Shabazz Palaces

Beats & Rhymes: Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up

Every other week, Beats & Rhymes highlights a new and notable hip-hop, rap, DJ, or electronic record that embraces independent sensibilities.

Shabazz Palaces: Black UpShabazz PalacesBlack Up (Sub Pop, 5/31/11)

Shabazz Palaces: “An Echo From The Hosts That Process Infinitum”

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Don’t bother looking up Shabazz Palaces on Google. Its official website is almost bereft of information, promotional photos are nonexistent, and interviews are scarce. In an Internet age when stars can be made through YouTube views, Shabazz Palaces seems to have gamed the system; its heavy blog buzz is, ironically, at least partially due to its spare Web presence.

Shabazz Palaces ringleader Palaceer Lazaro isn’t a new player on the hip-hop scene, however. He is better known as Ishmael Butler, who is, in turn, better known as Butterfly of Digable Planets. But don’t expect to hear smooth, jazz-infused rap, like Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That),” from Lazaro’s new outfit, Shabazz Palaces. After two acclaimed EPs, the band is poised to release its first full-length, Black Up, a discordant rap album if ever there was one.

The opener, “Free Press and Curl,” assaults the listener with relentlessly repetitive bass blasts. Melodic flourishes arise occasionally, but mostly the production is nothing but bursts of low-end buzz. Make no mistake: Black Up is a record that rewards listeners who have invested in quality woofers.  Lazaro’s rapping is mixed low, making it difficult to decipher exactly what he’s saying, and his flow and the rhythm of the production don’t seem to sync up.  It all makes for a thoroughly dissonant experience, exactly the kind that Shabazz Palaces wants the listener to have.


Obits: Nonchalant Rock ‘n’ Roll

Chicago-based Obits has an impressive pedigree (Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu), but these days its members are just playing to have fun, hoping that people dig their “crappy rock band.”


Record Review: Low’s C’mon

Low: C'monLow: C’mon (Sub Pop, 4/12/11)

Low: “Try to Sleep”

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After more than 15 years of stringing together grim, minimalist lullabies that are equally at home on long walks through moonless winter eves or in well-lit churches, slowcore stalwart Low has begun to experiment a bit more with the trappings of, and opportunities created by, modern music. On its ninth record, C’mon, the band blends its signature brand of melancholia with bouncing, uptempo electronic textures, giving the 11 songs a lively, volatile feel.

In the third track, “Witches,” guitarist/singer Alan Sparhawk advises listeners to confront their problems with a baseball bat, and in the same spare voice, he tells guys who “are trying to act like Al Green” that they are weak. He sings this over drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker’s characteristically haunting “ooos” and “ahhs,” while a choppy, lighthearted guitar riff drifts over barely audible acoustic-guitar (or banjo?) plucking. Much like the song “Hatchet” on the band’s previous effort, Drums and Guns, “Witches” is a catchy number that adeptly references select facets of pop-music history and, in doing so, reveals a playful side of the band.


Record Review: Obits’ Moody, Standard and Poor

Obits: Moody, Standard and PoorObits: Moody, Standard and Poor (Sub Pop, 3/29/11)

Obits: “Shift Operator”

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Few bands have had their first live shows bootlegged by fans. But when Obits‘ January 12, 2008 gig at the Cake Shop in New York City leaked on the Internet, few were surprised. Followers of Rick Froberg‘s previous bands, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, had been anxiously awaiting his new partnership with Sohrab Habibion, of Washington, DC-based Edsel, since the band began writing and rehearsing together in 2006.

After a fan leaked the lo-fi recordings, things moved quickly for the Brooklyn-based indie rockers. Obits posted two of the songs to its MySpace page, was subsequently signed to Sub Pop in late 2008, and released its first record, I Blame You, in March of 2009.

Its follow-up album, Moody, Standard and Poor, finds Obits further honing its gutsy blend of melodic garage punk without sacrificing the energy that defined its first release.

Avi Buffalo

Avi Buffalo: Rock Prodigies’ Trial by Fire

Avi Zahner-Isenberg traded in his skateboard for a guitar at age 12. A short eight years later, his band, Avi Buffalo, is signed to Sub Pop and touring the world on the strength of its self-assured rock-pop debut.

Iron and Wine optimistic of future and new album

Sam Beam, aka Iron and Wine, has been making quiet sound glorious since his 2002 Sub Pop debut The Creek Drank the Cradle. No synonym for “hushed” or “serene” has failed to be employed when describing Beam and his music.