Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly feature, Sound Off, in which Jason P. Woodbury is joined by a different guest each week to listen to and discuss three tracks from local Phoenix artists. If you would like your songs to be considered for future Sound Off columns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes you have to kill two birds with one stone. I desperately needed to make it in to Ash Avenue Comics to pick up the conclusion of Uncanny X-Force's "Dark Angel" saga and the latest installment of Grant Morrison's socialist take on Superman, and I needed to lock down a guest for this week's edition of Sound Off. Those who browse the racks at Ash Ave (located in the same quadrant as Otto's Pizza, Cartel Coffee, Wet Paint Art Supply, and a stones toss from Casey Moore's) know that owner Drew Sully is just as apt to riff on the latest underground hip-hop as he is to recommend Brian Azzarello's take on Wonder Woman or riff on gentrification (that is, very likely).
Sully was joined in our discussion of three local tracks from electronic artist Galapagos, rapper Faces, and heavy rockers Drainbow by Ash Ave employee Adrienne Osuch, who was natural sporting t-shirt with an unreadable black metal band logo.
Galapagos is the electronic pop project of 18-year-old Phoenician Jacob McNaughton. His songs have been attracting the attention of national blogs like The Juke and the now defunct-Pitchfork side project Altered Zones.
Listen to Galapagos' "New Rendition" on Tumblr. The song was recently removed from SoundCloud. It features samples of Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Ben Folds. His BandCamp page features four releases. Drew Sully: [Listening to intro] Hm. Reminds me of Prefuse 73.
Up on the Sun: What do you think about sped-up Ben Folds samples?
Sully: Congratulations. You got us to listen to Ben Folds.
Adrienne Osuch: It's not bad. I really like Nicki Minaj. I don't always like the way they manipulate her voice -- they do it a lot. It really only worked on "Monster." But this is pretty good. Do you think its weird that underground artists like Galapagos are appropriating mainstream sounds this way?
Sully: Sometimes I feel like [indie fans and press] are like, "Okay, we can only like 10 hip-hop artists. Who are they? We love Drake. We love Childish Gambino." You know, I posted something on Facebook about the whole Queensbridge era, and I mentioned Headrush Napoleon. Childish Gambino would be a bad name, but then I read that Donald Glover got it from a Wu Tang Name Generator. There were so many amazing names. Tragedy Khadafi. Hussein Fatal.
I know what you mean, there's always a few rappers that hipsters get into. It's all very dilettantish. I'm guilty of it, too.
Osuch: People want something they can relate to, they want lyrical content that makes sense to them.
Sully: But at the same time, I think the main culprit is Clipse, and the indie acceptance of crack rap.
Osuch: Hey, I like Clipse.
I like Clipse, too.
Sully: I guess this is more electronic than rap, and we should be talking about mashup artists, like Girl Talk or A-Track. Even the Grey Album. It's like, something about KRS-1 with a Hall and Oates sample under it makes kids want to get down.
Osuch: Like Danger Doom -- MF Doom, Danger Mouse and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Who loves Aqua Teen? Nerds, hipsters. Sully: This is pretty good. It's really a shame that there isn't a night around town for bedroom dudes like this...
Osuch: Yeah, big ups to Galapagos.
Faces is the nom-de-rap of Kasey Karrer, a San Diego native who now lives in Avondale, Arizona (see our review of his performance last night at Rogue Bar here). He recently released the Yawning Boy EP. For more information, visit his SoundCloud page.
Sully: [During intro] Gravediggaz!
Osuch: I'm not feeling the lyrics.
Sully: It reminds me of a different time. It is possible that this guy could have been really big ten years ago? It reminds me of The Grouch, like Fuck the Dumb.
Osuch: Yeah, it reminds me of Rhymesayers. I'm really young, but it reminds me of that.
I like it. It's got kind of an avant-rap feel, like something Anticon would put out. But he's really, really young looking. It's like a Ben Folds lyric: "You get nostalgic about the last ten years before the last ten years have past."
Sully: More Ben Folds? [laughs]
The next one is just a drone metal cover of "Brick."
Sully: This is pretty good. You know, if you're doing hip-hop, especially locally, it has to be your passion. Almost your hobby. It's not a job. It's harder to imagine making money off it. I have a friend, and his band played on Jimmy Kimmel, and that guy works a 9-5 job, you know? And that's L.A. This is Phoenix.
I like it though. People are starting to notice his EP around town. There's a Flying Lotus track he raps over. It's great. Sully: The thing is, I wish there were more blogs and podcasts around here focusing on that kind of thing.
Yeah, the most independent radio station in town, KWSS, doesn't really play much hip-hop.
Sully: I was a guest on "On the Flipside" on The Blaze, with DJ Catalyst, and it's awesome. He has people like Dumper or Jess from Wet Paint. It's awesome, but you can't hear the Blaze anywhere.
Osuch: I've only lived here a year. I don't even know what stations are in my car. I listen to KJZZ.
Sully: You know the best format conversion? KYOT. I think it's robo-jocked, which sucks, but it's awesome now. They'll play Parliament, Bobby Womack. It went from this horrible elevator muzak to this awesome stuff. And no one complained. I think it's because dentists and doctors' offices all went to satellite radio. Anyway, we should have saved our hip-hop discussion for this song, not that first cat.
Drainbow is a post-rock/drone outfit from Phoenix, Arizona. A debut, self-tilted EP was released digitally last September. A cassette tape release show is scheduled for Saturday, January 14 at The Trunk Space. Osuch: Drainbow! I love these guys.
Sully: Full disclosure: she knows these guys. [Laughs] Osuch: I love droney, ambient music. I love the way it goes from one musical moment to another, and I really like seeing it live. It's entertaining to watch someone fiddle with knobs on a pedal. They are really good live.
Sully: I used to be into hardcore, and I sort of wandered into hip-hop pretty heavy after that. But someone showed me Pelican, and I liked it. Not that these guys sound like Pelican. It's not much of a comparison to make.
I love the way there's only a couple things going on, and the minimal nature of the song forces you to hear these little things. The way the feedback harmonies with the fuzz and distortion. I'm really into this band. They are releasing a cassette tape this week.
Osuch: Oh yes, the cassette tape resurgence.
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Sully: Are 8-tracks next? Yeah, I like this kind of stuff. Kind of reminds me of Tortoise, too.
There's certainly a post-rock feel. Osuch: And I love the way the breakdown actually breaks down as it ends. Big ups to Drainbow, too.