Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back To Burn?

More new music today. In fact, I'm going to be doing a bunch of new music posts all in a row. And for today, I'm going to look at one I've mentioned a couple of times, but just finally got my hands on: Themselves' Crownsdown and Company. If you missed it, Themselves dropped their "comeback" album, Crownsdown, last year. And this is a limited (1000 copies - mine is #0979) CD-only remix album of that.

So, interestingly, they keep the sequencing the same. "Back II Burn" was the first song on Crownsdown, the "Back II Burn" remix is the first song on Crownsdown and Company, and so on. This might not be a good thing in this case, because it causes them to lead with some of their weakest material. Themselves handled their own remix of "Back II Burn" and the metal guitars and such they add certainly don't improve over the original. Then Dalek's remix of "Oversleeping" is even worse - just a weird, distorted mix.

Now, I have to be honest. I haven't listened to Crownsdown too much since I got it... it was kind of a disappointment. So I'm not going to talk too much about how the remixes stack up to the originals, because I don't even really remember all of the originals; most of them didn't leave much of an impression on me. I went into this remix album hoping it would breath some more life into the material and make matters a little more compelling.

And sometimes I think they succeed. Buck 65's remix of "The Mark" relies a little too heavily on arbitrary noise and distortion (possibly to cater to the non-hip-hop contingency of second generation Anticon fans), but despite that, it's still pretty gripping, and it's certainly not lacking in energy. I don't care for the hook anymore than I did the first time around, but I guess it's asking too much to hope he'd've scrapped it?

Alias's remix of "Gangster of Disbelief" at least brings attention back to the lyrics, which is an area where a lot of Dose's projects unfortunately wind up having issues. I don't really care for the drums, but at this point I guess they've become Alias's inescapable signature sound. The rest of the production works well with it, though.

13 & God's remix of "Dax Strong" is nice; I think it really manages to capture that natural cohesion of wildly disparate styles (live instrumentation, computer sounds, simple and bugged out vocals) the band is always after, but doesn't always secure. If I wanted to give someone a good example of "what 13 & God are like" and what they're capable of, I'd play this song.

The sound of Lazersword (whoever that is)'s "You Ain't It" remix is like an Egyptian Lover tune updated for the youth of 2010. It's certainly interesting, but the vocals are practically an after-thought, included only out of obligation to the project... it really wants to be a slow and spacey club beat that maybe should've been saved for a different project.

By contrast, the remix of "Roman Is As Roman Does" by Our Brother the Native (whoever THAT is) plays equally trippy - in fact more - but it really makes excellent use of the vocals and original song to make something completely bugged out, but also fitting. It's insane, and I don't think you could qualify it as hip-hop anymore; but if you're open and a fan of Themselves, you should appreciate this crazy mix.

"Skinning the Drum" on the other hand, is as hip-hop as it gets. On the one hand it uses plenty of old school vocal samples, classic drums and familiar breaks, but it's by Odd Nosdam, so you know it's also wildly original at the same time. At this point in the album, it's almost hard to believe I'm still listening to the same album that opened with those crappy opening mixes, 'cause this is great!

The remix of "Deadcatclear II" by Baths (the third producer here I've never heard of, but that's okay) is as heavy on the computery distortions and effects as anything else on here, but it's good. And when it strips down a bit, playing one of Dose's verses almost acapella, it gets really effective. Practically each sample element or loop is given a chance to breathe on its own and really draw you in, and like "Dax Strong" and "Roman Is," really manages to capture the better vibes of Dose One's recent projects.

The last remix, Bracken's spin on "Gold Teeth Will Roll," is another good 'un. It's moody and atmospheric. There's some very cool, subtle use of scratching at the end, too. I don't remember anything on the original Crownsdown feeling like this, but it should've.

Finally, we're given one extra bonus track: a brand new Themselves song called "Antarctica." It's pretty good, too. The music's low-key but but subtly busy and vibrant. Dose flow blends with it perfectly as he kicks a pretty simple but nice message to the struggling artists out there, and there's a quite clever use of a Saafir vocal sample during the breakdown.

So, in the end, I really have to recommend this, at least for fans who are already predisposed towards Themselves' style(s) of making music. I started out thinking, "man, i can't believe I got suckered into blind-buying another..." but by the end, I was really quite pleased with it. There's a couple of songs I'll always skip, but the good material to be found here is certainly worthwhile and plentiful enough. Heck, it's even got me thinking of breaking out the original Crownsdown again and giving that another spin.

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