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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
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May 11, 2007
Glaciers of Ice: Volume 18

Welcome to the late edition of May's Glaciers of Ice. Before we get into it, I must make mention of the Japanese reissue of Showbiz and AG's Runaway Slave. This is one of the best albums to emerge from the early '90s, and finally the call that went out in this column several months ago was answered. Not taking credit for it, of course, but we're just real happy about this over here at Glaciers - especially since it's not being sold at bloated import prices. On to the sounds…

The Alchemist has long been a go-to producer for artists including Dilated Peoples, Mobb Deep, Nas, Fat Joe, and Jadakiss. This kid from Beverly Hills cut his teeth under the tutelage of Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs and had a short-lived group with Scott Caan (yeah, James Caan's son, he of Ocean's 11 and 12 fame), before breaking into the ranks of hip-hop's elite. Don't let this fool you, though, he's a very talented producer, and manages to keep this new instrumental effort fairly engaging the whole way through. Rapper's Best Friend (ALC Records) starts off with "Stuck on You," showing that while he's yet another producer to employ the sped-up vocal sample (see RZA, Kanye, et al), he knows how to make it work. Further proof is offered on "Back Again," an instrumental version of the Dilated Peoples' track. Regular readers of Glaciers know that I'm not always convinced that an instrumental album can (or should) hold one's attention for 45 minutes, but Alchemist brings his A-game.

Also back with a new album of beat sessions is the very talented Ayatollah, he of "Ms. Fat Booty" fame. Louder (Nature Sounds) features more of 'Tollah's signature warm, soulful production, tracks that are just begging to be rhymed over. Though it's surprising that Ayatollah is not tapped to produce hip-hop albums more often, his hard work and skill should keep him heading in that direction.

Another instrumental release, albeit in an entirely different vein, is Alias' Collected Remixes (Anticon). Always blazing his own path, and expanding the boundaries of hip-hop in the process, remixes for artists including The One AM Radio, 13 & God, John Vanderslice, and Lali Puna are collected here. Alias' beats are full of the usual fuzzy synth washes and drum machine mayhem that are his bread and butter, making his tracks more soundscapes than biting boom-bap. This one should appeal to fans of the individual artists interested in hearing them in different contexts, as well as for those who love everything Anticon.

And follow the bouncing ball… speaking of Anticon, Sage Francis has a new album for Epitaph called Human the Death Dance. If you're like me and always feel a little dubious about the work of Sage and cohorts Buck 65, Odd Nosdam, and Sixtoo, this album might make you think twice. Starting off with the bang of "Underground for Dummies," Sage erupts hungrily and furiously: "This is hip-hop for the people / Stop calling it emo!" Well, it kind of is emo, Sage, and your slightly herky-jerky flow and use of weirdly engaging IDM beats isn't exactly ingratiating you with the backpacker crowds. But fuck 'em, you keep doing what you do. Politics are still ablaze on tracks like "Civil Obedience" (is that the same sample used in Black Moon's "Six Feet Deep"?) and "Waterline," while personal travails are on sleeve on the break-up anthem "Keep Moving." Good job, Sage.

Rawkus Records has slowly been attempting a comeback to its heady years of the golden '90s. So far, not so good. But Marco Polo's new LP, Port Authority (Rawkus/Soulspazm), is definitely a step in the right direction. Polo has been working with artists like BCC, Masta Ace, Large Professor, and OC as of late. This collaboration album is a good taste of his talents, and performances by Copywrite, Wordsworth, Buckshot, and a stellar guest spot from Kool G. Rap and DV Alias Khryst, help lift it from the morass. Polo's ability to craft a cohesive album of likeminded beats, instead of catering each beat to an individual MC, also helps. This is clearly a producer who misses the days when Pete Rock and Premiere ruled the scene, and he's doing his part to bring that vibe back.

Ex-members of the Beatnuts and Missin' Linx have gotten together to form a group called Big City, whose The City Never Sleeps (Nature Sounds) hits the streets this month. Psycho Les, Al Tariq, and Problemz trade verses on this NY-flavored hip-hop record. The hauntingly spare flutes of "Boy" launch the record, before the hyperactive brass of "Stick 'Em Up" amps the energy levels up several notches. Thankfully, the raunch factor remains on tracks like "MILF" - "No, I can't wife you / But I really like you / And I wanna pipe you. But check for tracks like "Chedda" and "Lick Balls" to understand why Big City deserves its due.

Just what exactly is Toca? This LA sextet isn't exactly straight ahead hip-hop, but their self-titled debut (out on Two Tone Elephants) is a little bit of everything else, from funk-rock to '80s New Wave to rap to punk. The band collaborates with some of the best and brightest from the LA underground, including Pigeon John (on the wonderfully morose "Liar"), Aceyalone and Busdriver. Toca falls into some of the trappings of genre hopping, especially when they try to rock too hard, but the slower, shoegazer numbers fare much better, such as "Vanished." In fact, overall, Toca seems to have a better grasp upon these disparate styles than most. Worth a listen, though, and kudos to their willingness to expand the boundaries.

Amir Sulaiman's Like a Thief in the Night (Uprising) finds this spoken word poet keeping it pretty much, well, spoken word over a bevy of jazzy hip-hop beats. Sulaiman lacks the gusto and flow of a tried and true MC, but his twisting and churning narratives and decent production from the likes of Minnesota keep the album interesting. He claims to be influenced by bands like Portishead and Radiohead (what's with the "head" bands?), and it shows in the original motifs presented here. Thief features appearances from Mos Def and Goapele.

Finally, Time Out and Deaf Dumb & Blind Recordings have collaborated with Madlib and PB Wolf for an installment of their Other Side series, The Other Side Los Angeles, a two-disc set. The first disc is a stellar mix CD, compiled by Madlib. This is an epic journey in sound, moving from Sun Ra to Quasimoto to Outlaw Blues Band, hitting up reggae, soul, funk, and free jazz along the way. The second disc is not as good, however, a DVD hosted by PB Wolf that's supposed to be a look at off the beaten path LA spots to eat, shop, and drink. Wolf goes from shoe shops on Melrose to the great Senor Fish to Firecracker to Giant Robot. The camera work is decidedly low-budget, and the commentary rather dry. But it certainly may be worth a look for those planning on visiting the City of Angels. A bonus feature includes several Stones Throw videos and an extensive interview with Wolf. Kudos to all involved for expanding upon the concept of travel guide.

And that's all for this month. Until next time… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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