Monday, February 15, 2016

Song of the Day #273 - Ethereal - Games2 (ft. Alexandria)

Every time I spit, boy you know it's bout to rain

Well, now we are officially in the aftermath of my two most anticipated albums of 2016 - The Life of Pablo and Painting With. And sure yeah the Kanye train is brakeless and off every rail, with "fixed" "Wolves" and who knows what other changes, plus the return of GOOD Fridays with 40 tracks with Young Thug, 40 tracks with Kendrick... "more tracks than old pictures"... but Kanye's twitter is like m2k-tier circus act right now so I'm gonna take it all with a grain of salt. Anyways, the question remains: what now? What next?

Okay well then again that's a pretty ridiculous question. I mean, I don't have any problem with "poptimist" attitudes, and my "obscurity = quality" elitist days have been thankfully left behind in high school, but if I was actually feeling like the stores of new good music had been depleted just because two stadium-selling festival-headlining artists had released their albums, that'd be pretty pathetic. In that spirit, we're gonna try to skew Song of the Day more towards some more under-appreciated stuff.

I first found out about Ethereal late last year from this guy on /mu/, "Are You Insanity"... One of my favorite eccentrics on the board, he'd put together massive "top 500" lists every year and dump them in a big thread in late December. For 2015, he put three of Ethereal's tapes in his top 10, and when I checked him out, I could instantly understand why. There's a direction in hip hop, of like... super smooth production, really laid back flows, super minimal and yet full and lush... there's certain moods you can get into where it's really the only thing for you, when you want the musical equivalent not of someone performing for you, trying to impress you, trying to convince you of something, but of just hanging out, calmly and pleasantly passing the time. In this direction, I know of no one who's gone farther than Ethereal.

It's worth looking at his lineage, though. When the new Atlanta rap scene started blowing up in the main"stream", it was a "rising tide" scenario for all the local "boats", even ones that went "against the current" (poetry). This was proven with the breakout success of iLoveMakonnen, who managed to find a fertile niche with his bizarre new sound. And Makonnen put the world on to Father, an even stranger departure from hip hop norms, and together, with Key! (another Atlanta oddity), they got almost 6 million views on this song, and that's absolutely beautiful.

Father reps Awful Records, an Atlanta-based label dedicated to nurturing these strange talents, and he's probably one of the most "normal" on there. Their catalog is deep and consistent, with cool short films and slice of life documentaries to boot. Ethereal, with his wheelchair, septum piercing, and mane of dreads, is a standout in every way, showing the wondrous potential of this scene to bring us the unique visions of someone who may otherwise find himself far into the margins.

But for all this talk of "extremes" and "uniqueness" and his position as the farthest out in the clouds, standing at a pinnacle of weirdness... the music is actually really accessible! Like somehow, by going in the direction of Makonnen and going far enough, we've looped around back into something that is so smooth, so pleasant, that I'd have a hard time thinking of anyone who wouldn't enjoy it. Alexandria's golden voice is so good you think it must be some classic soul sample. His lyrics are clever and fun without being overbearing, and his flow is relaxed without being lethargic. It's a real sweet spot. The aforementioned mood of just "hanging out" with music is one that I think we all delve into, or at least we ought to. Check this guy out. Good diversion from the rollercoaster that is Kanye.

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