Sam Lachow, Raz Simone, Gift uh Gab & Sky Blaow on KZUU

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From Left to Right: Bryce Poulin, Sam Lachow, Gift uh Gab & Sky Blaow

A couple weeks back KZUU had the pleasure of having Sam Lachow, Gift uh Gab & Sky Blaow come into the station and perform a Live song and short interview on AIR. Shortly following the In-Studio interview, Raz Simone called from New York to chop it up about his new project Solomon Samuel Simone EP & what it is like being an aspiring rap artist in the Pacific Northwest. These cats are some of the most talented and humble artists in hiphop today & have been showing love to KZUU for nearly two years. Check out the live recording from Sam, Gabby and Sky performing D.Y.B (Dubs You B****) from the Avenue Music EP & Raz Simone’s interview and spotlight single Sometimes I Don’t ft Sam Lachow from the Solomon Samuel Simone EP. I know one of the things I am gonna miss most about leaving KZUU this year is having the pleasure and opportunity to interview and kick it with Sam and Co. Check out all Sam’s music at http://www.samlachow.com and Raz’s tunes at http://www.razsimone.com !!

-bryce p.

*New song & video from Raz Simone titled “Hometown”.

Ghosface Killah & Adrian Younge – “12 Reasons to Die”

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Ghostface is back and this time around he’s in full-blown Tony Starks mode. Teaming up with producer/composer Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons to Die is classic Ghostface narrative/crime rap. The beats are cinematic and menacing in a clean sort of way . Younge bring the spiraling strings and the funky drums with chilling piano loops that are no doubt paying homage to the producer who started it all (you know who). Adrian Younge managed a remarkable thing earlier this year in crafting the best Delphonics record in over four decades, and here his talents are on full display in what amounts to a veteran being matched with a full orchestra. And yeah, it’s almost as cool as that sounds.

“I Declare War” is a classic Wu cut with falsetto Ennio Morricone shrieks accompanied by maffioso hooks. Masta Killa supplies a fresh verse and hearing these two guys spit together again takes you back to a time when this type of thing  sounded contemporary. There isn’t really a weak cut on Twelve Reasons to Die but with that there aren’t many ear catching standouts. “Enemies All Around” is a track that you would picture Roc Marciano paying homage to in 2013 if it was released 20 years ago. Most of 12 Reasons to Die exudes this kind of vibe. “The Rise of the Ghostface Killah” features an echoing guitar loop that is only a few steps removed from Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”. Masta Killa appears again on “Revenge is Sweet” and the Rebel INS and U-God make cameos on “Blood on the Cobblestones”.

This is a fun project and it’s also one that will likely be celebrated by fans of the Wu. Adrian Younge creates an aesthetic that Ghost inhabits with guns, drugs, and murder. Call it a concept album as Ghost has crafted a narrative that is almost exactly what you would expect from an album titled “Twelve Reasons to Die”. Twenty years of constant rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness assault on the mic has definitely taken it’s toll on Ghostface’s voice — sounding weathered in a tired way. Raekwon can rock the middle aged raspy-voiced mob kingpin vibe but hearing that sort of thing out of Ghostface is kind of sad when considering how high pitched the dude used to sound. Still the raps are fresh and lets face it, it’s Ghostface Killah making classic Ghostface Killah songs. You could certainly knock the dude for this type of unoriginality, but at this point in his career it’s almost refreshing to hear a master of his craft operate within his comfort zone.

Stream the whole thing below.

— Daniel.

Lusine – “The Waiting Room”

Seattle based “Lusine” (known formally as Jeff McIlwain) is a producer who steadily punches out release after release. Each one is admirable and a joy to listen to.  “The Waiting Room” is no different. That eclectic yet laid back feel is present throughout the entire album, with tempo between tracks ranging between something to drive to, dance to, and fall asleep to. I really like albums that can cover a ton of bases without being all over the place, and this fits the bill like nothing else I have heard for a long time.

There is a certain spring-time vibe as well, yearning for that Pacific North West summer warmth that teases behind clouds, wind, and, at least at taking a break from writing this review to look out the window, hail. Indeed, the electric haziness that is typical to Lusine’s sound is something that blankets the listener in such a great way that a sun would appearing behind a cloud. Very metaphoric I know, but, it does make the point.

Styles range from minimal (“First Call”), shoe gaze (“By This Sound”), Deep House (“Lucky”), IDM (“Another Tomorrow”), 80s vibe (“Stratus”) to a brilliant four on the four house-like album-closer (“February.”)

The vocals are by his wife, and her assertive yet smooth voice fits that blurry, yet crisp sound that Lusine’s production bases himself off of very very well. (Especially well on “Get The Message.”) I especially like the streamlined crisp overall vibe one gets from most of the tracks, but the lurching, messy styles are just as great.

To sum it up, this album encompasses balance quite well, with no one influence, style, vibe, technique, or anything like that drowning out the other.  It is a superbly produced album that must have taken a lot of time to create, because the complexity (and coinciding simplify…see that balance thing again) surely required much skill, time, and patience.

Patience, however, is something that the listener will not need to become absolutely hooked to every track on “The Waiting Game.”

Raz Simone – Hometown

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Raz Simone hits us fans with another great song and video titled “Hometown”. Coming hot off his spectacular debut EP ‘Solomon Samuel Simone’, Raz keeps true to his Seattle roots with the new cut. Speaking of the 206, check him and Sam Lachow out at their live show at the Vera Project with Gift uh Gab & Dave B on April 14th. Tickets going fast so make sure to cop em & Download the free EP below if you haven’t done so yet!

http://www.datpiff.com/pop-mixtape-download.php?id=m5e47aa7

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

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I have a hard time coming up with a rebuttal to the notion that a lot of what we consider “popular” underground music is complacent and/or conformist. Many of the most highly praised albums in recent history favor personal, relatable songwriting over controversial or abstract themes. When we consider the history of music as a tool of liberation, it seems incredible that we could have lost such an important tool for voicing the voiceless in a tumultuous age where privacy, freedom of information, and political integrity are all being threatened or questioned. Of the few artists still willing to still speak out through their music (see: Killer Mike, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, M.I.A., among a few others) The Knife have found something sufficiently more profound to declare on their fourth album Shaking the Habitual, their first release since 2006’s Silent Shout.

Shaking the Habitual, while thematically heavy, can be phenomenally subtle at times. The Knife are a duo who have rarely been conspicuous with their message, often hiding behind masks or releasing bizarre press sheets that read more like serial killer manifestos than promotional materials for launching an album. When Karin Dreijer Andersson won Swedish Public Radio’s award for Best Dance Artist for her 2009 solo album Fever Ray, she accepted the award by revealing a mask of melted flesh and moaning in strained agony into the microphone. The audience (and most of the internet) took it as a stunt or prank — a fair assumption since the costume was never really explained. But appearing at an award show is already a notable occurrence for a member of The Knife, a band who has famously turned down making any appearances at any of the numerous Swedish Grammis they have won for their music. Andersson’s Fever Ray acceptance speech coincided with a rise in acid throwing attacks in the Middle East and India, where women were disfigured for dressing inappropriately, attending school, or any other violation of archaic law. It was a silent commentary on an ignored tragedy on a national stage.

Musically, Shaking battles with itself throughout most of its 96-minute runtime between subtlety and seething rage, oftentimes blending contrasting emotions with music that reflects the opposite, like the bouncy, Caribbean-influenced opener “A Tooth for an Eye”. Despite the brightness of the music, Andersson fiercely concludes the song by demanding “[Draw] lines with a ruler / Bring the fuel to the fire”. It’s a mission statement that youth uprisings in Egypt and Libya adopted years ago. One that separates this kind of demonstration from whatever the hell this is. Though in spite of the militaristic intentions of some of more aggressive songs here, there are equal moments of frail uncertainty. “A Cherry on Top” sounds on the verge of snapping in half, with a detuned zither plucking aimlessly beside a mournful hymn. “Fracking Fluid Injection” is 10 minutes of shrill mechanical sounds rhythmically toying with echoed mumbles. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me”, despite its romantic title, sounds more like a funeral dirge than a passionate slow dance. Where some of the more accessible tracks on Shaking are upfront with their intentions, a large portion of the album expects a certain degree of critical interpretation from the audience.

Yet from the retina-burning cover art to the extensive dissonant ambient pieces that extend this album’s runtime past one and a half hours, everything about Shaking the Habitual is purposefully confrontational. The violent drum machine kicks that rattle throughout the 9-minute single “Full of Fire” eventually give way to a cacophony of belching and pulsing electronic feedback where Andersson’s Salt-n-Pepa referencing coda “Let’s talk about gender baby / let’s talk about you and me” is consumed by some sort of suffocating distortion. Later on during “Raging Lung” she states through gritted teeth: “You’ve got your money / and you’ve got it because others can’t”

But the most controversial and antagonistic moment of the album is the 19-minute centerpiece “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized”. It’s an impossible piece to ignore, due both to it’s overwhelming length and placement in the middle of the album. In a traditional record, a song like this would be a mood killer; completely deflating any momentum or pacing set by the first half. But here, after 35 minutes of politically-charged fire, it’s a welcome and necessary opportunity for contemplation. Quivering ambient patches inflate and deflate behind an amalgam of ominous noise. Footsteps slosh through damp mud, a metallic hum throws itself down a concrete hallway, doors slam and warning sirens chatter in and out of audible range. It is — cliches aside –frighteningly post-apocalyptic.

A continuing thematic pattern throughout the album deals with power struggles and class issues prevalent in 21st century capitalism. And while The Knife continually borrow elements of Eastern and tribal music, it rarely feels exploitative or farcical. Because for all of the co-opting of traditionally non-Western instruments and styles, it’s the progressive mindset and recognition of advantages (like the chorus of “Ready to Lose” that repeats “Ready to lose the privilege”) that makes the melting-pot of influences feel more communal than naive. 

Shaking the Habitual, like many other great politically-charged albums before it, rarely claims to have the solutions to the problems it describes. It simply lays out a devastating narrative of what the world has become under our watch. Think of the ambiguity of  Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in comparison to this record and you’ll find a striking number of similarities. There are few instructions for reform, just incentives to achieve it. In reality, the social influence of this record will take years to understand. If it has one weakness, it’s the audience it’s trying to reach. This is, after all, the MTV generation we’re speaking to here. If extreme wealth inequality, war, poverty, racism, monarchy, and oppression won’t rile up the Tumblring youth of today, what will? Apathy killed punk as we knew it, and it’s taken us this long to figure out how to get it back.

-Adam

Shaking the Habitual is out April 9th via Rabid Records.

Action Bronson/Harry Fraud – Compliments to the Chef (feat. Lauriana Mae)

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Peter Rosenberg of New York’s Hot 97 is prepping a new mixtape titled The New York Renaissance, and “Compliments to the Chef” is the first track to be released from the project. The track features Action Bronson rhyming about life and death over a slightly mellowed piano roll supplied by up-and-comer Harry Fraud.

Action Bronson has made a name for himself in the independent hip hop world the past two years and he’s really starting to craft his own distinct style. You don’t hear many comparisons to Ghostface anymore and that’s how it should be. Their voices sound the same but the similarities end there. Here Bronson spits that he’s “trying to find the answers to these problem I’ve been pondering”. He talks about being jaded from birth and after the first hook he swiftly changes up the subject matter. His second verse is typical Bronson — clever wordplay with cringeworthy sexual metaphors. Action Bronson is kind of an acquired taste but if you’re into that then this track will no doubt satisfy.

Harry Fraud made a case for producer of the year in 2012, and so far in 2013 he’s kept up the trend. The Brooklyn-based beatsmith is racking up the all-star collaborations and pretty much every time you hear “la musica de Harry Fraud” in a track’s intro you know that you’re about to hear a banger. It’s pretty obvious that these two are perfect for each other (see Bird on a Wire with Riff Raff) and this track certainly verifies that their proposed Saab Stories LP is something to get hyped about.

His production here isn’t typical Fraud. The beat is smooth with a killer piano loop to boot. There’s some organs in the mix and the drums are perfectly restrained. It’s nice to see Harry Fraud flex some diversity and Bronson more than does the beat justice. The New York hip hop scene is rising and these two dudes are definitely at the forefront. Check out the new track below.

–Daniel