• Part Two of Three: The Noze Knowz

    Jul 1 2008, 8h19

    Now, this review can't be too intensely well-informed, just because...I, uh, don't have all of his stuff. I'm not entirely sure how to get ahold of it. But I'll go from what I've heard, and by gum, I'll try and make it valid and interesting for you.

    Now. It pains me to say this. But at first - I didn't really dig Nozebleed.

    I have to stop here and say that I've grown to enjoy it. It's still not my ab-so-lute favorite, but I do like it. I believe that most of my problem was that I didn't expect the dance music to have some of the...cornier lyrics of bad hip hop.

    The first lyrics I heard were:

    "let's get freaky, girl"

    ....which has its own deliriously funny charm, I suppose. But its not the lyrical craftsmanship I'm used to. He does get better as the songs go on, citing the 'getting freaky' from earlier lines as exploring uncharted lands that were as-yet-undiscovered. And I now find that I enjoy the song on its own merits as well as the irony of how...horrible that line is.

    Mr. Noze, if you read this, rest assured that I do like your music.

    Because, let's face it, even though I put a lot of emphasis on lyrics, music isn't spoken word, and the notes and sounds that Nozebleed cobbles together under his words are the real draw. Some might say that it isn't difficult to make electronic beeps and slides and effects sound good - but be my guest, you naysayers! I dare you to make a song that makes me as electro-happy as Nozebleed's tunes do.

    He uses a beat beneath his music that sounds delightfully rich, and....even though this makes me sounds completely unprofessional and like I'm talking about baked goods....crunchy? Someone help me out here, is there a specific term for this beat? It's the rolling bchkbchkbchkbchk noise in quick succession...


    I'm going to make myself stop sounding like an idiot, and just say that this rich electronic percussion grounds the light and elusive notes of his melodies. In a medium of music that's so easily manipulated and replicated by cheap computer programs, Nozebleed brings a stamp of unique originality and professional-grade quality to his tunes that rings oh-so-sweetly in your ear. This is, to my mind, the audio cheesecake of electronic music - thick, satisfying sounds that are both soothing and exciting.

    That said, I don't listen to Nozebleed 'on the daily,' as it were. Perhaps this has to do with me not having all of it. I don't know. But back to the cheesecake analogy, it's nice once and a while, to know that I have something deliciously dance-soothing like Nozebleed to give an ear to when the mood strikes.

    And yet how did my own personal sonic baked good, Nozebleed, make the leap across that tall building of our story to join forces with former Strata pipes Eric Victorino to create The Limousines?

    Next time, my dovekins! Next time...
  • A Three-Fer!

    Jun 22 2008, 0h45

    Strata VS. The Limousines VS. Nozebleed

    Okay, kids. Buckle up.

    Now, some of the names up yonder have been around for a decent while. But this blog hasn't. And it just isn't fair to the blog itself to deprive it of gushing over the music inherently a part of the Army of Funk. So you're gonna see some pretty established people popping up in reviews. Maybe you just need to sit back and give such folks another listen, eh? Eh.


    The first album I actually listened to by Strata wasn't their first.

    I know. I know.

    But Strata Presents: The End Of The World is, I think, a good starting place. This is rock music played as if it were an orchestra. Layers of guitar, percussion, vocals, and keyboard play together beautifully - without losing any of its edge. Some of the songs play to a mellower, often ethereal sound, while others (and yeah, I'm talking Cocaine (We're All Going to Hell)) moved right on over to the dance side of the spectrum.

    If some DJ hasn't already made some outstanding remix of that song for the rhythm-driven masses, there is something wrong with disc-jockeying as a profession.

    All in all, the over-arching terms I would use to describe Strata Presents: The End of the World?

    Well-crafted. - Every small note has its place, and the instruments and vocals are painstakingly done. Eric Victorino's voice, I have to point out, is simply mind-blowing. In Poughkeepsie, NY, I near-to-weep when he hits the 'Hallelujah.' Hot. Shrimp. It's incredible.
    Epic. - Whether the music is drawn out over a down-tempo song or sped to frantic beats for the up-tempo shift, the notes inevitably soar out of the speaker to your ear, and draw you forcibly through to the next song.
    Lyrically well-wrought. - The words don't try to be flowery to impress you. They are what they are - and what they are is good.
    Ironically titled. - Sigh.

    All in all, it's a very powerful album, and some of the songs actually hold profound meaning for me in how I identified with them.

    So when I set out to listen to their self-titled album (or, in my iTunes, "Strata Proper"), I was excited to see where their sound had come from.

    I'd like to make a general note on finding new music here. I know that it's rull-big to be the first into a musician, but I honestly sometimes enjoy coming in on bands on their second or third album. Why? Because I find that examining their progression from the present to the past is a really great way to get to know a band. As they evolve, it tends to be the case that the band's music becomes more polished. It's here you can get hooked on the music and start to give the band thought. But the more intrigued you get, and the further back you go, the more you know about the energy of the band, what they're saying, how they're saying it, and how much you identify with them as a whole. You go from the polished, 'grown-up' presentation to the raw energy of the new group. I think that's the kind of thing that creates moments of 'finding my favorite band.' Which is why I'd like to take this moment to rally against timeline elitism. No matter when you started liking a band, the fact is that you like them. Sometimes, people need to learn about music in different ways. That's all I'm saying.

    Back to Strata (Proper? Improper?).

    The first thing I noticed is that this is more in the style of straight-up rock and roll. The guitar's nigh-on magical sound from End of the World is absent, but in its place is a sound that every aspiring rock star associates with "Oh lawsy, sweet riff." Strata, in their first full length, is the rock band every teenager wants to front. I also, interestingly enough, heard a melodies and sounds that reminded me of Incubus, which was definitely unexpected. There were a few tunes, as well, that sounded as if they had a Middle-Eastern influence (which, if it's the case - kudos, gentlemen, kudos) - Trust Kill Trust much?

    Something that I enjoyed on this album in particular was, again, Eric Victorino's heavenly vocal chords. In the recordings of his voice I'd been hearing by the time I listened to this CD, they were intensely used, but not in a raw, beat-up rock and roll way. I heard a voice rougher and a touch more vicious on these tracks, and it was definitely something that I enjoyed.

    Which is not to say that I don't enjoy him in his other songs. What I'm saying is simply - is there something this man's voice can't do? Good Lord.

    What is new about the world of Strata is this - in January, Eric Victorino peaceably left the band for other pursuits. With us Strata lovahs writhing in concern, the music split two ways - Strata is continuing on making music, and is apparently really excited and jived about their new singer. New music from this group of talented musicians and their new crooner is highly anticipated.

    Where did the good Sir Victorino go, however? A question to be answered after our next installment....


    CptFunk out.
  • Janelle Monáe (Metropolis: Suite One - The Chase)

    Mai 9 2008, 9h48

    I've decided to start writing about the music I've been getting into recently, especially this artist, because the second I read an article about her (serendipitously, in a year-old issue of Fader magazine, which I'd never heard of before) I knew that I had to get my hands on her music and check it out.

    And just as surely as I knew this upon reading about her, I loved her music upon the first listening.

    Janelle Monáe.

    Where. Do I. Begin.

    First off, let's examine why I, specifically, love this lady.

    My favorite things, musically, are a rocking melody, good lyrics, story concepts, dancibility, quality of voice, quality of instruments, etc. If you can throw in an element of musical theatre into a dance-rock song, and you have a strong voice - God help me. I will love you.

    And that's exactly what Janelle Monáe has done. I got ahold of Metropolis: Suite One - The Chase roughly twenty-four hours ago. I've been listening to little else since, which is impressive, as there are only three songs with singing vocals on them, and only five songs on the entire 'Suite.'

    (To my understanding, the 'concept CD' I'd read about is being released in roughly-EP-length albums called Suites that tell a different movement about the story of Cindy Mayweather, a singer-cyborg that falls in love with a human and is sentenced to death for it, hence the Chase in Suite One. Suite Two is purportedly to be released this year. Oh interwebz. I hope you're reliable this time around.)

    Monáe's voice itself slays me. She sounds at times saccharine sweet, but can switch at a moment's notice to a deeper, soulful keening. But the melodies along which it lilts and scratches and belts hit me even harder. Lyrically speaking, she has a knack for hitting powerful phrases in the midst of dance-tastic beats - "your freedom's in your mind/your freedom's in a bind," "while you're growing down, instead of growing up/will you be bold enough to reach for love," and "are we really living/or just walking dead, now?" being the most stand-out for me personally.

    Additionally, I love the concept of the music. I'm a fan of musical theatre, sci-fi, rock, and dance. So of COURSE I'm going to love a story about a cyborg who falls in love and flees death, set to a soundtrack of a Broadway-capable singer crooning a mixture of rock, dance, jazz, and hip-hop. And the intensity with which Monáe leaps into the story made me want to rub my hands together in hopeless glee and anticipation. The first track is what appears to be a radio broadcast in the world of the story, announcing the bounty hunt for Cindy Mayweather. Honestly, it reminded me of the introductory video from the movie Battle Royale, and I LOVED it. Rarely is a concept album so bold in its adherence to plot - musicians these days can throw together any lyrics and say it follows a story without releasing any of the ideas of that story to the fans in any way. Which is not to say that ambiguous lyrics don't have their place in keeping a concept album from being kitschy and unrelateable. But, in my opinion, Monáe takes the idea of a concept album to a place where the music is a tool for telling the story, instead of the story being a tool to create music, necessarily.

    I find it refreshing, and I'm very excited about where this could take other conceptual music.

    I dare you, You Dancing of Foot and Keeper of Beats Audience, to listen to Violet Stars Happy Hunting without wanting to rock out a couple embarrassing full-body slamming dance moves in front of your mirror at home. I dare you, Country Full of Aspiring Singers, to not wish you could pull off the belting chorus and sultry verses of Sincerely, Jane.

    I also challenge you to sit through the lengthy, yet catchy, Many Moons. I think it's telling that, in a nation of young listeners with a split-second attention span - pandered to by the very nature of the Suite-style release - that the real, declared 'single' off the album is one of the longer songs in the set.

    And it holds your attention. Even the outro, which is a device that tends to send me scurrying to the next song, is an intriguing melody that keeps you listening. And the instrumentals in Cybertronic Purgatory show skill in musicianship, not just vocals and lyrical prowess.

    Truly, Janelle Monáe is a talented young lady.

    Completely unrelated is the subject of her style, which I have to say, I love. Watching her perform on the videos I've been able to hastily scrounge from the internet, is highly gratifying. Her energy is evident, and the fearlessness with which she spits out the spoken-word parts of her song is impressive. And her outfits....oh, her outfits. The lady is seriously like an African American Mod-Katherine-Hepburn.

    I think with lead women like Janelle Monáe and Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes, we're definitely going to start seeing a new, more feminine, diverse, fierce, and stylin'-as-all-hell era of good, fun rock and dance music ushered in.

    Janelle, my newest musical darling - please keep in this vein of invention and radical creation. I'll be listening....and adoring....from afar.

    CptFunk out.