Saturday, January 28, 2012

In a Field of Red...

The Latest Greatest, 1/28/12

New full length album from The Insects, "Black Rose," is set to drop in 2012 on their own 1090 imprint. Brad B and Foundation have been plugging out some good tunes for a minute now, but I didn't really become a full-fledged fan of theirs until I saw them open for JFK at Rockit Room SF in 2010. After seeing their stage charisma and amazing energy live, their music seemed to click with me a lot more, and I'm looking forward to hearing what the Arizona duo delivers with their latest opus. Doesn't hurt that they got the awesome Albane to handle the artwork for this one, nor does it hurt that they got Murs, Ariano, Scarub and Xperience on the guest features. You can stream the song featuring Scarub, "Wild Ride," from their prelude EP of the same name below. Insectious.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breakin' With Broken Bodies

The Latest Greatest, 1/19/12

New album from Third Sight, "Chillin' With Dead Bodies in a B-Boy Stance," freshly butchered for 2012. Apparently, this latest opus from Roughneck Jihad, D-Styles and Dufunk dropped no less than two weeks ago digitally... word??? Thankfully, I hear that a CD may be getting pressed up for it further down the line, so they haven't succeeded at slipping under everyone's radars quite yet. These three have been making some pretty grimy and original left-field hip hop since their "Golden Shower Hour" album dropped in 1998, with some very choppy beats and impressive scratching (but what would you expect from D-Styles?). Roughneck Jihad has got a lot of personality as a rapper, falling in line with cats like Kool Keith and Doom in that special class of weird MCs who just don't give a fuck. Curious to hear this one, I'll wear a nose plug if I have to. Tracklisting and sample song below:

1. I Strangled the Accordian
2. Honey Aficionado
3. I Got a Lot of Yen
4. Baghdad
5. Beat Biter
6. Bellydancer
7. Stratosphere
8. Creep Shit
9. Artificial Missile
10. Eye Spy
11. Jeepers Peepers
12. Pineal Gland
13. Shit Talker
14. Smell My Middle Finger
15. Turf Tight

Jeepers Peepers by third-sight

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Melissa Czarnik with Eric Mire at the Red Poppy Arthouse, SF

View From the Front Row, 1/14/12

The other night, I had the chance to see Melissa Czarnik and Eric Mire perform in the intimate setting of the Red Poppy Arthouse in San Francisco. Melissa Czarnik (or "MC" as she abbreviates it on her calling card) is a rapper and spoken word artist from Milwaukee who has an original voice and a knack for penning some melodic flows and introspective lyrics. Her partner Eric Mire provides the musical backdrop for her endeavors with some nice live keyboard instrumentation, which compliments Melissa's style well. I hadn't heard of these two until I received one of their albums unexpectedly in the mail with a nice handwritten Jean-Michel Basquiat postcard, and the music and professionalism of said "Raspberry Jesus" CD impressed me in a way that few unsolicited projects have. Naturally, I was curious to see how their music translated to a live setting.

The Red Poppy Arthouse was a far stretch from your average hip hop spot, and the layout of the event was also very unusual for a rap show. The venue was clearly geared towards providing a space for intimate spoken word performances, and Melissa Czarnik's show was treated as such, with a tightly knit schedule complete with formal introductions and intermissions. Stranger still was that this was a seated show, with several rows of chairs and no space to groove out up front... disorienting to a front row dancer like myself. The spot was tiny and still felt a little empty, with maybe 30% of the seats claimed if we're being generous, but it all made for a very special and intimate show that I'll be reminiscing on for some time to come.

The first half of Melissa Czarnik's set featured her on the mic while Eric Mire played keyboards and drum loops in the background. I arrived at the Red Poppy Arthouse a little after 8 when the show was scheduled to start, only to find that they were running fully on schedule (another rarity at rap shows) and were already halfway into one of their standout songs "Hand Me the Mic." Both Melissa Czarnik and Eric Mire demonstrated some fine musicianship in the way they interpreted and rearranged their songs live, with Eric providing lots of new improvisational elements to the songs with his keyboard and Melissa skillfully adapting her vocals to the twists. They performed several strong numbers from their "Raspberry Jesus" album including "Wake Up" and "Like That," as well as the song "Remember" which had Eric Mire helping out on the vocals with some rapping. They also played a few very promising numbers from their upcoming album "Non Merci," which is destined to be the most Parisian hip hop album ever released by a rapper from the US, let alone Milwaukee.

After an intermission in which folks hit the Red Poppy's tiny but surprisingly well-stocked bar, Melissa and Eric got back on stage and performed another set of songs. This time, Eric Mire traded his keyboard in for a tradition stand-up piano provided by the venue, which altered the recorded versions of Melissa's songs even further. The two of them did justice to my favorite songs from "Raspberry Jesus," namely "Say Goodbye" and "Love Train," and it was interesting to hear how different some of the numbers sounded with an old school piano in the mix. The only song that sounded a little awkward to me in this piano setting was "Stay High," which Ms. Czarnik rapped exceptionally well over but which felt a little off in the absence of Patrice Downey's lively hook. The audience was dead silent while Melissa was doing her verses, but gave a good reception at the end of each song and even cheered for an encore, which they ended up getting in the form of "Been This Way." Melissa and Eric also interspersed their set with some humorous trivia that the older heads in attendance had on lock, though the occasional gap of crowd silence made it as risky as it was entertaining.

Overall, the quiet and intimate nature of this show made it stand out as something special. It felt like a private and personal performance for a few select people, which seemed appropriate given the personal nature of Melissa Czarnik's music. I left the show with a greater appreciation for Melissa and Eric's recordings after seeing them work their musicianship on stage, and am curious to see where their music progresses from here. They're good people, so I'll be rooting for'em regardless. Some from the show below:

Melissa Czarnik and Eric Mire performing a new song from "Non Merci":

Melissa Czarnik and Eric Mire performing "Say Goodbye" on stand-up piano:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jonti "Sine & Moon (The Album)"

Expanding the Backpack, 1/12/12

New free album from the quirky Australian producer Jonti, featuring lots of dope beats and interesting off-kilter melodies. I didn't have a chance to cover Jonti's excellent Stones Throw debut "Twirligig" from last year on this blog, but it stood out to me as one of the more interesting electronic releases of 2011 and got a fair amount of rotation from my end. "Sine & Moon (The Album)" features mostly new (or old and unreleased) songs from Jonti with a few alternative takes of "Twirligig" tracks, and while it isn't mastered as well as his debut, there are definitely some gems on this freebie. Personal favorites include the gorgeous instrumental "Flesh Of Morning" and the simple sparse pop music of "Saturday Night Songs." Apparently, Jonti has a new official album "Tokorats" dropping on Stones Throw in the first quarter of 2012 as well. Keeping things busy in the beat scene down under, apparently. For now, you can download "Sine & Moon (The Album)" for free via Stones Throw's website Pretty tunes.

1. Saturday Night Songs
2. Red On Green
3. Confused Birds
4. Nagoya Train Station 3 AM
5. Nightshift in Blue (Alternative Version)
6. Koi Moon's Daughter Pt. II
7. By This Shore
8. Flesh of Morning
9. Lost Machines
10. Young Wildebeest
11. Nagoya Interlude
12. Moon Goddess
13. Sugar High
14. Lovers Stone (Alternative Passaros)
15. Vendas Newly Won Dream (Bonus Track)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Proe "Be Brave, Gladiator"

Expanding the Backpack, 1/6/12

Awesome new free digital album from Rec League's very own Proe, entitled "Be Brave, Gladiator." SF's Rec League has been throwing killer shows and putting out good music for a minute now, boasting talented rap types like Richie Cunning and Grip Grand as part of their Bay Area roster. I saw Proe open for Glue with Richie Cunning and DJ MF Shalem at Elbo Room years ago, but hadn't really heard any of his recorded stuff prior to this album. "Be Brave, Gladiator" proves to be quite the introduction, showing off Proe's songwriting and production skills while sounding like a complete album of stand-out cuts. Proe has a very interesting approach to his music, combining left-field pop sensibilities with his strong flow and raw beats. The whole thing sounds professional as hell, and is one of the strongest entries in the Rec League catalog to date in my book. You can download Proe's "Be Brave, Gladiator" for free on Routine Fly's website or via Proe's Bandcamp Page should you feel like making a donation. Or if you're not the downloading type, you can also stream the whole thing under the tracklisting below:

1. All Day
2. City on Fire
3. Cuss By Candlelight
4. Be Brave, Gladiator
5. She's a Cutter
6. Don't Wake the Babies
7. Box Cutter Johnny
8. EVOLution
9. Come Sunday
10. The Worst
11. So Last Year
12. Don't Wake the Babies (Remix)