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Archive for the ‘Jesu’ Category

808s & Jupiter-8s: Egyptian Lover’s Electro Pharaoh


Back in Wax Poetics #32, the Egyptian Lover mentioned his plan to release twelve 12-inches in 2009–one for every month of the year. While that hasn’t exactly happened, it didn’t feel like total un-real talk in the interview because the beauty of electro and derivations of that music is its carpenter-ish core, which allows, kinda even demands, and actually rewards, quick, worker-bee style production.

This big 12-inch release plan also made a lot of sense because Egyptian Lover’s entire bit is he’s a kinda out-there, cocky motherfucker and some vague, grand idea to drop a ton of 12-inch vinyl in 09′ had the same, uh swagger (?) as being a jheri-curled chubby dude that sang about how all the ladies wanted him one moment and opened-up all sad and lonely a la “I Cry (Night after Night)” the next.

With Electro Pharaoh though, which came out digitally at the end of last year and moved to sites beyond iTunes at the beginning of this year and somehow–or not somehow, but inexcusably–passed through everybody’s radar, Egyptian Lover’s at least beginning to make good on his promise which is more than enough in a way.

Hardheadedly throwback, Pharaoh is all 808s and Jupiter-8 keyboards and except for being recorded way cleaner than the old stuff–my only critique of the record is, he should’ve recorded it analog, because it’s too clean like the same way the new Candlemass record is too clean–the differences between this late 08, early 09 digital release and On the Nile are negligible. Tracks sway and fold into themselves, perfect for breaking or at this point the idea of breaking, and the trebly snaps of his equipment’s complemented by warm washes of synth or a sample (the especially grand synth-strings on “Electro Pharaoh”, the low budget Bernie Worrell keybord work on “Freaky DJ”). In a way, it’s closer to Uncle Jamm’s Army stuff than it is his debut record.

The only current concession is some auto-tune or some vocoder that sounds more auto-tuned but even the auto-tune’s more DJ Class than DJ Khaled hook and you know, Egyptian Lover’s allowed to briefly cash-in on a trend he had a lot to do with developing say, twenty-five years ago. But that’s the only hint of “contemporary standards” here, as there’s not even those little bits of rapping or rap-singing of his 80s work…just stuttering, pummeling shards of tinny electronics, a shit-ton of rhythm, and lots of chanting.

In a way, the release of a new (and actually good) Egyptian Lover release has a lot to do with where rap is and in another way, it’s on some very different–or divergent–shit. Really, the most analogous record to Electro Pharaoh would be some of the newer wave of ATL producers or the Jesu side of that Jesu/Envy split from the fall ((and it’s not like Justin Broadrick isn’t hip to this rap shit) and at times, The Field. Or maybe The Field just comes to mind because the best song on Pharaoh is called “Scandinavian Summer” for some reason. A corresponding track to the classic “Egypt, Egypt”, “Scandanavian Summer” uses lots of the same sounds (extra breathy vocals, those same 808 slaps of death) and the same goofball foreign imagery only now applied to “Finnish freaks” and “Danish freaks”–a “we’re all pink inside” statement of universality bouncing to a freak-beat that yeah, is also probably a crossover grab for a part of the world that’s inexplicably latched onto electro.

Even issues of legacy and influence–something every old-school pioneer will remind you about–is handled pretty well. Most of the tracks occupy this weird place of shameless myth-making and logical extension of the shit-talking of the past. “Freaky DJ” has Egyptian Lover telling you “I survived all the changes in the industry” and it’s slightly pathetic, but then, on the title track, he does a a cool thing of inserting himelf into his own Egypt iconography to represent how say, like the Pyramids or all the Egyptian and Afro-Asiatic contributions to culture, Egyptian Lover’s music is just as big and looming and influential in its own way: “Crowds fill the arena/On the east bank of the Nile/the throne becomes a DJ booth as they play this ancient style…”.

Written by Brandon

April 19th, 2009 at 6:17 am

Posted in Egyptian Lover, Jesu, e

City Paper Review: Jesu ‘Why Are We Not Perfect? EP

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“After last year’s Conqueror, there’s not much more Justin Broadrick can do with Jesu’s mix of indie-rock emotion and hard-ass heaviness. So it’s not a surprise that his recent work strays from that signature sound. But when the music on Why Are We Not Perfect? and a split with art-metal outfit Envy eschews oppressive guitar for electronics, it’s hard to not be a knee-jerk fan and freak out.

Perfect’s opener, “Farewell,” and the titular track kick off like the ethereal intro to so many other Jesu songs, but without crunching riffs or some kind of release–the songs go nowhere. Along with slightly heavier “alternate” versions of those two tracks, “Blind and Faithless” is the most effective, with guitar layers and an odd fried-wire synth surge throughout. Most of the time, though, this new Jesu sound recalls such lame industrial-pop bands as Filter or something. That’s sort of cool in theory–art-metal God makes embarrassingly sincere alt-rock–but Jesu’s appeal was, in part, the ragged disconnect between Broadrick’s whiny vocals and the oppressive mass of crunching guitars. Sissy singing accompanied by sissy electronic accompaniment makes too much sense.

Things work out a little better on the Envy split. The Jesu tracks rumble but also approach danceability. Still, Envy’s contributions are most memorable. Its stuttering microhouse jam “Conclusion of Existence” beats Jesu’s attempts, and on “A Winter Quest for Fantasy,” Envy does crushingly heavy better, too. “Fantasy” starts off light and Chris Isaak-sexy, then explodes into a crescendo of searing guitars and cathartic noise. In short, it’s doing what Jesu should’ve done all along.”

Written by Brandon

August 27th, 2008 at 4:15 am

Posted in City Paper, Jesu

Favorite Album Tracks Pt. I & The Changing Nature of the Single

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So, this year, my sorta kinda notable presence on the internet and my few reviews for the Baltimore City Paper got me involved in contributing to some notable Top 10 lists, (Links will be up when they are published). Like everyone, I totally get-off on list-making and it’s really cool to be asked to contribute, especially when one sees your vote have something of an impact. On the City Paper’s list, my putting ‘Underground Kingz’ at #1 certainly aided its appearance on the Top 10 and I could also smugly sit around all cool-like because of just how many of my albums didn’t make it.

The weirder lists were ones for Idolator and Pazz & Jop which asked for a Top 10 Singles List. It was hard to remember singles and exactly when they came out and in the past, people just listed good songs from that given year, so it was a little confusing and overwhelming and I’m pissed that I forgot about Baby Boy Da Prince’s ‘The Way We Live and a little upset I didn’t even consider Thicke’s ‘Lost Without U’ but just pouring over the list as I did, was good because it got me thinking about what is and isn’t a single in this weird internet age that is both amazingly democratic and hermetically-sealed.

Obviously, anything with a music video or on the radio is a single. But then, what about Satellite Radio, which I listen to more than regular ol’ radio these days? Was ‘Circles’ by Crime Mob a single? I was on the satellite rap stations this summer and it got a video like two months ago, but I don’t think it got any play on FM rap stations. Did it become a single because internet nerds were ranting about its greatness? I know we internet types like to imagine our impact on everything is greater than it is, but there’s something to it in certain cases. When a tastemaker like Noz posts something about the greatness of ‘I’m a J’ – and that song truly is great- does that in effect, become a single? When a song is posted on Nahright or XXL’s Bangers section, do those become singles? It becomes weirder because although those are internet websites/blogs, they are both closely tied to the industry and in that way, function like the radio dropping a new single. Can you consider ‘Glitter’ and ‘Just Us’ by Cam’ron singles? Those songs felt like it to me and I heard them a lot more than legit singles. Baltimore literally has no conventional “hits” stations and my SIRIUS radio continually bounces between Howard Stern and SHADE45, so the only time I ever heard Britney Spears’ single was when I actively sought it out. ‘Gimme More’s really good too, in case you’re wondering. The beat is awesome and kinda gross and dirty and uncomfortable, just like Britney Spears!

So yeah…what’s a single these days? My rule, outside of the conventional understanding of the single was anything that was used to promote an album…which made stuff like ‘Just Us’ by Cam’ron count. Plus that song’s too good not to appear on any list of songs or singles or iTunes downloads or whatever the fuck. I avoided a lot of 2007 wrap-up due to working way more than I usually do, and also because others do it better than me and my list would be more of the same shit. So, here’s a list of my favorite non-single tracks- “honorary singles”- or, songs that got as much play on my computer, iPOD, etc. as proper singles…‘Weightless & Horizontal’ by Jesu off Conqueror: The first track on this album, also called ‘Conqueror’- feels like it would be the single, if albums like this had singles, so it’s an easy choice and instead, I went with this track, ‘Weightless and Horizontal’. This track’s the centerpiece of the album, the perfect mix of near-heaviness, My Bloody Valentine-ish glory, and whiny vocals that totally work. ‘Weightless and Horizontal’ is also the point where ‘Conqueror’ moves into being the oppressive, cut-your-wrists-blow-your-head-off sound it seems like Broadrick intended. Before this point, the album is good and moody but it reminds me of like the over-emotional-ness related to like driving to party held by some chick you want to bang or something, not the “wrist-slashing experience” type of emotions it hopes to invoke.

I like the way-too-honest and sorta bad lyrics here because well, they are really sincere and I’m into that sort of thing. Especially good the way they lyrics bounce between total nihilism (“I’m way past trying”) and over-emotive blame and frustration: “You’re always leaving.” Mix truly emo shit like that with bad-ass riffs and a great quiet-loud dynamic and you got one of the best songs of the year.

‘Go To War (featuring Lil’ Scrappy and Pimp C)’ by Crime Mob off Hated On Mostly: ‘Hated On Mostly’ might be the best album title of the year and for straight-up party fight rap, this album wins hands-down. I figured it would keep me sated until the new Three-Six album, but with that perpetually delayed- ‘Da Last 2 Walk’ is now scheduled for fucking March- ‘Hated On Mostly’ maintains its relevance. ‘Circles’ is the “single” to vote for while ‘Rock Yo Hips’ was good, it’s by far the most digestable track- otherwise, ‘Hated On Mostly’ is a pretty sick album.

Production-wise, it’s all in-debt to Crunk and proto-Crunk and all, but it sounds individual enough to still stand-out. The beats are often rooted in really weird, atonal sounds that sound like they were loaded into a drum machine or sampler and then pounded-on for four minutes. There’s some poor man’s Lil Jon “Yeah!” keyboard sounds but there’s also this theremin-ish whir and some supertight, like totally electronic near-Kraftwerkian metallic pulses and bleeps. The severely underrated Crime Mob girls actually sort of suck on this, sounding out-of-breath and bleating out their verses, but dearly departed Pimp C owns the track; “Fuck how you feel” was my mantra for 2007.‘My Rain’ by Boris with Michio Kurihara off Rainbow: So, you guys know that Boris aren’t that good, right? Their first three albums are pretty great, but they’ve slowly done the same thing many of my favorite rappers have done in terms of pandering to their indie-rock cool guy audience. Their more conventional heavy-rock albums are pretty silly but kewl kids like em…I grabbed ‘Rainbow’ up because it was a collaboration with the dude from Ghost (yes, Boris featuring Patrick Swayze) and it’s pretty good. Still, derivative but it does it for me every once in awhile. The best tracks are the blissed-out, on-painkillers near-jams because they don’t have much of a precedent while say, opener ‘Rafflesia’ sounds like Candlemass and just makes me want to go get my copy of ‘Epicus Doomus Metallicus’ and beat-up Boris and especially their fans who would make fun of me for liking Candlemass.

This is the American version of ‘Rainbow’ and replaces the ending stoned-out track ‘…And I Want’ with ‘No Sleep ‘Till I Become Hollow’ which totally changes the albums’ feeling; oh well, there’s still ‘My Rain’ which is my favorite Boris track in years. I like that it sounds like ‘Stay’ by Lisa Loeb or something (that’s a good thing) and it’s just perfectly fragile, not twee or cute, just sad and resigned.

I’ll finish this up over the next few days. I’ll end with ‘Bet On It’ from ‘High School the Musical 2′ because this song is great; better than any of those Justin Timberlake songs the kids are talking about so damned much:

Written by Brandon

December 26th, 2007 at 6:22 am

Posted in Boris, Crime Mob, Jesu, Lists, Pimp C