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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
02 June 2006
Macromantics, Four Facets [7"] (Quake Trap)
"These are the sounds of the future hip-hop coasts you are hearing," Macromantics announces at the beginning of "Four Facets". A hip-hop-loving pop-punk guitarist-turned-rapper with an impressive touring résumé (Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, Mr. Lif), Macromantics (née Romy Hoffman) isn't short on ambition. And she has a nice little gimmick to go with it -- hard-hitting, Jean-Grae-tough female MC with a thick Australian accent spits viciously intelligent battle raps. Hoffman has the flow to back it up as well, her verses thickly lyrical and rhythmically impeccable if nothing groundbreaking, and the production is equally solid on these two tracks: a blend of sweetly ominous crooning, dark strings, and melancholy piano on "Four Facets" and a constantly-morphing electro-shuffle romp on "Conspiracy Remix". What Macromantics lacks, however, can be crippling: charisma. Her lyricism is deft and impressive, there's no doubt about that, but her delivery is relatively monotone and essentially uniform in its unsmiling, hardcore-tough persona -- in the end meriting a look from deep hip-hop heads, but not much more.
"? Future": [MP3]
"hYperbolic LOgic": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Marcos Amorim, Sete Capelas (Adventure Music)
Reviewers of Marcos Amorim's last album, Cris on the Farm, his first to have had a major release outside Brazil, compared him favourably to Charlie Byrd, but I know precisely zilch about Charlie Byrd except that his name makes him sound like a comic ostrich, so I'll have to take their word for it. The line-up for this new album is the same as the last one -- Amorim playing the guitar, accompanied by the bass player Ney Conceição and percussionist Robertinho Silva -- with guest appearances from Nivaldo Ornelas, who plays a sweet flute. Sete Capelas is mellower than Cris on the Farm, less obviously Brazilian, and less varied, as if the guitarist feels that he no longer needs to make dramatic gestures to prove his worth, and that now he can sit down and concentrate his energy on a single, basic, brightly jazzy sound. It's playful and imaginative stuff.
multiple songs: [CD Baby]
World / Latin
Hayley Taylor, Waking EP (self-released)
I expected Taylor's disc -- with its girl-with-guitar artwork and song titles like "What I Never Said" and "What Matters Most -- to sound like much of the music I regretted hearing in college coffee shops, in which "brutally confessional" passes as art. Taylor knows something key: skipping the melodrama and delivering emotion in a conversational singing voice renders those personal feelings much more effectively. Even when thinking of a passed away friend ("Never Said"), Taylor keeps her cool, telling us what we need to know without indulging herself in theatrics. Backed by solid country-influenced musicians, Taylor's introduced herself in a subdued and graceful manner.
"What I Never Said": [MP3]
Kevin, "Gentle Soul" b/w "I Don't Wanna Wake Up" [7-inch single] (Rhythm Barrel)
Kevin, actually a four-man band, is like a Finnish version of Soundtrack of Our Lives: a copy of a copy of the sound of the real psychedelic revolution some 40 years ago. Gentle Soul is blissful and competent enough, but goes on for a rather laborious six minutes, which alas lasted one minute longer than the Age of Aquarius this band tries so desperately to mimic. While the band comes across like they wanna be a double-ought version of Love or Spirit, the nail in the coffin is that they do so without the passion or swagger of any of those Nuggets-era bands and instead come off like the 5th Dimension on a bad acid trip.
multiple songs: [official site]
.: posted by Editor 9:07 AM