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How Big Is Your World? Matic – “Hustle Hard (Remix)”

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Baltimore club music lives for the holy-shit brilliant refix (the“taking [of] the so-called dominant culture and making it fit your nightlife rather than the other way around”), but what producer Matic (formerly Lil Matic) does here is a little different. He like, climbs inside the cockpit of Lex Luger’s rickety, still-stomping Voltron robot and mans the controls. The first few moments find Matic figuring it all out as he gently screws the Ace Hood hit but nah, that’s not it. So the song picks up the pace, starts to shuffle, and teases some Baltimore horns and some laser synths and from there, it just keeps getting darker and weirder. Shouts rise up and snippets of Ace Hood, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross poke through. The “Think” breaks arrives, too, as it should, but it’s like an afterthought or one more noise to throw in there. And then it changes again, slowing-up and even getting beautiful for a few moments, before seemingly falling apart, and then, coming back together for a sprint to song’s end, powering through a din of synths and shouts and samples and a dude groaning out, “bitch!” Matic has turned a Lex Luger beat even more evil. Even meaner and more fuck-you-up intense than the original, but somehow, freer too ready for a peak hour DJ set, and in that sense, communally cathartic and ready for those who do more than mean-mug and jump up and down when they’re in the club.

Written by Brandon

July 5th, 2011 at 7:18 pm

How Big Is Your World? Beyonce – “Run The World (Say Wut Remix)”


The real version of “Run The World (Girls)” jumped onto a trend already a tad out-dated (Afrojack’s still-awesome but well-worn shuffle by way of Diplo). Say Wut’s scrunched-up techno take fits into the general “WTF” feel of underground dance production right now, not six to twelve months ago. Screw vetting, Beyonce should just ask worker-bee regional innovators like Say Wut for some beats. Release this generous, obnoxious version! If the Baltimore club producer’s remix found its way onto the radio (outside of Baltimore that is, here it gets almost as much plays as the real version), it could really blow some minds. And while we’re at it, can Araabmuzik give her some of that Electronic Dream shit?

Anyways, pay special attention to just how well this new beat converses with Beyonce’s vocals from the original. This isn’t one of those remixes where your ears force it all to properly interact because hey man, Beyonce goes Bmore club! Cool! The beat here, all hard, crisps snares and squonking synths, calms down and then suddenly tightens up, switching up with the help of guttural “hey”s and the slightest tinge of good and proper though predictable dance-pop structure. The entire song is the awesome, rapid-fire part that drops after the build up. Now, when Beyonce goes “this beat is cray-zee,” you’re not gonna go, “really B? This beat?”

Have you listened to the new Beyonce? Maybe you even bought it. You should. That said, I’m tempted to brashly enter “redux” mode and suggest that this Say Wut version replace the original but no, 4 is much too subdued for something this buzzing and bold. The entire album is a slow burn up to “Run The World,” which doesn’t entirely work because the ender is an at-best okay song. Bonus track “Schoolin’ Life,” the kind of empowering anthem “Run The World” pretends to be, should end the album. Or if that’s cheating, 4 should begin on track two, “I Care,” and end with “1 + 1,” which would slowly rise out of the dance party wreckage of “Run The World” and leave you with some end-of-the-world, end-of-Watchmen love in the ruins feeling.

Written by Brandon

June 29th, 2011 at 9:26 pm

How Big Is Your World? Murder Mark – “You The Best”

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Baltimore club producer Murder Mark begins “You The Best” with a nod to “Blue Monday” by New Order. That timeless, simple kick drum intro though, doesn’t build to something more elegant or radio-ready. Instead, there’s just more minimal, sorta evil-sounding percussion stacked on top of other noisy drums, only letting up for a few sonically bold diversions (a sea of “what?!” shouts, a handclap and techno-synth breakdown). Like most club music being made in 2011, the “Think” break isn’t the driving force of the song or even a part of it at all anymore. Baltimore’s batty dance music is mutating as fast as all those electronic genres still deemed blog-worthy, so please pay attention. The video for “You The Best” is similarly stripped-down: An empty room, some dancers, fog, and cool colors. And you know, it isn’t Beyonce’s post-apocalyptic Russ Meyer couture freak-out or nothing, but a room of dudes and only dudes (Team Squad Up) performing a really amazing mix of in-the-club rocking-off and almost interpretive dance to a shit-talk track, holds its own kind of gender-bucking fun.

Written by Brandon

May 25th, 2011 at 2:54 am

b free daily: “Ponytail’s subdued thrills.”

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Wrote a little something about the new Ponytail record, Do Whatever You Want All The Time, which is also probably their best. If you didn’t like the other stuff, you might even like this one! My point of comparison would probably be No Age’s Everything In Between, just in terms of it changing up their sound ever-so-slightly but making it much more accessible and like, sticky? Dunno, lots I didn’t want to cram into this piece, but here, they really sound like formidable and grand. Think: Krautrock and Prog and all kinds of noisy but not exactly cool epic, experimental rock. Also, because there’s no other place for it: Big co-sign on Ken Seeno’s solo cassette work.

“Easy Peasy,” the first track on Do Whatever You Want All the Time, the latest from Baltimore spazz-rockers Ponytail, begins with some delightfully cheesy synthesizers. Then, rock ’n’ roll drums start to rumble and vocalist Molly Siegel starts to sing in her signature, wordless style. Finally, some guitars show up and a good and proper song is formed. Just at that moment, when all the disparate elements come together, Ponytail explode. Surf-rock riffs scream across the track, bold dance beats pulse and Siegel squeaks out the phrase “running out of time” over and over.

Musically, Ponytail recreate the boundless joy and bratty petulance of childhood. “Late For School,” from their 2008 sophomore release, Ice Cream Spiritual, is a slow-growing whirl of instruments and primal screams that are rocketed forward by a shout of “Oh no! I’m late for school!” Their 2006 debut album, Kamehameha, is named after a fighting move from the anime/manga “Dragonball Z.”…

Written by Brandon

April 12th, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Baltimore, b free daily

Independent Weekly: “Why You Shouldn’t Take Future Islands For Granted.”

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If someone derisively calls Future Islands “a live band,” just punch them in the face. They do indeed happen to be probably the best live band around right now, but too many people sleep on the records or just sleep on the band in general. So, here’s a rant about why that needs to stop:

A Future Islands show begins politely enough. The Baltimore-via-Greenville, N.C., trio—kind of, sort of claimed by the Triangle, too—walks onto the stage and sheepishly waves or nods to the crowd. Sam Herring provides some warm-hearted “thanks for coming” banter; mostly, he just seems out-of-his-mind excited to play a show.

They start: An ominous bouncing beat from J. Gerrit Welmers’ synthesizer drops, and bassist William Cashion allows a grimy, melodic bass line. Herring, the frontman, arches his brows, hunches over and begins stalking the edges of the stage. He smacks himself in the chest and face, like it’s a hardcore show.

For the next 45 minutes or so, Future Islands tear through their damaged, often tragic dance songs for the pleasure of another devoted and seemingly ever-expanding crowd. Herring’s a nut in front of an audience, moving so quickly it seems that he’s teleporting from one side of a usually pretty small performance space to the other. He sings in a strange cadence that’s kind of British but maybe just nebulously fancy, always manic. At the right moment, his voice downshifts into a throaty, demonic wail, raising the emotional stakes of whatever bittersweet song he’s performing. There’s really nothing like it…

Written by Brandon

March 3rd, 2011 at 3:33 am

How Big Is Your World? Los – “Stand The Rain”

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Producer Skarr Akbar (an excellent Baltimore rapper in his own right) does something to New Edition’s “Can You Stand The Rain” so that it sounds like the music to an early 90s after-school special and Los unleashes all his concerns, frustrations, and worries over top of it, on some real Cam’ron “Harlem Streets”-style, tight-lipped sad-sack shit: “When I think of the feeling of seeing my face on a billboard in my own city/I reminisce like, “damn, I got nobody to zone with me.”

Los races through this Shooter highlight, firing off as many references to the minor victories and major tragedies of his life and the way they intertwine (“I’m focused on my vision, but damn I’m missin’ my dogs”), trying to keep up with that sped-up sample, and rapping like his time is running out, which makes sense when you’re a guy once signed to Bad Boy, who’s slowly building himself back up with mixtapes because suddenly, there’s a rap scene getting more and more comfortable with vibrant, on-beat obsessed rhymers again.

The most affecting aspect though, is the way Los bounces over the bad stuff in his life, enough for you to know it’s there, but not enough that it’s dwelled upon in great, street-cred grabbing detail. The line, “I think about our father, callin’ some time” refers to his dad, a high school basketball coach who was tragically murdered (shot in the head) when Los was still in his teens. One more contribution to the always entertaining “rap some serious shit over a corny, sped-up sample” sub-genre for sure.

Written by Brandon

November 29th, 2010 at 5:01 am

How Big Is Your World? DJ Class – “Bitch Ass Niggarrrrr”

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(photo by Josh Sisk)

DJ Class’ new track, titled um, “Bitch Ass Niggarrrrr” arrives at an interesting time for club music. Elements of the Baltimore sound have made their way to the radio (from four-on-the-floor pap like Usher’s “O.M.G,” to Waka Flocka Flame’s violent, dance records full of gun-shot percussion and more shouting than rapping) and into art-rap (Kanye’s “All Of The Lights” and Lil B’s “Ride Up” to name two up-to-the-minute examples), but club music itself remains as underground as ever. And if there were a sign that hometown producers are finally sick of trying to court mainstream attention, it would be this convulsive, completely off-putting, weirdly catchy track from Mr. “I’m The Ish” himself. A hybrid of two club classics (Class’ own “Tear Da Club Up” and Scottie B’s “Niggaz Fightin”), featuring an artfully chopped Boondocks sample (shades of Class’ masterful “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” refix) that couldn’t be less radio-friendly (or human friendly for that matter) and some incongruous auto-tune crooning, “Bitch Ass Niggarrrrr” is a harebrained attempt to merge Class’ singular street-pop sensibility with the kind of defiant, anti-social club music that he helped create almost twenty years ago–and it works way better than it really should.

Written by Brandon

November 12th, 2010 at 6:49 am

How Big Is Your World? DJ Pierre – “In The Studio (2 Step)”

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On “In The Studio (2 Step),” DJ Pierre buries his club-ready chants of “two step” and “it’s that feel good music,” under layers of airy piano, dusted drum kicks, and some distortion blasts that’d make Salem jealous. The more prominent Pierre vocal though, has the Baltimore producer boasting that he’s “in the studio all night,” cleverly inverting the hundreds of club joints that celebrate being out until the wee hours of the night, living it up. The song’s about music production and sonically, there are even a few lo-fi nods to the fact that this is a recording. The synths that open the track are in-the-red. At the peak of the song, when all its shambling elements brilliantly lock-in for a tangled, catchy shuffle (seriously, the last minute of this track goes), Pierre sings wordless mumbles, which sound like rough, guide vocals to be turned to a hook later on. Messy studio chatter, complete with audio clipping ends the thing. To swipe Nick Sylvester’s idea, I’ll call this a song that knows it’s a record. These are extremely strange qualities for a club track though. Baltimore club is one of the most dogged and pragmatic genres out there, preferring in-the-box innovation over the glitchy, experimenting of Pierre’s work here. How can a track that begins with a burst of noise and ends with behind-the-scenes audio make its way into a club set? Does that even matter? Compliments to Pierre for making something as lawless as “In The Studio (2 Step).”

Written by Brandon

November 4th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

b free daily: “The Surreal Eye”


If you’re in Baltimore, you can go pick up my cover story on Baltimore filmmaker Hilton Carter. His short film Moth plays at the Landmark Theatre tomorrow night. Hilton’s also directed a ton of music videos and commercials, most recently the Blaqstarr video for “Oh My Darling”.

Two years ago, Hilton Carter stood in Paris’ Louvre, transfixed by Paul Delaroche’s 1855 painting The Young Martyr.

No longer a glossy image in the art history texts he studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the massive painting was right there, ready to overwhelm and inspire this former Baltimore filmmaker.

“When I stood in front of that painting,” Carter explains on the phone from his L.A home, where he now lives, “I saw the painting for what it is. It hit me.” Delaroche’s painting, which depicts a dead girl eerily floating in the water surrounded by darkness, became the inspiration for “Moth,” Carter’s short film about a drug-addled L.A. girl who slowly sinks under the weight of her addictions and insecurities…

Written by Brandon

September 29th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Welcome To The Zoo On MARS Promo Video

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Preview video for the Zoo On MARS EP from Z.O.M.E. Rap-wise, Z.O.M.E keep their inner city Baltimore upbringing floating in the background (this was true on Mike-Mike’s “Bmore Better Be Afraid” too) and it’s a nice skipping over of street-cred. The only time they mention Baltimore, it’s to tell you that it’s “more than homicides.” There’s a very head-down, “yeah, we’re from the streets, whatever.” attitude that’s really captivating and affecting. Even the whole Mars, aliens, etc. angle works because it’s less about next-level-ness and more on some G-Side/Sun Ra sense of space as escapism: space as an appealing place because shit, it’s not here. There’s also a tradition of this kind of stuff in Baltimore specifically, back to the city’s house music and club music roots and the Egyptology cosmic rap weirdness of Labtekwon–brought together in the Doo-Dew Kidz/Labtekwon project 410 Pharoahs or Unruly producer King Tutt.

Murder Mark’s production is actually worthy of all this other galaxy talk too. The beat here’s more in the mold of club music–in that he’s just stacking strange sounds on top of stranger sounds–but he’s creating a claustrophobic, in-the-red intensity to the whole thing. As a result, the raps are urgent and excited, not laid-back and spacey like a lot of the radio and underground rap Z.O.M.E superficially resemble.

What also makes Z.O.M.E so appealing is that these guys aren’t in a bubble. They’re part of a scene. They’ve done shows in Baltimore. You can see them perform live. And when you see them in their bedroom here, they’re working on their rhymes and making beats together, not on some closed-circuit solitary rap shit like so many dudes lately. Totally not trying to turn this into a Baltimore blog as of late, but this is some of the only new stuff that’s grabbing me right now.

Written by Brandon

September 23rd, 2010 at 9:08 pm