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Cee Gee/Genecist vibe on "Proverbz and Video Gamez"

2020 has been a very bad year for a lot of things but not so for underground hip hop. Dig around in the digital mire for a while and you’ll probably come up with something pleasing. Case in point: last Friday night on Billy Jam’s “Put The Needle On The Record” radio show there was a track featured by the Buffalo-based duo of Cee Gee (he’s the DJ) and Genecist (he’s the rapper) that caught this blogger's ear.

The track is called “I Got You” and it starts with a simple keyboard figure that’s soon backed up by a tight MPC-style beat but get this during the whole intro you also hear Miss Piggy, or a convincing facsimile, dropping ad libs over the beat. Enter Genecist with a laid-back strutting flow that locks in with the loping rhythmic underpinning--you can hear the groove in the lyrical refrain alone: “told ‘em yeah I got chu”--and meanwhile Miss Piggy is still doing her thing but then before too long Genecist does an about face and starts spitting rapid fire triplets while praising his fans and the scene and his own skills (duh) and God Up Above before easing back into the opening groove. Rinse and repeat.

Compelling enough stuff to check out both artists. Turns out that Cee Gee, aka Cee Gee Incorporated, stays true to the latter moniker by releasing a steady stream of beat tapes, solo work and collaborations. This is backed up by his most recent Facebook post at the time of writing (yes I’m a social media stalker what of it?) that boasts “14 Beats In 4 Hours!!!” so here is a man with a serious work ethic who also knows how to create some undeniably ‘90s-style beats alongside the overall stark, slightly off-kilter feel that if you're into a certain Mr. Jay Dee you may be into this too. A few years back Cee Gee left computer-based beatmaking behind and acquired an Akai MPC so no wonder at the ‘90s vibe. For more of his flavor you can look up his collab with another Buffalonian, graphic artist and comic book creator Kevin Delgado aka Frigid Giant, together known as Green Giant.

Genecist likewise appears to be a busy guy lately. Known locally on the scene as a singer-rapper in 4 B-LO, a group specializing in sexytime R&B music, his solo work culminated in 2017’s <Genecist Project> collecting his output up to that point. After nearly retiring from the music-making game Genecist has come back strong with three new EP’s released this year and a fourth in the works (four EPs in one years sounds awfully familiar). The most recent two EPs, both released in October, are tag-team DJ & Producer collaborations: 20:20 with Roobxcube and Proverbz and Video Gamez with Cee Gee.

Before closing I’ve gotta mention at least one more track on the latter EP, the one directly before “I Got You” that's called “Sega Genecist.” No doubt you get the pun but the duo take it next level, building the track over the chirpy game-intro music to the old school arcade classic Galaga. One could easily see this sample fitting perfectly into a chiptune song, but here Cee Gee and Genecist take the goofy-sounding tune (for which I have a great affection to be fair) and alchemize it with a heavy beat and with fleet rapping and even some nice vocal harmonies, all the while weaving in references to Tekken, Street Fighter, and Dragon Ball in the lyrics, and damn if it doesn't make you wanna grab your joystick. It’s pretty mind-expanding stuff and I can’t help but notice that the two tracks discussed here and the one before it (“Follow the Leader” though not an Eric B. and Rakim cover) all clock in at precisely 4:20 in duration. Coincidence? You be the judge. (Jason Lee)

   

Octonomy livestreams from Elsewhere 12.11.20

Octonomy is a Brooklyn-based sound artist whose work ranges from ambient-floating-in-the-clouds reveries (4•3•3•6) to glitchy-grimy-down-in-the-dirt noise sculptures (0) to vocal-based work combining ambient/noise elements with what I’m calling “interdimensional electropop” (Warhorse). It’s a heady mix that’ll get under your skin so head on over to the Elsewhere rooftop tonight via Twitch (note: the physical space is closed to the public for the winter) and get your mind and body right through the strange magic of electronically-generated sound waves and real-time virtual broadcasting. 

For a sneak preview you can check out the Octonomy live set below filmed in the halcyon days of the Summer of Covid. This performance was part of DJ Vox Sinistra’s weekly Strict Tempo series--likewise streaming on Twitch and still going strong--a showcase that originated at Seattle’s Mercury@Machinewerks late last year but which now features a cavalcade of DJs and live acts transmitting from locales across the globe every Thursday night starting at 7PST/10EST. Since the plague hit it’s been this writer’s weekly goto fix for electro-punk, coldwave/darkwave/minimal wave, cybergoth, acid and industrial, dark techno, synth pop and synthwave, EBM, and "all things cold, dark and wave-y" with due attention given to cool visuals and S&M-derived fashions.

In the meantime look out for new music coming soon from Octonomy on Faktor Records. And also on the Elsewhere bill you'll get some bonus Khadija with proceeds going to the important work of the National Bail Out collective--a “Black-led and Black-centered collective” working to “end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.”
(Jason Lee) (photo credit: Chthonic Streams)

   

Shadow Monster livestream from Our Wicked Lady

Duo acts carry a certain mystique to this day. At all times just a single city bus mishap away from solodom, they’re like the two-piece-chicken meal deals of rock ‘n’ roll (sure it’s a meal but it's sure to be on the value menu). Rock ‘n’ roll duo acts tend to adhere to a certain minimalist aesthetic by design but often follow a brutalist aesthetic as well by showcasing BIG drums and BIG guitars--the “value” part of the meal--or even BIG keyboards like in Quasi or Matt & Kim to take two very different examples. And also if you’re brave enough to play in such a stripped down format you’d better have some BIG hooks and BIG stompin’ and rockin’ rhythms to keep your listeners engaged--we’re talking about the special herbs and spices here.

The group that’s most often credited with pioneering the two-piece "rock ‘n’ roll value meal" format--by the way there’s a guy whose name rhymes with “Frack Site” who cites them as a major influence--is a little group called the Flat Duo Jets. On the band’s 1985 demo cassette (In Stereo) and 1990 self-titled debut album, Dexter Romweber (guitar/vox) and Chris “Crow” Smith (drums) kick up a cloud of Southern-fried psychobilly psychosis that’s hard to resist or serve with a cease and desist.



And now to the subject at hand, Shadow Monster is a two-piece rock combo from Bushwick, Brooklyn that’s taken up this baton of late and they wield it admirably. Unlike a number of high profile acts in Musical Duos-ville who spice up their sound with programmed drums and sequenced keyboard parts (we love ya Ravonettes, Kills, et al.) Shadow Monster do without these musical equivalents of coleslaw and curly fries. No side dishes, here’s your chicken and biscuit thank you and come again!

With a sound that recalls classic mid-90’s shiz--not the Jonah Hill flick tho’ that was cool, I’m talking stuff like Juliana Hatfield’s Only Everything or Sebadoh’s Bakesale--Shadow Monster relies less on overwhelming force and more on well-constructed tunes and songwriting. For instance their 2019 album Punching Bag opens with a hook-laden eponymous song that’s a swaying mid-tempo jammer about “rolling with the punches” and the masochism implied by the phrase that builds to a climax with Gillian Visco’s vox and guitar spinning into the ether with the support of John Swanson’s gallivanting drum fills.

Next comes a more upbeat number called “Temporary Love” that starts with some quick-strummed acoustic guitar but which turns out to be one of those it-sounds-happy-but-it’s-about-darkness-and-doubt-and-romantic-dysfunction songs which is always a good combo. Over the full course of the seven songs on the rekkid you continue to get a decent range of moods and styles but with some consistent lyrical themes such as (according to their official bio) “themes of loss, depression, and isolation.” Hey, I feel seen! No surprise then that track six titled “Lovegun” isn’t a Kiss cover. But it should be obvious anyway--for one thing the title’s written as one word and also it’s not about Paul Stanley’s c*ck. But instead it’s more of a wistful lighter-waving song which it's always good to have one of those and so it's more like their "Beth" except the drummer doesn't sing this one.

Shadow Monster perform live tonight at beloved BK hot spot Our Wicked Lady meaning they have portable heaters on their rooftop bar. If you're in the vicinity you may want to consider making a reservation to watch the band from the club’s aforementioned heated rooftop where you can order drinks while the band rocks away downstairs and watch it on video feed. Masks and social distancing required you know the drill. Or alternately, and more easily, you can catch them livestreaming on the club’s Youtube, Facebook and Instagram channels or give Friendster a try cuz you never know. (Jason Lee)

   

Son Lux comes out with "Tomorrows II"

It’s not easy to make a synthesizer or a sampler weep, or to make programmed/processed drums shudder in fright, but Son Lux has mastered these tricks alongside others--able to make their machines and their instruments breath and gasp and pant and sob. To be sure they also coax ecstasy, calm, and even hope (see "Prophesy" below) out of their gear, both electronic and organic, and from Ryan Lott’s choked-with-emotion voice. Son Lux may tend towards the melancholic but just as often these and other emotional colors are blended together to create new unnamed hues.

Maybe here it would help to consider the etymology of the word “emotion” (just nod along!) which is a combination of the Latin for “to move” and the Latin for “out.” Put these syllables together and it refers to “moving outside” or “going beyond” one’s normal boundaries, that is, transcendence. In the musical realm what better way to transcend this plane of existence and to "move beyond" than by entering a synthesized reality--a world we can more readily control (in theory, anyhow) and shape to mirror our own interior landscapes. One must wonder then where the popular notion comes from that regards electronic music as being automatically robotic, anti-human, and anti-emotional? Maybe Ted Nugent?

All the ways that Son Lux finds to weave together electronic and organic sounds--bringing distinctly human rhythms to the former, while frequently making the latter sound foreign in the true sense of the word--harkens back to what was arguably a golden age for these kinds of organic/synthetic synthesis as developed in the late 20th/early 21st century by artists like Bjork, Massive Attack and Radiohead.

Around a decade ago Son Lux took up this torch, or one of the torches at least, and hasn't dropped it since. Currently they're in the midst of releasing their most ambitious work to date: a trilogy of works starting with Tomorrows I put out earlier this year; continuing with Tomorrows II released a few days ago; and continuing soon with Tomorrows III. Or at least I assume that'll be the title unless there’s a serious misdirection at work here. Below you can check out a couple of more tracks from Tomorrows II, just try not to get too emotional. (Jason Lee)

photo credit: Lisa Wassmann

   

Pom Pom Squad's "Last Christmas"

Pom Pom Squad’s cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas” is the best version of the Eighties seasonal perennial at least since the one Crazy Frog did (Ariana Grande pffft) but did Crazy Frog add a dramatic soliloquy to the George Michael composition or curse out the song’s errant lover-to-never-be at its conclusion? I think not. The CGI amphibian went top-ten in both Sweden and Belgium with the song in 2006 which makes me think PPS should be a lock for a top-five chart placing at minimum.

Band frontperson & Orlando-to-Brooklyn refugee Mia Berrin (pictured) heightens both the wistful melancholia and the implied tension of the original version and plus the Pom Pom’s update advocates staying at home for the holidays so win-win. And while you’re at home you can pop in the new “Simply Having A Wonderful Compilation” compilation (released last friday) into your virtual CD changer alongside Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album and that Hanukkah record from last year with Haim and Flaming Lips and Jack Black and Yo La Tengo and have yourself a grand ol’ time.

“Wonderful Compilation” featues Pom Pom Squad alongside a full slate of indie small-stars all wishing you a dream-poppy, grungy holiday (sample title: “Santa Is A Neocon”) but with the occassional foray into 16th-century caroling which all makes sense since it’s a co-production of indie mainstay Father/Daughter Records alongside Wax Nine, the latter of which being both a sister label to D.C.’s Carpark Records and a friggin poetry journal which is the brainchild of Sadie Depuis of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, the latter of which having been discussed in the post right before this one so you see how everything in the universe is connected.

But before closing just two last words about Pom Pom Squad. And those two words are "Heavy Heavy" for they are both of those things.