Listening Post #35

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Monday 4th December 2017

1 + 2) A Tribe Called Quest – Dis Generation and Mobius

Yes, this album came out almost a year ago, but hear me out on this. This week came with the announcement of the 60th Grammy Nominees. And usually this’ll be fine – popular artists will win, they’ll all give each other a pat on the back for another successful year and then they’ll call it a day. I’m usually fine with many fantastic albums missing the spotlight, but I think this is too big of a snub to ignore.

Despite featuring some fantastic choices (all 5 rap albums are fantastic), the fact that A Tribe Called Quest didn’t make the cut for Best Rap Album is shocking. After so many years of absence, the Tribe came back with a record that could match their timeless classics, a record that pleased critics, hardcore fans, and casual listeners alike, a record that somehow brought the early 90s into 2016 without sounding slightly dated. And it wasn’t even considered the best rap album, let alone best album overall. As Q-Tip elegantly put it, “F*** Da Grammys!”.

So I’d like to quickly kick off this week with two of my favourite tracks from Tribe’s LP, Dis Generation and Mobius.  Dis Generation is perhaps the more ‘mainstream’ of the pair, featuring a jazzy low-key beat reminiscent of Tribe’s classics. The Tribe shuffle in and out of the track, with Q-Tip, Phife and Jarobi delivering quick-witted bars alongside long-time collaborator Busta Rhymes. The track is catchy, funky and undeniably fun – you can’t help but smile and bump your head.

The second of the two, Mobius, begins in a slow manner, featuring a simple beat and conversational flow from Consequence. It doesn’t truly kick off until halfway through, where an amazingly unique rising beat-shift switches the song’s pattern, throwing the song into a funkier style. If this wasn’t enough, Busta Rhymes soon appears, bringing an explosive and lethal verse – “Peep the way this vibe conflict with they real lives / Fanatic s***, we go bizarre / Bad news for n****s as I go emphatical, radical / National animal rulin’ like a czar.” Whatever you’re doing this week, give Tribe a spin. You won’t regret it.

 

3) Miguel – Banana Clip

Miguel is a master of slightly subversive pop. For every master there’s a masterclass: Banana Clip, from his latest LP War & Leisure, is exactly that.  Featuring a series of funk-heavy instruments and pads, the track somehow revives a dreamy summer atmosphere mid-way through December. Miguel here is confident, sprinkling in laughter amidst his admirable singing talents. What is most impressive, however, is the layering that Miguel brings to the track. At every stage, Banana Clip is alive and colourful – various sounds flutter in and out of the jam as it bounces along. I’d call this the much-belated song of the summer.

 

4) Yasuaki Shimizu – Yume Dewa

This one’s a bit of a hidden gem. This week Yasuaki Shimizu’s 1984 LP Kakashi was reissued onto vinyl, and it sounds as glorious as ever. Filling the same sort of niche as Talking Heads, the Japanese producer/saxophonist creates strange, alluring music with suave saxophones and joyous strings. Whilst mainly known for his role in quintet Yasuaki Shimizu and the Saxophonettes, his solo work has some fantastic moments. Yume Dewa is a personal favourite: starting with a set of strange, off-kilter saxophone notes, it quickly grows into a song of its own. The faint vocals fade in and out, accompanied with a shuffling set of hi-hats to keep the tempo. This is where the off-kilter notes are put into place, grounded by a gradually growing saxophone chorus as the song reaches its peak, cymbals flaring. At its end, the record is thoroughly epic – you’ve reached the peak of the mountain, and the valleys begin to unfurl into your vision.

 

5) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Loyalty

Gizzard started with one mission in 2017 – to release five albums. Polygondwanaland marks the fourth. Somehow, the album is still incredibly impressive – the band delve into new creative directions, even within a limited timeframe. Whilst I’m yet to fully digest Polygondwanaland, there are some immediate highlights. Loyalty is one such track, beginning with a strange Tron-esque synth that steadily grows in power. At its peak, it transfers over to Gizzard, who deliver some fantastic riffs alongside a slowly-developing story. The track’s lyricism is reminiscent of Kanye’s iconic I Am A God, with the narrator describing himself as a god. Unlike Kanye’s glory, this God quickly falls to violence as his subjects betray him –  the track is rounded out with the brutal “I will draw and quarter all their children / Just to prove I’m not a coward.” Well worth a listen.