If there’s one band that pulled off the long, mysterious hiatus with mystique intact, it’s Bristol, England’s Portishead. Yet when the ’90s trip-hop act resurfaced in 2006, it had substantially changed — gone were the down-tempo beats and much of the melancholy, replaced with a new sound and sparse, driving rhythms that owed more to krautrock than Def Jam.
Beatsmith/songwriter Geoff Barrow was guiding it that way. Since the reunion, he’s been on fire, issuing music in a variety of guises with Beak> (a rock band), Quakers (a sprawling hip-hop project), and as Drokk (a soundtracking duo). That’s not including the records that Barrow has produced for others and released on his label, Invada.
With no shortage of topics in tow, we caught up with Barrow to talk about drum sounds, film scores, and writing music for Judge Dredd.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the score for The Man with the Iron Fists doesn’t differ greatly from the soundtrack, opening as it does with an extended, reworked sample from Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame on a Nigga.” With that one chopped-and-screwed moment, though, what we’re really seeing is a hip-hop sensibility being applied to a score that well compliments its accompanying soundtrack.
Spread out across venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, this year’s CMJ Music Marathon provided a glimpse at some of the year’s best emerging artists in addition to a healthy lineup of veteran performers. With five days of showcases and concerts to attend, the festival offered something for everyone, with bands representing a variety of genres.
V/A: The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack (Soul Temple, 10/23/12)
Assembled by rapper/director RZA, the soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists aurally delivers on the eyeball-punching promises of his over-the top grindhouse martial-arts movie.
From blues-driven opener “The Baddest Man Alive,” which sees RZA reunite with collaborators The Black Keys, this collection of largely new tracks works as a cohesive album while being eclectic enough to function as accompaniment for a film.
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When one thinks of West Coast hip-hop production, the mind likely won’t rush to the kind of music made by San Francisco’s Blue Sky Black Death. And yet the duo of Young God (Ian Taggart) and Kingston (Kingston McGuire) has become a sought commodity for its production skills, having worked with members of Hieroglyphics, Non Phixion, Jedi Mind Tricks, and Wu-Tang Clan affiliates Hell Razah and Holocaust.
Though its most controversial release is likely The Evil Jeanius, which reportedly featured vocals from rapper Jean Grae without her knowledge or monetary compensation, the duo’s instrumental records have received tremendous critical accolades. BSBD returned in late April with Noir, an album of hazy instrumental beats that skirt the boundary between hip hop and electronica.
Nearly 80 percent of the record is composed of non-sampled instrumentation that’s largely influenced by shoegaze — an unusual muse for a DJ, to say the least. The tracks certainly show it. Many instrumental hip-hop records, even ones lauded by critics and beloved by fans, feature songs that repeat themselves over and over. This pattern provides a useful verse-chorus-verse structure when a rapper is involved, but when beats are allowed to break free, they can be so much more. BSBD understands this and presents tracks that evolve, build, and change as they go, with intensity rising and falling throughout, keeping the listener on his or her toes.
Everyone’s favorite original rap super-group Wu-Tang Clanrolled through Chicago over the weekend to perform a set in the Congress Theater. Though its individual members have each gone on to do a number of other things, including RZA‘s foray into Hollywood and recent work on Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it’s nice to see them unite forces once in a while. ALARM contributing photographer Elizabeth Gilmore waded through the head-nodding masses to snap these stellar photos.
In the world of Mike Ladd, reality is far stranger than fiction. The Boston-bred MC/producer/spoken-word poet is the merry prankster of underground hip-hop, a sonic jester gleefully melding dystopian imagery with lo-fi hardcore, dub, and retro soul to create party music for the year 2032. His lofty concepts have documented the simultaneous death and rebirth of hip-hop in his operatic Infesticons and Majesticons projects.