SEPTEMBER PLAYBOX HIGHLIGHTS
The playbox at WXYC is currently bursting with quality new stuff, making the slow descent into Fall just a bit more tolerable. Little Howlin' Wolf made it all the way to #1 on our charts last week, how about that? Here's some highlights from the latest batch of rotation cuts, complete with short DJ-friendly reviews I wrote for the station. Stay tuned, October is coming.
Artist: Little Howlin' Wolf
Album: Cool Truth
South-Chicago street musician and outsider blues deconstructionist Little Howlin' Wolf (aka James Pobiega) released quite a few 7" singles back in the '70s and '80s, leaving behind an obscure trail of records just waiting to be re-released by some hip label. Leave it to Nautical Almanac owned and operated Heresee records to do the deed, reissuing Cool Truth - his first full-length record originally put out in 1985 and available here for the first time on CD. Recorded solo between 1979 and 1983, the tracks here resemble something like ragtime ran through a blender, garbled into junkyard blues and bouncing down the street like an over-packed cargo truck. His gravelly voice conjures Beefheart broken in half, spilled on the floor amongst a multi-tracked mix of sax, drums, guitar and harmonica. Pobiega's pained growls and shambling free-blues style are a perfect fit for the Heresee catalog - distorted lullabies from the deranged uncle you never knew.
Artist: Voice of the Seven Woods
Label: Twisted Nerve / B-Music
The ever-reliable Finders Keepers/B-Music label/collective keeps the timeless tunes coming with some newly recorded jams by British psych-folk enthusiast Rick Tomlinson and his solo project, Voice of the Seven Woods. Tomlinson has been touring around the European underground for several years, self-releasing an array of CD-Rs, 7"s and cassettes that have long been out of print. Since Finders Keepers get their kicks from re-releasing criminally unavailable gems from music's mystical underbelly, it seems fitting for them to issue Tomlinson's first widely-distributed full-length - a splendid amalgamation of acoustic psych and Middle Eastern funk. He exhibits some damn fine chops on his acoustic guitar, weaving riffs that revolve on rollicking themes, picking up the oud and sitar to give the tracks more depth. A couple tunes even showcase Turkish funk breakdowns, livening up the lilt with trembling guitar and booty-shaking grooves. Despite the obvious care that was put into the records, an ancient haze lingers throughout; it sounds like it could be right out of 1972, but delivered with a fresh new smell. One of the most compelling releases steeped in the acoustic guitar to come along in some time, and with the bevy of finger-picking revivalists and folks-drone aficionados that currently clutter the music underground, that's saying something.
Artist: Shape of Broad Minds
Album: Craft of the Lost Art
In true Madlib style, emcee/prodcucer Jneiro Jarel unveils his Shape of Broad Minds project, boasting contributions from four alter egos that reflect the various cities he's called home over the past 15 years: Brooklyn, Georgia, and his current residence in Philly. Jarel emphasizes the jazz kick like the aformentioned producer, paying homage to his blue note faves with recontexualized rhythms and space-station liftoff. His abstract hooks, inventive production and forward-thinking bumps shine, collapsing Jarel's various side projects into an impressive meld of hip hop for the new millennium (be-bop of the future past?). The personalities incorporated in the SOBM ensemble include: Jawaad (raps), Roque Wun (singing), Panama Black (raps), and Dr. Who Dat (production). A few guest MC spots are sprinkled in, most notably MF Doom's contribution to the "Let's Go" single. The concept may not be particularly new to the hip hop formula, but Craft of the Lost Art has enough unique cool to pull off inventive, even if gets a little too nostalgic for its own good at times. Still, Jarel's style is intelligent, bizarre, and a breath of fresh air from most of today's hip hop underground.
Album: Box of Dub: Dubstep and Future Dub
Label: Soul Jazz
For a label that's made its name with a massive catalog of dub, reggae and a variety of other danceable musics, it makes sense for London-based Soul Jazz to dip their hands into the dubstep sound that's been brewing in the southern part of the city for several years. This compilation basically sums up the heavy hitters in the scene, showcasing its bassy brand of club-ready dub. All these tracks are freshly produced for this release, with cuts by all the big boys; Digital Mystikz, Burial, Skream, Kode9 - along with some stand-up tracks by other producers like Scuba, Sub Version and King Midas Sound. The artists here display several different variations on dubstep's framework, skulking though delay-drenched soul samples, wobbly kneed low-end, and the cold sweat of urbanized London wasteland. Some of the samples and effects treatment come off a bit cheezy, but these fellows know what they're doing - delivering a head-nodding blend of throbbing bass caked in digital warmth. Whether it be a steady, dance-ready thump or a sparse buildup with subsequent explosion, the tracks here can get addictive. Hopefully, this won't be the last dubstep effort from Soul Jazz - with any luck, they'll keep up with the scene as it continues to evolve.
Artist: People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz
Album: Perpetuum Mobile
Through a self-proclaimed "schizophrenic open source compositional process," like-minded plunderphonic all-stars and UK residents People Like Us (aka Vicki Bennett) and Ergo Phizmiz team up in a vortex of zany audio snippets, looped jingle jangle and ridiculous recontextualizations. Over the course of a year, the two used a shared server to upload and download files to and from one another, editing and amalgamating the stolen sources with frequent regurgitation. The album isn't completely lifted however, as both Phizmiz and Bennett dubbed in vocal accompaniments here and there to augment their loony concoctions. Everything seems rosy on the surface, but the layering and sampling depth are quite disorienting and clinically deranged, as is most of their work. You can download the dubplates that they made for the record on PLU's site, so why not try your luck at a remix?