10 years ago today , I got my first electric guitar…so, I guess it’s my 10 year anniversary for me and my guitar. At first, I didn’t take it seriously, y’know, just playing some bad riffs and doing what I thought was right but the tape shows I sounded like shit. I didn’t know I had to tune it at first…Once it was in tune, it made more sense. I’d play for hours and hours with new techniques that got the best out of my music and wrote some great songs together. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our ups and downs, I felt like giving up and we’d both go through changes, but we always make up and end up making great music together. I’m still playing that guitar.
Tech N9ne-K.O.D. review by John M. Ellison IV
Ever since around 2002, I’ve been a fan of Kansas City, MO rapper Tech N9ne. His album Absolute Power was released on my 18th birthday, and that album changed my perspective on rap. I’ve even referred to his music as “progressive rap” due to the eclectic nature and lyrical references. Aside from Steve Vai, Randy Rhodes and various guitarists in Heavy Metal, Tech’s speed rap technique was very influential on my wanting to play faster guitar. A common theme through a good amount of Tech’s albums are lust, destruction, frustration from the lack of acceptance of “mainstream” acceptance but succeeding in the end with a following that rivals his more commercial “counterparts”. Teamed with Krizz Kaliko, Prozak, King Gordy, Three Six Mafia, Sundae and many more Strange Music regulars
Tech’s new album K.O.D. (possibly an acronym for King of Darkness) is what I would label Goth-Rap at its finest. K.O.D. is a very cinematic album that has elements that’s plays almost like a radio drama; an aural film noir as it were. With a running theme of lust, loss, isolation, a listener would become just listening to an album, but would become enchanted by a journal of melancholy and woe without seeming whiny. Here are a few outstanding tracks that are anticipated Tech N9ne tracks, the “misunderstood”, the “club jams”, the “macabre” and the very hedonistic reminiscent of a modern version of original dirty rappers Blowfly and Rudy Ray Moore.
Demons feat Three Six Mafia (misunderstood)
Like Trapped in a Psycho’s Body, this is shedding light to the darker side of Tech N9ne. “Demons” is basically about the reckless activities that he constantly fights, but succumbs to.
Blacken the Sun (misunderstood)
His “flow” is a melodic rap that is reminiscent of Dave Draiman’s vocals of Chicago hard rock Disturbed. This is another track that expresses his frustration for being accused of being a “Devil”, “Weird” by critics.
Check Yo’ Temperature (Club Jam)
This is a track featuring rapper by the name of Sundae. Not that lyrically interesting, but infectious for club play.
B. Boy (Get buck/kick some ass)
Good production, with hard hitting drums that makes you want to “whip some ass” MMA-style or to get you psyched up to tear the club up
This is the modern Dirty Rap, 2 Live Crew party track that is the ode to Caligula-like hedonism. Like the title of the song suggests, this is a fairly cleverly written song about the animalistic “ready to screw” side of Tech N9ne, Irv Da Phenom and Krizz Kaliko and in actuality, most humans.
When it comes to it, I don’t just see Tech N9ne as a rapper. In some cases, I see him as a novelist that uses rap as a vehicle to express tales of lust, pain, indulgence, and all around voicing the thoughts that most wouldn’t admit to having. For someone new to Tech N9ne, I wouldn’t recommend them starting with this album. To get in the mindset of K.O.D., start with Everready: The Religion, Killer and then K.O.D. This album is totally worth it.
You can get K.O.D. and most of Tech N9ne’s back catalog on iTunes and can find K.O.D. in most retailers.
Mr. Sterile Assembly’s Bug My Ride review by John M. Ellison IV
I’ve recently got an album by New Zealand music collective Mr. Sterile Assembly. To me, Mr. Sterile Assembly is a punk band with training in jazz, but they play aggressive progressive rock.
To describe Mr. Sterile Assembly’s sound, imagine…
· Mr. Bungle with a New Zealand Accent,
· Korn doing Free Jazz,
· Slipknot during their Mate, Feed Kill, Repeat era,
· Primus with Stanley Clarke on Bass as well as Les Claypool.
· The Mothers of Invention’s indie rock grandkids
· The Anti-White Stripes
According to their Myspace page, Mr. Sterile Assembly is a power trio that consists of…
mr sterile [drums, vocals]
Chrissie Butler [bass, vocals]
Sarsha Douglas [2nd bass, vocals]
But included at one time the talents of…
Jeff Henderson, Dan Beban, Aaron Lloydd, Cara Conroy-Low, Dave Michael, Francesca Mountfort, Miles Climo, Jana Whitta, Elisa Kersley, Chris O’Conner, Vlada Plackic
I commend mr sterile for his agile drumming which would make most drummers and listener’s wrists cramp by listening. The bass playing of Chrissie Butler and Sarsha Douglas is astounding and puts bass playing into another perspective. This entire album takes me back to when I was younger, and when I heard about the music style we know as “Jungle/Drum and Bass.” Before hearing the actual genre, this is what I imagined “Drum and Bass” would sound like. So, I’ve been looking for an album like “Bug My Ride” for awhile.
The album listing consists of
Agents of the Sun
Bug My Ride
Good as Goldie
The tracks that caught my ear would have to be…
Agents of the Sun
For people that aren’t fans of proto-punk freak out noise, skip the first minute or two of Agents of the Sun. After the first couple of minutes, it comes together well. This song connects with final track on the album “Static”.
Bug My Ride
The title track “Bug my Ride” is a jazzy “drum and bass” chase scene composition with treated vocals.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for odd and changing time signatures.
Bottom line, I would recommend “Bug My Ride” for two kinds of people; rockers who are looking for something more complex but as intense as the usual hardcore punk fare and bassists and drummers looking for an album that puts their respected instruments in the forefront. For those who aren’t used to jazz, avant-garde or anything experimental, this might take a few listens to get used to. If you’re a punk or rocker looking to expand your horizons Mr. Sterile Assembly’s “Bug My Ride” is a good start.
Xenophanes by Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Review by John M. Ellison
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard some great guitar albums outside of the realm of Tony MacAlpine, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and all of the other virtuosos that I’m fond of. At first listen, I thought “this is a great guitar album.” But after repeated listening, I noticed there’s a lot more to it than just a “guitar album.” Lopez is reminiscent of Frank Zappa. In Lopez’s case, he’s a composer that is versatile in a variety of styles. Both composers used the guitar as a tool to communicate musical ideas but neither considered themselves “Guitar Gods.” In fact, Omar has stated that he “hates guitar.” Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is known for his work with bands such as “At the Drive In”, “The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet” and “The Mars Volta.” His 12th album Xenophanes is a Spanish language experimental rock/progressive rock album with fusion overtones.
This album is very reminiscent of Weather Report, Frank Zappa’s fusion era and in some cases Atheist’s “Elements” album.
This album has an amazing rhythm section comprised of Juan Alderete de la Pena on Bass, Thomas Pridgen on Drums, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez on percussion and keyboards and Mark Aanderud featured on Additional Keyboards. This also features Ximena Sarinana on backing vocals. This band understands the art of blending virtuosity, songwriting and jamming. De la Pena’s slap bass and melodic fretless playing reminds me of Larry Graham and Les Claypool and at times reminiscent of Jaco Pastorious as well. Thomas Pridgen’s timing and amazing drumming makes even the oddest of time signatures seem effortless. Marcel and Mark’s keyboard work mixes melodic and synthesizer sounds that brings this band of virtuosos together like audio embroidery.
Every track on this album is great! Even thought the first track “Azoemia” is kind of minimal, it builds into something.
A few tracks that caught my ear were…
“Mundo De Ciegos” a heavy slap bass, odd time signature workout that sounds like the “pump up music” for two lab
technicians about to engage in fisticuffs over chemicals.
“Amarita Virosa” another odd time signature slap bass odyssey that reminds me of Les Claypool doing an intimate show at a Quinceañera.
“Desarraigo” This is one of the more atmospheric tracks. What caught me with Desarraigo would have to be the hooky melody. I could see this as a single.
With “Xenophanes” being in Spanish, this album proves that strong music transcends language barriers and really is a language of its own. Although I’m familiar with the work of At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta, this is the first time I’ve sat down to really listen and experience the compositional magic of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. You can find this album about anywhere, whether through his website, iTunes and now in the U.S. wherever great music is sold.
• Omar Rodríguez-López – producer, guitars, vocals
• Juan Alderete de la Peña – bass
• Thomas Pridgen – drums
• Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez – percussion, keyboards
• Mark Aanderud – additional keyboards
• Ximena Sariñana – backing vocals
Hey, I’m working on a ton of new articles. One as an addendum to “The Jazz-Punk Connection” article by Jason Gross, a few music reviews and some essays. I’m looking to update this site twice a week and Saturday if time permits.
by John M. Ellison IV
Mash-up: A mash up/blend bootleg remix is when an artist/remixer combines two or more vocal or instrumental tracks and fuses them together into a new track. The can be traced back to the audio experiments of Xenocrony by Frank Zappa and before that.
Video Game Music or “VGM”: VGM is the background music that’s heard in video games. Video game music was originally, based off of a few audio channels and based off of the sine wave of a synthesizer. But, with the development of gaming technology, sound and graphics have become a lot more sophisticated. As of recently, “VGM” has been gaining a following of its own. In fact, OCremix is a community of people that remix video game music. In most cases, the re-arrangements are done and are well received.
Washington, DC’s Tae K is a mash-up artist has compiled his VGM-driven rap remixes into the “Arcade Mixtape.” This isn’t a surprise, at some points gaming and hip-hop isn’t that far from each other. Using samples and music from Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Legend of Zelda and the Mega Man series he creates a fun and in some cases nostalgic atmosphere that combines some of rap’s coolest verses with 8 and 16-bit sine wave synthesizer sounds.
The tracks on this mix are…
01 Wu-Tang Clan – Da Mystery of Chessboxin TKRMX II
02 Busta Rhymes & Brand Nubian – Let’s Dance TKRMX
03 Beastie Boys – Triple Trouble TKRMX
04 Lil Wayne – A Milli TKRMX
05 T-Pain, Huey, Bow Wow – Pop Lock N Drop It TKRMX
06 Clipse – Mr. Me Too TKRMX II
07 50 Cent – Hustler’s Ambition TKRMX
08 Lupe Fiasco – I Gotcha TKRMX III
09 Blackalicious – Make You Feel That Way TKRMX
10 DR. WILY II [young jeezy - and then what TKRMX]
11 CHARGEMAN [kid sister - pronails TKRMX]
12 HARDMAN [t.i. - rubberband man]
13 FIREMAN [dead prez - hell yeah TKRMX]
14 SNAKEMAN [dmx - get it on the floor TKRMX]
15 BOSS [biggie - gimme the loot/sucidal thoughts/going back to cali]
16 50 Cent – Amusement Park TKRMX
17 Eminem, Lloyd Banks, 50 Cent – Warrior TKRMX
18 Fort Minor – Remember The Name TKRMX
19 Game – One Blood TKRMX II
20 Cee-lo & Timbaland – Call Me TKRMX
I really enjoyed track 15 entitled “BOSS.” “Boss” combines three boss themes of the Mega Man series with three verses from “Gimme the Loot”, “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Goin’ Back to Cali“by Notorious B.I.G. The best blend on this track is the one that features a verse from “Gimme the Loot.”
With this project, I see the potential of an insurgence of video game driven or “Chip tune” driven rap productions and video game driven pop. In fact, with songs like “Icebox” produced by Timbaland and with “Game Over” by Lil’ Flip using sounds from Pac-Man. Also in the rock/pop world, aside from “allegedly” borrowing from “If I Could Fly” by Joe Satriani, Viva La Vida is supposed to be inspired by music from the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In retrospect, it’s already starting to happen.
The only downside about this is when it comes to the music used on this project, I noticed some of these tracks aren’t directly from the game themselves; some of these are remixes and not the original track. But, with the tracks that do use the original music. I noticed that they’re additional drum patterns and drum loops so the tracks can keep time with the vocal. The additional production work is simple, but glues the tracks together well. Aside from the remixed tracks that can be somewhat dodgy at times, for gamers, fans of mash-ups and hip-hop, this is worth the space on your MP3 player.
When listening to Leila Adu’s “Dark Joan,” one word describes the album, “theatrical.” At first listen, it sounds like the soundtrack to a sleeper indie film that ends up making it big within the first week of it’s release. Singer-Songwriter, Leila Adu reminds me of solo artists such as Nina Simone, Regina Spektor, Bjork and Tori Amos. “Dark Joan” is produced by Steve Albini and for those who aren’t aware, he is a veteran producer, journalist and musician. Some of his first notable work is the Chicago Post-Punk/Noise Rock drum machine driven band Big Black, Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion, the Nirvana classic “In Utero” and countless other projects but this is an interesting departure from his recordings in rock. In this case, “Dark Joan” is a stripped down album that’s predominately keyboard, Leila’s vocals and natural room ambiance. Albini’s familiar recording techniques are still heard. For example, the usage of “analog hiss” adds a subtle organic texture giving “Dark Joan” the feeling that you’re hearing the album being recorded at that exact moment in front of you.
“Helfire” is the a capella opener that displays Leila Adu’s haunting operatic vocals.
I noticed throughout the album that her keyboard technique is about conveying a mood to complement the lyrics. For example, on “Ode to the Unknown Factory Worker” Leila’s usage of distorted electric keyboard (possibly a Fender Rhodes or a patch that emulates it) accentuates the subject matter of equality and mutual respect by giving it more of an edge. Her control of dissonance, usage of diminished chords and choice of minor key melodies is quite complementary to lyrics that invoke a certain intensity equally displayed in other compositions such as “Wolfmen,” the title track and the haunting anti-individualism number “A Moment of Peace.”
Within seven tracks, Leila Adu takes you on an aural journey that most progressive rock albums could only attempt to do. I see this album as a future classic.
“Dark Joan” will be released November 9th, 2009. Pick it up and enjoy the journey.
John M. Ellison IV
by John M. Ellison IV
November 1st, 2009…it’s the day after Halloween; Catholics recognize it as All Saints Day but it’s also they day that the Afro-Punk Tour blew the roof off of “The Black Cat” in Washington, D.C. This tour is one of those events that will change your perspective on music. For those who aren’t aware of Afro-Punk, this is the time to explain. Afro-Punk originally started out as a documentary directed by James Spooner. The focus of the film was on the experiences of black people in punk and alternative rock bands and of people who are black and apart of the scene. The film gained rave reviews. This film also has a website that in some ways surpassed the success of the film. I’ve been a part of the website since 2003. In fact, it’s where I met who I affectionately call the missus and my partner in crime. Music lovers of the D.C. area flooded the notable venue!
The line curled around the block. With guerrilla marketing tactics promotion was by Afro-Punk members including myself. Thanks to these DIY marketing skills, true music lovers came out to support the likes of bands such as American Fangs, The Smyrk, CX Kidtronix/Krak Attak, Living Colour and Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust.
Since our long tenure with the site, the missus and I were offered tickets for the Washington, D.C. stop on the Afro-Punk tour. I ran into some of the D.C. members of Afro-Punk, such as fellow musician “PolariVibez”, photographer “W.M. Dekooning”, “C” and many others who although weren’t on the board, did fit the spirit of the site. It was a fun evening that included bands such as…
Well, the missus and I got to The Black Cat late so we missed American Fangs. But, we got there in time for The Smyrk. Regarding The Smyrk, they’re a strong live band, the lead singer’s voice was reminiscent of Patrick Stump of Fallout Boy (that’s not a jab; I really think Stump has a decent voice). The songs had an interesting theme. The songs made reference from various subjects, such when The Joker from Batman killed Jason Todd (the second Robin) to Jim Carey’s lead character from Liar, Liar. Also, they worked in “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G.
After the brief intermission, CX Kidtronix started his set. CX Kidtronix reminded me of Afrika Bambaataa if he evolved from electro to gabber. When CX is with Tchaka, they form the hip-hop electro-punk rap duo Krak Attak. The duo exuded great energy, after a 15 minute set.
In the midst of the intermission, I was interviewed by a young woman by the name of Whitney who was with Afro-Punk. We spoke and then I realized that she was interviewing me. Oddly enough I noticed she didn’t have a tape recorded or any kind of recording device…man, I hope she doesn’t take some of the stuff that I said out of context or not remember it accurately.
After the “conversation” between Polarivibez and I spoke briefly. The sound of guitar, drums and bass tuning up alerted us that Living Colour was getting ready to rock out. To get it out of the way, Living Colour started out with Cult of Personality and material from “Vivid”, “Time’s Up” Living Colour’s set was pretty good, even though there were a few tech errors. What seemed odd to me was the fact that Living Colour wasn’t the closing act. Go figure.
Well, the closer was Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust. I’m not going to lie, I see the playfulness of the name, but I’m not really feeling it. Aside from the name, three words describe the band live…GREAT FUCKING BAND. Niggy Tardust’s set was a mix of spoken word, industrial, glam, electronic and punk fury, Niggy Tardust featuring DJ CX Kidtronix on sampler and turntable, Davin on guitar, Kwame on keyboards and Saul Williams as Niggy Tardust on vocals.
The maniacal energy of this ensemble was something to experience. CX’s industrial samples work and Kwame’s low bass was reminiscent of “Gothic Crunk.” I didn’t know whether to brood or throw them ‘bows as they would say. Imagine, Ministry backing up Funkadelic, Sun Ra working with Nine Inch Nails…you get the idea. Aside from their original, the band also has covers in their repertoire, Tr(n)igger, a reworking of Welcome to the Terrordome by Public Enemy and their cover of Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2. I’m still speechless about this performance. Seriously, the album is amazing. BUY IT! If they’re coming to town, GET TICKETS!
by John M. Ellison IV
As I was flipping through the topics on my favorite site http://www.afropunk.com , A member from Richmond, VA posted up pictures of a very hairy, sweaty, handle bar mustached, vintage high school gym short clad rock band that shook The Plaza Bowl in Richmond, VA.
The band in question is Tel Aviv, Israel’s own Monotonix. According to their Myspace, Monotonix features the talents of Levi “Ha haziz”, Elvis on Vocals, Moshe Vegas on guitar and Bonanaza The Cat on drums. This mix of distorted, gritty and sludgy toned guitar, basic, get to the point drums, earnest vocals and playfully sleazy lyrics combined into something that I find infectious. Honestly, when I saw the pictures that were posted from the gig at The Plaza Bowl, I was thinking
“…wow, too much body hair and not enough gym shorts…no thanks!” But the energy that the band exuded in the pictures that were taken was something that I couldn’t ignore. I’m glad that I ignored my prior hesitation. On their Myspace page, Monotonix has five raw, 70’s matzo balls to the wall raw ,stoner rock/proto-punk material that can also be found on their albums “Body Language” EP and “Where Were You When It Happened?” LP. Here are a few songs that caught my interest.
Kind of a funky drum and guitar pattern that is reminscent of a funkier Black Sabbath kind of jam. Makes me want to learn the guitar parts.
As the drums kick in a march pattern and the guitar feedback compliments the kick, the formulatic riff and drum work. For DJs who want to throw something on that has a rock and roll feel but you can dance to. I’d recommend this.
“Summers and Autumns”
Kick ass riff with vocals that ooze attitude. Enough said
All and all, I see this band as a great riff-oriented hard rock band for whoever is feeling reminiscent of those heavy psychedelic hard rock jams of The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, some Rolling Stones and Kyuss.
If Monotonix is in town, be sure to check them out.
I’ve been listening to reggae on and off since I was five years old. I remember waiting around at the neighborhood barbershop and seeing the dreaded out guy with a guitar with this amazing voice. I asked my mom who it was. She told me it was Bob Marley. That seed was planted. I had a chance to see Third World when I was seven, but due to circumstances I wasn’t able to. Years later, I guess around 14 when I was getting focused on guitar and I saw an advertisement for the Bob Marley compilation “Legend.” When I saw that commercial, it was like being introduced to an old friend. It was “Hey Sketch! Remember your friend from Jamaica, Reggae? Well, he’s back in town and wants you to show him around.” Well, during my musical awakening. I was rummaging through my dad’s CD collection and I found a copy of Bob Marley’s Legend. Total coincidence.
Now to explain to the ignorant McNugget that doesn’t understand why I’m doing something on reggae/ska on a blog that’s main focus is punk rock. Okay, 4 piece, here’s the deal. In 1977, there were a lot of British punk bands who saw reggae as an influence on there music and/or found a musical kinship with the genre.
For example, Aswad played the British punk scene, the English Beat came from friends who noticed Ska and punk being played at a party and fused together to create “The Beat.” But, for legal reasons they toured under “The English Beat” in some countries, The Clash did a cover of the Junior Murvin classic “Police and Thieves.” I can go on about this, but, the main focus is my recommendation on albums and compilations you should pick up.
Legend is a greatest hits compilation of Bob Marley & the Wailers songs. A mix of songs that expressed love, political uprising, the struggles of people affected by African diaspora and many other topics that molded reggae into what it is now. It is the best selling reggae album of all time. In fact, it went diamond in the U.S.
Dub Reggae Essentials
When I was delving more into reggae and learning more about recording techniques. It was inevitable that I would discover dub reggae. So, I found a compilation called Dub Reggae Essentials. When I put it on my CD player, it was like looking into a parallel galaxy. But, with this galaxy, there were different planets called “dubs.”
These dubs were stripped down remixes that focused on the drum and bass of the original song. In some cases, it included a DJ toasting (toasting is like the Caribbean cousin of rapping) but was mainly instrumental. But, with the drum and bass, there were echoed remnants of guitar and keyboard chords, snare hits and whatever instrument that was prominent on the original song. This is a great primer for people that are interested in Dub. This includes mixes by Scientist, Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Mikey Dread and many more producers who are pioneers in remixing, electronica and recording techniques.
A basic primer that has the main artists of the reggae genre. It’s an equivalent to a cheap “how to draw cartoons” book that you would give to your niece or nephew to see if they like it in comparison to the more expensive book on cartooning that you would give them if they show interest and promise as an artist. Either way, an okay primer on pop-reggae, roots reggae, rocksteady and dancehall that contains cuts but Jimmy Cliff, Chaka Demus and Pliers (Pliers not Plies), Lord Creator and Dawn Penn.
Okay, this was what got me into Dancehall/Ragga. I was introduced to Red Rat, Wayne Wonder, Spragga Benz and the concept of riddims. Riddims (or as we would call ‘em “beats” stateside) are the drum and bass tracks that fuel ragga. Many DJs (or as we would call MC’s in the U.S.) toast or sing-jay over a riddim. There can be thousands of versions of one riddim. Sleng Teng, Diwali, Playground are only a few riddims that have hundreds of versions of them.
A Compilation of mostly mid-west Ska/Punk and third wave ska revival bands with cover artwork by my buddy Evan Dorkin. On this compilation, you have a buch of great stuff from bands like Mustard Plug, The Toasters, Johnny Socko and Gangster Fun to name a few. I loved this compilation.