Music

Team Shadetek: Pale Fire

Neal Hayes

Two New York producers break out of the boroughs with a full-length debut that's both streetwise and eclectic.


Team Shadetek

Pale Fire

Label: Sound-Ink
US Release Date: 2007-03-13
UK Release Date: 2007-03-12
Amazon
iTunes

Journalist Thomas Oliphant used his 2005 memoir Praying for Gil Hodges to show how Brooklyn is both a microcosm of the entire United States and a magnet for world culture. In the book, he shares Yale historian Kenneth T. Jackson's assessment that "a quarter of all Americans can trace their ancestry to people who once lived in its (Brooklyn's) 81 square miles". Looking at Brooklyn in this way, as a place that is both an ancestral reference point for millions of Americans and as a destination for people from overseas, is helpful for someone trying to understand the first Team Shadetek full-length album, Pale Fire. The members of Shadetek boast of their connection to the borough, but theirs is not the hip-hop Brooklyn of Jay-Z or Mos Def. Rather; Pale Fire is a global brew with hints of reggae, grime, and electronic flavor.

Team Shadetek is the project of New York-bred producers Soze.sht and Zach Zizmore. Their latest effort features a host of guest artists delivering a wide range of underground hip-hop styles. Over the course of their careers, the producers have toured the world, and Pale Fire bears evidence of their travels. One of the most obvious elements of Team Shadetek's sound is a heavy grime influence. Originally a product of the London underground scene, grime (a hip-hop subgenre dominated by electronic beats and lightning rhymes) has spread via the Internet to appreciative audiences around the world. Aside from Lady Sovereign and Dizzee Rascal, grime artists have yet to make a major impact in America. By including contributions from artists such as Jammer and Skepta, Team Shadetek has not only created a more global hip-hop record, but also made a sort of grime primer for American audiences.

After a brief intro, which is appropriately titled "Tinnitus", Team Shadetek launches into "Brooklyn Anthem", a surefire club hit. Emcees 77Klash and Jahdan deliver hard driving rhymes with a dub flavor over a beat consisting of big bass, twitchy synths, and clattering snares. The party continues after the anthem, thanks first to "Legs" and its singable chorus, "When we get down / Make you get up", and next to "Make It", a track with horn licks and sped-up voice samples ala Kanye West. The rest of the album switches between tracks based on grime, reggae, and more straightforward hip-hop, and it even includes a few instrumental tracks. Highlights from the second half include "Reign" (featuring Skepta) and the electronic "Kalamata".

Sometimes, Pale Fire's wide gaze compromises its focus. The greatest hip-hop albums are unified artistic statements. By contrast, Pale Fire lacks cohesion. Musical purists might be refreshed by Team Shadetek's aversion to the goofy skits that are so prominent on many hip-hop albums. Although these skits can be distracting, they can also imbue an album with character, a hearty dose of which would improve Pale Fire. As it stands, the album's music seems a little unsure of itself as it passes between the hands of so many guest artists. Besides a lack of focus, Pale Fire suffers from an occasional failure of the beats and flows to gel (see the track "Witchcraft"), and the occasional repugnant lyric, such as "Throw ya guns up / We starvin', we gonna make you give ya funs up" on "Throw Ya Guns Up".

If Team Shadetek's eclecticism compromises its focus, it should at least help the duo appeal to a wide audience. Hip-hop, dub, grime, and electronic fans should all find plenty to enjoy on Pale Fire. Given the right music video, a few of the album's songs might even hold up as singles. Rap and dance fans should keep an eye out for Team Shadetek as the producers continue to distill their worldwide influences into more purposeful music, but for now they can be satisfied with a solid, hard-hitting record.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image