront of it all.