Mike Ladd: Father Divine
Mike Ladd: Father Divine
Artist Mike Ladd
Album Father Divine
Label ROIR
Released 11/15/2005
The Father Divine project started two years ago as an attempt to capture the original, analog-laden ROIR cassette sound (of Bad Brains & Suicide, of punk & dub) as filtered through Mike Ladd’s artistic vision:

I’m not one to be over-enthusiastic about any label I’m working with but for me ROIR is pretty special considering they put out one of my all-time favorite albums: Bad Brains. I’ve always loved the grimy, haphazardly compressed sound of tapes. I still use them in my music and wanted to capture that on Father Divine.

It then morphed into a religious cult-figure concept-album (google "Father Divine" to learn more). However, during the recording process life stepped in and whisked Mike away to Paris (for love, of course) and rewarded him w/ a wife & child.

Extreme change makes one reflect on one’s life and often opens new creative avenues. For example, Mike explains, "Now that I’m safely married, I find it easier to write about girls." Father Divine has two classic girl tracks ("Barney’s Girl" and "Murder Girl"). They, along with a few others, are great examples of Mike making peace with a former life. "Apt C2" is at once a requiem for his Bronx apt and a tentative hello to his new life in Paris. Father Divine is pregnant with personal imagery of Mike’s past, as well as his trademark political fury toward the present and inimitable visions of the afterfuture.

Father Divine is also an album with big, BIG MOJO. It’s easily Mike’s hottest, dirtiest-sounding album yet. There’s that ROIR sound—of anger and fun and dirt—plus there’s a bit of that Father Divine mystique and dubby echo which adds some spookiness (all good records need it). And it’s all burning. Father Divine is the sound of dirt burning up.

That has a lot to do with Mike, but also with his collaborators. On Father Divine, Mike worked with Priest (of Antipop Consortium) on synth, Pianist Vijay Iyer, ROIR artist Raz Mesinai a/k/a Badawi (dubs & percussion), Damali Young on drums & guitar, Dave "Eastwood" Sztanke on keys, and Jaleel Bunton (of TV On The Radio) on guitar.

But his main man on Father Divine is a Spanish/French kid from Southern France mysteriously named Gymkhana, whose studio is an analog lover’s dream. Much of the production work was done there, as well as Mike’s home studio, and one can hear a slightly meatier sound on Father Divine as compared to Mike’s other work. Mike describes Gymkhana as "an experimental electronic maestro whose sensibility ended up colliding with my off-kilter pop sensibility in some interesting ways." Indeed.

The supreme instance of this collision is the epic "Crooner Island", which ranks as the strongest instrumental track in Mike’s entire oeuvre. Gymkhana’s excellent keyboard work grounds Mike’s stuttering beats at the beginning of the song then grows increasingly playful before blasting off for the finale. Other tracks, such as "Awful Raw" & "Murder Girl" (which sounds like a lost Prince gem), exhibit bombastic production and lyrical bravado unique to Father Divine. It might have you screaming "gotta get your channel on" before long.