Sleeping Wide Awake
Sampler Podcast Vol. 1
One reason I like the funky, psychedelically tinged jazz of the late 60s and 70s is the amiability the artists tend to bring to their experimentation—they may be taking you on a 17-minute excursion into outer space, but you always get the feeling it’s going to be groovy and fun. Producer Ramon “Radius” Norwood (one of the local hip-hop scene’s most underappreciated talents) makes frequent nods to funky vintage jazz in his beats, but he pays a more meaningful tribute to the era by ensuring that even when his music gets challenging—and it does get challenging—it retains its sense of play. Sleeping Wide Awake has a lot to offer the most cerebral fan—staticky textural atmospherics, found-sound samples, glitchy experiments in odd rhythms—but it also abounds in bongo solos, squelching acid-house synths, sci-fi soundtrack goof-offs, and invocations of Rick Rubin’s early beat-making work.
Recently Norwood combined forces with a small army of similarly minded DJs and producers from around town, including Kenny Keys and DJ Moppy, to form a collective called Beyond Luck. The group has decided to debut its music in long-form mixes rather than in discrete tracks. This first one, simply titled Sampler Podcast Vol. 1, highlights their mid- and up-tempo compositions, and a second compilation of ambient and downtempo music is soon to come. The mix lacks some of Sleeping Wide Awake‘s idiosyncrasies, but if anything it’s even more ambitious, combining all of the above influences with a heavy streak of classic Chicago house.
The Earth Is a Man + Tim Heidecker
“All the Tired Horses“
As reported in a recent Gossip Wolf, the magic of social networking recently brought together Chicago instrumental postrock band the Earth Is a Man and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! costar Tim Heidecker for an impromptu recording session during a promotional tour for Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Though Heidecker wanted to use their collaborative version of “All the Tired Horses” to make a joke about Amnesty International’s recent benefit album of Dylan covers—”I had some spare time,” he says on the song’s Bandcamp page, “and thought it’d be fun to try and make my own Dylan cover on my laptop and post that I was angry Amnesty International cut mine from the record”—the recording can stand on its own for the most part. Fade it out before the Jack Black-style he-man rock at the end, and you have a nicely synth-heavy take on one of the most gorgeously meditative moments in Bob’s catalog.
By the end of the first song on the second full-length mix tape by this group of dance-floor revolutionaries, Dead Prez’s “revolutionary but gangsta” philosophy, gay liberation, the Amen break, the Black Panthers, and Madonna’s “Vogue” have all made appearances—and if you’re not down with all or at least most of that, you’re probably not going to enjoy the rest of the BBU oeuvre. In that case, your loss. Like their compatriots Das Racist—who appear on the previously released “Please, No Pictures”—BBU comes from the “work hard and play even harder” school of political music making, and bell hooks, unlike a lot of records intended to educate and uplift their audiences, doesn’t neglect entertainment in service of its message. GLC and Mic Terror (neither of whom have ever been accused of “conscious” rapping) make cameos, and up-and-coming locals Tony Baines and Montana Macks supply most of the beats—big, banging productions that make it easy to imagine BBU’s radical music on the radio next to Rick Ross’s hedonistic hits.
In the Weeds
Demo tapes have a considerably more respected position in metal than in most other scenes—partly because home-dubbed demos were the only way a lot of metal bands could be heard before the era of cheap CD duplication and free digital distribution, and partly because so many metal bands are better suited to the basement than to the professional studio. Having heard only their demo, I’d be willing to consider filing In the Weeds in that “basement” category. On the bulk of the tracks here, the trio nails a sound I’ll call “filthy, doom-laden maelstrom,” and anything even approaching high fidelity would be disrespectful to that. And unlike the demo tapes of yore, this one is streaming online—which lets me easily skip past the parts where the band veers into unsatisfying melodic territory that reminds me of my least favorite Faith No More songs.
Candy Jams EP
Chuck Inglish of the Cool Kids has long maintained a side hustle selling beats, but with this EP by Bronx-to-Chicago transplant 10ille—hard on the heels of the long-awaited and well-received debut Cool Kids long-player—he steps into an executive-producer role and takes aim at crossover appeal. His collaborator here is a pop R&B chick with a taste for hip-hop and dancehall and a lilting, round-the-way-girl coo that bears the influence of both genres—all in all, 10ille sounds something like an Americanized Lily Allen. The tight backbeat and hooky retro soul guitars on the opening track, “Love Shot,” seem intended to set up Amy Winehouse comparisons as well, which she doesn’t quite have the vocal chops to live up to. A better match is “Heart Eraser”—she slinks around its 80s-inflected electro-funk beat with the assurance of an Aqua Netted freestyle princess.