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Monday, July 28, 2014

clipping. - Taking Off Track Review

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The first performer on Saturday was a rapper named Ka. I love his music - and his live show did not disappoint. He's a brilliant poet and lyricist. The most memorable part of his set was not one of his songs, though. It was a spoken interlude to his awesome track "Jungle." Sidenote: if you haven't checked out Ka or his LP The Night's Gambit, you should. Anyway, Ka described his hometown of Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NYC, in quite 'real' terms, so to speak. Ka dedicated "Jungle" to all of the friends he lost during the summer. He said that it gets hot in Brownsville and "people are stacked on top of each other" - that a lot of people get frustrated with their situation and "jus' start shootin'" [sic].

If Ka's interlude describes the abstract situation of of living life in the "Jungle." Then clipping.'s track "Taking Off" gives voice to a few characters that live there. Clipping.'s emcee, Daveed Diggs, delivers a harshly realistic vision of unnamed places in three rapid fire verses he drops with surgical precision and virtuosic flows. Daveed's verses are so intense they deserve detailed dissections and study to fully grasp their content and meaning. Dissections I won't delve too deeply into here, but suffice it to say that you'll be looking up the clipping.'s RapGenius page for hours if you like their music as much as I do.

Verse 1 has a rhythmic pattern that sounds as though it were taken from a snare drum exercise book. The song itself is set around 80 BPM in 4/4. The first six lines are delivered as largely eighth-notes. The next 3 or 4 lines are delivered as eighth-note triplets. The next 4 lines are delivered as sixteenth-notes at blistering speeds. Then the entire pattern I just described is repeated to conclude the verse while each half of the first verse is 8 bars long.

Lyrically, the first 8 bars describe the life of a killer in cold, factual terms. The second 8 bars describe the emotional aftermath of that sort of life on the killer himself. Throughout the rest of the song, Daveed continues with the murderer as a theme, describing where this sort of person grows up, why they are the way they are, and why people trun to such a lifestyle. This sort of attention to detail and orderedness continue throughout the track, though the first verse stands as a sort of perfect example of Daveed's amazing delivery, planning, and complex wordplay.

Musically, clipping. are noise-hop. The two instrumentalists, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, bring their own unique brand of dark, sparse, noise-centric beats to the table for "Taking Off" and it works perfectly to accentuate Daveed's brilliance. The strong noise element of clipping. in general deserves more than a passing comment I think. What interests me most, and for now will have to be an underdeveloped line of thinking, is that the noise element of clipping. fits so well with Daveed's gritty portrayal of life on the street that it is more consistent than a lot of other "gangsta rap." That is to say, what is usually the case in rap is that a rapper will describe dark themes of poverty, crime, exploitation over music that makes it palatable to a large audience. With clipping., however, there is no safe way to palliate what one hears: the beat and music accompanying the harsh lyrics are equally as harsh. It gives clipping.'s music a sort of x-factor whereby it is sometimes difficult to listen to and quite upsetting. This is the same sort of feeling I get from Death Grips, which makes clipping. especially exciting insofar as Death Grips broke up.

In "Taking Off," then, clipping. gives us a dark insight into life in the "Jungle" quite unlike anything I've heard before. It makes it quite a joyful experience in the darkest meaning of that statement as is possible. "Taking Off" furthermore shows the listener that, as long as we have poverty, we will have killers: a lesson worth remembering.

Rating: 8.5/10



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lydia Loveless - Verlaine Shot Rimbaud Track Review

What initially interested me about this song was that it was a country song that I didn't immediately dislike. Genre-wise, this track lies somewhere between Miranda Lambert, Social Distorition, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Paramore of All We Know is Falling. There's a sincerity, a non-commercial edge, a punk-inees, and a tendency toward a "Cowpunk" nature.

What secondarily attracted me to this song was the title: "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud." The title refers to a stormy end to a libertine and bohemian relationship that Paul Verlaine, a symbolist poet, had with fellow symbolist/pre-surrealist poet Arthur Rimbaud. After tons of drinking and drugs and fights Verlaine accosted Rimbaud and shot him in the wrist while in a drunken stupor. For Loveless, this episode of jealous rage is a good comparison to the way that she feels about the person that "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" is addressed to. Sung in the second-person,  Loveless seems to perversely enjoy the fighting and break-ups and yet still just "want to be the one you love." The message is not-dissimilar of Ariana Grande's hit "Problem." Just a bit more racy. One could really say that a lot of Loveless' music tends toward bohemian, sexual, and intoxication situations and relationships just like the confrontation of Verlaine with Rimbaud.

While the lyrics are an honest look into a sort of twisted-logic of why she loves to hate/love her significant other, the music accompanying her lyrics is just a bit too tame to really fit the dialectic of aggression and attachment that she's trying to express. The song is a bit like adult-alternative country rather than punky-alternative-country. There are distorted guitars and her voice does have a bit of grit to it, but both of these factors seem to be sacrificed on the altar of accessibility - while the accessibility factor, at least in this reviewer's view, fails to bring in a larger fan-base for Loveless. If we can carry the comparison of "Problem" and "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud"  a bit further. Whereas "Problem" has amazing production and a hook to die for "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" brings a tame indie-production to an altogether all-too-un-interesting melody. The best part of the music is by far the bridge which does lift off the ground a bit in terms of airy-ness while Loveless' voice jumps quite high - it's by far the least forgettable part of the song.

What is most positive here is the bigger picture I think. That is to say, the very fact that a country song brings a bit of a highbrow reference is a sign for the future of country music in general. Moreover, Loveless' music is incredibly honest about sex and relationships - which is itself quite refreshing in the genre of veiled sex which refuses to directly look at the Thing, to put it in Lacanian terms. Loveless' music is especially positive, if read together with quasi-folk/Alt-country bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford and Sons. Country comes from a lineage of blues, folk, rockabilly, and honkey-Tonk: none of those roots are necessarily about beer, trucks, patriotism, a judgmental law-giving God, or "hot" women. Country, in its mainstream in the least, is a genre that was hijacked from the Left and delivered into the hands of ofuscatory late-capitalist ideology. This genre should in no way necessarily be on the side of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Mainstream country can be rescued from the hands of Rightest ideology and used for good. If anything, that is the sort of crack that the light shines through in this song - the sort of Good News that we need for the genre as a whole.

Rating: 6/10

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