Music You Need to Know : Blockhead – Music By Cavelight

Blockhead – Music By Cavelight (released: March 2004)

At some point in my collecting of musical goodness, I stumbled upon Blockhead.  Now, being a serious Def Jux fan (“WHO?” you ask…well, I’ll tell you…the record label involving the likes of Aesop Rock, El-P, Mr. Lif, Cannibal Ox, and many more…if you’re not familiar…well, I’ll probably review them later…but definitely worth a listen) I found Blockhead’s sounds familiar.  After minimal research, I discovered that this was the producer behind many of my favorite underground hip hop tracks.  Besides that, I discovered that the hip hop beats he was creating for these rappers was merely the tip of the iceberg for this musical genius (remember…almost 90% of the iceberg is underwater!).

And please, believe me when I say that Blockhead is NOT your typical producer.  I think a common misconception in the world of hip hop producers is that they can only produce a repetitive, looped 4 to 8 bar beat.  While this is evident in many of the mainstream producers you may be familiar with (not naming any names here), Blockhead is of a different breed.  While the majority of producers work with their four piece band (guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums) Blockhead acts as if he has an entire full orchestra at his disposal.  And perhaps he does!

Upon listening to “Music By Cavelight”, you will find yourself confronted with catchy piano loops, rich strings, bold horns, and perfectly placed vocal cuts.  Note…Blockhead is NOT a DJ!  And while there is minimal cutting and scratching on this album, it is not the focus nor does it detract from its orchestral nature.  Also, please let me add that I am in no means attempting to scare the hip hop heads away…this album does contain sick beats throughout it as well as sufficient scratches to maintain the “hip hop vibe”…however I think you will have to be thinking outside the box to generate any coherent rhymes over these beats (assuming you’re trying to freestyle, that is).  Truly, this is a wonderful blend of beats, rhythms, and melodies.  Think DJ Shadow with less scratching and a greater diversity of instrumentation.  Blockhead is anything but what his name might believe you to think.  In fact…you may find him to be quite the opposite (hence the “musical genius” label above)! 

My personal favorites on the album consist of “Road Rage Breakdown”, “Breathe and Start”, and “Insomniac Olympics”.  There are so many more to name, but let me keep it to those three.  “Road Rage Breakdown” follows its chosen name by literally breaking down in the middle of the track to reveal another complimentary beat…only to return to the original melody.  “Breathe and Start” starts with the previously mentioned catchy piano loop which rapidly builds on quick drum patterns (think drum and bass-esque) followed by sax and strings.  And again…midway through your exploration into this new world of bumping beats and melodies, the song switches it up and takes a new path with the words “…he’s lost after all…listen!”.  I’ve provided an interesting video interpretation of “Insomniac Olympics” above for you to enjoy.  I won’t say much, as I hope the song can speak for itself.  This album is surely one you will be passing to friends with the words “Just give it one listen…”.

Trust me…you need to know about Blockhead – Music By Cavelight…educate yourself!

 

Jansen Wordsworth 

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Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 1:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Music You Need to Know : Fat Freddy’s Drop – Based On A True Story

First of all, let me start by giving a quick background on this series. I will be informing all of you out there in Internet Land of some essential tunes for your ears to dance to. Why is it essential you ask? For no other reason than I enjoy listening to it and with a collection of over 2,500 albums, I’ve found a couple gems which need to be shared. There are times I will be reviewing new albums and also times I’ll be rehashing some albums you might have slept on. With that being said…let us begin with:

Fat Freddy’s Drop – Based On A True Story (released: May 2005)

I found this album by way of my good friend who returned from his visit to Australia and New Zealand. He gave me the age old, “Dude, you gotta check this out…” line. And as always, I gave him the, “yeah, yeah, yeah…” response. Well needless to say, when I finally did check out this album, I was blown away.

Fat Freddy’s Drop is a reggae/dub/jazz group with a touch of hip hop from New Zealand. They are hugely successful with their Kiwi fans (this album is 7 times platinum by New Zealand standards) and have won almost every New Zealand music award that there is to win (bet you didn’t know they had New Zealand music awards!). Now, I know when I think reggae, I think Bob Marley. And while I love Bob, I too often feel that he is mimicked by so many other similar reggae artists.

Fat Freddy’s Drop was a refreshing break from this train of thought. These guys have an amazing ability of letting a track develop and grow from the moment it starts. So many tracks on the album begin with a simple rhythm and grow into a jungle of horns, bass, and sax all intermingling, creating a truly infectious groove. And right when you might think they’re pushing it a bit much and getting out of hand, they’ll cut the instrumentation to return to that simple, original rhythm which led you into the trance you will inevitably find yourself in. And believe me, with no track on the album being under 5 minutes, you definitely have time to settle into a hypnotic state for each and every song, if not the entire album.

The production on this album is phenomenal and each song somehow retains its own unique identity while maintaining a familiar vibe throughout the album. You also have to enjoy the singer’s voice (no Jamacian accent mind you) which is placed so perfectly over the rhythms provided by the rest of the group. Simple lyrics and truly head-bopping beats make this album addictive from the start. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let this ride in the background until someone inevitably spits out, “Who is this we’re listening to?!?”.

Trust me…you need to know about Fat Freddy’s Drop – Based On A True Story…educate yourself!

Jansen Wordsworth

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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