Somber, haunting and rhythmic all describe the opening track to Karl McCann’s ‘Kxi’ album. ‘Good Things Will Rest’ sets the tone with a ghost-like vocal delivery over a raw guitar melody and rugged drums. ‘Ask For Forgiveness’ keeps the momentum going while slightly brightening up the tone the rough vocals add personality to the recording, similar to the idiosyncratic cover art- original, unique, sparse and complex all in one. ‘Kxi’ sonically translates to a beautifully mysterious painting, a consistent color palette and deep dark depth in the few colors used. Stripped down and raw Karl McCann delivers an honest album packed with character. ‘Just Another Shot’ upbeat in sound but dark in content- another interesting mesh in a painting of combined complimentary colors. ‘Kxi’ is an outstanding album with consistency and familiarity welded together with range and risk, the distorted acoustic beginning of ‘So Save Yourself’ coupled with the crisp programmed drum sounds creates a unique sound for Karl McCann. McCann has an LP that can be played from start to finish with depth enough for an immediate restart leaving the listener wanting to re-experience ‘Kxi’ right away.
Right out the gate Salloum’s ‘Energy & Rhythm’ begins with a spark of the metaphysical, the intro track ‘Gamebreaker’ is full of audio clips of interviews about otherworldly topics. Accompanied by a full website http://energyandrhythm.com/ ‘Energy & Rhythm’ is a project that details a level of depth easily forgotten today. ‘Join Us’, the first track, is a mission statement and call to arms, a spiritual anthem enveloped in passion. ‘Heart Of The City’ is a triumphant autobiographical banger, with an instrumental with a haunting piano loop, heavy drums and blended synths on the hook. ‘Reagan’s United Nations (interlude)’ ties in the political with the conspiratorial a chilling segue into ‘End Of The Road’ a track with a slight Hip-Hop meets Nu-Metal mellow alternative aesthetic. Famed comedian George Carlin has his own interlude again emphasizing the possible extraterrestrial influence on our society. ‘The Setup’ has a ghastly instrumental and even more altering lyrics, exposing the esoteric to the listener. Epic, enlightening, intoxicating and energetic all describe ‘Energy & Rhythm’ at title alone with more depth than what is immediate, Salloum delivers a Hip-Hop album that is a wealth of knowledge, an LP that can be studied like an ancient book holding the mysteries of time.
As artists grow and evolve the greatest subconsciously add the best elements of their previous work to their new efforts. ‘City For Sale‘ takes the neighborhood concept of ‘Brooklynati‘ into reality if only as a background concept as opposed to a full foreground concept album. ‘Here Come The Neighborhood’ opens the LP, a title packed with the innate subtle wit Von Pea is known for. “I’ve only been a part of one Minstrel Show/ that’s why we still are slept on” – lyrics referring to Von Pea’s skit appearance on Little Brother’s 2005 LP- rolls into the groove heavy ‘Pity Party’. The raw Soul and Funk loops of the opening tracks mask the melancholy, a catchy hook over a dance-able bassline and break-beat, combine the mood and content of his ‘Duly Noted.‘ EP with the up beat sample Soul chops of ‘Moonlighting‘.
Fully self-produced -and credited to ‘The Von Pea Ubiquity”- “City For Sale” boasts a producer whose ear for samples rivals the best, the lush Jazzy Soul of ‘Doorbell’ not only flows like a rare Q-Tip found loop on the hook but transitions into chops in the verse akin to 9th Wonder or Alchemist. Von Pea’s signature bat crack is only heard once on the album, perhaps to emphasize that every track here is laced by the MC. ‘Well As I Should’ eases in like a Pete Rock instrumental interlude with stuttering needle-drop loops of Funk featuring the underground legend Homeboy Sandman. ‘Let’s Be F’real’ has a dusty groove of gritty guitar riff chops and a crunchy drum break with live instrumentation sneaking into the hook. Coupled with ‘Round The Way Girl’ Von tells the tale of chick whose home situation meshes a little to much into his current situation. The transition of similar subject matter unfolding from one track to the next is a subtle effect rarely used on LP’s that aren’t as thought out as ‘City For Sale‘, an element first spawned on his debut solo LP ‘Peas Gotta Have It’- another positive feat subconsciously carried over.
The Flex bomb-worthy ‘Frenzy’ comes in boasting nods to the late great Tupac and Notorious BIG jam packed with witty lyrics, humor, punchlines and an instrumental made for such lyrical slaughter. If Little Brother is the little brother of A Tribe Called Quest and the whole Native Tongue collective then Von Pea is their even younger cousin, ‘The Norm’ taking a sample from the vault of ATCQ and covering content much needed in an era of mass gentrification is a stand out lead single. Tanya Morgan counterpart Donwill shows up on ‘Wild’ and a dance heavy House-like outro concludes the instrumental to this track. ‘City For Sale‘ ends with ‘No Aware For The First” a lyrical clinic, Pea displays bars that will be dissected over numerous listens, a great victory lap for an LP with no missteps in 11 self-produced tracks.
Expanding from the atmospheric ‘Emotional Transit Way’ continuously evolves but remains confined as instrumentation envelopes this vast sonic landscape. Angelic horns sweep in as a triumphant alarm for some otherworldly anticipated appearance. Bubbling underneath all this is an ever-present oscillating spacious augmented synth, keeping the omnipresent ambience as this particular transit avoids the rocky road of percussion. Owl Glance keeps the trance-inducing mood throughout this whole sonic journey where the only exit is the sudden realization of reality when the track ends. ‘Emotional Transit Way’ is a great journey worth endless plays.
Immediately when playing Datastar’s ‘Dont Panic’ EP the listener is thrust into the expansively beautiful ambient electronic cosmos. ‘Blackheart’ is both futuristic and tribal, a convergence of the sounds of a far reaching future and the innate rhythms of our distant past, pulsating with heavy bass and oscillating alien keys that weave in and out between fuzzed synth sounds the EP starts off in an era where sound is almost finished evolving to it’s highest heights. The melodic keys on Nardo reel the listener back to the confines of regular reality, with upbeat drums and a dance-able rhythm still placing you in a trance-like groove. The title track ‘Don’t Panic’ has elements of 80s electro-funk with robotic futuristic orders chanted military-style as commands in a society dedicated to dance as opposed to dystopia. ‘Just Like That’ closes out the experience, a lucid dream lounge,a funky float tank, and another out-of-body groove further expanding the trip that is ‘Don’t Panic’.