Killer or Filler?
As indicated by the ballot for our 16th Annual Music Awards, Fort Worth is pretty fertile artistic ground. So many albums. Seems like every other day a new one comes out. And not just albums, but EPs and singles too. Here’s a sampling of some relatively new releases from yon towne of cow. — A.M.
Pinkish Black’s “Razed to the Ground”
Pinkish Black is still scary as fuck. Keyboardist/vocalist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague churn out loud, piledriving minimalism ornamented with blood-soaked, nihilistic lyrics. The recently released single off the duo’s forthcoming sophomore album, on Century Media (Andrew W.K., Queensryche, Napalm Death), title track “Razed to the Ground” is a monstrous, obsidian slab of doom. There is no dynamism, no contrasts. There are no bridges, choruses, or breakdowns. Just an intro, some verses, and an outro. Everything moves in the same direction: onward into darkness. Threatening to completely drown out Teague’s unfussy, splashy, headlong beat is Beck’s growling, propulsive organ, one of the most intimidating instruments in the history of music. It’s like Cerberus’ snarl, if you will. Or Satan’s chainsaw. The only moments of brightness in the song come in the form of a bookending curlicue of whistling keys. That’s it. The vocal melody is incantatory, rising and falling with very little pitch intonation. Beck’s airy baritone –– affectless, cold, almost robotic –– is also low in the mix, registering mainly as another lead instrument. (You can’t really tell what he’s saying.) Already reviewed favorably by Pitchfork and previewed by NPR’s All Songs Considered, “Razed to the Ground” is simple but unique: a steady, grinding lurch over a gaping chasm of deafening emptiness. — A.M.
Raging Boner’s To the Root
To non-fans, casual listeners, and (probably) the kind of people who donate to local public radio stations because they simply can’t get enough Tracy Chapman, hardcore probably sounds pretty samey, just pummeling beats, shouted vocals, and no hooks for an auditory nerve to hang its hat on. If only these people gave up 15 minutes of their time to dig into records like To the Root!
Seriously, though, it probably wouldn’t even take that long. Packing eight songs into a potently short amount of time, Raging Boner’s new album advances the metallic leanings of the crust-influenced hardcore band’s 2010 release All Boner All the Time — see “Slayer Ripoff Song,” in particular — to new heights of speed and technical complexity. Guitarists Mike and Paul rip and slash with the relentless precision of a Mongol cavalry, spurred on by drummer Matt’s ferocity and half-time breakdowns more groovy than mookish, all underpinned by the murderous growl of Bob’s bass. Mike and Matt share shouting duties, and while you might think that hardcore vox are largely tuneless, To the Root’s fury is shot through with sticky guitarmonies and a melodic murmur courtesy of the low end’s grabbing for higher octaves. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it intro to “Pfizer 2012” is a quick sequence of slimy, effects-slathered hammer-ons that will lodge in your brain like resin. You’ll never hear this stuff on the radio, but it’s the kind of sonic upper that will make you rage against “Fast Car” while you’re sitting in traffic. — S.S.
Killa MC’s OGK
This is some dope shit. OGK is five solid, head-bobbing anthems from Killa MC, a Fort Worthian UNT student who co-founded the Denton hip-hop collective Brain Gang a couple of years ago. Though smart, worldly, and decidedly underground –– no Kanye-sized pop aspirations here –– Killa, a.k.a. Donovan Payne, is more concerned with speaking from the heart (and the brain) than indulging in wordplay or shouting down the competition. His flow changes from song to song but is never affected or calculated. It’s always appropriate to the music. On “Blue Monday,” a driving and semi-danceable track, he spits rapid-fire. On the moodier, slower “Convocation” and “Loop 820,” he’s completely laid-back. (The ballpark-organ melody of “Convocation” is choice, adding some kitsch to what is otherwise a pretty serious indictment of fake friends. The song ends with a gunshot.) Just as tasty as his rhymes are his beats and melodies. Killa is not trying to reinvent the wheel –– yes, there’s that splashy high-hat and snare and those plastic synth atmospherics we all know so well –– but he injects just enough sonic quirks into his material to distinguish it from all of the generic, FruityLoops-generated crap that clouds the hip-hop airwaves. Wurlitzer-sounding organ also appears on “Blue Monday,” and “McCart Ave” features a key sample hook, Dr. Dre from “Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang.” Though Killa also has a soft spot for the Fort, name-dropping Funkytown in just about every track, OGK is a wonderful snapshot of a young rapper with the world ahead of him. — A.M.
Secret Ghost Champion’s “Granfaloon”
Though unmastered, the copy of Secret Ghost Champion’s “Granfaloon” that’s circulating the internets is a real time warp, man. With its soft acoustic strumming, sweet melodies sung by frontman Ben Hance in his ethereal (and often multi-tracked) voice, guitarist Roby Scott’s juicy Brian May-ish lead runs, and overall tubular vibe, the song could have come out in 1976. Though clocking in at just over four minutes, “Granfaloon” is small: just two verses, a spacey extended breakdown of alternately twinkling and beaming keyb’s, and an outro illuminated by Scott’s yawning pedal steel. Imagine Wings-era Paul McCartney fronting America or Paco, and that’s pretty much Secret Ghost Champion: honeybrown AM gold for yacht trips to Mars. Slated for release on SGC’s upcoming sophomore album, the song sounds excerpted –– in the spirit of ’76, SGC is in the business of making albums, not just collections of tunes. Mark my words: The band’s follow-up to 2010’s Psychosomatic Immortality will be a contender for album-of-the-year honors in North Texas. — A.M.