Album Review: David Dallas – Hood Country Club

Hood Country Club David Dallas
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David Dallas: From South Auckland to the world

Hip hop artists often follow the same narrative arc. You’ll recognise it: the rise from living in the projects to a bling adorned superstar. 50 Cent summed it up: Get rich or die trying. Extra gangsta kudos if you served jail time, got shot, or dealt drugs along the way.

I feel that Auckland rapper David Dallas has followed a similar, albeit more realistic path. The term “rags to riches” is an exaggeration, but DDot is undoubtedly an underdog. In the past he has discussed growing up in South Auckland, trying to pick up girls, please his dad, getting told off by mum. He has always foretold that he would make it big, but in the meantime he’s just a regular South Auckland Pasifika Kiwi trying to get by.

Dallas arguably has made it. Scribe tapped him on the shoulder to feature in  the “Not Many Remix” back in 2004, and things have been on the rise ever since. He signed to US record label Duck Down, toured the world, and befriended rap heavyweights like Freddie Gangsta Gibbs. Eminem and Run The Jewels.. His last album, Falling Into Place won two Tuis at the NZ Music awards, with lead single “Runnin” going platinum. And after a long wait, we now have a new album, Hood Country Club.


Don’t Rate That

I’ll give Dallas top points for lead single “Don’t Rate That” based on the topic alone. The song tackles racist discourse and rips into loan sharks that prey on people from low socio economic backgrounds – the likes you may find in an area like Dallas’ home of South Auckland.

The dude has balls for calling out Rugby League players who would likely flatten him in a second. Maybe that’s why the song resonates so well with me – because he’s flipping the power balance and attacking those who use intimidation tactics. In this Spinoff interview Dallas boasts that one such lending company pulled their ads from an RnB radio station Mai FM that cater to largely the same target demographic as the loan shark parasites. And that’s why Dallas is such a hero in this underdog narrative – because he worked his way up from a nobody to being a somebody using his influence to fight evil.


Fit In

Follow up single “Fit In” dropped almost an entire year after “Don’t Rate That”. Musically, I love it. The hook roots itself in my head like a stubborn earworm, and I often catch myself humming the tune throughout the day. The message of the track seems redundant, with Dallas trying to prove how little he cares about fitting into the scene. If you don’t care, then why dedicate the effort to writing a song about it? However, despite this, the track is a banger.


Musical evolution

I first discovered Dallas in 2011, with his album The Rose Tint. The key reasons that it stood out to me were the laid back style and the musical tracks. I’m not a huge fan of hip-hop based around rigid DJ beats but this really ticked the right boxes for me. The music found on The Rose Tint featured Dallas’ backing band The Daylight Robbery, which added that extra element that elevated it above the rest. The following release, Buffalo Man EP , featured remixed Jamiroquai songs, which continued the trend of using great music to rap over.

2013’s Falling Into Place stepped away from the full band sound, but still achieved great success due in part to the beatmakers Fire & Ice helping with production. The more musical tracks were the ones that sold. Pop singer Ruby Frost lent her voice to two hit tracks, and “Runnin” dominated the airways due to gospel sample of a nun singing.

On first impressions I’m less enthusiastic about Hood Country Club . Dallas still has mad talent as a rapper, but without the band or vibrant backing beats his sound has lost a huge boost. He even re-appropriates Supergroove’s “Can’t Get Enough”, but manages to lose the vibrancy of the song he’s name checking. “Fit In” stands as my album highlight for the time being, purely because of the catchy vocal hook.

Hood Country Club

David Dallas Hood Country Club Back Cover

I saw Dallas play an O-week event at Victoria University last year, where he previewed a few of these tracks live. I especially remember “Get Off” for it’s venomous content. It’s caustic, direct and PNC’s guest verse on the studio track is downright vulgar – worlds away from the laid back Dallas from a few albums ago.

I’m not saying the aggression is necessarily bad. As you read above, I applaud the righteous anger of “Don’t Rate That”. The way I read it, Dallas has come to a point where he wants to address issues head-on, paving the way to this more urgent tone found on some of these tracks.

He challenges the glorification of materialism and celebrity. He rips through peer pressure and mob mentality. “Don’t Flinch” explores the ingrained Kiwi mindset of “harden up and be a man”. David Dallas no longer has any time for your shit and he’s gonna call it as it is.

Wealth and status are major themes that threads through Hood Country Club. Years ago we heard Dallas rap “My mentality is money orientated”. Now he is batting his ego down and re-evaluating what is important in life. Money lenders and financial élite come under fire, suggesting that Dallas no longer subscribes to the goal of getting rich and famous to fit a stereotype.

The verdict

If Falling Into Place was a teenager, then Hood Country Club is the adult – more serious and not as fun, but still a progression. Dallas is more informed, experienced and confident now. These days he raps about life realities, rather than wishful dreams.

My criticisms about the backing tracks and aggression don’t apply to the entire album. Many do use samples to keep the songs musical and we still hear Dallas’ trademark chilled out flow, it’s just not as prevalent as found in his previous works. Musically, I don’t enjoy it as much. But lyrically and thematically Dallas is at his prime.

David Dallas made global but realised that the value lies in taking it local and keeping his content relatable. He is a hero for becoming a success without selling out. And his music, as always, is outstanding. Lyrically and thematically, Dallas still shines. Hood Country Club won’t receive regular play on my stereo to the same degree as his earlier albums, but it’s still a worthwhile addition to my collection.


David Dallas links:

Buy or stream Hood Country Club: https://umusicnz.lnk.to/HCCFP

Website: http://www.daviddallas.co.nz/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavidDallasMusic/

Twitter:https://twitter.com/DdotDallas

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ddotdallas

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/davidkdallas

 

Joseph James

EP Review: Moon Gravity – Antarctica

Moon Gravity Antarctica
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It’s late afternoon, before a long weekend. I’ve spent most of my work day switching between Idle Thumbs podcasts and the Rage Against the Machine discography, deciding to listen to both from the start.

Antarctica, a three track EP by Moon Gravity is the perfect antithesis to that. 20 plus minutes of music spread across three tracks, predominantly comprised of drones and soundscapes.
The modulated bass and multi-tracked, almost chant-like vocals on “Nightfall” provides a psychedelic vibe. Repeated bass motifs with a constant rhythm fill in the role normally taken by drums, pushing the song forward at a slow, thoughtful feeling pace.

Track 2, “Snowstorm starts with delayed guitar over some repeated drones and builds from there. Motifs are explored, they mutate and are built on, either with different instruments or a new textural element. “Snowstorm is evocative of a faraway landscape, like the one pictured on the album artwork. One could easily picture this music being put over time-lapse footage of Aurora Australis or Borealis and being a perfect fit.

The reverberate vocals provide nice additional elements missing from much post-rock music, particularly when used with restraint as they have been here. “Snowstorm evolves over its twelve-minute length, the drones make way for drum machines as backing for the guitar motif. The electronic drums feels jarring when first introduced, but quickly feels like an expected part of the toolkit when the bass guitar becomes more prevalent in the mix.

The staples of this genre are all here; plenty of reverb and delay on clean guitars, a really rich and clear bass tone and solid playing. “Purpling” is an example of all of those elements put together quite nicely.

Overall, Antarctica is a solid EP which doesn’t overstay its welcome. The lack of acoustic drums and sparingly used vocals make for an interesting post-rock release that for $3USD there is no reason not to check it out.


Moon Gravity links:

Bandcamp link for Antarctica: https://silbermedia.bandcamp.com/album/antarctica

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/moongravitymusic/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPDNEHSaXYMnAquLVdVgN9w


This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site Relative Silence

Live Review: David Liebe Hart at Meow, Wellington

David Liebe Hart Au NZ tour poster
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David Liebe Hart and Th’ Mole

w/ Tender Moonlight, TV DiSKO & DJFK

Meow, Wellington

Monday 17 April 2017

Earlier today I was stumped. I had tried to explain my plans for tonight, and had no idea where to even start. How does one describe David Liebe Hart? Comedian? Singer? Puppeteer? Visionary genius?

I started with the obvious connection: Tim and Eric – the crazed duo who create absurd clips for the Adult Swim channel. Tim and Eric deal mostly with surreal clips that are deliberately poorly edited – often looking like old video tapes from the 90’s made by people on drugs (which, in all honesty, could actually be what they are). Their style of humour is awkward and shocking.

Liebe Hart was an obvious casting choice for the duo. Quirky, confident and outspoken on his beliefs in aliens. Most of the clips featured him singing about nonsense with grotesque puppets. And this odd comedy is exactly what I was hoping to see at the show.

Tender Moonlight at Meow opening for David Liebe Hart

Tender Moonlight

High energy opening act Tender Moonlight won my heart instantly. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie action montage as he played. He transported us back to the best of the ’80s, pumping drum machine beats and playing squealing guitar solos. He looked the part too, with a peroxide mop, sunglasses, pink lei around his neck, fingerless gloves and a leather jacket over his bare vest. On his legs he wore trackpants with knee pads (for powerslides?), which got ripped off half way through the set. His set was so sexed up that all the girls in attendance should probably go and buy pregnancy tests just in case.

Tender Moonlight at Meow opening for David Liebe Hart

 

David Liebe Hart

Technical issues delayed the start of the set. I guess that it isn’t easy to rig up the technology that they were using for the show. A projector shone images and videos onto a screen. Drum-shaped Donkey Kong video game controllers were plugged into a laptop for use as a trigger pad. Sound man Th’ Mole played a hybrid instrument of a keyboard and midi controller attached to the top of an acoustic guitar. And to clarify – that’s a computer keyboard for typing, not a musical piano-like keyboard. I’ll forgive them for not having all the gear set up correctly, seeing as it is such unconventional gear.

So Liebe Hart – always the crowd pleaser – came out to do some stand up comedy while we waited for the tech guys to work their wonders.

It set a weird tone. Tender Moonlight’s epic set had me in a good mood, and but this comedy routine had me questioning what I was in for. Sure, I was laughing, but what on earth is this insanity? Liebe Hart was full of confidence, rattling off jokes I didn’t understand and making the most outrageous impressions with weird voices. We were in for a unique night, that’s for sure!

David Liebe Hart with Alien singing Salame at Meow, Wellington
Liebre Hart went side of stage and hid once the issues had been resolved. We were treated to an immersive video introduction to the set. The plot loosely revolved around a long-secret alien war that had recently arisen, endangering the future of our planet. Cue David Liebe Hart – aspiring astronaut, alien abductee, and saviour of the Earth!

The next few hours were joyous. Despite being absurd, the music was fun to dance and sing along to. The cluster of the audience just in front of the stage were having the time of their lives. Poorly edited videos projected onto the screen at the back of the stage, visually ushering us into a trippy world of Liebe Hart.

David Liebe Hart at MEow, Wellington

He covered a range of topics – vegetables, vegemite, trains, aliens, romance, technology, ghosts, pornography and spirituality. I couldn’t tell how much was genuine and how much was a joke. Liebe Hart was passionate when discussing matters clearly close to his heart. He even sang a few worship songs, seeing as it was Easter Monday. The Christian Science Church he was a member of was clearly a big part of his life, so why include those songs in a set of comedy songs? Wouldn’t that undermine the sincerity?

But the more I thought about it, the less convinced I was that it was a joke. Liebe Hart appeared to believe in ghosts. He called on the audience to share details about any of their ghostly encounters – no Phony Tonys thank you! He talked a lot about his church, about past relationships. About living clean by avoiding negativity and eating well. The Tim and Eric style of video editing was clearly ironic for comedic purposes, but the actual content seemed sincere.

David Liebe Hart with a puppet singing at Meow Wellington

Well known for his ventriloquism, Liebe Hart made sure to incorporate his puppets into the show. Doug the Dog helped him sing about orange German Shephard ghosts. Chip the Black Boy sang about father/son relationships. A giraffe sang about “kiss[ing] her on the lips” and an alien introduced us to the Korendian [an alien race] concept of “Salame” – their term for greetings and farewells.

It was a genuinely fantastic night, much like the last time I saw a viral internet sensation play. The awkward humour could have been cringe, but the music was danceable, and Liebe Hart was such an entertaining character that all reservations were quickly dispelled.
David Liebe Hart with puppet singing Father and Son at Meow, Wellington


David Liebe Hart links:

Website: http://artbyliebehart.com/

Bandcamp: https://davidliebehart.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidLiebeHart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidliebehart2/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/artbyliebehart

Tumblr: https://artbyliebehart.tumblr.com/

 

All words and images by Joseph James except the tour poster.

Album Review: Body Count – Bloodlust

Body Count Bloodlust
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These days Ice-T is likely best known for his acting career, and then his solo rapping career. But his metal side-project Body Count deserves as much recognition – especially after having just released their intense sixth album Bloodlust.

Body Count started as a group of friends interested in heavy music at high school. And they sound mean. They combine gangsta rap mentality with heavy rock and metal music to create an aggressive sound verging on hardcore.

If my description doesn’t sum it up well enough for your liking, then try Ice-T’s explanation, taking from the vocal intro to their cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”

” Body Count is a band I put together just to let one of my best friends, Ernie C play his guitar. He’s always been playing guitar, we all went to Crenshaw High School together in South Central Los Angeles. And I had the idea of let’s make a metal band, let’s make a rock band, ’cause I had been to Europe and I noticed that the kids would mosh off of hip-hop. So we put the band together and I used the three bands that were my favourites at the time to set the tone. We used the impending doom of a group like Black Sabbath, who pretty much invented metal; the punk sensibility of somebody like Suicidal, who basically put that gangbanger style from Venice, California into the game; and the speed and the precision of Slayer – one of my favourite groups and always will be. “

Body Count Bloodlust Promo Shot

Not only do Body Count take inspiration from some of the big names in metal, but they also collaborate with a few of them on this album, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Sepultura’s Max Cavalera and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe.

As you would expect from that explanation, the music is in-your-face. Tight, fast drums, distorted riffs, squealing solos, and punk-meets-thrash delivered vocals.

The lyrical and thematically content seems contradictory within the album, with Ice-T bragging about criminal activities on one track, whilst protesting black stereotypes on another. I acknowledge that maintaining a tough guy persona is an integral aspect of the band’s image, but I would argue that singing about violence would further perpetuate negative stereotypes. Ice-T tackles issues like racism, poverty, street violence and police brutality, but also paints himself in an intimidating light.

Sure Black Lives Matter is worth acknowledging, but singing that you “gotta get paid the ski mask way” and discussing your thirst for bloodshed is a surefire way to become another statistic at the hands of a trigger happy cop.

Not that this criticism is exclusive to Body Count. Many political charged rappers walk that line between voicing out against injustice and playing to clichéd hiphop conventions of being a drug dealing gang banger.

Body Count use voice to add variety to the tracks. The opening passage on the album features Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine taking on the role of the broadcaster who delivers a faux broadcast from a dystopian president announcing martial law, before delving into a blistering guitar solo. Samples from news clips in “No Lives Matter” paint a picture of how it many young black men are being shot and killed by police in America. Ice-T also switches up his own style, providing monologues to preface a few songs, aping Tom Araya’s bark in the cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, and acting out a bank hold up during the break down of “The Ski Mask Way”.

Bloodlust is a great introduction for those uninitiated to Body Count’s work. The slick production sounds great – especially when compared against the band’s early work from the ’90s. Ice-T gives a few explanations at the start of some tracks, which give insight into how the band came about and what drives them. The music is energetic and tight, and the topics touch on some issues that need to be addressed.

It is a real shame that the braggadocio attitude dilutes the genuine attempts to raise awareness for social issues, but the music and delivery on Bloodlust is killer. Mean metal with real gangsta swagger, loaded with memorable hooks and filled with intensity.


Body Count links:

Website: http://bodycountband.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bodycountofficial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BodyCountBand

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bodycountofficial/

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Defend The Rhino – Static Breeze

Defend The Rhino Static Breeze Album Art
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Despite the very pop-punk sounding name, Edmonton’s Defend The Rhino is a solo cinematic instrumental project from singer-songwriter / composer / audio engineer Nathaniel Sutton. With a CV like that, Sutton sounds more than qualified to release an album.

Said album, entitled Static Breeze, is actually the second Defend The Rhino release, featuring ten short tracks that would all fit comfortably within the context of a film.

The album has a somber start ,with soothing waves of soft pads and heartfelt violins, broken up with lingering single piano notes. The second track progresses to using chords on the piano instead of singular notes, and drums add a welcome element.

There are some great elements in said track, “Sound The Alarm”, that are hard to pick up on unless you pay close attention. For example, the bass line at the start is adds awesome feel, but is hidden deep in the mix. Towards the end we hear some brilliant tinkling xylophone that should really stand out, but is again lost and ends up as a minor detail. This is among my favourites on the album because the drum beat and piano ostinato add such energy and liveliness to this song .

The bass notes on “Fade To Dusk” are well captured. I can visualise the thick, dense strings vibrating each time we hear it played. It is here that we are introduced to a ghostly coo that Sutton employs in a few songs – an odd mournful wailing effect that makes the song sound ominous.

Most of these tracks a short and direct, unlike a lot of instrumental music I listen to. They tend to keep the same theme throughout without delineating far from the key melody or beat. The drums especially make the songs appear straightforward, with the same simple beat dominating many tracks. I can tell that they aren’t programmed – there are little giveaways like rapping on the rims in “Dim Lights” and the snare drags in “Fallen Leaf” – but they feel rigid enough that I can tell that the person behind the kit would feel more at home playing another instrument.

“Fallen Leaf” features a funky electric organ tune reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and “Running In The Dark” just screams David Bowie’s “Heroes”. The latter is the only track on the album with vocals. Hoarse and almost whispered, the singing mirrors Bowie’s delivery of holding back until the chorus, creating suspense as we wait for the crescendo.

This is first and foremost a cinematic piano record. Beautiful evocative, it provokes my imagination into conjuring up all kinds of scenes to fit the music. Sutton includes a variety of instruments and effects to colour in the sounds, making for a varied listen. Static Breeze would be the perfect study album, with pleasant sounds in the background that could help you focus and lift your mood. And of course, it would work brilliantly soundtracking a film, seeing as it is so cinematic in nature.


Static Breeze is due out April 7th through Mint 400 Records,

Defend The Rhino links:

Website: www.nathanielsutton.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/defendtherhino
Twitter: www.twitter.com/defendtherhino
Instagram: www.instagram.com/defendtherhino