Archive for the ‘collaboration’ tag
One of the more beautiful aspects of the hip-hop world is how the music so easily lends itself to collaborations between artists. Georgia Anne Muldrow, one of the harder working singers today (she put out 8 albums in 6 years under her name alone) has teamed up with legendary producer Madlib to create Seeds, an 11-track album of epic proportions. The amount of quality music that these artists have put out in their respective careers is no secret. One look at Madlib’s list of collaborators and you’ll see names like J Dilla, Ghostface Killa, Erykah Badu and Mos Def. Needless to say, expectations are running a bit high for the album.
The title track, “Seeds” opens the album with a soulful sample of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes that transitions seamlessly into Muldrow’s dreamy layered vocal harmonies. The production of the track is excellent. Madlib manages to blend the two distinct sounds into one solid, coherent piece of music.
To put one label on the album would be to shoot yourself in the foot. Calling it hip-hop would work in a (very) general sense, but would be unfair to all of the influences and other musical ideas at play. In a single word, the music is eclectic. It combines experimental freeform singing with doses of fusion, soul and funk music on top of a beat produced from the tree of hip-hop. It is a heterogeneous work of art, that once seen altogether, makes sense.
I love Janelle Monae collaborations. This much is clear. That said, it’s been more than a year since The Archandroid came out. For the sake of aesthetics itself, she needs to release another album.
So I was understandably skeptical of her use of time when I heard her collaboration with Fun, on “We Are Young.” Of course, she and the boys from Fun proved me wrong – it’s an enjoyable, light track that her vocal presence only improves.
Roberts & Lords are a new addition to the growing Asthmatic Kitty catalog. According to released info, the origins of their debut Eponymous were couched in remote collaboration between Rafter Roberts and Simon Lord a la The Postal Service though via digital exchange (they found each other on MySpace, believe it or not). These indietronic kids have potential to score in the circuit lit up by other Sufjan et al sponsored efforts, but they’ve got work ahead of them.
Rafter Roberts clearly has a good set of pipes which echo a more chipper version of Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear. While sweetness adds charm to Lord’s vocals, the quality mars songs on the album that embrace it beyond the voice. In particular, “knots,” “oblique” and “purple doves” border on twee-levels of saccharine with their lovey-dovey lyrics and oooo’s. The act also indulges in too much near-instrumentalism: “bottom of the bottle” goes the route of unnecessary abrasiveness and beep arrhythmia while “menuhin” leans into soporific, water-dulled drumming.
But it’s not all bad. One thing the duo generally succeed at is integrating contrast into a few select tracks. The tribal hills and surfer rock valleys of “wild berries” entertain, and the sometimes Muse-esque march-worthy, sometimes strummingly reflective “we rise, we fall” get the listener thinking. Oppositely, “windwill” wins with its danceability and simple yet strong percussion. The best work on the album sits with “interior demon”, a funky guitar-driven song with Roberts unexpectedly spitting a lite rap. Still, those latter two songs are disappointingly paired with the finalities “spem” and “the same love,” which bring the album out with a sleepy whimper.
I suspect Roberts and Lord need to spend more time in the studio together, physically.
Musician and producer Damon Albarn has had a varied past couple years. He’s seen the end of the Gorillaz franchise, he’s recorded, mixed, and produced an impromptu album – The Fall - entirely on the fly while touring the US, all using an iPad. The result was uneven, but compelling – certainly a worthwhile experiment in narrative LP form. He’s just completed, with director Rufus Norris, an English language opera entitled Doctor Dee about John Dee, Elizabeth I’s adviser, scientist, and purported magician. His orchestrations betray what seems to be an emerging career arc – the use of instrumentation from several continents. Its main players include the kora, a Malian string instrument most notably played by Toumani Diabate, harmonium, viol, theorbo, organ, drum set, and acoustic guitar. The Guardian called it ”elegant and full of a sense of warmth and intimacy.”
Now he’s focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s planning a visit there to “play his part in a project in which DJs and producers will record and sample Congolese music, and aim to complete a record in not much more than a week.” The album will be an Oxfam benefit, and will include such artists as Actress, Jniero Jarel, Dan the Automator, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kwes, Marc Antoine, and Jo Gunton. I find this beyond exciting. Albarn has always shown a willingness to explore new mixtures of genre and sound. He’s an ideal man to head such a collaboration. I can’t wait to see what kind of sounds the Congolese musicians he works with have to offer, and what the final product will be like. Here’s a taste of some of the music that this is coming from:
This artist, Basokin, plays what is known in the Congo as “tradi-moderne” music and are primarily comprised of musicians who moved to Kinshasa from the country. The style draws heavily from traditional trance music. “Mulume” has an entirely unique sound:
“Bobby In Pheonix” was one of the best off The Fall - one of Albarn’s most intimate songs:
Marc Antoine, a Haitian electronic artist who’s collaborating on the project, adds another dimension:
Fitiri by Marc Antoine
And here’s a collaboration between Albarn, Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator, the last of whom will be coming along for the ride.