PopMatters home | short takes home | archives
PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
14 March 2006
Epic & Nomad, Epic & Nomad (Clothes Horse) Rating: 8
The first time cult Canadian rapper Epic opens his mouth, you just might want to laugh. It's some of the nerdiest-sounding rapping you'll ever hear, and on this, his new collaboration CD with the singer Nomad, neither are Nomad's vocals very conventionally beautiful. But once you can get past the fact that they sound like Muppets, you'll find the surprise hidden beneath: this isn't just another geeky attempt at slice-of-life hip-hop, this is slice-of-life hip-hop that works, that crawls under your skin and carves out its own unique emotional space. The production, supplied by the likes of Maki and Soso, certainly helps; many of the beats are surprisingly beautiful, from the acoustic guitar of "Isolation Interlude" to the pristinely morose piano and violin of "Another Left Wing Peace Song". Epic's glum lyrics are as on-point as usual; Nomad's singing inhabits a unique realm of feeling, conveying perfectly the almost fatal despair and boredom of modern life: Sunday-sad. At just over half an hour, it's a short but affecting album that leaves a definite mood of sadness behind. Don't let the delivery turn you off; trust me, it grows on you, and if you can dig deeper you'll find something much more important: humanity.
"Another Left Wing Peace Song": [MP3]
"Days n Times (What's Really Good)": [MP3]
"Act on Stage": [MP3]
Tic Code, FBCCADE (Sick Room) Rating: 5
There are people who would, no doubt, absolutely love Tic Code's debut album FBCCADE. And there are people who get a visceral thrill out of working through a complex math problem (I know this because I watch Numbers). I have a suspicion that, given knowledge of each other, these two groups would probably intersect in quite a few places, mostly because Tic Code seems intent on turning each of their songs into math problems, shifting between time signatures before they really establish them, employing atonal melodies that surely turn into patterns upon deeper examination, but to the untrained ear sound a lot more like random notes. The band professes a love for Steve Reich, and it's no coincidence that their strongest moments are quite Reich-like -- The first two minutes of "The Second Stanza of the Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza" are focused on two guitars (one in each ear, naturally) playing what originally appear to be repeated identical melodies, but there's an extra note being played by one of the guitars resulting in a phasing exercise quite similar to Reich's famous "Come Out". Likewise, the beginning of "Swedish Fish" evokes distant thoughts of Music for 18 Musicians. Unfortunately, everything else is fairly standard math-rock, complete with the emotional distance and ill-advised attempts to "rock out" that the label implies. FBCCADE is interesting enough, but incredibly difficult to truly love.
"Swedish Fish": [MP3]
Gavin Keitel, Balance Presents 'Eclectic' (EQ) Rating: 6
My goodness -- usually when a mix CD like this advertises the fact that it is eclectic or otherwise multi-generic, it means that maybe, maybe there's a house song with a tiny bit of techno thrown in at some point. But, lo and behold, Gavin Keitel seems to have actually made good on the billing and delivered a CD that represents a fairly wide survey of the current electronic music world. Beginning with the slightly micro-house vibe of Inaqui Marin's "Six" and segueing into the funky Tiefschwartz mix of Osunlade's "Pride", the mix goes uphill from there, with stops at the slightly electro (the Tiga mix of Drama Society's "Crying Hero"), ramping into the old-school techno vibe of Hugg & Pepp's "Snabeln" and even dropping in a taste of trance in the form of "Double X's "City Lights" before ending with Superpitcher's profoundly cool and decidedly minimal "Happiness". I'm not sure the mix adds up to more than the sum of it's parts, but it is certainly more interesting for its variety than any number of the faceless mix compilations that cross my desk.
multiple tracks: [samples]
Steve Cole, Spin (Narada) Rating: 6
This seasoned sax man has taken the likes of Maroon 5 and John Mayer as some of his influences for this rather laidback piece of adult contemporary pop/jazz. From the start of "Thursday", fans of fellow horn men like Dave Koz and Kenny G. would enjoy these tracks as Cole gives them crystal clear solos backed by some interesting arrangements. Meanwhile, the slower but folksy, comforting "The Real Me" definitely falls in line with something Mr. Mayer might have churned out with an earlier album. After a rather mid-tempo "Simple Things", Cole tries to, er, jazz things up with the up-tempo title track, but again it is very safe and somewhat comforting. Perhaps the best of the lot has to be "A Letter to Laura" which seems quite tender but not too sappy at the same time. Cole also nails quite a few extended solos here with some subtle keyboards in the distance. The second half isn't all that different, although at times it's just a tad too muzak for some people, particularly during "Serenity". But he redeems himself with the funky and rather rock-tinted "I Was Alright" and the bombastic closer "Confounded". Not quite "smooth jazz" but pretty darn close. Jason MacNeil
.: posted by Editor 8:02 AM