Friday, November 8, 2013

What If?

Almost immediately after finishing up a post yesterday about indie guitar nerd St. Vincent reviewing Arcade Fire's well-received Reflektor, my mind was aflame with possible future pairings. Furiously I started combing the depths of my iTunes catalog, drawing lines back and forth in my head to find the "perfect" pairings. Some of these are genuine pairings; artists who I believe are operating on similar frequencies despite genre differences. Others are far-flung and hair-brained in the best way possible; artists who wouldn't be found in the same orbit as one another. I hope you enjoy them and if you're own "what if" scenario pops up along the way, feel free to leave it in the comment section. Now let's get on with it. 

A$AP Ferg reviews Return of the Super Ape

A$AP Mob member A$AP Ferg's love of dancehall music was perfectly delineated in the hero-worshipping "Shabba", so what about willfully weird reggae music? Sure Mr. Loverman Shabba Ranks had his affectations, but nothing approaching sonic innovator Lee "Scratch" Perry. Perry had a hand in developing early dub music, and he stretched that hand over a vast six-decade career. While the original Super Ape debuted in 1976 remains Perry's magnum opus, the '78 sequel Return of the Super Ape possesses a cartoonish hall-of-mirrors quality only hinted at in the first incarnation. 

Opener "Dyon Anaswa" remains one of the most delightfully catchy dub/reggae cuts on wax and the title track's machine gun sounds and menacing lurch reflect Ferg's "Cocaine Castle" if he incorporated an inconsolable horn. "Jah Jah a Natty Dread" packs enough bass punch to figure into the Trap Lord's rabble-rousing sound. "Huzza a Hana" spins a celebratory tale where Perry and crew can't rise above a drunkard's mumble. An album this muscular, catchy, and downright weird is just begging to have someone calling themselves the "Hood Pope" pontificate about it.

Björk tackles Blue Chips 2

Reaching the second "what if" on the list and we've already gone off the rails. Then again a hypothetical trainwreck can be a thrilling thing to watch and this absurd pairing would pile it high. The word "eclectic" has been used to describe Björk's work to the point it should be appended to her name. Action Bronson/Party Supplies new installment of Blue Chips hopscotches from sampling "Tequila" to making "Jack & Diane" rappable in a few short moves. Where Björk strayed from the course with beatboxing and Inuit throat singing, Party Supplies mixes things up by dropping in Applebee's ads featuring Jason Sudeikis. Sitting the Icelandic artist down to dissect Bronson's slapdash masterpiece would assuredly end in fidgeting. On more than one occasion Party Supplies can be heard turning his Mac volume up, the sort of warts-and-all inclusion to drive a studio rat like Björk crazy. Not to mention the undoubted headscratching that would occur when she's confronted by Fab Five member Jalen Rose or joints "thicker than Pinky's butt"

On Homogenic cut "Hunter", defiantly sang "I'm not stopping". Blue Chips 2 is suffuse with a similar wrecking-ball abandon. What starts off as an improbable pairing morphs into a kinship.

Kanye raves about Bankrupt

I'll admit the initial purpose of this premise was to make a "hurry up with my damn croissants" joke at the expense of the French synth-rockers. But the more I lingered on the prospect, the further it came into focus. Part and parcel of the Kanye West enterprise a decade in is unabashed ego tempered by an unparalleled self-consciousness. He applies for the title of "genius" and recoils in horror when his efforts are questioned. Though a seemingly amiable group like Phoenix will never scale to Yeezus levels of egoism, the bitter fruit is in blossom here. Thomas Mars adapts a slimy celeb persona in service of the jangly "Drakkar Noir", spinning yarns of "fake riches" and "oblivious tales". Insecurity (the Achilles-heel of West's godlike stature) creeps into "Chloroform", where a borderline predatory Mars molds the truth into his own successful pick up line. "Trying to Be Cool"s quiet desperation to fit in with the fashionable is a Louis backpack away from becoming 2004 Kanye West. The endearingly goofy concept of "mint-julep testosterone" is the sort of head-slapping line Kanye would craft if he logged hours at Churchill Downs. And contortion act "Bankrupt" which fidgets from guitars to synthesizers and plucked harps recalls "All of the Lights" where seemingly every 30 seconds a new idea was introduced and chased to its conclusion. West will continue to chow down on croissants, though his fill will come from Phoenix. 

John Darnielle and Sunbather (a match made in hell)

Anyone who's logged any amount of time on Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle's social media accounts knows the man likes his metal. He's devoted entire articles to death/grind band Cretin, logged studio time with Hate Eternal guitarist Erik Rutan, and used Pitchfork features to recommend situation specific Danzig songs to blast. 

Deafhaven's 2013 LP Sunbather is a heavy music tour-de-force intermingling: crushing black metal, ascendant post-rock, and exploratory shoegaze. Sunbather's heaviness transcends genre limitations, offering respites only to make the next wave more destructive than the last. Their refusal to play within the occasional paint-by-numbers medium of metal potentially creates a problem for a fervent disciple like Darnielle. However, in the past decade Darnielle has moved from his monolothic "experiments" in minimalistic folk to full-bodied arrangements. Where one or two characters previously factored in, now: brothers, lovers, and apartment buildings jockey for position alongside discordant strings and solemn piano. While Deafhaven's in-the-read playing renders lyrics null and void, discerning ears pick up on microscopic details. Time-specific moments whirl past, and George Clarke screams out "I watched you lay on a towel in the grass that exceeded the height of yours." Relentless tinkering brings these two together, but a desire to paint small-scale tragedies unites them. All that's left is for Darnielle to slot Sunbather into a must-have playlist to soundtrack a high-speed ride across a snowpacked Iowa landscape.


So ends round 1 of this bizarre trek into musical matchmaking. If this is well-received I'll undoubtedly offer a sequel, maybe one where Danny Brown reviews the Zombies and Beach House tackle's the DJ Mustard produced Ty Dolla $ign album Beach House 2. And again, if you have suggestions don't hesitate to leave them in the comments.


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