MUSIC REVIEWS: Myka 9, Deadmau5, Mi Ami, Marvelann
Myka 9 is legendarily known as a freestyle rap pioneer. His influence in L.A.’s underground hip hop scene started in the 80’s. Later he became co-founder of Freestyle Fellowship. “1969” hits the ground running; industrious, smoky deep vocals swirl to intoxicating riffs and runs that spread out like fire-inducing guitar solos and classic choral rap arrangements. Myka 9 has a fine grasp of quick lyrical delivery. Sometimes sounding more scat than rap, his vocals drip seemingly just centimeters above the music’s own volume. This album is nicely seasoned with a wicked mix of funk, jazz, soul, rock and psychedelic music. The rap execution is both cleverly tight and heartily soulful. “1969” contains a strong 70’s funk swagger and a powerhouse of fast moving, beat heavy songs, flavored by a lyrical call to live and to life. “Cadillac Nights” is a dizzying disco funk ode to Cadillac cars. It begins with a spoken word homage to the car itself in grand, not materialistic, just pure grand nostalgia. The alternate piano riffs and smooth guitar short solos twirl madly yet are somehow restrained asking one to beg for them. This album showcases Myka 9’s pioneer status and his ability to craft a very unique and forward sounding rap production.
Some people think that when a mouse crawls into your laptop and dies, it’s a horrific example of life colliding with technology. For people like Toronto-based Joel Zimmerman, such a situation is simply inspiration for a stage name. DeadMau5 (pronounced “Dead Mouse”) is a one-man mélange of techno and minimal with trimmings of electronica, progressive, and house. With a handful of singles featured on various compilation albums, DeadMau5 finally released his first album called Random Album Title, a vague yet apropos moniker for an album that transcends the aforementioned genres. Notable tracks include “Faxing Berlin” (including the piano acoustic version), “Not Exactly,” and “Arguru.”
Everything about Mi Ami is madly outrageous, even the way the lyrics are delivered. Each song is seemingly crafted from a bass and drum jam session upward. The percussion is a mix of many different genres that recklessly propel each song beyond the horizon. The bass fumbles and pops around like a spinning top, while the guitar slides around as a sort of sonic chime. At the very top of each track the vocals soar like birds. Or a single bird against the backdrop of what is a really kicking, indie-rock punk kinetic frenzy. Often stuffy, or restrained, the high-pitched sometimes-squeaky fury is a vocal ability that is like nothing else. When the vocals are nowhere to be found, the music plays on into a heavy almost cerebral ambience that is hard to escape or forget. Mi Ami consists of two members of the Black Eyes, Daniel Martin-McCormick whose vocals waver and at times mimic the aggressive sound air makes as it escapes a hole in a balloon and Jacob Long, as well as Damon Palermo. Formed in San Francisco in 2006, Mi Ami takes music to a rare experimentalism that is pompous and freeform so much that it pushes the listener to the edge of how sound can literally come unglued and still be rowdily enjoyable.
Vocalist/songwriter/guitarist Simon Honisett leads Marvelann’s Bad Advice. Though there are a lot of players here, instruments ranging from bass, pedal steel guitar, viola, and trombone, what could have been a cacophony actually turns out to be a pretty sparse, precise production of songs.
The first track, “15 Below” quickly shows us the great harmony vocals and the first appearance of Paul Brainerd’s pedal steel that will dominate the album; there’s the moody “Just Like Everybody Else,” the sparse-er than sparse “Drove All Night” with just Honisett’s lead vocal and acoustic…and the backing vocals of Sarah Clark, Susan Reilly and Jonathan Jubera. Dude, Dave Depper plays a mellotron on “Christmas 1985”! There’s some upbeat cowboy-ness on “Here We Go Again” (not the first time Honisett and company get a little twangy here). Jubera plays great vibes in the near instrumental “The Shores,” (Marvelann works their powerful vocalists here in a non-lyric almost chant…I’d dare say that while Honisett has an interesting voice, at best, it’s really the backing vocalists in the band that have the pipes). The last track, “How Long Can You Stay Angry” is perfect, and all that the band was leading up to, with a poignant lyric and Honisett’s best vocal performance of all the nine songs.
The rest of the players, Tom Simonson, Ben Boyce and David Bamberger bass; Amanda Lawrence viola, Peter Broderick violin and accordion, make Bad Advice a CD of sparse arrangements, some solid harmonies, slight country sounds and sometimes very good lyrics.