I’m always questioning, “Where am I going?” I guess nowhere right now really. Come on, so many businesses are closed or limited, and there isn’t much to do in any town, U.S.A. Some people think I revel in distancing from everyone else but no, I don’t prefer life to be this way. I’ve tired of the “new normal” and avoidance of getting sick here. Lord knows I’ve lost enough loved ones and have seen so many family get sick. Maybe social distancing backyard BBQ’s is what I should start doing but then again, do I really want to be around people? This is the conundrum.
Today marks the release of The Animated Misadventures of Stresselbee & Friends by, well, Stresselbee & Friends. I didn’t want this one to slip by because right about now, this is something we all pretty much need. For the most part, the album is lighthearted, bright, and full of life. I had the good fortune to hear an early track off the album “Small Town,” which is an airy pop-induced jam featuring both Homeboy Sandman and MC Paul Barman. It gave me an idea of what the album was going to sound like. Yeah, the album’s landscape is littered with the right amount of upbeat rhythms and melodies. “Vegetable Slave,” wraps rhymes around the Temptations’ “Imagination (Running Away With Me)” and it fits perfectly together. This one has Stresselbee trading verses with Epidemiks & Hoarse Hed. Songs here are catchy AF, like “Knuckle Sammich” featuring Blu, Drunx, and Louis Logic, led along by a piano loop but I gravitate more to the closing “Party Pooper.” It opens with a sitar but morphs into an infectious R&B jam with a drumbeat that gets wickity wicked. It’s organic, controlled, yet free-flowing. Yeah, this is definitely what we all need right about now.
With a new release, it isn’t hard to mistake William Elliot Whitmore, his acoustic hand-picking, banjo playing, Americana country style. Whitmore is an artist that’s unmistakable. While Kilonova (Bloodshot Records holds more of what we might expect with his deep and rough vocal delivery and such, there’s more that might surprise fans and supporters. There’s no denying Whitmore on “Hot Blue and Righteous,” but the echoey musical backdrop, swooning background harmonies, and deep bass drum on this atmospheric track allow it to grow in expanse. The brief moment where a lone trumpet plays, makes it even more fascinating. It seems as soon as the song begins, it quickly comes to a close. I’m even surprised with his rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” While the key melodies are left intact, Whitmore makes the song his own, and his gruff vocals give the song his signature right on it. “Country Blues” is strictly acapella, and we all understand why Whitmore is the man he is, recognized by music listeners all over. His voice is the instrument, nothing else is required or necessary. It isn’t hard to figure out that Whitmore is an amazing artist.
Occasionally we all hear something that isn’t there. Or it might be. Elements may sound familiar, but they’ll have a different take on a sound or style of play. It may make no difference because everything begins to take shape and make sense regardless of what lies beneath.
Horse (Wharf Cat) is the second full-length release by Holy Motors, a quartet from Estonia, but more specifically, Tallinn which is a 3-hour ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki. That should give everyone an idea of how far removed the band is from American culture. Or so we think. The group holds tight to its sound and with lead vocalist Eliann Tulve, the band has something obviously special. While some have made comparisons to other groups, I’m not going to stray far from it but I will offer up that Holy Motors takes a more western American approach, with a sound that’s a cross-pollination of Ennio Morricone’s western savvy channeled by Mazzy Star. It’s easy to spot head-on.
From the opening “Country Church,” the twang is obvious, but the song eventually morphs into a much more oriented pop track, but keeping the largely Americana feel intact. The guitars blend into one another as Tulve’s wispy vocals lead the way. One track in and there are hints of brilliance. “Endless Night” peels away anything that isn’t required here, opening the track with guitars in the distance that soon make their way to the foreground as the rhythm steadily holds everything intact. Here Tulve blends in well with the instruments, never allowing one to overpower any other. But it’s “Matador” that beautifully haunts as the group allows Tulve to take center stage again, but they don’t take a backseat here though. The band’s careful delivery of guitars intertwining along with the rhythm section allows the band to build dramatically until it explodes.
Holy Motors, tread carefully around “Come On Slowly,” a sweet balladesque-like wonder the band takes careful steps around. It isn’t filled with unnecessary solos or drum fills, it’s drenched in subtlety. The band has touch on something here with its release as a whole.
I’d be hard-pressed to say I don’t like Horse when in fact, I adore this release. There’s no pretension surrounding the album or how it sounds. The group has created an album that far surpasses my expectations, and probably their own as well.
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Literally, I’m exhausted. There are a couple of things that have been annoying me to no end and that’s: 1. The fact that bands I’ve never heard before share demos of songs of course I’m not familiar with. 2. The audacity that some groups have to start a new project literally as another band is beginning to take root. Ok, on the second point I may not have a leg to stand on because it is 2020, probably the most fucked up year of this decade, let alone this century. So far. Written and recorded during quarantine, what else are they supposed to do?
This all leads to Rid Of Me, a Philly outfit that’s just released its second E.P. Broke Shit Demos (Knife Hits Records). The group is made up of members of Low Dose, Fight Amp, Soul Glo, and Legendary Divorce and these new recordings apparently come on the heels of the band’s debut Summer E.P. release that just dropped in April! It may sound like a complaint, and maybe it is, but it shouldn’t detract attention from my fanboying over the group considering my obsession with Low Dose, and early on Legendary Divorce.
The music, yes, is my obsession. I can offer up listening to the band’s earlier release while my skull throbs with pounding intensity. “I Don’t Wanna Play Music With Myself” is an utter joy, followed by “Distraction,” which sort of bleeds into it. The quartet has an undeniable power to it, and while the band is loud, unrestrained, and cataclysmic, it reminds me of some of our favorite acts that many would claim are obnoxious listens to these days. The band’s enthusiastic punk delivery is claimed from track to track. But I digress; it’s Broke Shit Demos I’m supposed to be focusing on right now. It’s just difficult to follow when I discover other things. Let’s just get back to the topic at hand.
The new release is 3-songs, completely over the top, and makes no apologies for its brashness. The opening title track is no-holds-barred rock fuckery. There’s a larger than life jam within it and it’s layered with a good amount of distortion with Itarya Roseberg’s rugged vocal delivery taking this to reaches unknown. The band knows how to create a storm within a song and it shows here. But Rid Of Me isn’t at all about just allowing a wall of guitar noise and over-the-top rhythms to define it. “True (Blue)” which slowly builds around distorted bass notes and vocals, allowing the solitude to gain in expanse with the added space surrounding it as guitars and drums are filtered in. It’s grand in its delivery. The closing “Everything Is Broken” has a sound of organized chaos, deliberate in its movements, and as creative a jam session as I’ve ever heard.
Broke Shit Demos; I have nothing left to say about the group and its members that continuously confound my expectations with tracks from the multiple projects they fall in and out of. But this one? Yeah, I’m in for the long haul.
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Instrumental releases are sometimes a curious sort. If something isn’t directly popping off to move your emotions, or your body for that matter, is it worth it? This is something I contend with often.
By now, many should already be familiar with Kenny Segal, who has worked with a number of notable acts from the Freestyle Fellowship to both R.A.P. Ferreira (FKA Milo) and Hemlock Ernst (Sam Herring of Future Islands), and amassing a healthy catalog of albums and beats on his own. With his latest offering, – Kenstrumentals Vol. 4: A lot On My Plate (Dome of Doom) Segal offers up a wide array of thick bottom-heavy beats throughout 21 tracks compiled here. There are a few tracks here that are altered a bit that originally appeared on Hemlock Ernst’s Back At The House but you won’t mind if you’ve already heard it before. With the instrumentals “North To South [VIP dub],” the acoustic guitar alongside the thick fullness of the beat and samples, leave it melancholic and haunting. All that while “Addicted Youth [dub]” soars around guitar, keyboards, and samples with a groove that makes this one inviting. But it’s safe to say 98% of this album here is just and enticing.
The Jamael Dean “Akamara [Segal Remix]” seems to have many elements surrounding it. Vocal samples float around, as Segal manipulates his beats and samples so eloquently throughout. It’s a wild rollercoaster ride. “Jueles Trunk [VIP dub]” has a continuous beat but everything else around it, Segal manipulates with false stops and starts. It’s intriguing the way things are so deliberate but feel loose. He again culls from Back At The House, allowing “Jargonne [dub],” with its epic flow and atmospheric feel, allowing the beat to slap around with increased levels. But it’s “Collab [VIP dub]” that has me hypnotized with strings and a vinyl crackle reminiscent of late 70’s Isaac Hayes. It’s possible Segal even sampled Hayes’ vocals there. I definitely hear something and it has its hooks in me.
Producers and beat makers don’t always receive the accolades they deserve, but here with the Kenstrumentals Vol. 4: A lot On My Plate I’m sure Kenny Segal will be getting all the recognition he deserves. If he doesn’t, then 2020 has been a complete waste of time.