“Suicide Song” b/w “Gnos Edicius”
In 1936 a shoemaker in Budapest named Joseph Keller killed himself. In his suicide note he reportedly quoted the lyrics to a 1933 song called “Szomoru Vasarnap” (usually translated as “Gloomy Sunday”) by pianist Rezso Seress and poet Laszlo Javor. Within the year another 17 suicides were rumored to be linked to the song, and soon wild stories spread that put the worldwide “Gloomy Sunday” death toll in the hundreds. In 1968 Seress jumped from his apartment window to his death.
If this sounds a bit like an urban legend, well, I won’t argue—the folks at Snopes.com are skeptical—but you have to admit it’s also totally metal. Rabid Rabbit thought so too, and the local doom-metal quartet’s new cassette single is a very loose cover of the song, performed by an expanded lineup that features guests Michael Zerang on percussion, Dave Rempis on saxophone, Mark Solotroff on vocals, and Bruce Lamont on sax and vocals.
Many of the first recordings of the song sound better suited for a serenade scene in an early talkie than for a long bath with a razor, but in RR’s hands “Gloomy Sunday” is definitely miserable enough to push a potential suicide over the edge. Nearly 12 minutes long, it moves from sludge rock to an everything-is-melting psychedelic interlude and then into a vocal part where Lamont, Solotroff, and RR bassist and singer Andrea Jablonski sound like a gang of cenobites performing some sort of macabre musical theater. On the flip side the entire thing plays backward (the tape is actually a continuous loop), which is needless to say even creepier. It’s the best artifact yet to come out of the increasingly intimate and somewhat mystifying relationship between Chicago’s metal scene and its improvised-music community.
“Cobra (Extended Crunkstep Mix)”
Sky Ferreira: “Animal (Young Live Dubstep Remix)”
Soulja Boy: “Pretty Boy Swag (Young Live Kwiki Mart Dubstep Remix)”
Chicago has been slow to come around to dubstep, and I figure this is at least partly because dancehall hasn’t ever really taken off here either—if it had, local clubgoers wouldn’t still have such a hard time accepting beats they can’t juke to. A few DJs and producers are changing local attitudes toward dubstep both with their persistence—soldiering through midevening sets for crowds who obviously aren’t into its skittering, wobbling rhythms—and with their efforts to develop a more Chicago-friendly hybrid, inflected with house and hip-hop.
Young Live of the Starters DJs is close to nailing that blend. The drums on his original “Cobra (Extended Crunkstep Mix)” wouldn’t freak out B96 listeners, who might even dig his rave-inflected take on dubstep’s trademark wubba-wubba bass lines (or, if nothing else, the kitchsy samples from G.I. Joe cartoons). His remix of Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag” slyly juxtaposes the MC’s aggressive vapidness with the menacing atmosphere that dubstep’s hard-core fans get off on. But maybe his most impressive work so far is a remix of Sky Ferreira’s cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal.” The teen pop starlet gave Snow’s nervy, snaggy electro-pop tune a Fiona Apple-style piano-and-voice treatment. Young Live’s version fits it with a chattering, incongruous dubstep beat—but Ferreira’s clear vocal melody and the tune’s bright, almost optimistic background chords part the curtains and let a little light into what’s normally a shadowy genre. All three tracks (and many more) are up on his Soundcloud page, and he’s self-releasing “Cobra” via Beatport this week.
There are currently two Chicago MCs calling themselves Paypa, and both of them debuted new material on Fake Shore Drive last Wednesday—it was like the rap-blog version of one of those gossip-mag “Who wears it better?” photo features.
The Paypa dropping the Tunnel Vision mix tape seems to have the edge as far as clout goes. Currently living in LA, he’s got better management support than any up-and-coming Chicago rapper in I don’t know how long—so much that he can slap the names of mix-tape dons DJ Drama and DJ Khaled on the cover, scare up high-gloss beats aimed straight at the bottle-service section, and land exclusive verses by the likes of Rick Ross, the Game, and Jim Jones, all of whom name-check Paypa in their raps (which you know has to cost extra). Serious business.
The track “Uncut Dope,” from the Paypa who’s part of Project Mayhem, is a decidedly humbler affair, but it’s scrappy. The beat samples its lightly greased wah-wah guitar and staccato bass line from the Menahan Street Band’s funky “Make the Road by Walking,” and he rides it with a blunted but weighty flow. The first Paypa’s style is catchy enough to suggest pop-radio compatibility, but the second has a way of burying sneaky hooks in his idiosyncratic flow. It’ll be interesting to see who holds on to the name.
“Bloodshot Eyes” and “Ordinary” b/w “Until You’re Dead”
When I wrote about this band in March they were called Other Minds (and before that they were Sang des Loups). But a cease-and-desist order from a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to establishing “a global New Music community,” followed by a period of brainstorming, has led to the slight variation they’re now using. At least they squeaked it in before the sleeves for their first single went to press.
There’s a nice range of basement-punk sounds on the HoZac roster, but lately the label seems to be zeroing in on something more specific, which for lack of a genre tag I’ll call “almost naively bubblegummy pop music played by people who sound like they might be on drugs.” Outer Minds fit that description, but they don’t space out too far for their own good. The production on their seven-inch is crisp, and a few of the turnarounds and melodies in their songs are surprisingly sharp. Their occasional dip into layered vocal harmony, like in the chorus to “Ordinary,” demonstrates a grasp of technique and theory that most garage bands either don’t have or would rather not let on about.
No offense to Oregonian Benoit Pioulard, whose contributions to this freshly reissued tape manage to recall both manly voiced early-60s folk and twitchy IDM, but local band Campfires are the real draw for me here. Their “Royal Orange” takes its time getting started, spending its first minute and a half as a brooding, intriguing lo-fi soundscape, but then a guitar lick emerges from the dusty, pulsing drone and all of a sudden the song’s an appealingly cheap-sounding basement knockoff of a Madchester jam, its focus split between deep, danceable beats and Brian Jones-style psychedelic riffage that the Stone Roses would appreciate. The other Campfires cut, “Long Day’s Journey,” is a little less coy, packing an album side’s worth of fuzzy, sugary hooks into a chunk of pop that’s not even 90 seconds long. v
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