REVIEW: We Were The States’ “Rasa”

Photobucket Rasa (Chicken Ranch) is the new album by We Were The States and they seem to have mellowed slightly with age. This band is not that old, and for this project there’s a slight change of page in execution. That isn’t a bad thing, but it caught me offguard as I’ve been used to hearing a specific style with this group so I had to go “hmmm. Okay.”

With a new hat on, I listened. They kind of sound like as if they’ve been listening to a lot of INXS and Coldplay, but back when Coldplay were making good songs. This makes me want to re-evaluate their older material to hear if it was there before, but regardless, the music sounds really good as if they’re ready to bring the world with them for some great music. Guitarist J. Stoyanov even has a bit of The Edge‘s bottomless misery-style guitar riffs down, only before taking it into his own world and showing people WWTS’ level of intensity.

I’m not sure if the group will remain on this path or try something completely new with their next album. If they stay here for awhile, I think it’s a formula that will lead the band to success.

REVIEW: Mystic Roots Band’s “Cali-HI”

Photobucket The Mystic Roots Band have just released their sophomore album, Cali-HI (Stay Positive), and if you are deep into the vibes of roots reggae, you will love what these guys have to offer. The group, based out of San Diego, celebrate the good life in their own way, laid back with some of the most incredible reggae you’ll hear and experience. What I also like is that they’ll add a few pop touches but not to the point where it’s watered down like a lot of Jawaiian music that tries to do too much before ruining the blend.

The name of the title comes from their unique fanbase not only throughout California, but in Hawai’i, which is why in the title track they’re naming all of the places that you rarely hear in song, so for me it’s a nice “home grown” feel that is the group’s way of saying “c’mon, let your problems go, smoke and party with us”. My favorite tracks on this include “Work To Do”, “Something About A Girl”, and “Blessings”, the latter featuring Pato Banton.

I’d love to hear Nicki Minaj collab with these guys.

REVIEW: Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica’s “Third River Rangoon”

Photobucket Glad to see a new album by Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica in the Book-o-sphere, definitely a welcome addition to my sonic library. Third River Rangoon (Tiki) is a low-key affair compared to their last album, as it’s not quite a proper exotica orchestra, but rather the group restrict themselves to a quartet setting, equal to the groups of Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny. In this setting you get to here more of the core of the music, the center of the groove and instrumentation that they offer. In other words, it’s one way to hear if these guys are more than just exploring this music as a novelty, and trust me when I say these guys are no joke.

The quartet in this case consists of Brian O’Neill (vibes, percussion), Jason Davis (acoustic bass), Noriko Terada (live percussion), and Geni Skendo (bass flute, c-flute), and the way the music was recorded and mixed, it sounds like those old records from the 60’s where the bands may have recorded in an aluminum dome (in fact, many exotica recordings and Hawaiian records made in Hawai’i in the 1960’s were recorded at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome).

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Of course, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica probably didn’t record in any aluminum dome, but the sound in these songs have that same roomy, atmospheric sound that will make the music sound bigger and bolder than love, which was often the point of a lot of exotica and lounge music: to take you to a place unlike the one you may be in while listening to this in your hi-fi room.

There’s a good amount of original material on here, composed by O’Neill, and hearing songs like “Phoenix, Goodbye” may place you in the hot and sandy territories of Casa Granda, or somewhere in the Middle East. Then there are tracks like “Lonesome Aku Of Alewife” that are sly and sexy, and you may wonder if you’re being caught in a mood that you can’t escape (hint: you are).

You also have Milk Raskin‘s “Maika”, Cal Tjader‘s “Colorado Waltz”, and Tchaikovsky‘s “Arab Dance” on here, and for moments throughout this album you are taken away from the cool and serene beaches of a place in your mind into the mysterious and perceived uncertainty of foreign lands. However, if you chose to embrace the exotica of Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, then you’ve already made your first steps into foreign-yet-comfortable territory. What I also hear with this album is some nice mellow jazz not unlike Herbie Mann or even John Coltrane‘s lighter moments, and that’s when the novelty of them being lounge music ambassadors disappears. This is just damn good music, whether you call it lounge jazz, picnic table groove, or thrift store symphonic warmth. Take a trip, you’re in good hands.

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REVIEW: J-Rocc’s “Some Cold Rock Stuf”

Photobucket The best hip-hop DJ’s/producers out there are those who are known to “speak” with their hands, a way of talking about their skills on the 1’s and 2’s (and in Cut Chemist‘s case, 3’s, 4’s, and sometimes 13.7’s). Anyone who respects DJ’ing and turntablism knows that J-Rocc has always been a hero for those skills and simply knowing how to rock the party/moment/atmopshere at any time. He reads the crowds, and rather than give them what they want, he may say “this record is definitely what you need to eat, now fit in”. After 19 years of solid work with the Beat Junkies, countless collaborations and live sets on his own, J-Rocc has finally released an album under his own name.

The title says it all: Some Cold Rock Stuf Stones Throw. The tracks here are a nice selection of quality samples, basslines, and beats, but they are well-constructed sound structures in their own right, not just a mere beat tape everyone will rip from and say “yeah, I found this shit”. I would say if you like the works of DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, RJD2, Nobody, and El-P, you will find a bit of commonality in Some Cold Rock Stuf. I think this is an album J-Rocc has always been capable of doing but… why he waited so long, I don’t know but I’m glad he did it and did it in this fashion. Those who are audio/sound/sample junkies will love this from start to finish, wondering what he did to make these somewhat-familiar sounds sound the way they do. Are they filtered, are they 8k or 16k or did he run them on cassette before transferring them back to digital? Here to know and you to sound it out. It’s a damn good album that’l’l make other self-proclaim beat junkies give up their records and become janitors.

(You can order this on vinyl, CD, and digital directly from Stones Throw Records, or from the Amazon links shown below.)

REVIEW: Quadron’s “Average Fruit Remixes”

Photobucket As fans wait for a new album from Quadron, the duo have approved of an EP of remixes of “Average Fruit”, with some really good producers reconstructing the track.

The song continues in its soulful path with remixes by Heartbeat Lazy Sunday and 104Rog, but after those tracks, the sound begins to explore some new boundaries. The mix by fLako sounds like it would fit in an obscure 1969 French film, while Slym‘s mix might end up in a radio set by the guys in Jazzanova or maybe something involving Shinichi Osawa. ATR‘s mix will be appreciate on the dancefloors around the world.

The rest of the EP is quite good and it’s great to hear remixes that do not song like the one before or after, which only helps make the original “Average Fruit” less average. Also, the fact that people can still give these songs life over a year after its original release shows the strength of these songs and the trust fans have in hearing new revisions of the familiar.

REVIEW: Paula Lammers’ “Deep Purple Dreams”

Photobucket If the title to jazz vocalist Paula Lammers‘ album Deep Purple Dreams doesn’t give you a bit of motivation to set a specific mood while listening, I don’t know what will.

This is a 13-song album that shows her strengths as a vocalist and producer, which means she knew exactly what she wanted and how to achieve a quality collection of songs for her voice, from start to finish. Lammers doesn’t go overboard nor get too extravagant, which for me can ruin the experience of hearing something that may be good or bad. I enjoyed her rendition of Billy Joel‘s “And So It Goes”, and I would love to hear her do more pop-oriented tracks such as this. Nonetheless, with a track listing that includes “Now I’ve Seen You”, “You And The Night And The Music”, and “You Must Believe In Spring”, there’s more than enough to absorb and enjoy. If hearing this leads to dreams of any color or hue, Deep Purple Dreams will be one jazz fans will want to return to many times over.

REVIEW: Monument “Goes Canoeing”

Photobucket Eager beavers these Monument guys are, trying to take away the crowd of indie rock from… okay, maybe they’re not trying to take away anyone’s crown, which in truth is not really a good idea since music should be less about a competition and more about just playing for the hell of it and having a good time, because when you’re only in it for the money it’ll make your music sound as raw as putting your arm inside of a cow’s anus to where you can barely see your elbows, you know? That’s just sick.

What’s also sick, but in a good way, is this short album which they call Monument Goes Canoeing (Tiny Engines). It sounds nothing like a ride on a canoe, unless your trip out in the woods means bringing a lot of beer, an endless supply of rolling paper, and having a generator distant enough to where it will not interfere with your amps and pre-amps. I say these guys are a few shades away from Weezer‘s overall sound with a small pinch of Bad Religion, that kind of irresistible pop flair that makes them easy to enjoy while still packing a punch, enough to make you feel like what your grandma looks like when she ended up sucking a bucket of sour gummy worms. These songs could be mini-anthems, and maybe that’s how they were written. I can see these guys really doing some crazy stuff in a live setting and the crowds will just eat up their music and collective abdomens.

REVIEW: Saigon’s “The Greatest Story Never Told”

Photobucket There was a time when a good rap album was based on quality “rap” and some damn good production, but somewhere down the line, it changed to where it was based on a publicist’s marketing efforts. The Greatest Story Never Told sounds like an album that would’ve been perfec if it was released in the mid to late 90’s, with the kind of integrity and freshness coming from someone who has a love for the music, and with confidence says “damn, I got a really good voice to do the job”.

The Greatest Story Never Told (Suburban Noize) features a number of guests that a lot of younger artists wish they had the luxury of knowing, including Q-Tip, Swizz Beatz, Bun B, Faith Evans, and a young cat ripping shit who goes by the name of (check this out) Jay-Z. Ha ha! But in the music’s essence is Saigon, who sounds like he’s ready to bust out on everyone with the kind of lyrics and music that make you want to say yeah, cheer, cry, and just go “damn, now this is what hip-hop should feel like”. It would be nice if this music became an inspiration for a generation, and if you don’t believe me, hear it for yourself. A quality hip-hop album that today’s revolutionaries should hear so they can hear what they’re not doing.