Byrne has kept in the public eye with a string of novel art projects but it's been a criminally long time since I've heard any of his new music. It's a pleasure to find an opportunity to get reacquainted, what with Byrne & Eno releasing their new collaboration. "Strange Overtones" is an expertly produced track that calls upon chirping reggae tics, lightweight synthesizers & the usual cross-genre mishmash for which these artists have become so well known. It's a meta song-about-songwriting story, wherein Byrne eavesdrops on amateur musicians & silently roots for them to work out the kinks in the song he hears them writing. It's surprisingly coherent & linear in light of his past lyrical work, but it's also tender & delivered with subtle melancholy.
Innovative Life: The Anthology 1984-1989 hails from a disorienting moment in rap history: it chronicles Arabian Prince's earliest electro-rap oddities, before he gained notoriety as a founding member of N.W.A. "Let's Hit the Beach" features a deep, stripped-down beat spliced with digitalized seagulls and other coastal sound effects - a thin sampling by today's standards, but surprisingly prophetic in light of this decade's electro-rap boom. The last half of the track segues into a bout of coy, silly grandstanding, and it plays like advice to today's emcees: don't take yourself too seriously. The best - from Jay-z to Kool Keith to Aesop Rock - never do.
You remember Four Tet's "She Moves She," about halfway through, how a distorted synthesizer jackknifes through a tinkling, watery bell and string section? It was so sudden that I thought another song had kicked up in the background on my computer the first time I heard it. "Ya-Ya-Ya" by Larytta gives that same distinct impression. It isn't so much about interplay or some sort of magical coalescence of elements here, as it is two separate entities - the vocals and the instrumentation - circling each other like predators from a careful distance, nurturing an uneasy truce. Strong, layered (and keenly manipulated) acapellas fend off synthetic toms until the two sides hit a sort of strained, tense balance in the middle. Expect a lot of sharp turns over the course of these five minutes.
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Featured Review: Her Space Holiday - Sleepy Tigers EP Sleepy Tigers is a teaser of what's to come from Her Space Holiday's forthcoming album, XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival, which hopefully will prove just as, if not more, successful than Sleepy Tigers. The four-song sampler was released on July 29 on Mush Records, and expands the label's catalog a bit further than their usual electro-hip hop blend of releases. Her Space Holiday, having joined the label after "leaving" Tiger Style, is a loyal member of the Mush family, so it's a pleasure to see Sleepy Tigers broaden their scope of releases into the more straight-up indie-pop realm.