How much analysis does an album called Fuckbird Barnacle demand? I doubt Super FM would want me to over analyze this. The album cover is a cartoon style drawing with a naked man with a soft, shitty body (much like mine) staring in a mirror with a dripping crystal formation on it. I don’t know if the crystals originated from the mirror, or if the man puked them onto the mirror. Maybe it means the man is crystals? What does that mean? Fuckbird Barnacle is loony fucking nonsense, and I’m into loony fucking nonsense.
It’s a garage punk album. No innovation in sound, really, but the guitars sound fat, the tone is great and manages to distinguish the band from many of their contemporaries. Also, the guitarist occasionally likes to go “fuck this song, I’m gonna do a weird lil alien riff”, and then he does, and it’s cool. He probably listens to Mr. Bungle. Actually, all these guys probably really dig Mike Patton. And the Dead Milkmen.
Lyrics range from “TV set is broken, fuck you” in “Dad Clone” to the intro of “Nullo”, which is “Okay, super, this is a song about cutting off your dick and your balls“. I could take the time picking these lines apart bit by bit, trying to explain what they mean, but I don’t know that I could truly understand what deep philosophical truths Super FM is trying to bestow upon our consciousnesses.
This is a really stupid album. In a good way. It’s a little short on hooks, and if you’re lame and don’t like dumb fun, you’ll hate this because dumb fun is the name of the game. But as someone who really wishes more stupid bands would throw themselves into the art of dumbness, this is pretty refreshing.
For those who don’t already know, Johnny Otis Dávila is probably best known for his work on guitar in the now defunct Dávila 666, probably the biggest band in Puerto Rican garage rock the past decade. Since Dávila 666, Johnny’s been part of Terror Amor (still playing with AJ), and now we have this, where Johnny takes front and center. If Dávila 666 was akin to Radio Birdman with smatterings of bubblegum influence, Johnny’s four song EP P.I.F.F. is akin to Greg Cartwright’s loud rockin’ days with Compulsive Gamblers and Reigning Sound during the first half of the 2000s.
This is loud, loud guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll. Not as loud as Too Much Guitar, but not too far behind. Opener “Calle de Susto” is probably the best original here. It’s the highest in energy and features soaring backing vocals, some nice pounding tambourine, a great, brief, efficient guitar solo, and Johnny’s most dynamic lead vocal performance. “Mi nena” is good as well, and “¡Ay Dioj!”, while probably the weakest thing here, is still solid. What might be most surprising though is that Johnny covers one of my all-time favorite songs in Compulsive Gamblers’ “Stop & Think It Over” (called “Stop” here), and manages to do justice to what I pretty much already considered to be perfect. It’s very faithful to the original, as it should be, but there are enough differences to warrant its existence. Johnny’s vocals are more clean during the choruses as opposed to the gruff vocals of Greg, there’s some tasteful use of acoustic guitar, and the rhythm during the chorus is different, swinging where the original pounds, courtesy of the drumming shift.
If you’re a fan of guitar rock, you should check this out. This thing’s a nine minute good time, and I hope more’s coming.
Do you remember Wacky Races? You know, that crazy ass cartoon where every episode was a race with a bunch of crazy ass people/creatures in crazy ass cars trying to take each other out (in kid-friendly ways, of course). You know Superjail? That crazy ass cartoon where every episode the crazy ass Warden concocts some half-baked scheme that ends up taking all his crazy ass prisoners out (in not kid-friendly ways)? Well, VCR’s R.I.P. Sportsboy is what you might get if Black Francis and John Zorn hung out, did a buttload of shrooms and crack, ditched the horns for synths, and sound-tracked a Wacky Races/Superjail crossover episode.
Yes, it’s as awesome as that sounds.
This is one of the most spastic records probably in existence, definitely one of the most spastic punk records. It’s synth punk to the naked ear, sure, but these guys are playing some fucked up no wave jazz grindcore shit, it’s just way too catchy and way too brightly toned to be thought of in such a heavy and grimy context. This record is brutal as all get out, but it’s cartoon violence.
R.I.P. Sportsboy is a concept album, I guess. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust Sportsboy, or whatever. The “story” (what little you can make out from low-mixed shrieks of vague lyrics and bizarre samples) is completely insane. The grooves and their constant shifting, re-implementation, and modification are what makes this special. This isn’t an album of songs, rather each track is a movement that implants a visual scene in your brain of animated chaos, a rebellion of stupidity breeding violence and coming full circle. It’s structured almost like a a classical piece, taken to its zany and immature extremes.
At only 17 minutes, R.I.P. Sportsboy demands to be heard start to finish each time you listen. It’s a punk rock epic that flips genre tropes on their heads, successfully marries accessibility and complexity, and it’s unlike anything in your record collection.
Favorite tracks: Best listened to as a whole
Music videos for “Murder City Rules”, “Scream Again”, “One Trick Dog”, and “Shut Up”:
Today is yet another Bandcamp Day, where the online marketplace waives their revenue share for 24 hours so that 100% of proceeds go to the artists and labels who sell on Bandcamp. Right now is yet another instance where we are raw from another reprehensible act of murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a cop, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was cold, unaffected, without remorse as he suffocated that man for nine fucking minutes while his fellow officers aided him. There is no good cop here.
Since then, there have been protests again. Some have turned into riots, others have remained peaceful. Both were met with violence from the police departments that were supposedly established to serve and protect. Politicians implemented curfews to stifle free speech: rioting is illegal (though perhaps not unjustified) no matter the time of day, but now the First Amendment goes to bed at 6PM for many. Members of the media and lawyers have been arrested on site for simply documenting the events that occur. The curtain is being pulled back as America exposes itself as simply yet another country that has successfully sold the idea of freedom to a large percentage of its populace, while in reality only keeps its citizens on leashes just long enough so that they forget it runs out. Somehow it snuck up on people, this circumstance we’re now in. As black men, women, and children kept dying one after another over the most insignificant shit or absolutely nothing at all, officers never saw justice. They couldn’t see it if you pumped a syringe full of it and stabbed them in the eye with it. They walk, they keep policing, their budgets are increased by the politicians who’ve built the militarized police state (who couldn’t be bothered to help build roads, or schools, or anything that actually helps their citizenry) that perpetuates a cycle of violence, hate, paranoia, and racial prejudice. They say the riots are too much, they say the demonstrations are too much, they say that taking a knee before a fucking football game is too much, but to them, the stack of bodies is never enough. I don’t know how more of us didn’t see it. Some of us saw it but thought it’d take more than some to do anything about it.
Well, now we’ve got more than some.
Now is the time to exercise your power, however much or little of you have. Donate to bail funds, relief funds, and justice organizations. If you can’t afford to pay, protest at a demonstration. If you can’t do that, disseminate important information. E-mail your officials. Send a fucking fancam to a police app so those departments have to work to dig out bootlicker tips (the k-pop stans have really put punk to shame). You don’t have to do everything. But do something. Do something beyond changing your profile pic to a black square for a day, because the system does not fear empty symbolic gestures that fade in a week or two. They fear dissent and they fear exposure. Call them what they are, show others who they are. America has long held the misplaced confidence that it is the best country in the world, but now is the time to prove that it can be if the citizenry makes it happen. Those who have sought the power to govern and police others will never use that power responsibly: as it has always been, it will be the people who dictate where we go from here.
This platform is small, and I don’t know who will see those words above and who among those who do will even care. We are, historically, a small arts webzine. But I feel as though I need to say them. More tangibly, we can share black art and support it. On behalf of COUNTERZINE, I spent $150 on music exclusively from black artists, and I’d like to share those artists with you. I’m fucking livid right now, but as important as it is to destroy the institutions that perpetuate violence and systemic racism, it is also important to elevate and appreciate creation and the voices of black artists. I don’t want to make this more about musical commentary than the message behind it, but you can expect full reviews of Chloe Hotline’s CYNTHIA, drea the vibe dealer’s priestess of vibrations pt 2, Fat Tony & Taydex’s Wake Up, and Death’s …For the Whole World to See in the coming weeks. For now, don’t listen to what I have to say about them. Listen to what they have to say about them.
The Cocker Spaniels – Plays Well With Others
What I bought: Digital
What I paid: $5
Backxwash – God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It
Special thanks to mynameisblueskye (Chris Bynes) for bringing Lesibu Grand to my attention
NNAMDÏ – BRAT
What I bought: Cassette
What I paid: $12 + shipping
What I bought: Digital
What I paid: $5
In addition to the purchases made on Bandcamp, I’ve matched it with another $150 split between community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers on behalf of COUNTERZINE. Should you be interested in donating in a similar fashion (you can donate at any level), the easiest way to do this is to visit this ActBlue link. Receipt shown below:
For those looking to expand their views and knowledge beyond the realm of music, here’s a helpful document compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein containing reading and film suggestions that might help in broadening perspectives and understanding of race as it exists in the social context.
Lastly, fuck the cops, fuck the government, black lives matter.
Sudbury is likely one of the most overlooked locations for music modern day, and Howie Moonlight’s debut mini-album is a prime example of why. Their music has lingered in my mind and in my music library long before this release through audio rips of their performance videos on YouTube of pop gems such as “Shanghai” and “On the Run (From Love)”, and their lone studio recorded single (re-recorded for this release) “Fear and Loathing in Space”. As luck would have it, they release this, and Howie’s crew disbands almost immediately after. But, at least we have this.
This thing is made up of seven songs and three audio “logs”: all killer, no filler. The version of “Fear and Loathing in Space”, while perhaps slightly less successful of a pop mix when compared to the original, is actually more interesting. It’s off-kilter and there’s more depth to the mix. “Shanghai” and the title track are predictably fantastic, but I’m finding myself listening to “She’s a Working Man” and “Shut Up and Love Me” even more. The former has a brilliant and brightly toned synth lead, a chugging guitar riff, and drumming like thunderous claps, sweeping the listener up in a wave of infectious cheese. “Shut Up and Love Me” just breezes by so quick. It’s the simplest, most direct track, and the somewhat loungy vocals are at their most charming here. “Planetoid//Continuum” could be swapped into a Miami Vice soundtrack and your only question would be “how did I miss these guys 30 years ago?”.
Everything here is absurdly fun and that’s what matters. Imagine if Star Trek was a teen romantic comedy series set in the ’90s, back when the hip thing was to have bands on the show. Howie Moonlight would be the band playing a residency at the space club. The deep, naturally produced mixes put the listener right there, and who honestly wouldn’t rather be in a space club right now?
Favorite tracks: “She’s a Working Man”, “Shanghai”, “Shut Up and Love Me”
Mexican recording artists have long been subjugated to stereotypes projected on them by outsiders. They’re not all sombrero-wearing mustached men walking around with guitars. You’ll look to Mexico City to find Americanized acts making accessible pop music and walk away satisfied. Still, if you pay attention, at this very moment, there is a vibrant community being emboldened south of the capital by one man in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca, for how small it is, and in spite of its shout-out in Childish Gambino’s “This is America”, is still stuck in the mud of traditionalism. English is hardly spoken, the population is hardly sizable, and the clothes people wear there are still mostly reliant on generations past. The music produced by DJ TBear realizes this and works to assist women in feeling empowered enough to rap in their own native language in their own native country. There’s nothing that will drive change more than empowerment.
In the thick of the globe’s coated 2019 summer, Middle Mexico’s musical pioneer and founder of rap record label Bear House, DJ TBear, dropped a pin to his home studio, graciously offering the space for an on-location interview. The New York Times ran a Surfacing profile in 2018, where DJ T-Bear was credited with founding the label many women are signed to as rappers themselves. This makes TBear a crucial figure in the music industry south of our border, unwittingly or not. He is fighting the good fight.
The album DJ TBear produced in 2016 for Mare Advertencia Lirika is filled with nature sounds and wildlife expressions, recalling the same kinds of sounds Kanye West used in his WTT days. The album is carried on by soft strings, and grooves that feel authentically Mexican. The singing is heartfelt. Once the woman begins rapping, the production wraps around her vocals to keep up with her flow. Things start to get a little breezier 10 minutes in, which is when the authentic Mexican sound makes a return for more rapid fire raps from Lirika.
The repurposed garage exists in the hills in residential suburbia. The recording studio is aplomb with the usual: stacks of vinyl touching the ceiling, audio equipment scattered about like crisp leaves looking up at door hinges on a windy day. The homes surrounding the artist are slightly elevated but otherwise plain-looking. There’s a Starbucks nearby.
Headquartered here, on the outskirts of San Felipe de Agua, an upscale suburb of the city center, DJ TBear’s figure is cut like a gentle giant. Well over six feet tall, his enormous glasses work hard to frame his face. He looks like the typical producer and studio owner. He settles into the studio, and after some niceties, we begin our interview to find out more about what the artist stands for, the label Bear House Co., what his vision for Oaxaca is, and what’s next for Oaxaca and him.
This interview was originally conducted in Spanish and has been lightly edited for clarity. Translator: Oscar Anthony Vanegas.
Mustafa Abubaker: What was the first day of Bear House Studio Company?
DJ TBear: It was a small home studio around 2008. It was first when I started to record people who rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. In 2008, we started doing more recordings, and we were progressing. We did more beat making, and that was the start. That was the start of Bearhouse Studio Company, but I started doing rap in 2002.
Abubaker: How do you describe Bear House Studio Company music?
TBear: The music is rap. The majority is heavily influenced by the 1990’s rap in the United States. Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG “Biggie Smalls” and Dr. Dre. That was the influence. For beat producing, my biggest influences were DJ Premier. DJ Premier and Dr. Dre have been my influences. The people who record in Bearhouse Studio have beats like that type. Type from the 90s. The rap has lyrics that range from different topics. Some lyrics talk about parties. Lyrics talk about what is happening in society or a problem.
Abubaker: Why are all the artists in Bear House Studio women? Why are there no men?
TBear: I started doing this in 2002. The people that I started with are the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico. At that time, we were called a different name. When I lived in Baja California, Mexico, my group was basically West Side Connection. In 2004 women started to join. They formed the first group in Oaxaca, Mexico that was called Libertencia Lyrica (Lyrical Liberty). I produced some of their songs and one of their CD’s. Now the women that are in Bearhouse Studio Company, a lot of them talk about different topics. Some of them rap about parties. For example, a rapper who is not directly connected with Bearhouse Studio Company, one the initiators of rap in Oaxaca, Mexico, whom I have worked with and produced a CD with, is Mare Advertencia Lirika. That CD, all the songs are mine. She does consciousness rap and empowers women. For example, Aries, another girl who is with Bearhouse, her rap is more party-like. Also, there are men in Bearhouse, but I have had more success with women.
Abubaker: What was your thought process in making Bear House Studio Company?
TBear: The name is from my nickname. Oso, which is a bear in Spanish. When I was younger, I played American football. They called my nickname Oso. From there, I stayed with that nickname, and I used it as my DJ name. I called my studio the house of the bear. That was my thought process for the name. For the studio, I do not want it to just be a small studio. I make t-shirts; we want to make a clothing brand. That is what Bear House is. It is a brand.
Abubaker: In what creative state is Bear House Studio Company?
TBear: Right now, we are in reconstruction. There are new, and there are people who left. We are working on a CD for one of the new MCs called Reves Martinez. We have nothing recorded for now. We have small collaborations with Mara Advertencia Lirika. Another with one rapper from Oaxaca, but he lives in Fresno, California. For now, we are working on beats and production. I am working on a DJ competition and will be competing in the Red Bull Freestyle competition.
Abubaker: How do you incorporate American and foreign styles when producing?
TBear: For the time that I lived in Baja, California, I have a lot of influence from the rap of the United States. I try to equilibrate by integrating Latin and Mexican things and music from Oaxaca. I find the balance. My music and production have to do more with rap from the USA, though.
Abubaker: What did you do to start your projects?
TBear: If you are asking in what ways I find inspiration for my projects when I start them, let’s say, I like to listen to music. Mexican music, like “Tigres del Norte” or funk genre from the USA. Also, jazz music. All that is what I listen to inspire me to work on something. When I am not working from a music perspective, we are working on t-shirt designs. We want to start making t-shirt designs for our company.
Abubaker: Are there visuals and videos for Bear House Studio Company?
TBear: For the moment, there are no music videos. There are a few small music videos. There is not anyone that we have recorded a music video with high production. First, we want to make sure an artist has made it big in the industry. Oaxaca has a market that is not as popular as Guadalajara or Monterrey. It is harder to make it here.
Abubaker: Will we see Bear House Studio Company in the United States?
TBear: I hope so. I hope to go to the United States to play as a DJ. That is a dream.
Abubaker: What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry?
TBear: The industry in Mexico is growing, but it is growing with modern rap with no real containment. For example, I listened to rap in the ’90s. Tupac can rap about drugs and another song rap about consciousness. “California Love” talks about gangster life, but “Keep Your Head Up” talks about helping women. In Mexico, rap is more about gangster and unrealistic things that the rapper is most likely lying about. But that is what is selling right now. Same in the United States. Trap music is what is selling in the USA. In Mexico, you can get a trap beat to be more present in the scene.
Abubaker: What is the biggest problem in music in Oaxaca and Mexico?
TBear: The biggest problem in music in Mexico, and I lived it as DJ and rapper, is… If you have ever heard the comparison of Mexico to crabs. The one who wants to get out, the other crabs hold you back. People hold you back. In the USA, people support you. In Mexico, if they see you rising, then people talk bad about you and try to hold you back. There is no support from the community for a rapper trying to make it big and become a star. If they see you rising to the top, people try to hold you back. In Mexico and Oaxaca, that is the biggest problem.
Abubaker: How would you describe Oaxacan hip-hop?
TBear: This is how it was in 2002. We started with lyrics with party and not that much consciousness rap. From there, things started to blossom. Consciousness rap, party rap, gangster rap, trap rap. From a straightforward way of rapping, there have been more and more branches added to the genre.
Abubaker: What makes Oaxaca different?
TBear: What makes this rap different from the rest of the country? There is nothing that makes it different. I once thought the idea, but at that time, I was further ahead of my time. I used to listen to “Dirty South” rap, which is Texas rap and Mississippi rap, but there was no one in Oaxaca to rap on those beats that I produced. I wanted Oaxaca to have their own sound, but it never happened. I want Oaxaca to have a sound that is different from the rest of the country… a sound that is from Oaxaca and different.
Abubaker: What is the culture of Oaxaca music?
TBear: What is specific to the music from Oaxaca is how some sounds are from bands, like “Dios Nunca Muere.” That is what marks the trademark sound of Oaxaca.
Abubaker: What is your responsibility at Bear House Studio Company?
TBear: I am the owner and beatmaker.
Abubaker: What are you working on right now?
TBear: What I am working on now is making beats for one of my own CD’s. I haven’t had the chance to make my own thing where I work with artists. I usually do work where I come out as a producer, but I want to come out with something as my own.
Abubaker: What do you think about Latin artists like Bad Bunny?
TBear: I think Latin people boost Bad Bunny because of the way paved by Daddy Yankee. The ones who started Latin music really paved the way. They opened the lanes for artists like Bad Bunny to make it. I like his rhythm because it is trap, but I don’t always like his lyrics. I listen to American rap. I like Ozuna, who is another Spanish artist, more. I feel like this is the result of a lot of artists opening the lane for today’s artists being so successful.
Abubaker: If you make music with someone, who would it be?
TBear: With a rapper, in today’s time, I like J. Cole. I like how he raps. Joey Bada$$ too. I like how he raps. Older times, I would like to work with Tupac. DJ Premier.
Abubaker: Why don’t you rap in English if it is so popular?
TBear: A lot of times, it is the difficulty of learning the English language. The rap in English has more words that you can cut. It is more malleable. “Thank you” can turn into “thanks.” There is more fluidity in English rap. I don’t understand a lot of rap, but I like the flow on the beats. I desire to learn the language better.
Abubaker: Do you have merchandise for Bear House?
Abubaker: What is next for Bear House in the future?
TBear: Reconstruction. We want new people. There have been rappers that left, and we are looking to get new artists. We also want to empower the brand. We want the t-shirts to be more known. We have been promoting our shirts in Fresno, California, and are looking to expand the brand.
Be sure to follow DJ TBear on Instagram and Bear House Co. on YouTube to keep up-to-date with their work.
Born July 25, 1993, in Queens, New York, Mustafa ‘Mus’ Abubaker is a Pakistani American writer and editor from Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys reading, cooking, and running. Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and on Instagram.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Den of Sin! I am your lovely host, TS Denizen, the denizen of the Den of Sin. Afford me the time to provide you with a brief summation of my story. I am not of the planet you call Earth. I hail from the planet Sinestra. On the planet Sinestra, I, along with many of the other Sinestrians, were not permitted to express our true selves. Our Elders believed there was a correct Way to Be that all Sinestrians were duty bound to adhere to, whether this Way to Be was the Way we Were, or not. The oppression of my soul was too great to bear! So I stole a space pod of my World and flew it to the nearest inhabited World which my Elders deemed Sinful: Earth. Here, I fell in deep love with Earth culture, and Earth music in particular. Each song was an undiscovered reflection of my own soul! And so I established this Den of Sin to share with you myself, others, and most importantly, yourselves.”
The Den of Sin is a program that mixes elements traditional music radio with scripted radio drama. We play rock music from the indie-ground within the context of a sci-fi black comedy. Throw John Peel and Ed Wood in a blender together and the resulting blood smoothie hopefully tastes something like this show.
Episodes fall under different categories. “Experiments” are the “main” series. These episodes are scripted and add to the Den of Sin multi-verse in tangible, story-related ways.
“Studies” are interview episodes. A guest comes on and one of the characters asks them questions about who they are and what they do, and the guest selects the playlist.
Regardless of your poison (or if you like to roll the dice and mix like me), I hope you find something in the Den that is to your liking.
Welcome to the Den of Sin! In this premiere episode, TS Denizen explains their unusual diet, says a few words on the social impact and mythology of Prince, and makes themselves a Frankenstein bitch. Plus, songs by classic artists such as Todd Rundgren, Blue Oyster Cult, and Wire, as well as new favorites Indonesian Junk, Sonny & the Sunsets, Gentleman Jesse, and more.
“An Irrational Fear on Sailors” Lamps
“I’m Only Lonely” Gentleman Jesse and His Men
“It Takes Two to Tango (This One’s for the Girls)” Todd Rundgren
“Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance” The Mothers of Invention
“Harvester of Eyes” Blue Oyster Cult
“Blood and Gore” Cheveu
“Joyless Masturbation” GG King
“Out of the Cold” Slow
“Star to Star” The Chrome Cranks
“Shelly Shelly (Don’t Break My Heart)” Indonesian Junk
“Sweets Helicopter” Thee Oh Sees
“Sparklehorse Gordon” Imp of Perverse
“Dark Corners” Sonny and the Sunsets
“Wildlife” Cheap Time
“Summertime Girls” Inherent Vices
“Truest Love” Superdrag
“Stayed Up Late” The White Wires
“The Beautiful Ones” Prince
“Frankenstein (Edgar Winter cover, live at MSG 1997)” Phish
This is an archival episode originally released May 3rd, 2016.
God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It
The human experience, by its very nature, is personal and often painful, and yet institutionally, those with power and/or influence have seen it fit to allow additional, crushingly heavy layers of pain to be heaped upon individuals who don’t fit into the narrow mold of what they deem to be acceptable. This can be race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or a multitude of other things. Often it’s many. This occurs through bigoted law, socialization via government and corporate institutions (often working in tandem), and religion. It infects the working class, the regular people we see every day as innocent individuals are warped in the minds of others as objects of fear or hatred. It infects families. These people will project their insecurities on many things, but the go-to is often God. They will blame their failure to accept individuals outside of the assigned heteronormative binary on the supposed word of the Lord Almighty. They use God as a moral scapegoat.
The brutality we encounter aimed towards minority groups of all kinds is often visibly shocking, particularly in 2020 amidst the proliferation of social media and under an administration who openly emboldens those who would seek to inflict harm on those who aren’t like them. It’s physical violence. It’s horrific. It’s a big part of the picture. What seems to receive less attention, however, are the mental and emotional tolls: the suicidal ideations, the misplaced guilt, the understandable social paranoia. Zambian rapper/producer Backxwash’s God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is an autobiographical account of her experiences as a black transwoman regarding mental health struggles, societal fear, and in particular, a family’s moral scapegoating of God when faced with their own’s true identity.
Backxwash’s music is often labeled as horrorcore, which is some ways accurate but also something of a misnomer as well. There is horror here, but it’s often of the self and psychological in nature, rather than aimed outwards and physical. The opening title track is as explicitly violent as she gets and it only goes as far as “Cross my heart and hope to die, I wish blood on my enemies” and “Mama keep telling me, ask the lord for forgiveness / I want war with these bitches, I want corpses and weapons“, approached with the broadness of someone very much reluctant to engage in violent acts, though delivered convincingly enough to allow an examination of the mask many black individuals put on so as not to show weakness to said enemies. In the same song, she makes reference to a drug-induced suicide attempt in more detail. What’s most telling about how it’s approached is that she’s understandably reluctant to fully re-engage with that moment, but still more willing to do so than clarify specific enemies or how she believes they should suffer for making her feel this way, even theoretically. It’s more vulnerable and heartbreaking than any soft sadboi hip-hop you’re likely to here these days, but the anger that propels it forward also gives it far more weight.
Following the opener are singles “Black Magic” and “Spells”, featuring Ada Rook and Devi McCallion both of Black Dresses, respectively. God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is wisely not riddled with features given its insular subject material, but each contribution is meaningful and effective. Rook’s guitar on “Black Magic” gives the track a density, grind, and industrial heaviness that perfectly compliments Backxwash’s dark composition and seething vocals. McCallion meanwhile provides the hook for “Spells”, properly fey, drained, and ghostly given the occult-flavored beat. It’s probably a good time to note that unlike previous projects, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is fully self-produced (outside of the Hell and Heaven interludes from fatherfake and SKIN respectively). Following Deviancy and the news that Backxwash would take the reigns this time around, while “concern” is not the appropriate word, there was a personal acknowledgement that production-wise Flying Fisher and Sugeryhead’s beats for tracks such as “Devil In a Mosh Pit” and that album’s title track were more compelling than “Burn Me at the Stake”‘s. Any pre-conceived notions have been dismantled: as excellent as Deviancy was, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is a much more focused effort due to its consistent voice on production, which has been refined leaps as she seamlessly melds the heavier and more aggressive aspects of her past collaborators’ beats into her own witchy brew. Metal samples are prominent (Black Sabbath on the opener, for example), and fans of Lynchian psychological horror will be pleased to catch a clever call to Eraserhead.
Beyond the great importance of its pure conceptual material, the way its presented and delivered is what truly elevates God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It from a therapeutic writing exercise to a universally powerful classic that has the rare potential to actually help a wide array of listeners in profound ways. Backxwash is overflowing with charisma, but it’s not performative charisma: it’s relatability. While analogues can and will be drawn between tracks such as “Black Magic” and “Into the Void” and the work of Death Grips (especially considering both have received large base boosts via coverage from The Needle Drop) when hearing hooks like “I FUCK WITH BLACK MAGIC / YAH” and “I GO INTO THE VOID / FUCK!“, it’s important to remember that Death Grips are more performative and calculated than Backxwash, who puts forth a more grounded and potent picture of her experiences. If Death Grips makes pulp fiction, Backxwash makes biopics, but she doesn’t use that distinction as a “realism” crutch: she enforces it through her delivery. While “Into the Void” features the best hook on the album, it almost pales in comparison to the manic, confident verses which mix strength and fear until they’re indistinguishable, her voice a trembling yet immensely powerful force (“I’m paranoid that everyone is out to try and get me / I’m looking over shoulders as I’m passing through through the deli / Maybe cause my skin or maybe it’s the way I dress / I’m tearing out my limbs, I won’t make it till the next / I’m walking down the street, I’m anticipating death“). It never comes across “put on” in the way an MC Ride performance often does, crafting wild portraits of insane occurrences with blunt, crazed delivery yet complex prose that creates a disconnect. Backxwash is more inclined to call upon her own history and process it in real time and then magnify the voice of quieter traumas that go overlooked. There are some spots where it seems as though she’s trying to piece the words together as she says them, but it never veers into awkwardness or sloppiness. It’s just the relatable struggle to appropriately summarize emotions that are so twisted up, and sometimes connecting to that is more affecting than being presented with all the answers.
Though it’s often centered around difficult subject matter such as familial strain or misplaced guilt (not being able to be a big sister to her brother due to rejection from other family on “Adolescence”), paranoia (“Into the Void”), and drug use (“Black Sheep”), Backxwash still manages to squeeze in the very occasional spot of humor, such as the allusion to having a crush on Serge Ibaka on “Black Sheep”, without it being jarring. And while calling “Amen” anything resembling “levity” is quite a stretch, it can feel comparably so simply because it’s not anecdotal and instead a savage takedown of the opulence and hypocrisy of religious organizations donation-begging from poor folk so they can enrich themselves. The album closes on “Redemption”, which signifies a new clarity and self-acceptance, with Backxwash concluding that her redemption isn’t for the eyes of those who would reject her, but for herself, and it begins with relinquishing misplaced guilt over being herself (“Spend your whole life regretting this shit is pathetic / I wish I started sooner“).
It’s difficult to overstate just how vital this album is, and that’s not said lightly. It’s a time where art can feel frivolous as the world falls apart. Very rarely, however, there’s art that transcends being a great listen and ascends to being something that is or should be culturally significant. God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It feels like that rare art: devastatingly honest, creatively crafted, and hauntingly beautiful, it’s the type of thing that could save a life on the intersection of identity, and save the minds of those who’ve closed theirs to the plight of others before.
Favorite tracks: (All of them, but especially) “God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It”, “Black Magic”, “Spells”, “Into the Void”, “Amen”
There are some albums that we wish we didn’t still need. For every gay punk band, riot grrrl band, and many others, the music they make, the messages that they deliver is one that they shouldn’t have to repeat twice or more, if only the status quo was less oppressive to those they claim to love, respect and serve. NEGRO, like many punk albums, is one whose message is still vital due to what’s happening now. White-passing people express false oppression at black people showing literally as much pride in themselves and our art as they do in themselves, black kids are getting roughed up and thrown into jail by school policemen, black people still get shot, black women still get disrespected… and the same people who have oppressed us gleefully are the same one calling it disrespectful for crying out at the bullshit. NEGRO is one of those primal screams that came right when we needed it the most.
Those who have kept up with Pink Siifu’s sprawling discography knows that the last thing to do is box him in. He has released jazz records (referring to both his albums as iiye and as VCR@aol.jazz), punk records (more on that later), he raps over soul-sampling beats and also does avant-garde electronic albums (take a listen to his EP year 19803711967, for example). Pink Siifu’s projects all teach you to NEVER have expectations on what a black artist can do now. Hence, if you go into this NEGRO album expecting ensley part 2, you will be a massive fool for it.
Hell, this very fact can be proven by the orchestral blast of horns and free jazz drums in “BlackisGod,A Ghetto-sci-fi tribute”, which is a tribute to known Sun Ra-disciple and LA afrofuturist beatmaker/composer Ras G. Distorted screams of horns and manic drumming ushers the album in what is sure to clue you in on the fact that there will not be a single moment of rest and reprieve. What follows is Siifu taking on blown-out hardcore punk in a way that is not just angry, but passionate about what it is angry about. “SMD” and “FK”, two tracks from his FUCK DEMO sticks a middlefinger directly at white supremacy and its commitment to stealing from the have-nots that don’t share their color. “You wanna fuck with a nigga?“, Siifu screams on “FK” before eventually taking a breather to continue condemning police brutality.
Just when you think you got him pegged, Siifu trips out with “we need mo color”. Through NEGRO, what matters more than the music is the message: fuck white supremacy, fuck 12, know your roots and realize that your pride surrounding being black comes with having to navigate the hell of being black in a country that shows limited to no real respect for you as a human being.
For example of the far latter, news clips of police shootings compound on “ameriKKKa, try no pork” before eventually giving way to the frantic spoken word performance “run pig run” and all before he gives a little shout-out on “DEADMEAT” to Chris Dorner, a policeman who was murdered after being famous for killing other policemen and their families. The entire quadrifecta could easily be summed up in “Deadmeat”: “You treat me like I ain’t shit / Fuck y’all pieces of shit” and “I feel like eating ribs“. Yes, ribs.
To say that NEGRO is an album that explores black anger would be putting it too vaguely. It’s a cathartic scream after the maddening laughter for black people who have to deal with death anxiety, trauma, self-hatred and continued insults of their intelligence in America and a punch in the face to those who just want to hear him rhyme without truly hearing the point of his rhymes. NEGRO is an album that we wouldn’t need if overall situations were less like a predatory hellscape waiting to happen to all of us. If the lyrics “Pigs try to follow me / They tried to kill my family” weren’t a very likely reality. Not only among police, but the white person “joking” about calling the police on you for existing among them.
Considering the social landscape in America, we shouldn’t still need albums like NEGRO, but here we are, and to say we should be glad something like it exists at all feels like an understatement.
mynameisblueskye (all lowercase) is a blogger, musicmaker, poet, aspie, and an All-American original. When I tell you that you won’t find Nother one like me, I would really suggest that you take my word for it.
Today, we’re excited to share “Waterfall”, the newest single from UK singer-songwriter Medium Soft, as well as announce his follow up to March’s Paradise Slums: AM in the PM.
“Waterfall”, and by extension AM in the PM, represents a stylist shift from Paradise Slums, largely owed to the acquisition of a ’90s Technics keyboard bought with funds made from that record. As we continue to note, one of the most refreshing things about Medium Soft’s approach to the more lo-fi subsets of pop music is that it reaches beyond a hollow aesthetic and represents his personal circumstances: this time, he could afford a keyboard, so he’s going to use it.
And use it he does: on lead single “Waterfall”, there’s no sign of the nylon string guitar that defined the tropical escapism of Paradise Slums, instead favoring ’80s synth and city pop artists as inspiration, such as Hiroshi Sato, Bread and Butter, and Haruomi Hosono. The result is its own type of escapism still, reaching towards the pristine visage of the pop seen as the reflection of luxury life in Japan in the wake of the country’s economic boon in the ’70s and ’80s. Similarly to Paradise Slums, however, the recordings are of a more humble nature, reminding us such idealism is but a hazy dream to grasp at in our minds and slip through our fingers in reality. Fans of the aforementioned artists should appreciate “Waterfall”‘s cool, sparkling synths, but fans of modern artist Part Time should especially take note of where Medium Soft goes from here.
You can stream Medium Soft’s “Waterfall” below:
AM in the PM was named in reference to Medium Soft’s own sleeping patterns (largely awake at night and asleep during the day), as well as in homage to AM radio, where you’re liable to catch the occasional glimpse of pure pop magic obscured by a shaky signal and a poor timeslot. It’s yet again another perfect angle to cut for a man on a persistent yet gradual climb towards a better life via a communication of the beauty, peace, and happiness that isn’t, but should be. The album is tentatively planned for release sometime in June or July, and Medium Soft is currently looking for a tape label for release.