P2DaHI and The Amature: Whatupdoe From Blat! Review

When I interviewed James “P2DaHI” Gardin and Wayne “The Amature” Weigel for Lansingmusic.tv, I learned a lot about how the EP, Whatupdoe From Blat!, came together musically and how the personalities of P2Dahi and The Amature melted and melded together to create something entirely fresh on the local scene. Produced by DJ Sabzi of Seattle’s Blue Scholars, the beats are laid back and the deliveries of the rhymes are the same.

End of May instills the laid back style that permeates the EP as a whole. The hand percussion beats and synths get you moving and then the raps bring the song into full speed. As Amature and P2DaHI wrap their rhymes around your ears, the aforementioned synths are sparse, letting the vocal abilities of the two shine. The rhymes themselves are quirky and yet powerful in their delivery. Mellow, laid back rhymes about Vonage and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception may seem out of place but after a few listens, it all makes sense.

I have already reviewed the next song, Passports, but I think I’ll add a few notes here. Everything about the song feels fresh and genuine. Although the song contains a message to the listener about traveling and experiencing the world, it’s not done in a way that seems pretentious. Instead, it seems to add to the “Summer” theme of having a good time and living life while the Summer is hot.

#TrendingTopic is probably the most musically diverse song in the set. From a techno-inspired intro things slow down to a repeating realm of bass drums and droning keys swirling around the quick, lightning rhymes. References like The World Cup, Wikipedia, Grease, and Twitter sprinkle the  looping beats. The end contains a not-so-subtle call for people to follow P2DaHI and The Amature on Twitter. Some may think it’s pretentious but again, it adds to fun vibes they want the songs to contain.

We take a slower, R&B tinged turn with I’ll Be Waiting. The singing chorus is the most vocally diverse part of the whole EP. No Autotune to is be found here, which bucks the current mainstream rap trend. The vocal, at first, may put some off at first. You may be asking why they didn’t use Autotune, but this reviewer likes the fact they didn’t use it and wanted to take a chance. A ballad-esque song is a good thing every now and then. I approve.

The next song, about a friend of the group coming back to town, Nate’s Back In Town (Thursday Night), is the most infectious song here. The chorus will have you singing along, I guarantee it. The lyrics are about a party and the goings on like meeting new friends and seeing old ones; a perfect Summer theme. The beat is a click-clack dance beat that lays back and lets the vocals shine. This is again a theme of Sabzi’s production.

The last song, Drinkin’ Outta Cups, is the musical equivalent of a Hawaii dream vacation. Although it’s about the end of Summer and all the things that go with it, the song actually makes you want to hear more. The rhymes talk about the rappers’ respective Summer times like partying and writing songs. “I don’t want this to be the end of the time we get to spend/ So tell when I ever get to see you again”. A perfect ending to the Summer and the best beginning to new adventures.

This EP as a whole is a great listen end to end. From Sabzi’s production to the rhymes from P2DaHI and The Amature, the Summer will never end as long as you have Whatupdoe From Blat! in your collection.

Oh My God: “The Night Undoes the Work of the Day” Review

Lansingmusic.tv will be interviewing Oh My God before their show at Mac’s Bar on Friday September 24,2010. In preparation for the interview and the great show that will follow, I figure that it would be good if I did a review of their newest record “The Night Undoes the Work of the Day” from Split Red Records. Here we go…

First off, let me get my preconceived notions out in the open. When I first read about them, they were described as “Art Rock”, which these days can mean any number of things. I was expecting something like King Crimson or the like. What I got was something completely different and I’m happy my preconceived notions were thrown out the window.  The first song, My Own Adventure, has a very catchy and danceable back beat. The pianos and the vocals of Billy O’Neill make the song feel very light-hearted and overall an easy listen. There are hints of synths here and there but the overall the song pretty much plays it safe.

My Prayer has a very heartfelt vocal and the chorus, although short, includes handclaps that give the song a fun, party vibe. Guitars, which have only been heard in OMG’s music since 2008′s “Fools Want Noise!”, are low in the mix but add depth to the song and the band’s overall sound. Pianos are consistent theme on this particular record. Bring Yourself includes a dark, almost sad piano melody. A line that adds to the darker theme is “nothing gets any easier”. It actually is almost uplifting in its sadness. Their sound is even more layered than the previous song as strings and fuzzed out synths push the song along and add depth too.

Baby There’s Nothin’ Wrong (You Just Gotta Go To Work) as a lyric, is repeated over and over almost to the point of beating a dead horse. It is repetitive and indulgent. For it’s shortcomings however, the vocal line in question is very catchy and varying synths sprinkle the song. If that line wasn’t repeated so much, it might grow on me, but it’s just there too much. The next song, I Don’t Think It’s So Funny (how time slips away), is a rebound however. It is the most experimental song on the record. All kinds of obscure sounds and guitars push the song from the intro to the verse. Then the verse scales all of that back as a slide, bass and harmony vocals dominate. The bridge does much of the same but instead of a slide guitar, piano takes its place. The vocals themselves are soothing and lighthearted; almost ballad-like. The end of the song goes into full-on rocking mode with guitars blaring as synths drone about.

The rocking continues with One Thing Leads to Another. The fast drum pace and quick guitar licks are almost bluesy. Verse breakdowns bring back more experimental synths then the guitar rocking continues. This is by far the best song on the record if you are looking for a rocker. Baby, Dream is full of R&B vibes. The sultry vocal style and the continuous piano chords add a danceable pace and feel. The song as a whole has an upswing that is undeniable and unmistakable. It will get you dancing, I guarantee it.

My Juliet is a piano ballad with only some bits of bass and synth laid in. The vocal takes centerstage. It is very heartwrenching and the instrumentation helps reflect that. I Dare You to Love Me picks the pace back up. Guitars dominate and the drums are extremely catchy. Pianos and vocal melodies coat the song over its hard exterior. The bridge is very minimal and then it pulls you back in with the chorus. For all the build of the song, it ends abruptly. I felt it could have lasted a little longer.

Strangers On A Train is the last and longest song on the record, clocking in at over six minutes. The beat is the coolest thing about the song. As a piano arpeggio plays throughout, a beat almost akin to Trip-Hop pulsates. It is experimental in its pop sensibilities. As the song continues, it gets more and more minimal to the point where only sparse, intricate synths layer throughout and a cymbal wash are the only things left. A dark, and yet again, uplifting synth ends the record.

“Dark, yet uplifting” seems to be the thing I clinged to most when reviewing this record. The band has reportedly been through some troubling times but as this record shows, they are dealing with their personal issues well. Music (and art in general) can be a window into the life of a person or people at a particular time and this record is just such the case. The music is filled with interesting sounds and rhythms. The vocals and melodies are a catchy, soothing listen. Although sometimes lines are repeated too much, making them less interesting and listenable. This record, overall, is a great mix of piano-driven ballads and up tempo rocking that you should pick up.

Visit http://ohmygodmusic.com for info. on their current tour and their current CD, “The Night Undoes the Work of the Day”. Be sure to check out Lansingmusic.tv’s interview with Oh My God when it gets done.

The Fuzz reunite on Saturday 9/11 at The Loft

Since Lansing’s The Fuzz broke up in 2005, people have been wanting to see The Fuzz play at least one more show. Now, you will get the chance. The Fuzz will be playing this Saturday at The Loft with Elliot Street Lunatic, Paradisiac, Audrey and Jetpack On!. Daniel Veale, guitarist and vocalist of The Fuzz, says that he “has always wanted another Fuzz show” and that the band “split up kind of abruptly and we never got a proper farewell show”.

Before this abrupt breakup, The Fuzz were one of best up-and-coming bands out of Lansing. Their two full length LPs, Remember to Forget and Noise Destroyers, were critically acclaimed by sites like Allmusic.com. Veale says that Noise Destroyers “stands up as an album”. The band’s layered instrumentation was often performed live with ease. Veale says “There are at least a billion keyboard tracks on that record and we still manage to pull it off live”. He also attributes their sound to synthesizer player Nathan Brown’s production, calling him “a studio genius”.

This cohesiveness within The Fuzz as a band and their music spread to other bands and projects later on. When The Fuzz broke up, Veale moved on to form the band Paradisiac, which is still active. Veale also says that The Fuzz’s other members, Brown, Brandon Raudebaugh (bass) and Brandon Mead (drums) have contributed to other local bands like The Pusherz, Wanderjahr and The Peddlers.

As for more from The Fuzz, Veale says that a full-blown Fuzz reunion is unlikely but other plans could be afoot. “Recording the songs we never got around to recording is something we have recently talked about and is highly probable” he said. Veale is certain of one thing: “I’m pretty sure all four of us will continue to make weird, loud music for quite some time”.

  • Be sure to see The Fuzz, Elliot Street Lunatic, Audrey and Jetpack On! at The Loft this Saturday, 9/11/10 at 8pm. Tickets are as follows: $5 in advance, $6 for 21+, $10 for 18+

P2daHI and The Amature Interview

Check out our interview with Lansing’s own The Amature and P2daHI.
Watch the videos, then check them out here:

http://www.myspace.com/p2dahi
http://p2dahi.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/p2dahi

http://www.myspace.com/theamaturemusic1
http://twitter.com/theamature

Christmas in September: Johnny Unicorn at Mac’s Bar Review

Christmas definitely came early for those who saw Johnny Unicorn‘s set at Mac’s Bar on Friday September 3rd. Unicorn, who released Sweet Edith Manton this Summer, came to Mac’s Bar on his first national tour that started earlier this year. What the audience got were the gifts of a good time, funny moments and rocking music from Good Old Johnny Unicorn.

Accompanied only by his guitar and a programmed synth, his set started off with some improvisation, which is indicative of his progressive rock roots. He then went straight into the ballad, The River Grand. This showcased his incredible singing talent and catchy songwriting side. The melody itself as well as the knife-cuttingly high notes he hits help it stay in your head and keep you into the song. Johnny is also capable of melting faces with his rock music too. Science, a new song from Manton, was driven by his pulsating guitar lines and the build up, breakdown style of the verses. The end of  the song is where the heaviness kicks in and then, it’s over in a flash. Quick and rocking, a good combination.

Going from rocking to another ballad like White Man, Red Hand may seem like a momentum killer but with Johnny, he keeps the audience in the palm of his hand. Again, his singing ability is on display and that’s what is captivating about his performance. He can substitute a rocking guitar line with his voice yet still keep the same attention of the audience. The Johnny Unicorn experience continued with yet another style change into rap music with the song Bull Crap. As I was listening, it was hard to accurately pick out what he was saying; only small words and phrases leaked out. He ran circles around me with his faster-than-a-jack-rabbit wordplay and lyricism. He also demonstrated his incredible talent to get the audience involved in the songs by getting the crowd to chant along to the chorus of “Bull Crap!”. I knew before I had ever seen him play live that he was something special, but it was this song that confirmed it.

The next song, Riverman, brought everyone back to the 1980s (even if they weren’t alive then). Marching band-esque horn synths jammed along as Unicorn sings quirky lines like “put your lips inside me for your health”. Weird Al is a stated influence of Unicorn’s and this song shows that. Aware of the Bear takes another musical turn, this time into country music. As with his rapping and ballads, he excels at this style as well. Midway through the song he got the crowd to hold a multitude of notes (none of which I can name) and the crowd did surprisingly well.

After this musical lesson from Professor Unicorn, the set ended with a song certainly befitting the month of September, I Can’t Believe It’s Christmas. Regardless of the month, the song was a great cap to the show. His set included everything from rock, rap and country to the crowd chanting along and singing. This show was probably the best, most enjoyable and engrossing show I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t had the chance to see him play, do yourself a favor and go see him. You won’t regret it.

Visit his website, johnnyunicorn.com, for the remaining tour dates on this current tour. For more Johnny Unicorn music, visit http://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/ for free downloads.

Setlist:

The River Grand
Science
White Man Red Hand
Bullcrap
Riverman
Aware of the Bear
A Letter from the Patriarchy
I Can’t Believe it’s Christmas

Cavalcade bring about new sounds on “Dear Entrails”

Lansing’s favorite sons of metal, Cavalcade, are back with a new record entitled “Dear Entrails”. Earlier this month the band released a preview of the new record with three new songs, “Cancer Fantasy”, “Agents of Bolivian” and “Big Tsack of Bspiders”, available for free download through their myspace page. Cale Sauter (guitar/melodica) says, via email, that musically the band wanted to challenge themselves in new ways. About the song “Big Tsack of Bspiders”, he says “Sometimes our writing process is borne out of challenging ourselves in a way where someone will bring in something dance-able like that and then we challenge ourselves to try to make it heavy, or someone will bring in something really dirty and dissonant and we’ll challenge ourselves to find a way to make it move”.

Although dance-able rhythms are seeping into Cavalcade’s sound, their core sound of brutal blast beats, Black Metal rasps and aggressive guitars are still there and always will be. Sauter says the Black Metal vocals are the key to a similar sound, yet being able to provide for experimentation. “Either way, Zak’s invariable vocal style, while perhaps alienating some, allows us the freedom to write all kinds of different music without sounding like six different bands. His rasp is the constant that keeps it cohesive” Sauter said.

The rasps may keep the sound cohesive, but the lyrics in which the rasps speak are very different than the loose serial killer concept of “Into Bolivian”. To bring about new lyrics, Sauter and Craig Horky (bass) would volley absurd song title back and forth and they would write lyrics as each new title came to mind. Failure is a major theme here, says Horky. “We had a loose theme of failure this time around…the songs are more personal and have more meaning” he said.

Since the release of their debut “Into Bolivian”, the band has played shows with Sludge Metal supergroup Down, which features Phil Anselmo of Pantera fame as well as Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod. Cavalcade’s other axeman, Brad vanStaveren, says that these shows had a particular effect on his musical output, not just “Dear Entrails”. He says, “the only thing I can mention really in reference to Eyehategod is that for me personally, (they have) always been a reference point in this band in terms of dissonance, ugliness, riffs, and controlled chaos through distortion.”

Indeed, “Dear Entrails” expands on the ideas of “controlled chaos through distortion”. The song “Cancer Fantasy” includes clean guitar parts, a rarity in the band’s catalog. Also, the song features female backing vocals by Ms. Frankie Knoch, singer in local band The Break-Ups. Another guest on this record is Mike Reed of Small Brown Bike. Sauter thought Reed should contribute when both he and Horky could hear Reed signing the chorus in their heads and asked Reed if he wanted to add his stamp to the song. These new editions help the band expand their musical vocabulary, yet maintain a certain aspect on their music that is easily recognizable.

Visit myspace.com/cavalfuck for more information on the band’s new record “Dear Entrails” including a free download of three of the new songs. Check them out this Wednesday August 11 at 9pm at Mac’s Bar. Also, see them on with Tombs at Mac’s Bar on August 21st at 9pm.

Review: The Plurals – “Whatevers Forever”

This record is like Superman. Yes, Superman. In the way he embodies everything ideal about America and its greatness, “Whatever’s Forever” embodies everything ideal and great about ’80s and ’90s Alternative Rock. Superman and Alternative Rock…I never thought those two things would be able to be compared. But they did and there’s nothing you can do about! Onto the review….

“Whatevers Forever” by The Plurals  is full of pastiches and indulgences into the many different styles of Alternative Rock that emerged during the ’80s and ’90s. The band name checks Alternative Rock trailblazers Nirvana, Husker Du and The Pixies (among other groups) as influences on their sound and it shows. This is not a bad thing, however, as although you and I may easily recognize these influences, the sound is given The Pluralization treatment (ha!) by mixing the talents of Nicholas Richard (bass/vocals), Tommy McCord (guitar/vocals) and Hattie Danby (drums/vocals) into something purely Plurals.

The opener, “Plurality”, is driven by Danby’s pounding drum rhythm and the undeniably catchy harmonies of Danby and McCord. The crunching, punchy guitars add an extra layer to the already in-your-face arrangement. McCord’s lead vocals are hoarse and loud and only get more raucous as the song progresses, ending with him screaming like a mad man. The song ends with McCord screaming the lines “I only wanna be true because I love you” over and over, almost sounding like he’d blow his voice out at any moment.

“Sleepy Girl”, the second stop on the journey, holds up the Pixies at the bank of Quiet-Loud and reaps the rewards of a great song (and no jail time). During the verses, Richard’s vocals are in the call-and-response style with a “yeah?” bring about an almost creepy feeling to the song’s sparse verse arrangement of drums and a clean guitar. As the chorus explodes, so does everything else. The guitars come out of their cages and the vocals are soaring high….then only to come floating back down again quietly, then get pushed back up again….you get the idea. It’s like a roller coaster of destruction and reconstruction but it’s actually a song and not a roller coaster.

The next song, “Medic” continues to fine tune the previously established quiet-loud idea heard so far. However, where other bands are continually beating this long-dead horse, it feels refreshing, mainly due to Danby’s lead vocals. The intro feels pulled from the playbook of Husker Du or Nirvana, being loud and heavy yet not necessarily in-your-face. You know that a quieter section is on the horizon.  Everything about the song is solid yet it doesn’t have the catchy qualities of the earlier songs.

Things take a turn down the wrong back road with “FTS (Idekwacs)”. McCord and Richard’s anguished screams swarm at you like killer bees and the instrumentation stings you some more with all the band’s gear taking on lives of their own with corrosive intensity. The only thing about the song that saves it from being a bees nest of noise are Danby’s backing vocals and those are even hard to spot among the chaos. Not my favorite song on the record but it’s short so that gives it some points on the board.

We get back on track with “All That You’ll Be”. Danby’s vocal talents are on display as she hits many different ranges and notes that had not previously been displayed. Her vocal talents help the song become a highlight on the record. Instrument-wise, acoustic guitars lead the way, with electric guitars producing feedback and chiming in here and there. The bass has mostly the same role, but it also provides melody and structure among the low-in-the-mix swathing guitars.

“Singalong” makes you do exactly that. With an instantly hummable intro, it sucks you in and you begin to sing along. Its done its job. Then as McCord sings over the guitar-producing melody, it pulls you in even further. Once the chorus hits, you know that you’ll be singing along no matter what. The bridge brings back the vocalized intro, then comes the guitar solo. Structure-wise, it’s pretty standard but it does its job to get you listening and humming along.

We almost get lost again with the song “Grumpy Willy” but we manage to stay on track somehow. Drawing heavily on the trademark melodic noise of Sonic Youth, the yelling of Hardcore Punk and the melody of Husker Du, the band delves into new sound territory on the record. McCord brings about a sense of normalcy with his short, quiet verse parts and light backing vocals. With about a minute to go, all hell breaks loose as McCord’s quiet verse is laid over top of Richard’s disturbed screams and not to mention the noisy, anything-goes guitar. The song, with all its chaos, ends not with a bang but with a slow, whimpering fade out.

With ‘Shy”, I feel like it’s the same road traveled as “All That You’ll Be” but with McCord taking over lead vocal duties instead of Danby. However, this doesn’t make the song any less great. In fact, it’s the best on the record. Something about it just gives me chills when I listen to it and I’m not sure why. As the pulsing acoustic guitar line keeps you drawn to the song, McCord calmly and serenely sings lines like “I smile the kind of smile distant cousins share at a funeral”. The song is very somber and almost empowering in its tone of grief. Yet, it isn’t a sad grief, more like “a new beginning”-feel to it. The song ends with feedback from an electric guitar. It is a subtle way to end such an emotional song.

“Sweet Shallow Malossy Our House Is Whatever” probably my least favorite song. The song travels through many different styles, from a stripped down intro and verses, to a slightly louder middle section then to a full-blown guitar freakout towards the middle and to the end. Many styles are covered in the space of seven minutes and they are all ones that have been covered better elsewhere on the record. From the quieter sections to the hell raising loud noise, it all seems duplicated. The song as a whole has its moments but each section feels separated and distinct.

Finally we’ve come back to Pluralsville with the end of the record in “Hanging Up”. Over a lone guitar, McCord recycles another vocal melody from “Medic”. He sings with Danby backing “And when you get all settled in, don’t count on me to still be waiting when you call, when you call”. Once this ends with a loud guitar chord blast, a new section begins with Richard yelling over an almost funky beat. This ends just as quickly and the record as a whole comes to a close.

Overall this record is something that any fan of Nirvana, The Pixies or lesser known bands like Husker Du and The Minutemen can get behind. Every style of Alternative Rock is covered here and done well. Even the songs that lack in some areas, excel in others. There is something that anyone can pick out and like. My personal favorite songs are “Plurality” and “Shy”. I like the record as a whole but, like everyone else, there are songs that stand out.

Visit The Plurals on Facebook and on myspace at myspace.com/thepluralsrock

The Plurals on Lansingmusic.tv: \”Squagel\”

Mark Kroos Interview

Our interview with guitarist Mark Kroos is now available:

P2Dahi and The Amature “Passports” Single Review

Although the whole “Whatupdoe” EP doesn’t drop until next week I felt it would be good to do a review of the lone single “Passports” in anticipation for said EP. Lansing rappers James “Philthy” Gardin (known here as P2Dahi) and Wayne “The Amature” Weigel sound off on those who “never left home” by saying that “you need to get some stamps on your passport”. This call to get others to explore the world is backed by a pumping bass drum and a jazzy guitar loop throughout. This sparse production helps push the lyrics and message above the music but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. The jazzy guitar gives the song a local, homely feel that is welcomed in a hip-hop world that is filled with trite, unimaginative beats that isolate the listener.

The lyrics are very autobiographical. Wayne Weigel, AKA The Amature, strings bits about going to war, his mix race parents and being an “army brat”. His lyrical flow is very smooth and quick yet easy to understand…you can almost sing along with him. This lyrical approach and mid-tempo flow make the song catchy and  infectious. If these traits are any indication of the whole EP, I can’t wait to hear the rest.

Download the song “Passports” here:

http://usershare.net/ggiqr9pfdgtk

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