Saturday, July 26, 2014

Live Review - Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

Another fun review where I listen to an album and type the whole time, and then you read what I typed

It's the 27th time, you know what's up.

At the same time, this is a release where I feel basically anything could happen

Shabazz Palaces is made up of Digable Planets' Butterfly, a legend from the golden age, and Tendai Maraire, a master multi-instrumentalist. Their debut, Black Up, had an overwhelming sense of freshness that made you want to call it an instant classic, but had a depth and mystery that made you feel like you'd never fully get it, even after hundreds of enjoyable replays. The aesthetic is jazzy and smooth but rhythmic, with solid, crunchy, beats. It really goes back to the attitudes and styles of the golden age of hip hop, but then mines even deeper, bringing back the styles that influenced those artists in even more distinct ways - p-funk, free jazz, psychedelic rock all find themselves well at place here. There's such a great fusion between these spacey elements and then just objectively banging beats. The lyrics reflect this union... stuff like "you're the shit like early summer" isn't a compromise between poeticism and rhythmic tightness, it's just... both. And despite every element existing as a "perfect storm" of all these influences, there's still an incredible variety to their work, with each song having many distinct aesthetic moments, pretty much all of them memorable.

Wow, you really liked that album, eh?

Yeah, and I'm pretty excited for this new one. There was like a 128 rip a few weeks ago, and then even more recently NPR did a 192 stream, but uhh nah I gotta wait for v0. And it's finally here! So uhh let's get it going!

Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty
Live Review

1. Dawn in Luxor
Hmm... mysterious... ahh, this sort of scattery beat is really nice, I like that. Feels like a BoC song lol. Especially with those warm strings. But then the "bendy" sound there... that's their own, that's all them. FOCUS. I love the sort of "double echo" they do with his voice a lot. FLASH, flash, flash... I love the depth on this sound, the big swell on the bass. There seems to be a real mythology being established here, cool. The "pace" of this song is sweet, too... It feels like big solid steps. I love how the low end sound has elements of like a big drag across a double bass. "The less a rapper must consent to lying to himself", interesting... his whole philosophy is so interesting, so humble and worldly. "Glitter: gone", the repetition is so key here... ooh, this outro is pretty slick too. This accent is unplacable lol. S

2. Forerunner Foray
Ooh, smooth transition. I love the fast synth runs and this stuttering sound, that sort of combo. And car horns haha. I love this sort of inflection, the funk-inflection. It works so well in this echoy soundscape. Wow he's really going in here, this verse is pretty intense. That rhythm is really infectious, he really knows how to find good patterns for his lines, like, patterns of inflection and emphasis. "If I'm near, in the square, you should come and stare", like, that example. And wow at 2 min there's a pretty dramatic change. "Time travel fast and far to the last oceans", these images are so evocative. The way "space" sort of "blooms" out here is really beautiful. Shoutouts to Black Constellation, sweet. I was thinking a bit ago about how cool the idea of a constellation really is. This is solid, feels so hip hop and yet so unlike anything else. S+

3. They Come In Gold
I had heard this before, as a like, single or whatever. So good... This rhythm is super addictive, the feeling of "delay" on it, especially juxtaposed with his really tight, on beat rapping. These definition lines are super cryptic and intriguing. And then the switch at 1:10 is so sweet, it's like all the tension of the rhythms before crumble into this super smooth creamy flow. His vocabulary is so nuts man... he just drops so many words that just straight up sound good. The intensity of the end is so nice, too, this sense of escalation. So good. *

4. Solemn Swears
Short tracks now... This is pretty interesting, very tense and outerspace. Haha that bassline sounds like a SNES bassline in like the best possible way omg. This sounds kinda like Earthbound music. His lines coming in are so slick too. "I make em dance just at a glance", that's a solid boast. "I'm comin up, like Donald Duck", "I scream and yell, like Samuel L." haha. S

5. Harem Aria
This makes me think of like... Popol Vuh, the title, at least. This is really slick, this really heavy beat, really stomping sort of thing. But like a really muffled soft stomp... really hard to describe but really good omg. Wow the way it swells around the minute mark is so nice, and the little shaking and alieny sounds. This is such a dense and complex track for being so short wow. I wish it was many times longer lol. Lalalala, lalalala. S+

6. Noetic Noiromantics
Wow what a cool title. That little sweeping sound... "There goes the raven"... and that little reverby riff... This kinda reminds me of 18+ actually, huh. Oh man WOW. okay I REALLY like the little operatic sorta sample. This is way too smooth. I feel like I'm being hypnotized somehow... S+

7. The Ballad of Lt Maj Winnings
Haha this sorta stop-start thing... this feels sorta silly, I have no idea what the title could refer to. I get the sense that there's an underlying mythology to the whole album that I'll only find out later. His little announcer voice feeling thing is solid lol. "This is all a dance show, dance sucka", nice. The way this fades out is cool too. How mysterious. S-

8. Soundview
Little bassline... some sort of thing being broken down here. I like the outro.

9. Ishmael
Okay that was a SWEET transition. Ummm this sort of reminds me of AnCo right now, which a really different vocalist lol. The sort of beat though, with the clap, feels really AnCo. This is really cool, it feels really glittery, really starry. Full of stars or whatever. "Sinister, in all our sons instill"? Is that what he said? Sinister is such a cool word... haha so many things are sinister, wow. This is a really really solid verse, like, he's going in... it sorta feels like he isn't cause it isn't given the sort of dramatics "going in" usually is given but he still is and it has the same appeal. "Pimp's passion's palpable"... wow so many good lines, where could I even start? The way the beat has been subtly changing up throughout is really nice, really intriguing. And then this sort of underwater echo vocal effect, I love it... This isn't really like AnCo at all anymore haha. And wow that sweet synth that sounds to me like "stars" or something, I love it. That sort of swinging melody, so addictive. And even right at the end, the previous elements are reconfigured into something brand new, wow, so impressive. **

10. Down 155th In The MCM Snorkel
No idea what this means but I like the word "snorkel". This sort of churning beat is sweet. "Between ah-ha, and um-hmm", haha. He has these verses with sort of patterns on line construction or rhythm that are so on point but don't feel forced or tryhard, how, miracle maybe. Wow the change on the second verse is really powerful, a change in "momentum" accompanied by a change in vocal effect... so good. Good job. S

11. Divine of Form
Really short one... Hmm interesting... very spacey and distant, pulsing, echoing... I like it, I like this sort of sound a lot. Submarine radar on alien ocean. Ooh and the end is crazy.

12. #CAKE
E to the K. This is a strange strange beat man. "I'm having my cake and I'm eating cake", I think a lot about this phrase a lot. Seems like some discussion on luxury, having it all, that sort of thing. "As a purveyor of the tight song", these little phrases are so nice. Ahhh, the vocals around 1:40 are so nice, there's a really nice aesthetic that gets completely bundled up in a voice nice like that. "Trying to bend me is a dead end"... "Secret meetings in the stratosphere", all these amazing images and awesome boasts, who else has a range like this? This listing of places exemplifies it perfectly... legendary hip hop cities, exotic locations, afro-heritage, outerspace and supernatural, everywhere. Bringing these rhythms everywhere. Wow. S+

13. Colluding Oligarchs
This is a really street sorta beat. I dunno what I mean by that... like old funky stuff. Ooh but then it got really deep and dark... "Stay away from colluding oligarchs" yeah seems to be good advice. "They'll never touch the carpets", I dunno what that could mean. There's almost a like... detective theme element to this, I think. I'd watch a detective show with this sort of aesthetic. No idea if that's even possible though. Like Scooby Doo times a million, maybe. lmao. This is neat, though. I really like this riff at the end. S

14. Suspicion Of A Shape
Oooh, interesting. The depth here... the darkness. It feels very encompassing. I have no idea what he's saying lol... "Like a continuous mind"? Very interesting... I get a sense of encountering an unknown shape in the darkness, something like that. His voice is so cool on this, too. But I dunno what he's saying though haha. S

15. MindGlitch Keytar TM Theme
Haha... is this a superhero? MindGlitch? This kinda feels like a theme song... maybe... where's the keytar, though? lol. The sort of staticky feel here is cool. "I'm rich, I'm rich, I'm rich", interesting. This feels like a very silly song but it also seems like there could be a lot more, for all I know, lol. Cool. "Funny, funny". S-

16. Motion Sickness
Oh wait no "money, money." JUST LIKE THE TEKYUU SEASON 2 OPENING OMG haha. Obviously intentional. This is a really cool feel. This sort of churning, yet very rhythmic song... this is really nice, yeah, very encompassing, like waves over etc. "You spending cash out of all four pockets", "A G-structure more illustrious than the bustas" WOW. "The streets is undefeated", so powerful... man yeah like, this verse is insane. This might be the best one yet. "Life's a bitch, treat her good or she'll get you back". WOW I LOVE THE XYLOPHONE HERE, okay that was ALL CAPS GOOD, this xylophone. I always think of that xylophone sound as the "tom waits xylophone sound" but I can't remember why l,ao. This is a really really solid song, like, wow. **

17. New Black Wave
Hmmm, this is interesting too. Feels very swampy. I love the sound of water drops SO MUCH. Feels like something slowly and spookily emerging from the night. Oooh I love the rhythm at around 0:40 on that one synth, the slightly staggered thing. I love how naturally this thing sort of built "momentum", now it feels unstoppable. And the bass line is so funky. "Pluto queens and Saturn macs", that's everything right there. "A sonic glacier melting from the deep"? is that right? that's awesome. The way the title keeps "jumping out" in strange ways is really neat. I dunno what he's saying here, "I was mad for the ladies"? Very interesting... cool song. S+

18. Sonic MythMap For The Trip Back
Okay even the TITLE has a sweet mixture of imagery and rhythm, how? This is pretty cool... the sort of noisy static, "Midnight strikes"... we're deep into outer space now. I love the rhythm, feels very wonky, in the shlohmo sorta sense. Rhythmically precise and yet feels very drifting... outro returns to the very separate and quiet feel of the very beginning, cool. S

Okay that was really good

Lots of really interesting sounds that I feel like I just had never heard before. I think maybe it was less varied than the first album, maybe? Like here there was a sort of continuity that I think the first album seemed to go out of its way to defy, sometimes. So I dunno which I prefer. Or maybe it's just that the sort of things that deviate here don't feel as memorable as the deviations on the first album, which of course they wouldn't, since I listened to the first one dozens of times and this one only once. So I guess I ought to listen to this a few dozen times too. Haha OKAY. No complaints there, hahaha.

But yeah, everything else I was looking for was there in full force... an aesthetic that feels like it belongs simultaneously in New York jazz clubs, deep Asia, and outer space... something like jazz and funk that still feels like hip hop... a ton of extremely evokative lines, just gushing with poetry, that never feel forced or out of place. And again a great feeling of "wow that was instantly one of my favorites of this year" and "wow I need to listen to that a bunch more times because I don't get it at all yet".

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