Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Portal Gun Reloaded

Alright, I did a video about UG's highly awaited new album Portals already.  Watch that if you're interested in my thoughts on the album.  But since then, the vinyl version has dropped, as well another new bonus CD.  All told, that's three CDs, a record and a tape, and a lot of different material between them.  So, I thought I'd do my thing and break down all the versions and all their respective bonus tracks in a little, comprehensive overview.

So, first of all, let's take a quick look at the LP.  Yes, LP.  I could swear I read when this was announced that it was going to be an EP, but I guess not.  Musically, the LP is exactly same as the main CD [left], all fourteen tracks including the skits.  So that was a nice initial surprise, when I was expecting a little "best of" 6-tracker and got the whole album.  It's limited to 300 copies and as you can see above, it's a dope picture cover, and the wax is a very cool splatter-colored vinyl.  They also included a some cool bonus stickers and a second poster with the order, which was nice of them, as I mentioned in my video, the posters included with the CD were bent and folded into the packaging.  This time they're nice and crisp, albeit unsigned.  Obviously the record itself is the important thing, but I appreciate when a label gets all the little extra details right like that.

In addition to the CD and LP versions, there's a cassette version.  I showed that in the video, but in case you don't feel like watching it, I'll repeat that it's a cool purple tape.  Not only does that match the album artwork, but it's a cool reference to the original Cella Dwellas purple tape cassingle that lead directly to Raekwon's famous purple tape.  The label describes the cassette as limited on their store, but I'm not sure to how many copies exactly.  Anyway, the tape introduces the first of the bonus tracks, "We Not Playing (Revisited)" featuring Ill Bill of Non-Phixion.  It's called "Revisited" because it's a sequel to a song they did together on Ide's 2011 album, Rite of Passage.  It's not just a remix, though, it's an all new song with all new verses set to roughly the same instrumental.

Next up is the Instrumentals album (titled Portals Bonus Material on the CD itself).  Yes, this features all 14 instrumentals from the main Portals album.  That's nice to have in itself, but then it also has four more bonus tracks on it.  First up is "Wordplay" featuring Ide, an all new song that they regarded highly enough to release as an online single.  It's not one of UG's "mystical" songs, but it's pretty fresh.  Then "We Not Playing (Revisited)" is on here, too.  Next is "Scripts N Scrolls," a song which was originally going to be part of Portals (it says so on the 2011 label sampler where it was first heard), but later wound up on Ide's album Uncovered Remains.  And yes, that is another mystical-style track.  And finally, the last track is "You Already Snow (2012 Version)," a remix of the duet UG did with Celph Tilted on Portals.  Not really a favorite song of mine in either incarnation, but it's a solid remix, production-wise.

Another thing I mentioned in my video was an mp3-only bonus track that people who pre-ordered the original package got.  Well, if you missed it, don't feel bad, because it's now found a proper physical home on this new bonus CD, Portals: B-Sides and Remixes.  This is a full-length album of ten cuts, no instrumentals.  Four of these are remixes of Portals tracks, including my favorite song, "Super Gods," and "Mind Right" done by Nick Wiz himself.  There's also a remix of "Ready for War," which is cool, but the track doesn't really match the vocals, plus another version of "You Already Snow."  One song is "My Soldiers" an older track featuring Casual and Smif-N-Wessun's Steele that was originally featured on Ide's Addicted To the Vision album.  So four remixes and an older song means five all new songs, which is pretty exciting.  The first is "Intro," but it's not just some little 30 second instrumental, but a full song with vocals.  Then there's "Might & Magic Pt. 2."  "Might & Magic" was one of the best songs on Portals, and I think this one is even a little bit better.  "Close Your Eyes" was that mp3 exclusive, and it's another great one, even better than a lot of the songs on Portals.  The other two songs are cool, too.  There's "Space Ghost" and "Doc Strange" (hey, that's what I called him in my vid!) featuring DV Alias Khryst.  It would be going too far to say this bonus CD is better than the Portals album itself, but it gives it a good run for its money.

So pre-ordering Portals is a thing of the past, as all versions have landed, with the vinyl arriving on my doorstep just in time for Christmas.  But looking at their site, you can still buy either bundle or every individual item separately.  The tape, each bonus CD, just the t-shirt.  So you can pick and choose however you want.  I'd recommend the main album on whichever format floats your boat [just kidding; vinyl all the way!] and the B-Sides CD, or a bundle if you're really a fan.  I mean, if this is your thing.  I could totally get how UG's "mystic" stuff is probably too strange for most people who just want a relatable pop song or a tale of grim, urban reality they can take seriously.  But I love it; UG's got a unique talent and I already can't wait for his next album.

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