Press "Enter" to skip to content

Author: Tim Wallen

Diskjokke is electronic disco delight

I had never heard of Diskjokke before I was handed a copy of his 2010 release En Fin Tid, which drops today. Doing a little bit of Internet searching, I found that Joachim Dyrdahl (the man behind Diskjokke) has put out remixes and is planning to release remixes for some relevant names (Crystal Castles, Bloc Party, the xx, etc.). Remixes are some of my favorite things that electronic artists do, but I feel that sometimes content and quality control of solo albums creates a product that is a bit less accessible.

With En Fin Tid, I was afraid of getting such an album with the 9-minute-long opener “reset and begin.” I like my electronic music to be dancy, and this track is more ambient.  It’s a gentle introduction to an hour-long groovefest, though.  Diskjokke’s buildups are incredibly tight, and I don’t think I can compare his style to anything else out right now. That’s an incredibly good thing in today’s oversaturated electronic market. On “Big Flash,” a conga-sounding drum loop rides along with wobbly synths, giving the tune a jungle theme while still being very electronic. On “1987,” the listener gets bass grooves reminiscent of 80’s pop that are chopped up and manipulated.

I would say that En Fin Tid is an interesting release for this year. At first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But like all good electronic albums, it’s got depth that allows one to listen to it repeatedly.  The tracks slide in and out of each other while all being unique. Diskjokke has created a pretty cohesive album. Let’s see if he will give us more releases like this in the coming years.

Free music and advertising: How Microsoft's Kin allowed me to see Big Boi for free

The other Sunday I got a wild email. It said in big bold letters “Jay Electronica + Big Boi + Yelawolf FREE show in ATLANTA: This is a secret show in ATL next THURSDAY!”.  Well, when I saw that I felt special, and was excited at the chance to finally see Big Boi, the shorter half of OutKast that has been aggressively working to uphold the OutKast name.

As the days passed I found the event on Facebook and that it was actually a marketing ploy by Microsoft, for the Kin; some new cell-phone that is being released. Of course, as an avid rap fan, I was going to have to check out their event with no intention of ever buying a Kin.

Well, it was a great marketing scheme. I waited with friends for an hour in the hot Georgia sun (it was still going strong at 7 p.m., and doors opened at 8) to guarantee my spot.  Walking into the auditorium, there was a humongous stage in the front with 3 open bars. Before the first act (Jay Electronica) went onstage, 9th wonder was spinning at a smaller booth. This was an incredible value.

Both opening acts put on 30-minute quickie shows, with Big Boi performing for about 40 minutes.  I had seen Yelawolf before at a smaller venue, so it was interesting to see the Alabama-bred rapper go all out for a much bigger crowd.

I was excited to see New Orleans native Jay Electronica perform, but he had the worst show of all. Jay Electronica never completed a whole song. Well, he did; but every time he did a song, he asked the DJ to cut the beat so he could “do it acapella” to allow the crowd to listen to the lyrics of his songs. While I appreciate quality wordsmiths, to do the same gimmick with every song and not allow records to play out was irritating.

When Big Boi finally got on stage, he ripped through the OutKast catalogue, up to his most recent tracks that are part of his album Sir Lucious Left Foot, dropping July 6th.

So in a free show with solid acts, what could be bad? Well, the acoustics of the place were bad. On top of that, the production of the concert was terrible. During Yelawolf’s set, the sub was at such a high frequency that my vision was getting fuzzy. I may have vomited if I had had a full stomach.  During Big Boi’s set, both the DJ and Big Boi were obviously irritated by the terrible mixing of the show.  I was grateful for the performers for putting on a great show.

However, with my ears pounding after leaving the auditorium due to crappy production, why would I trust the product that was being advertised? If Microsoft wants to woo people to buy the new Kin, then they have to step their game up in quality of events.

Stankonia Studios' Inside the Music inaugural event a success

This past Friday I set foot in the legendary Stankionia Studios in Atlanta. I did not think I would ever have the chance to walk into the place where Goodie Mob, Outkast, and other Atlanta greats recorded their hits. The event was called Inside the Music. Apparently this is going to be a continuing series. The concept of Inside The Music is local artists performing in an intimate setting, while fans get a chance to set foot into the recording studio. Along with the open bar and the chance to meet local journalists and artists, the 10 dollar advance ticket fee was a steal.

The event was hosted by Maurice Garland, a Decatur, GA, native who has picked up in popularity with his one-man freelance blog operation.  Maurice Garland was incredibly humble and was the perfect MC for the event. “I didn’t think I needed to introduce myself,” said Maurice after the opening set of The Redland. “I don’t think I am as important as these artists.”

The two acts that performed were Prynce and Hollyweerd. I have listened to both of these artists intensely, so it was a blast to see them live.  Prynce was the more standard hip hop act of the two.  I was surprised to see that Prynce is quite short in person due to his gargantuan lyrical ability.  He played some well known tracks for the crowd, as well as some unreleased ones.  He marched around the studio as if he was on a mission, and I consider that mission successful.

Hollyweerd was the weirder act of the two. Hollyweerd’s live act consisted of the 4 MCs (Dreamer, The Love Crusader, Tuki, and Stago Lee) as well as a live drummer. For their set they dimmed the lights, and added a smoke machine.  Their stage presence was much similar to a rock concert. Not only was it about the the lyricism, but just putting on a fun show. They’ve been doing music for a while, and their live show exhibited that experience. If the next shows at Stankonia Studios deliver the same caliber of artists,  I definitely will return for the next Inside the Music event.

Owl Hours an imperfect affair

I have never heard of either Awol One or Factor before listening to their collaboration Owl Hours. Awol One, the MC, and Factor, a producer/dj, look like they have released a promising release with Xzibit backing Owl Hours as executive producer, and features from the likes of Xzibit and Aesop Rock. At spots the LP shines, but there are a lot of trouble spots.

The good about Owl Hours is Factors broad, eclectic production. The songs flow seamlessly together, but the variety of styles found when listening to Owl Hours is impressive. From the grungy boom-bap sound of “glamorous drunk” to the laid-back jazzy groove of “Darkness”, Owl Hours shows the scope of a competent producer.

With sound production, it seems that Owl Hours would be perfect, but it isn’t. This is due to Awol One’s rapping ability. Most of the time, Awol One sounds like a less adept Sage Francis.  With tracks such as “Brains Out” with Awol One rapping ” I’m being sick and tired of being stuck in the same route/ I got a date with myself and we be blowing my brains out”, the comparison is pretty solid.

Fortunately for the album, there are a few tracks with solid features that really shine, but unfortunately for Awol One everyone outdoes him.  The grungy synths along with Myka 9’s dungeon family-esque groovy chorous, and Aesop Rock’s complex excentric lyricism on “Stand Up” make it a great funky track.  “Waste The Wine” is an example of a solid party-rocker that, has Tash and E-Swift being the main features, with Awol One riding backseat lyrically. Both of these examples, make the listener forget that this is an effort by Awol One.  Owl Hours is recommended listening to hear Factor’s solid, unique production, and for the few excellent tracks with great features.  Awol One’s rapping, however, is ultimately forgettable.

Wiz Khalifa first time performance in the ATL

I finally got to check out the underground Atlanta rap scene, after a long period of seeing what I was missing when surfing the internet in my dorm in the culturally unfulfilling Conway, Arkansas. Atlanta is known mainly for its Dungeon Family Glory Days (Outkast, Goodie Mob, etc.; but they are getting back together!),  T.I., and the incredibly obnoxious Gucci Maine and Soulja Boy.

The Show was at a place called Cenci at East Atlanta, and Pittsburgh Native Rapper Wiz Khalifa was headlining ( with Atlantans Siya ( and Gripp Plyaz ( performing as well.  The doors opened at 10, but the show got started at 12:30 and there seemed to be a problem with Dj’s not showing up, also Young Scolla from Detroit was supposed to perform but did not. Also the headliner Wiz Khalifa played first, which meant the venue was pretty empty when he was done. Besides that, the rappers put on a really good show. Wiz Khalifa stuck to tracks off of his recent mixtape Flight School, and the crowd knew all the songs which made Wiz Khalifa receptive to the audience.  Gripp Plyaz got on the mic next, and did only two songs, but his performance was full of raw energy. Siya’s performance was the most impressive of everyone.  Siya is a little firecracker of a woman from brooklyn who basically just killed the mic. Sean Falyon( also came on stage to do a track with her. Mums FP ( who helped host the show performed at the end and did some unreleased tracks from his upcoming full length lp. When Mums FP came on stage, there was me, 3 freinds, and about 8 other people around the stage, but he gave it all his heart. I don’t think I’ve seen a rapper push so hard in front of so little people, even though such a deed will not get them the big bucks, garner national recognition, or fame. Ultimatley, I have to say great show and great performers. These men and women put their heart into this show even though the crowd died (I’m a bit skeptical of Gripp Plyaz on this one, but a lot of apprecation to him for rocking the stage with so few people…).

There’s a really interesting rap scene in Atlanta as illustrated by this show, but it will have problems picking up steam if the Atlanta promoters are really bad as they were with this event. But for all who attented to the end, they got a great show.

Don't get Blacklisted from this one

Instantly accessible, incredibly entertaining, and zipping along at the rate of a punk album, Kap Bambino’s Blacklist is a thorough album. Kap Bambino is an electronic French duo, Caroline Marital on vocals and instrumentals by Orion Bouvier, that I stumbled upon on the internet much earlier this year and heard their 2007 lp Zero Life, Night Vision, which is a harsh electronic punk album with some 8-bit influences. Because of their musical tendencies, Kap Bambino will garner instant comparison to Justice and Crystal Castles. However, this quirky, electro-punk duo has been doing this stuff since 2001, and has seemed to steadily improve their craft.

Kap Bambino’s Blacklist is a much more accessible affair than their previous lp Zero Life, Night Vision.  Zero Life, Night Vision is a bit noisier, layered with Caroline Marital’s screaming vocals that reminisces of TV static because of it’s lo-fi nature. It’s a renegade punk electronic album that’s full of high-energy, but, because of the noise, most people would miss the intrigue. Blacklist keeps  the base of the same recipe of Zero Life, Night Vision, but smooths it out and creates some tracks that are more grander in production. This is due to Orion Bouvier’s expanded range of sounds, such as a spare bass guitar line on “Lezard” or the Monkey Grinder Organ core to “Rezozero.” This album shows that Kap Bambino can keep the experimental punk flavor while making an album that more fans of electro, or similar electronic sub-genres,  might have missed on Kap Bambino’s earlier work.

Another difference on Blacklist is that Caroline Marital’s vocals become more recognizible as words, and her french-accent broken english vocals provide the same fun and energy as Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki. On “Batcaves,” Caroline Marital sings “It’s a good time for bat caves” over and over again, that helps to create a quirky, campy fun song.

Blacklist just needs to be listened to. It’s barely over thirty minutes, so there’s not much excuse not to. The only downside to the album is that it stops at barely over thirty minutes, and between most songs there’s a couple seconds of silence that kill the party, but you can use that time to try to digest what assaulted you aurally.

Throwing out the Bake Sale, going for the history books: Cool Kids concert review and interview

The Cool Kids recently played a show last weekend at the college I attend, Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas. The Cool Kids are one of the more recently exciting hip-hop groups to emerge recently. Some label their sound as “hipster-hop”, and others cite the heavy influences of the Golden Age of Hip Hop.  The point is, you can’t pin their sound, and they are always doing something new. The Cool Kids are a couple of really young, laid-back dudes. It took about four hours to get an interview with them, but not because of their ego or pretentiousness. It’s just their youth; like the rest of most young people, it’s tough to get down to business. The concert was presented by KHDX, and the profits of tickets went to the charity club, Campus Kitty. The Tennessee native hip-hop group Free Sol opened for them, and I missed it because of the interview.  After the interview, The Cool Kids were chill and discussed hip-hop with me. When The Cool Kids finally performed, the show was fantastic. The turn-out was small, but those who came got into the music, even though most of them didn’t know most of the songs. The Cool Kids surprised with a  beatbox rendition of “Mikey Rocks” and brought a few new songs out, which suggested that new bloods are keeping hip-hop alive. These guys were the perfect choice for the night’s entertainment.

How did you guys feel about asking to be played at a show in Conway, Arkansas, at Hendrix College?

Chuck Inglish: I didn’t know that I had a show here til’… two days ago. We were working when we got the news. If I wasn’t working I’d probably be more excited, but we were in the groove. But I’m excited now that I’m here. Everybody’s been extremely nice. It looks like it’s gonna be a nice show. About to do a brand new song that we did two days ago.

Which song?

Chuck Inglish: It’s a song off of our Gone Fishing mixtape. We’re gonna have everybody with camera phones put their camera phones up, and I want everybody to put that shit on Youtube, once we do the song.

You guys are stationed in Chicago and are on your own label. So, how is Chicago for an independent rap artist?

Chuck Inglish: The worst place ever. [Laughs]

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, this ain’t your planet right now.

Chuck Inglish: It’s against all odds. This ain’t 1999, where everything works. Like, you got to damn near be a rapping Olympian in order to get shit poppin’ nowadays, and at the same time it’s cool. But the worst part about is that anybody new that’s been coming along has been a flash in a pan, that was the whole set-up. Like, we got this song with “these guys,” you don’t even know the guys…. And the song runs, don’t know who did the song, and the next thing you know they disappear. It’s just how hip-hop’s getting treated; we’re getting treated like Bush right now. Basically anybody new that comes along has to bury the shit that someone else f*cked up for a really long time.

There seems to be a lot of guys, Hollywood Holt, Mic Terror, etc., that are part of the immortal nation movement in Chicago. Can you explain more about this?

Chuck Inglish: The Movement? Yeah, those are friends of ours. We know them beyond music.

Mikey Rocks: It’s more of just, you know, we’re just friends. It’s less about making songs together, and more about just everybody being cool.

Are there any of those guys that are going to be breaking out?

Chuck Inglish: I think Mic Terror… Mic Terror will murder shit, if it’s done right. Mic Terror’s got a song that he just put back out. He’s working with our sound engineer right now on some stuff, and he’s got some really good songs.

The album you’re working on is called When Fish Ride Bicycles. Where’d you guys come up with that name?

Chuck Inglish: We were really, really “relaxed,” and were watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” And, I believe it happened when Hillary was going to do a Playboy shoot for the weather girls, and Carleton wanted to go to the Playboy mansion, and he asked and Phil told him, “When fish ride bicycles.”

How is the album progressing right now?

Chuck Inglish: It’s done.

What can listeners expect?

Chuck Inglish: You’ll throw Bake Sale out. We’re brand new people. That’s just what happened.

Mikey Rocks: It’s a whole new album, it’s not a continuation.

Chuck Inglish: I can say this on this day, ‘cause it’s just realized. The Bake Sale was us being kids, and just getting shit out.

Mickey Rocks: Yeah, just playing around making songs, not really knowing how to record.

Chuck Inglish: Now that this is our life, we are taking it as serious as our life. We want to go down, we want to be in that history book, in the first couple of pages. We ain’t trying to be in the back of that book. We’re just working towards it, and I don’t believe in talking yourself up. I believe in “you shut up and you work,” and you make people recognize you for who you are for what you’ve done, not what you’ve said. Like, a lot of the shit we did before, we would never even listen to. If The Cool Kids came out right now, like two years ago, I would hate them. I can be honest with you, I’d be like “yo, those motherf*ckers are wack.” I would seriously do a “diss record” against us two years ago. But now, because we know each other way better, we’ve been roommates for the past two years, we play. When I come up with a new sound, or he comes up with a new style of rap, we are ready to go there with it. That’s basically what we did with this album. We wanted to see how far we could go, and we went there.

How do you guys feel about the state of mainstream hip-hop right now?

Mikey Rocks: It’s f*cked up.

Chuck Inglish: It is what it is. It is what people wanted it to be.

Mikey Rocks: I see how it happened though. It started out when we had a couple of select people that were a little bit smarter than people who were currently in power of hip-hop, and they took advantage of them. They thought “we could make some bread off of this shit.” They didn’t care about the state of the art form, they didn’t care about quality of the music, or the effect it would have on the kids.

Chuck Inglish: When shit gets bought out, that’s when it’s over. A lot of thing lose it’s mystique when you sell your shit for a price.

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, turn it into a Walmart or Target. Pick your sound, pick your clothes, and go up there… and that’s it.

Chuck Inglish: Rappers shouldn’t have stylists. You can quote that. They came in setting shit. The drug dealers were dressing like the rappers were. Now, the rappers are dressing like the drug dealers. It’s like the tables have turned. That’s what happened, it became a supermarket. You find someone who can halfway rap, if you have enough money, you can get a whole bunch of hot-ass beats and a bunch of expensive producers. People hear that’s who did their album, so it must be good, and then it ain’t good. If you do that 15 times for 10 years straight, people are going to be like “all right, I get it, I’m sick of you crying wolf all the time.”

Do think the mainstream is going to stay like this for a while?

Mikey Rocks: Nah, because the money is not coming in as much as it used to, and you’re going to start seeing it crumble. You are going to start seeing those people who were in power, are going to start backing up and think, “whoa, I’m not making cash no more, I’m done with this shit.” Eventually, it’ll break down into what it once was. Because as soon as that money starts leaving, you’re going to see who really enjoys this, who’s really trying to rap here. You’re going to see a lot of people going back to work, and going back to shooting hoops and shit, trying to get it some other way.

Chuck Inglish: You can live off of it, but at certain times, even I think how can you possibly get really rich off this?

Mikey Rocks: You can definitely live off it, but the millions and all of that crazy shit that was happening, that’s about to be x’d. …That’s really not going to make money any more.

Chuck Enlgish: That comes with work.

Mikey Rocks: Technology’s too advanced for people to be getting screwed over anymore. They ain’t gonna have that “people trying to steal your shit, and charge some money for some wack-ass single that you made.” The money level of hip-hop is not the same as it was a couple years ago. It’s a different world, now that everybody’s kind of tightening their belts. Those that really give a f*ck about trying to be the next Bill Gates of rapping, those people are starting to get a little bit more frugal. But people who are still going to decide to do this regardless, are going to do it anyway.

Are there any particular artists that you’d want to be able to work with at some point?

Chuck Inglish: For me, yeah, cause I write songs, and I like making music for other people. As far as The Cool Kids go, I don’t know. I feel that every time we work, we’re working with someone. Because he always knows something I don’t, or I’ll come up on something he doesn’t know. He started making beats now, so things are getting a little interesting. On our mix tape we have a collaboration with a girl name Jada. I didn’t know here prior to yesterday. She was just there, and she heard the beat and starts kicking a rap over it, and we were like “yo, you should go rap that.” So, that’s what a collaboration is, it’s not like “let’s force something because it’ll chart.” You can’t work out with people you can’t hang out with.

Do you guys plan to be doing this for a while?

Chuck Inglish: Yeah, I ain’t got no other plan. I’m not gonna be the rapper that retires. I’m going to do this ‘til I can’t speak.

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, I’m setting up shop for a while.

Chuck Inglish: The shit I rap about is everyday regular man stuff. Where me, you, some kids you grew up with, and some kids I grew up with can be in a room and all laugh about the same shit, because it’s the same stuff that all of us go through. As we get older, the people that like us now… Just like, how Guns and Roses can do a concert, and the crowd’s all old and some are little, it’s just you take your fans with you. You get older, they get older too. That’s what people’s problem is, they get older and they want to get the young kids, but the young kids always want to know about the older stuff first, so just stick to your guns. Young kids now f*ck with Ghostface; he’s not done anything different. He still kicks the same ill-ass shit he’s done since day one. He didn’t do a song with Mariah Carey cause she’s popular.

Warp Records keeps it coming, Polyfolk Dance EP sure to please

Scotland born and hip-hop oriented, Hudson Mohawke is an interesting listen. His newest release Polyfolk Dance EP could be labeled as electronic, dance, and experimental hip hop. It’s a little EP that’s short, but packed full of complicated, grimey beats. Hudson Mohawke immediately sounds that he’s coming from the same vein as Flying Lotus. This makes sense, as they are both backed by Warp Records, which seems to be focusing on experimental hip hop instrumental producers and has signed some competent people.

Hudson Mohawke’s beats are incredibly diverse, and are so thick that at times it’s hard to keep track of what exactly is going on. Imagine somebody putting a bunch of different items in a blender, setting it on “high,” and walking away from it.  But it’s this variation of flavor that makes Hudson Mohawke’s beats have an incredible amount of lasting appeal.  Most tracks are hip-hop samples layered upon  electronic beats; that allows for a one-trick pony with a lot of lasting appeal. Guitar riffs and horn pieces blaze above heavy drums on “Overnight,” while beats play with synths on “Velvet Peel.”

Hudson Mohawke is a new blood on Warp Records that has enough skill to be able to be around as long as there’s a beat machine. The PolyFolk Dance EP is only a small taste of what an LP could be and do with Hudson Mohawke as the pilot.

Here comes Doitall again…

Lords of the Underground came into the hip-hop world with the 1993 underground, East Coast near-classic Here Comes The Lords.  Little has been heard from them in recent years, except for an album in 2007 that was released so under the radar that they might as well not made it.  So, to have the chance to review a new mixtape by one of the members (“The Me You Never Heard” by Doitall) comes as a surprise.

Well, Doitall’s lyrics and beats sure have changed. Lords of the Underground on Here Comes The Lords favored jazz-based samples with a golden-age era flow. But Doitall is definitely susceptible to what is popular nowadays, adding support for calling his mixtape “The Me You Never Heard.” There’s a lot more violent imagery and talking about “hustlin and grindin.” There’s a lot of Doitall rappping about how great he is, and playing the “I am a member of a classic hip hop outfit” card.  Well, it’s kind of a shock. The worst example of this is the track “HE,” with the irritating chorus, “He does it for the love/He’s out for some blood/He’s mister make him clap/ He’s mister get them stacks/He’s mister lays a track/ He’s the man, he’s your fam, he’s the one.”  It’s kind of depressing to hear a classic rapper trying to still prove himself.

But it’s not all bad. Doitall definitley does prove he’s still got skills and can still pull something off. Most of the beats are well chosen.  Also, Doitall mixes the ring tone rap themes with social consciousness. “No Sunshine” is the perfect example that shows Doitall still being able to make something with substance. It’s a track that has Doitall rapping about  how the “The project is a project exactly what they called it/ common sense aint common so it’s hard to use logic.” He makes a pretty serious, rough track.  It’s a really great gem that Talib Kweli, Mos Def, or Nas would wish they would have thought of.

Doitall exercises his lyrical skills well on the “The Me You Never Heard” mixtape. But, unfortunately, it shows signs of how even classic MCs are susceptible to popular ring tone rap, probably to try to get some airplay. It’s well-crafted, and well put together, but hopefully rap’s standards will change for the better.

How did you get indie-pop in my math rock?

Math rock is one of those genres that is usually influenced by others.  Right now, a lot of math-rock bands have been pulling influences from post-hardcore and post-rock, and sometimes math-rock  can be indistinguishable from these genres. Well, the San Diego-based trio Fever Sleeves are here to add a little pip in the step of one of the genres that can oftentimes feel way too serious and complex to the average listener. Soft Pipes, Play On is a misleading title for one heck of a ripping album.

The instrumentals seep in, post-rock style, on the opener “Vampyroteuthis,” and suggest something that has been done before. But that lasts for all of 54 seconds or so, until the instrumentals rip open like a wildfire. The vocalist of the Fever Sleeves then comes in and it’s not that post-hardcore style that so often works in math rock, it’s an infectious indie-pop one. That’s the trick to a l0t of the Fever Sleeves songs: they work in the medium of indie-pop.

This may be one of the more accessible math-rock albums I’ve ever heard. It never drags. All of the songs average at about 3 mintues each, which is shocking compared to the usual instrumental freakouts that last upward of five minutes.   The track “Cusack”  comes as such a suprise with instrumentals that play off of very melodic vocals, and vice versa. The song could easily be a pop-fest, but the Fever Sleeve’s instrumentals take it to complex and full musical territories that indie-pop bands simply couldn’t pull off. A thrilling, refreshing listen, Soft Pipes, Play On shows that Fever Sleeves seems to be doing something that may have seemed too incredibly obvious to other bands, and doing it with fervor.