Originally, I thought this was a collaboration between both Cincinnati’s Lung and Milwaukee’s Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends (Learning Curve Records) but it isn’t. The band simply shares space within the release of Adult Prom (Learning Curve Records). Regardless though, we seem to get the best of both worlds as Lung shakes and shimmers within its neo-classical style as Neutron & The Secret Friends more than allude to rock leanings with its classic rock style. Of course, Lung – the duo of cellist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan – offer up so much range and depth within their songs it’s difficult to imagine Lung is just a duo and here it’s no different. Neutron on the other hand strikes with memorable melodies through its rhythms and crunchy guitars, making it easy to fall in love with the band’s nostalgic sound which is firmly rooted in the present. Hell yes. Both groups perform 6 songs each and cover a song of one another while also performing with one another (Wakefield singing on Neutron’s “Fridging”) while Neutron and the band also perform on Lung tracks (specifically I’m not sure exactly where). So maybe I wasn’t correct in my initial assessment but hot damn, I wonder if I would be invited to the Adult Prom!
R.A.P. FERREIRA – ASIATIQUE BLACK WIZARD LILY FUNK
At this point, is there anything new one could say about an artist that always confounds and leaves one wondering, “What the hell just happened, and what the hell did I just listen to?” Well, it’s going to happen and probably going to happen often. This is the road Rory Allen Phillip Ferreira takes, and that’s the one less traveled. He’s better known by his stage name R.A.P. Ferreira, leaving other aliases (Milo and Scallops Hotel) now in shallow graves as they rest in peace.
With the new 8-song release, Asiatique Black Wizard Lily Funk, Ferreira is obviously playful with his wording. His abstract phrasing, clever metaphors, and wordplay run rampant across the release playing as one track with no breaks in between. “Jig” featuring Pink Navel opens the release, with stop/starts provided by Bullies Of The Boulevard, both emcees slip and slide across this musical landscape that’s hypnotically abstract, fit for both wordsmiths. We should all be here for it, not because it’s different but because it’s challenging. “Hey You (12 continuous patterns)” relishes on nostalgic soul as Ferreira lifts a wide array of words to captivate right over it continuously repeating the title of the song, which may leave you more confused but still lingering to the side singing along to it. His opening line, “I weave 12 continuous patterns around a flickering lantern before flicking a ring of Saturn…” will probably force you to pull off headphones wondering “WTF just happened and WTF did he just say?” but that confusion will allow you to dig deeper in before you realize that R.A.P. Ferreira is and has always been on some next level shit that we can only work harder to understand
Ferreira’s title track though, seems like one of his more accessible pieces of work with a melody that edges his words forward. You can’t help but believe he is the “father of this style,” rearranging his own stars to create unlikely patterns of rhyme. England’s ELDON shares verses on the jazz inflicted “brother eldon had somn to say” which leads me to believe Ferreira is purposeful with artists sharing space here, aligning himself with those that are rigidly like-minded. It allows for creatives to become much more creative. But it’s “8MM” that slaps hard. It’s produced by Vast Ness and captures a boom-bap-like rhythm that no one wants to end. Ferreira gets heady and even includes some biblical referencing to get his point across.
R.A.P. Ferreira isn’t for the faint-hearted or ADD-afflicted because his words, and the beats that he utilizes, aren’t for the fly-by-night listener. Asiatique Black Wizard Lily Funk requires one’s full attention from beginning to end. There’s so much going on, with every listen, you’ll find something new each time. I say that as I listen to this for the 12th time.
SUFJAN STEVENS – JAVELIN
Some things we expect, and then there are those fleeting moments we’re fortunate enough to have a monkey wrench thrown our way. But what is it about an artist that we’re well aware of his or her capacity for writing intriguing pieces of work? Should we just expect the expected? It’s out of learned experiences, and listening to previous releases that we can make such assessments. This is just rambling out of excitement.
Few artists are capable of intriguing listeners with such colorful palettes of sound, etching notes together, allowing them to drift into atmospheres while at the same time reining them in with ease. Throughout his career, this is what Sufjan Stevens has been able to do and on his eleventh long-player Javelin (Asthmatic Kitty) there’s no surprise but it’s also filled with a wide array of delicate maneuvering through musical landscapes. By now it’s obviously clear that the new album is milestones away from Stevens’ contemporaries, drifting on occasion, but with direct purpose. A wide array of instruments is utilized, creating a tapestry of sound that at this point remains unmatched.
If there is any example needed, we can offer up then it should be “Everything That Rises.” We find his breathy vocal delivery over an acoustic guitar the cornerstone here with everything else building around them. Backing harmonies, electric guitar notes, wind instruments, percussion, and whatever else lies within the track, magnificently blend together with ease, and when Stevens finds himself wrapped in the chorus, “Everything that rises must converge/everything that rises in a word,” voices are angelic. His guitar remains an integral part of his song structures here as they have been in the past although we all know he never needs to rely solely on it. But I’d be remiss if I said songs may not hit the way they do if it wasn’t here. The grand “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” again finds instruments building around it and Stevens’ cooing voice and when he begs the question of the track’s title, it isn’t filled with sorrow but instead with what we feel could be a grateful heart and a smile as backing vocals in the distance wash over the song.
But it’s the keyboard and piano-driven opener “Goodbye Evergreen” that slowly crescendos and entices with fiery explosiveness. The composition’s change is unexpected but this just might be what I was initially referring to here. Stevens manipulates instruments here masterfully, piecing things and placing them where they need to be at the precise moment. Did I mention his guitar work is one thing you probably won’t get enough of? “A Running Start” begins again with his guitar fingerpicking with instruments building around it and yes, I’ve mentioned that already but please understand, no two songs are ever the same. The web Stevens weaves with his compositions are singularly distinct. There’s a formula he may follow but it’s perfected here as he breathes life into every song.
Javelin doesn’t mark a new direction for Steven, instead, it shows us the evolution of his artistry. Earl Simmons once coined the phrase “Motherfucker, it’s not, a fucking, game!” and Sufjan Stevens isn’t playing. The music on the album is perfection but I’m sure, the future holds something even greater and I for one can’t wait to bear witness to what comes next.