A catalog as wide and definitive as that of producer Blockhead is most definitely one to be lauded and respected. Having worked with the likes of emcees like Murs and Aesop Rock as well as with labels including Defnitive Jux and Rhymesayers is unquestionably nothing to sneeze at. So it should come as no surprise that his latest solo project, Bells and Whistles, remains in the vain of a soundscape that’s pleasantly ominous, windswept and spacious–while also dense, free-flowing and heroically diverse. The sound selections and production choices by Blockhead are nothing if not strategically challenging and chilling. The background sampled voices on tracks like “You’ll Get Over It” and “On The Back Of A Golden Dolphin” add an air of tense mystery to Blockhead’s beautifully blighted production. He throws in everything but the kitchen sink that will take any unfamiliar listeners’ ears on a musical whirlwind: tribal drums, maracas and hand claps, movie sound effects samples, old school R&B melodies and voices, classical big band pianos, deep computerized synthesizers, off-kilter strong instruments. Further, Blockhead literally creates songs within songs, as he effortlessly transitions from one sample to the next without batting an eye, and expects the listener to keep up. And although Bells and Whistles does unfortunately begin to wane in certain areas, it’s a body of work that deserves several start-to-finish listens to grasp the whole of Blockhead’s grand pursuit of creating some of the most wide-ranging and nonconformist Hip Hop production.
- Ron Grant
A week ago, Canadian underground veteran emcee Eternia dropped a new track. The single, “Scraps,” is thick with an impending sense of boom bap-influenced hip hop that forces its listener to contemplate their place in the world. According to Eternia in a quote for HipHopDX, she heard the beat playing while in the middle of prayer at City Lights in Toronto, wrote the song the same night, then recorded it the next day. Eerily reminiscent both melodically and production-wise to “The Answer” by The Foreign Exchange, Eternia uses her crafty lyrical prowess to build a foundation of aggressive bars about life lessons learned and hard knowledge earned. It’s proof of why Eternia has been able to stick around the hip hop game for a decade and still seems hungry for more ears to listen intently.
- Ron Grant
Ex-Das Racist MC Kool A.D. drops his umpteenth project with Not O.K., which I’m finding a bit more enjoyable than his other recent releases. His delivery is still pretty absurd and laid back, but this project is sounding a bit more coherent to me. Releases like 19 just seemed too scatterbrained for me to enjoy all the way through. Hopefully, this concise direction and quality production continues into A.D.’s future tapes.
“Left Coaster,” taken from Uncommon Nasa’s Land of the Way It Is, is an ensemble of some of the most prominent figures in underground hip hop. Subtitle, Megabusive, BeOnd, Open Mike Eagle, and Gajah all lay down some speedy, proficient verses that are well-suited to Nasa’s very kinetic production.
Land of the Way It Is is out now via Uncommon Records! Here’s a review courtesy of our friend Myke C-Town.
Try out this opening track to Phony Ppl’s new release, nothinG special., which is available now on Bandcamp. These guys are a rap crew with a lotta heads. They’ve got some great lines flying by on this thing, too. Definitely something smooth, clever, and charismatic going on here.
Stream: Ginnels- Crowns
Stream an entire album of fun, light-hearted, and endearing jangle pop rock from Ireland’s Ginnels. It all comes from the band’s latest album, Crowns, which is twenty freakin’ tracks long; however, the band defends their decision with a lot of variety among the tracks.
There are lo-fi rock anthems, acoustic motifs, and even an odd and messy pump organ ditty. It’s a lot to take in, but Ginnels makes the effort a fun experience.
Relying mostly on vibraphone and cello for instrumentation, and bringing some of the strangest vocal deliveries I’ve heard this year, experimental music outfit Point Reyes isn’t afraid of coming off weird. While the melodies enclosed in the songs on this new album, Golden, are very angular, there’s something sweet and soothing about Point Reyes’ overall presentation. Much like Dirty Projectors, they just have a knack for making inaccessible indulgences seem fun and bouncy.
Plus, the group goes in a variety of directions throughout these nine tracks. Singing in different languages, a spoken word piece, baroque pop instrumentation, and some incredibly close-knit vocal harmonies are just a few highlights.
Stream this album in its entirety via the widget above, and pre-order a vinyl copy of the album right here.
I wish Silent Hour / Golden Mile was longer, but I still have to admit singer-songwriter Daniel Rossen has pulled together a solid collection of solo material on this 5-track EP. The man’s tunes are some of the most masterful in independent music right now.