Hip-hop as a cross-cultural phenomenon continues to amaze. What started as urban youth rapping over old jazz and R&B breakbeats has become so permeating that it’s nearly impossible to turn on the television or radio without hearing its echos. Whether you see it as symptomatic of postmodern culture or the product of mass-scale marketing, hip-hop has become a global phenomenon.
Enter Dorrance Comes Last, aka Native Siouxperman. Hailing from a reservation in Poplar and sporting blue motorcycle gloves, a Superman medallion and long black braids, NS spits flows that sound straight out of Memphis. He’s an amalgamation of so many disparate elements that the mind nearly buckles trying to grok it all.
There’s no denying that the guy has presence. His superhero persona brings to mind artists like MF Doom, and although his flow has a dirty-south vibe to it, his lyrics are anything but gangsta. Life on the rez, native pride and social activism flavor his rhymes, and considering his background there’s no doubting their authenticity. With its jacked beats, Finally Awake seems more like a mixtape than a bona fide album, but that actually enhances the homegrown feel of the release. The occasional sample of native chanting and the odd verse in Dakota flesh things out to create a totally Montana sound unlike anything else out there. (Adam Fangsrud)
Native Siouxperman opens for Zion-I at The Other Side Sunday, Sept. 4, at 10 PM. $7.
When the Indy gets homebrewed hip-hop like this to review, there’s a fine line to be walked. On one hand, there’s the responsibility to promote and encourage talented local artists as much as possible. On the other hand, there’s that magnetic draw felt by every music reviewer out there to be a smug jerk. American Ugly, Acher’s four-year labor of love, pulls in both directions.
First the good: Acher doesn’t front. His rhymes are real, his passion is real, and as far as I can tell he’s never plugged anybody in a drive-by. His album is quite long (74 minutes), and he doesn’t retread old ground or recycle old rhymes. Also, the guy is undeniably talented—his lyrics are dense, clever and very often funny. One line about bars with less flavor than a raver’s candy necklace still has me giggling.
Then there’s the not-so-good: Somebody get this guy a producer! The vast majority of these tracks are self-produced, and it’s quickly apparent that Acher is a much better wordsmith than studio whiz. The beats and synth lines sound manually pounded out on a Korg keyboard, and the vocal recording vacillates from too-quiet to completely clipped. It’s too bad, because much of Acher’s promising material is smothered by the amateurish production. With a little more cash and nicer equipment, he could go a long way. (Adam Fangsrud)
American Ugly is available at Ear Candy, Rockin Rudy’s and Hastings.
Sub Pop Records
The scouting report on Chad VanGaalen, Calgary’s one-man band of instrumental gadgets and emotional melancholy, is almost more intriguing than the music itself. While busking Canadian streets with a simple foot-drum and guitar in the mid-’90s, he recorded hundreds of songs in his basement studio using, among other things, “homemade saxophones and violins whittled by VanGaalen himself.”
Turns out VanGaalen, in addition to being a musical MacGyver, has some impressive—if not entirely cheerful—chops. “J.C.’s Head on the Cross” is an instrumental including bass-heavy trip-hop beats and VanGaalen pounding on his drums like they owe him money. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Chronograph #1” is a sweetly delivered falsetto with layered harmonies and delicately produced accompaniment.
With song titles like “Clinically Dead,” “Kill Me In My Sleep” and “Somewhere I Know There is Nothing,” Infiniheart is nothing if not emotionally revealing. The lyrics are similarly personal and odd—“After the Afterlife” asks deep questions about your mom’s haircut, your stoned dad, and mentions seaweed four separate times.
Ultimately, it’s VanGaalen’s arrangements (think Interpol or The Robot Ate Me) and dedicated backstory that have to overcome—or not—his indulgent songwriting. (Skylar Browning)
To say The Redwalls sound like The Beatles would be like saying Dark Star Orchestra sounds like the Grateful Dead. Of course they do—this fab four of 20-somethings from Chicago started as a high school band covering none other than…The Beatles.
But don’t get the wrong idea: de nova is more than just a homage to (or rip-off of) the birth of Britpop. While it’s smothered in pitch-perfect harmonies and classically accessible head-bopping guitars, the album has just enough variety to be less Oasis (despite being founded by two brothers, Justin and Logan Baren) and more a hodgepodge of musical influences.
“Build a Bridge” is a casual bluesy jaunt with hints of Lowell George, “Glory of War” is stripped down in the mold of Bob Dylan, and “Thank You” channels David Bowie. On The Beatles front, “Hung Up on the Way I’m Feeling” sounds like a souped-up version of John Lennon’s “Julia” and “Robinson Crusoe” and “Love Her” get to the heart of Hard Day’s Night. Each of these tunes honors its respective roots, with well-placed nostalgia taking prominence over any semblance of originality. (Skylar Browning)