You can hear Tricky's distinct vocal haze on one track ("Paranoid Thugism") of Genaside II's most recent effort, Ad Finite, and the album was picked up by Tricky's label, Durban Poison, after being refused by "the majors." The Tricky connection is a good reference point, but don't be too fooled by it. Genaside has been, by different forces, proclaimed the originator of both Big Beat and Jungle dance music styles and, with a broad stroke and even broader scope, it doesn't sound like he's ready to stop there.
While Genaside is also clearly a Hip Hop disciple, the soundscapes on Ad Finite toy with seemingly whatever kind of musical style pops into the aural artiste's head. Opening track, "The Genaside Will Not Be Televised," paraphrases Gil Scott Heron, buoyed by a thick break beat, and tracks like "50,000 What's" and "Mr. Maniac" mix Hip Hop and Funk rhythms with ambient textures and almost Jazz-like electro-noodling. The most startling experiment comes with the title track, as Genaside allows a straight operatic piece to build while gradually throwing funky pixie dust into the mix.
Few could pull that off without sounding completely daft, but Genaside manages to make it sound beautiful, inventive and, most surprisingly of all, perfectly natural.
Tricky's most recent effort, Juxtapose, on which he's joined by Hip Hop heavyweights DJ Muggs (Cypress Hill) and Grease (producer to DMX and Ruff Ryders), is also one of the year's most impressive studio-as-an-instrument efforts, and Tricky's hypnotic, almost ritualistic live show, is certainly the main reason to check this show. Just don't sleep on the opener.
At Annie's with Stroke.
New Zealand-born, New York-based Julia Darling is the rare breed of Pop performer who can use complex arrangements and unique writing ticks and still make a song sound direct and simple. That subtly is just one of the impressive things about the singer/songwriter's debut album, Figure 8 (Wind-Up Records).
On first listen, it's easy to let out the cynical inner Rock Crit in all of us and dismiss Darling as the next in a long line of girly-voiced Pop tarts, from Juliana Hatfield through Heather Nova and beyond. But listen closer and you'll hear an artistic sophistication that incorporates an almost Classical sense of structure. "Grace" starts with a slinking, slow burn that filters into a tense, languid build, rising like an orchestral crescendo. Elsewhere, the lush strings and chirping keyboards of the haunted "26/23" could have been taken from an OK Computer outtake, though Darling's vocals give it a more grounded, emotive effect than Radiohead may have. Granted, there are a couple tracks ("My Inanimate Friend," "Bulletproof Belief") that pander a little more to a commercial audience, though even those songs get exonerated once taken in context of the entire album. Darling's grasp on song dynamics is nearly peerless for a modern Rock performer, especially in this era of soft-verse/loud-chorus overkill (thanks Mr. Cobain). Figure 8 is a sweeping, spine-tingling album that proves Darling's immense capabilities for cerebral Pop music. A true gem.
At Jillian's with Squeeze.
Fans of The String Cheese Incident probably already know that the band's most recent effort is 'Round The Wheel on SCI Fidelity Records (the group's own label). And they probably also know that to truly experience the band is to catch them playing one of their notorious three-hour shows.
The band has developed a strong grassroots following nationwide with their Bluegrass-based, Rock and Roots influenced sound. The band is big on improvisation, fitting for both a band steeped in Bluegrass and also jammy freeform Rock & Roll. The group recently headlined the giant Bluegrass fest in Telluride, a sure sign that Bluegrass purists are warming up to the band. And they should. If Jam Rock fans can cozy up to Bluegrass, a Bluegrass fan should conversely have no trouble appreciating what SCI does with the genre. You may not love it, but at the very least, you have to respect the group's ambitiousness and musicianship.