Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Spin: Metaform "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"

While DJ Shadow single handedly created and ended the hip hop inspired, sample based instrumental album with his epic masterpiece Endtroducing you can't knock guys for trying and every now and then those attempts yield something not quite on par but still strikingly beautiful.

Such is the case with the traveling beat creator, record collector Metaform. Like those before him he has a vast knowledge of music and must spend an inordinate amount of time in dusty basements and smelly broke down shops (or maybe he does it all from the comfort of his studio – it is 2009, how many people are still dedicated to the art of diggin?) questing for that rare gem that will make the world right for a moment.


But on top of his ear for sounds to flip Metaform is a multi instrumentalist who crafts an eclectic mix of sounds into something wholly listenable from beginning to end. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants will catch you off guard as it's not quite as Hip Hop as something from the likes of Shadow or RJD2 but yet completely born out of the culture that spawned those and others of their ilk. You will hear soul samples. You will hear electronic and new wave sounds. You will hear folk like guitars. You will hear weak drums that rappers would never spit on. You will hear smooth melodies and dusty record cracklings that NY area dudes circa the early 90s would fiend for. In short you will hear a bit of everything. Even some live horns.

I suppose this amalgamation of sounds is appropriate though as we continue to see Hip Hop step out of the box that was so tightly defined for so long and begin a new journey. Metaform migrates between L.A., S.F. and Tokyo and it shows. So does the fact that he lays it all down in his own home studio (aptly referred to as “The Boom Box”). You wouldn't find the attention to detail on something that was cooked up on the fly in a traveling studio rig, but you might find the globe trotting cross genre influences inspiring new sounds and new ideas. Metaform has synthesized all of his constant movement into one coherent piece of music that is at times sporadic and at times very good. It might not get the party started but it just might be perfect for a late night bus ride in the dark city streets. Or maybe even for a sweat filled club of open minded music fans. The B-Boys might even find something to pop and lock to, he does loop the infamous “Apache” break under about 10 other samples of varying degrees of move ability.

"I Feel Good"

But that is part of the genius of Standing on the Shoulders of Giants; with all of this going on how could any of it actually be enjoyable. But it is. He lowers the decibels when needed of one sound and sprinkles in his own playing generously. Bangs on his MPC (or some other sample triggering device), and might even play some live drums too. He keeps you curious and has a vast library of sounds (and some great selections of vocal snippets) to keep you wondering what might come next. And capturing the audiences ear is half the battle.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Q & A with Theophilus London

If you were lucky enough to attend Rotture last Friday you caught an amazing show! If you missed it, too bad for you. The 10,000 LB Hamburger Tour made its stop in Portland, introducing Theophilus London to our fair city. With a strikingly original style that only shows the ever changing face of Hip Hop and music in general you will be hard pressed to find many legends who will come with more energy than this man did on stage. For those of you who are still waiting for the tour to hit your town: Don't miss it!

And yeah, did I mention some guy named A Trak is headlining? He's up to his usual antics and rocks the house like only he can. A multi-genre set that is guaranteed to have you dancing all night long. Like I said, don't miss the 10K LB Hamburger tour!!!

Before the night kicked off I was lucky enough to sit down with Theophilus for a little chat. Big shouts out to him and Watts for making it happen! Enjoy the convo y'all.

Q: Introduce yourself, who you are and what you do?
A: I'm Thelophilus London, singer songwriter on the 10K Hamburger tour traveling with A Trak. Right now we are in Portland, gonna rock it tonight.

Q: First time being in Portland?
A: Oh yeah definitely first time being in Portland. It's actually my first times in a lot of the west coast dates, and it's been great – love the west coast.

Q: How did you get hooked up on the tour?
A: I just got a call from A Trak. One of the acts that he had supporting him had dropped off, unfortunately. He gave me a call and was like 'Yo tour starts in like 2 days can you do it?' and I was like 'Lets do it!'

Q: What did you think of Bruno?
A: I thought Bruno was very edgy. It was very thought provoking. I enjoyed it. It was hilarious. I understand his humor and just hope the rest of the world does, I thought it was genius and can't wait to see another flick of his.

Q: How do you see yourself in the lineage of Hip Hop?
A: I see myself helping. I see myself adding towards music and not just being part of something that already happened in the nineties or a couple years back. I'm coming into it as somebody that is adding a different color, a different blend to music. I think it's great. I'm excited. Lots of great new artists coming out that you can check out now and discover people on your own. It's a great atmosphere for music right now.

Q: What kind of people are you listening to?
A: I listen to James Brown, the Smiths, Whitney Houston, Kraftwerk, a bunch of stuff. Afro pop music. It's all about Soul. That's what I like to put in my music for the most part, soul.

Q: What's on your iPod?
A: iPod has a bunch of stuff. Brian Wilson, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend. There's a bunch of artists. Prince, of course.

Q: Any new stuff?
A: My friends are in a bad, they're called Passion Pit. Nipsey Hu$$le, Drake.

Q: What's the scene like in Brooklyn right now?
A: The scene is good, lot of artists moving forward, creating dope shit, making cults and exciting to be around. It's very fast. A lot of icons walking around Brooklyn. A lot of sparks in these kids, it's just good to be around the atmosphere cause it's just art constantly 24/7.

Q: Have you found one of those old styled leather bound cameras that you were looking for on your blog?
A: Yeah actually I have to thank some people cause when I put that up three people they sent me the link to ebay and it was good to know that I asked a question and my fans and supporters just hit me back with the information. I love the connection. I'm on it, I'm gonna purchase it at the end of the year for Christmas.

Q: 2Dopeboyz had some of your stuff up, where else can people catch you online?
A: You know what ever your favorite blog is. We got a good connection with a lot of blogs. I started making my own blog, it's called This Charming Blog – you can find my stuff on there first, exclusively. All the other blogs that support us, 2Dopeboyz, Nah Right, Herfection.

Q: Did you like the Bibio Record?
A: I just got done listening to it this morning. It's cool. It's a little J Dilla esque to me, it's a little werid. I'm not really judging it yet, cause I haven't really gotten into it yet. What I heard so far was cool. It wasn't like mind blowing, but his other stuff I really love.

Q: What is your favorite Hip Hop album?
A: I got into Hip Hop kinda late, so, it's either one of Outkast's album or I really like how thorough The Blueprint Jay-Z was so judge me.

Q: You looking forward to The Blueprint 3?
A: Yeah definitely, hell yeah!

Q: Last words?
A: Thanks to all the supporters for keeping my music alive. The best is yet to come, working on new stuff right now. We got so many things in the works that I can't wait for you guys to see. I'm the person, I don't really put it out there too much. I mean I put it out there and the people just find it. So there is a bunch of little stuff and secrets that you can find out about me on the net that I haven't officially promoted. Just do your research, check it out and thanks for supporting. Keep it up!

Thanks again to Theophilus for taking the time to make this happen! And stay tuned here as this won't be the last interview from the Musik Lounge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things To Consider

As much of a vinyl fiend as I may be, I'm still a notorious downloader of music. It's not that I don't like to buy new music... I just enjoy too many things to be dropping money left and right. Not to mention how the whole laid off thing kinda changes your spending habits. With downloading comes a constant shifting of albums and tracks to and from hard drives and for me I often get lost in a few things and eventually have to shove them into the dark recesses of said drive so as to move on to whatever else I might have found.

The last couple days have been especially grueling as my laptop is steadily telling me I'm running out of space (as are the externals) and I realized I have the same 10 things extracted that I did a month ago. Obviously I've been listening to more than just those albums, but anything that has stayed in the rotation that long deserves at least a quick look. So here are my thoughts on a few things that have piqued my interest (not so) recently.

Teaming up for round 2 Travis Barker and DJ AM dropped off this edition of Fix Your Face just in time for Coachella and if they were trying to get a party started this should certainly do the job. Filled with plenty of upbeat rock tunes, many of which are mashed up and remixed with electro sounds, prove that this duo of drummer and DJ has a keen ear for that good shit!

From some new jack swing to Van Halen (original into a wild remix) to some classic Biggie and Jay and the Northwests always loved Nirvana and a little bit of everything in between this truly is an eclectic mix guaranteed to get the party started. I first gave this a spin while kicking it on a lake a tad to early to really be out on the water but with tunes like these no one cared about the mild weather or gray skies that moved in towards the afternoon – you know we were already faded.

Grab it here if you missed the original twitter download invite!

Next up is probably my favorite crew doing it in Philly at the moment, no dis to Beans and the SP's, Outerspace! The team of Crypt and Planetary consistently drop bangers and are grinding it out on there own terms. Of course their extended fam JMT and the Pharaohs are always with 'em and just like the transformers they may step away but when the time is right they unify into something dangerous.

A bit ago they put out A Tribute to Gang Starr which really seems more like an homage to Premier as they are rocking over his classic jams from the GS catalog but neither really have any particular semblance to Guru – not a bad thing, as dope as he was we all know he got boring (not to mention that dude is straight crazy - shouts to Meli). Apathy makes a stellar appearance on “Soliloquy of Chaos” as does Block McCloud on the awesome “Speak Ya Clout.” If you have been missing that classic Gang Starr sound than this is definitely for you. Flowing smoothly and demonstrating clever rhymes and good stories you are bound to be impressed by this young team that won't be stopping anytime soon.

If you didn't see the link on their blog or the myspace, it's available here for your listening pleasure!

We all love the mighty Mos Def. Well maybe not everyone. But we have all seen the journey he has taken and while some keep begging for a return to Black on Both Sides he routinely shits on the idea of staying in a box and doing what is expected. With the release of The Ecstatic he kinda caught us all off guard demonstrating more rapping than we'd seen in a minute (although to be fair I never really gave that last one a real listen – something about how it was released and the packaging just kept me away... asked the label) but still pushing the boundaries with some great, if experimental (by traditional Hip Hop standards), beats that if given a chance might just impress. Plus his singing isn't dissipating any; not sure about you but that's a plus in my book. "Umi Says" still one of the best jams ever! RIP Weldon Irvine.

Filled with sounds from across the world (and some languages other than English too) the fourth album from Mos shows us that he is firmly aware of what he wants to do as an artist and no one is changing his direction. He is carving his own lane and if you can't ride than don't worry, he won't bother you. If you are willing to dive in however you will be blown away by the dirtiness. What feels like it was crafted out of the dirt and grime this record is filled with dusty samples and is a great showing of the multiple talents held within the brain of this modern musical genius. The results aren't always pretty (although on tracks like “Auditorium” you might forget this fact, thanks in part to the stellar guest spot courtesy of Slick Rick) but they serve a purpose. His flow is still in tact and if you are in search of that OG Mos Def this is perhaps the closest he's come or may ever come again.

Not something to be listened to lightly, put this on in the head phones or at a time when you can actually devour what exactly is unfolding in your ears. Not for the lighthearted, The Ecstatic will generate much thought and ideas for those who can accept the growth of a true Hip Hop artist.

Don't sleep on Georgia Anne Muldrow either! I'm sure you fine internet savy blog people will have no problem finding this album - the legal department recommends not dropping this one... Here are a few tracks if you are interested!

"Life in Marvelous Times"

"The Auditorium"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Physics "High Society" EP

While I can't say that I was a part of the masses who thoroughly enjoyed Future Talk, the debut Physics release was definitely a good introduction to a group that has a lot to offer to the scene. With that being said, I do believe the release of their latest EP High Society shows tremendous growth and great potential for what the trio of Thig Natual, Justo and Monk Wordsmith has to offer to the ever growing Seattle Hip Hop scene.

From the quick intro where they let us know that “you can't rush good music” you know that you are in for a treat. Featuring smooth beats courtesy of Justo along with Phee Dill and Dyalect you can't help but nod your head along to all of the seven full length songs featured here.

Filled with knocking drums, greats samples and fresh horns the music is super dope, but the rhymes and flows are on point as well. From the jump off you can enjoy the message they have to deliver with their every man type raps and personable style. “Back Track” will catch many heads attention as it is filled with stories that I'm sure we can all relate too. Unfortunately I can't tell who spits it (I think it's Monk?) but the lines should speak to anyone who enjoys this music:
The south end framed the mind of this man
Skyway became my new hood in time understand
I was sired from a clan
Immigrants African hustling
Struggling to build a life in this land
Moms and pops naw they didn't understand
My obsession with freestyle sessions and Wu-Tang
The streets to me
Beseech true game
Building with the god bodies got my mind on a new frame

More quoteables come but I'll let you grab the free EP to hear what the crew has in store.

“I Just Wanna Beat” is a hilarious and oh so true tale filled with facts from the mind of any and every guy. We've all had that moment when we knew we just wanted to smash that one (is it really only one?) chick and they deliver the message in a relatable way. We also get to hear Macklemore deliver a stellar verse on “Good” that reminds me of why I banged The Language of My World early on in my time in the 206 – whats up with the new album?

They've been hard at work on the visuals for “The Session” and while it might not stand out as much as the previously mentioned tracks it features their trademark smooth beats and amazing horns – are those a sample? Or do they got a secret weapon in a live trumpet player? Either way the song bangs and I'm sure when the video drops it will serve as a great follow up to “Ready for We.”

They bring the up and coming duo of the moment Thee Satisfaction through for some well placed ad libs and backing vocals on “Radio Head” demonstrating an ear for the next shit along with a great track that will almost certainly “get stuck in your head all day.” If you are looking for something a little progressive and definitely a step outside of the typical Seattle hip hop box High Society is just the release for you. It's an upbeat and fun, quick album for the summer and it will capture your mind taking you back to good memories – it may even become the soundtrack to some new memories.

Grab it for FREE here!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grynch "Chemistry" EP

To anyone who wasn't lucky enough to make it out to the Nectar last night, it sounds like we missed a great show! But Grynch is a cool guy and is giving away the music he was performing for free, which in these tough times is a nice price.

While I'm struggling with the fact that it really was over a year and a half ago that I was writing for the PI and covering the record release party for his last official full length, My Second Wind, the fact is times have changed and Grynch is moving forward like the rest of us.

Change is a topic of dissection here by the King of Ballard, namely on the tremendous track “Time.” In my five short years in the 206 I saw many things change around my neighborhood – Capitol Hill for the curious – and every time I get back to the town I notice more things different than were the same. Grynch takes it back even further and speaks on things only natives of the city can relate to, but the theme is something we all can understand and his message to keep looking ahead and not battle with the always forward moving clock is inspirational.

It is this connection that makes Grynch a success. His open and honest rhymes speak to the basics of human life and the ups and downs we all go through. “Doin' To Much” sees him break down a night at the bar and the trouble one can get into financially (and physically) just to have a good time, but in the end the fact remains that getting those last shots with your boys is totally worth it. Or maybe it's the great ode to his car in “My Volvo” which is filled with memories from the years in his whip. Speaking from the heart he tells us “I've laughed in that car/I've cried in that car/Knock on wood man I'll probably die in that car” before going into the simplistic yet brilliant hook that I guarantee you will be singing along to regardless of what kind of ride you drive.

Guest wise we see familiar faces in Geologic and Tunji showing up on “Smoke & Mirrors” all delivering stellar verses. No hate to Saba but I like hearing Geo rock over other peoples beats and Tunji continues to impress, if you aren't listening to Inverse you should be! We also see the little homie team up with One Be Lo for the title track for some raw emcee type shit over a live Scenik beat. And Ra Scion comes through too on “You Know Me” where they both convey how Hip Hop has shaped their lives – the heads will be pulling quoteables from this for days.

Grynch rounded up a good selection of producers for this project expanding on the mellower side he demonstrated on the last full length and his previous EP with The Two Good Men. That is not to say these tracks don't knock, but they feel more musical and a step forward to a new sound. CSD (Who?) kills the opening cut “Right Now” and the always impressive Illmind laces “A Dream Undeferred” with a dope guitar chop and lovely stuttering drums providing the back drop for Grynch to let us know a little bit about his history, his fears, his championships, and all the in betweens.

If that isn't enough to convince you that he is a Seattle artist worth supporting and watching for just go over to Matson's blog and check out just how down to earth the dude is as they cruise around in the Volvo and chop it up about those things Grynch conveys best in his raps: Honesty and passion for an art form and the town that raised him.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seattle Week is coming!

So after being gone from the town that raised me (well in many respects at least) I'm gonna dedicate the coming week to Seattle, my home away from home. Luckily the scene is thriving and that means even if I'm not there I can still get a fair dose off the internet and from my crew always making moves in the 2-0-6. So stay tuned and look out I got some great things planned!

Oh and what better way to kick things off than with the perfect tribute to the town?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Spin: Diane Birch "Bible Belt"

Rarely am I one to thank someone for an introduction to great music. A flaw I know, I’m far to consumed by whatever esoteric style has caught my fancy of the moment to often consider a recommendation. After my last visit home it became abundantly clear I have to listen to friends and family more and balance my musical exploration.


When my mom opened the package that contained the Diane Birch CD Bible Belt I was caught by the great photograph of her that acts as the cover to this impressive album. While at first glance you may want to write her off as what looks like another young singer songwriter in a long line of the same, her subtle beauty drew me in and then I was struck by the voice.

The instrumentation.

The lyrics.

With a great voice that isn’t so deep to lose her femininity yet dark enough to convey the pain one can suffer in the quest for love Bible Belt shows a young woman mature beyond her years dropping knowledge about that which we are all looking for.

While not blessed with the range of a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Diane Birch can certainly sing and reminds me slightly of Joni Mitchell. Not as whispery for sure, but subdued and calm breaking out and pushing the high notes of her range from deep within. This is singing you can feel, she is putting her soul into her voice and far too few singers convey that passion in their music these days.

Musically you are blessed with beautiful piano melodies that snap and energize right up there with any of the greats. There is intermittent organ work throughout that stood out exceptionally on the first listen (check for the reminiscent Doors melody on “Choo Choo”) and while it does prove to fade this is not to say it’s lacking – there is just so much here to enjoy you’ll be caught up in different elements on each successive listen.

"Choo Choo"

Featuring a stunning band that can rock they are just as likely to deliver a slow moving tune perfect for a relaxing evening. Filled with hints of the blues and folk music Diane Birch and company deliver a great amalgamation of styles into something beautifully original and rarely seen in the modern music landscape.

While Amy Winehouse gets paparazzied to death and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings steadily grind out an existence on the road (with moderate mainstream attention) Diane Birch could just surprise many as an influential middle ground player meeting somewhere in between. Not quite pop enough for the commercial success of Ms. Winehouse and not so heavily drenched in the funk to be lumped in with Dap Tone she delivers something else drawn from all of these musical landscapes and more.

"Mirror Mirror"

So no, Diane Birch isn’t the next in the “Retro Soul” movement but she might be the first in a new movement. One that is steeped in musical history, no easy classification or package is available. Stunning harmonies prevail and the music will make you smile. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. Most of all it will make you appreciate the original and the new. Nothing is completely either yet sometimes something is just enough of both to surprise and impress making you remember what it was that made you love music in the first place.

And for this I must thank my Mom without whom I wouldn’t have heard Ms. Birch, or music, to begin with.

And check out her music video for "Nothing But A Miracle" here - Note to labels, don't disable embedding!