On The Download: New singles from Lower Dens, Lor X, Blacksage, more
By By Brandon Soderberg
Sep 30, 2016 | 2:09 PM
-Ami Dang, 'Sublimate' On this rugged pop track from her latest, "Uni Sun," Ami Dang, an Indian classical sublimator (she dubbed her approach "Bollywave" in a Tedx Talk back in 2013) crafts curly-cued, post-Timbaland, meta-orientalism—a more mindful and just plain valid version of the "Eastern"-tinged 'Big Pimpin' and 'Raise Up' rhythms—with some help from co-producer Schwarz. As 'Sublimate' eddies, Dang's voice and the elaborate loop hit a kind of frenetic infinity together and I'm reminded a bit of what Jace Clayton says in the chapter titled 'World Music 2.0' from his new book, "Uproot"—"All hail the digital cornucopia!"
Even as Blacksage's pernicious R&B remains scorched and sullen on new album "Shivers," Blacksage's producer, Drew Scott, figures out how to have some fun. 'Sight See,' some spooky disco by way of Ghost Town DJ's' 'My Boo' and I don't know, maybe like Fergie's 'Glamourous,' is just uptempo enough and presumably about banging with the lights on: "If you want to go sight see, keep the lights on baby, try me." Ghost-soulster :3lon hums in the background while Josephine Olivia's singing sits dead center in a venn diagram labelled "dead inside vocalist" with Rihanna on one side and Kraftwerk's Ralf Hütter on the other.
"Still got them Demi and Selena bars but also conscious rhymes," K13 (Koldhearted 13) says on '1300 A.C.,' a diarrhea of the mouth fast-rap produced by Cosmic Chesh who constructs touchy trap interrupted by club bump and Maryanne Amacher-esque distortion. K13's thoroughgoing "A Confident Revival" should grab the attention of anybody interested in what, say, Abdu Ali, Al Rogers Jr., and other interstellar, OutKast-ian, Sun Ra-ian, Alice Coltrane-ian locals big enough to get Baltimore Magazine love are doing with rap right now.
Lilly Wave, a Pulsewidthmod side project that's a bit more synthpop proper than the Krautrock-ian sturm und drang bleep-bloop she usually delivers, offers up righteous rage, dodgy didactism, and blunt, necessary naivete. 'Western Wars' casts Noam Chomsky as a shoegaze siren telling us that "these wars will never end unless we take a stand" and invoking "terrorists wearing suits and ties." Simple sloganeering works here especially because we have the nuance of previous work such as 2015's "#fearwillkeepthelocalsinline" and the ornate electronics which accumulate like micro-aggressions, and news of police killings on your Twitter timeline.
Across six improvisations on the Rhodes electric piano, Liz Durette scours for latent melodies in real time. There is something playful and pleasant about these song-moments, especially the down-but-not-out '4,' which at times sounds more like a doom metal song, all rumbling resonance and chewy feedback filling the empty space between the notes (I'd recommend it as comedown music after the bong-hit butt rock of another Ehse artist, the Scroll Downers). Eventually it fades out, probably because Durette could go on forever—think the guitar solo on Neil Young's 'Cortez the Killer,' all loaded pathos and the good-kind-of-sloppy exploration.
Young protester Melvin Townes has a Tupac Shakur-like quality when he's out there marching: His charisma makes insurgent-minded people gravitate toward him and makes people in power viscerally dislike him (famously, he was choke-slammed by a Maryland Sheriff at the William Porter trial last year). Turns out some of the Tupac-ian-ness extends to his music, recorded under the name Lor Melly: "Tired of seeing my mother crying, tired of seeing my mother trying/ Best believe I'm a get rich, I'm a get rich or I'm a die trying," Melly oomphs. "Remember days there wasn't nothing to eat/ TV dinner yeah my daddy was cheap."
Derived from the clap-clap-stop-start of Desiigner's 'Panda,' but not just another 'Panda' remix, Lor X's all-enthusiasm affront to phonies and fakes has a Yung Joc-like quality—'Where You At' is pure street pop of the overzealous sort. Though I don't imagine we'll get, say, Gov. Larry Hogan or Commissioner Davis, dropping and dancing to 'Where You At' the way Tom Cruise rather famously did the Yung Joc dance on BET way back when. We can wish though. For now, we'll have to settle for the convivial video featuring seemingly all of Southwest Baltimore partying, including a Jim "The Anvil" Niedhart-looking white dude going off.
'Real Thing' folds the fun of the dancefloor, the terror of growing up and being responsible, and, perhaps, the dread of caring or feeling about anything on top of each other—it is all rather Fassbinderian. In a description of the song, Lower Dens' Jana Hunter notes it was written with close friend Arthur Bates and adds, "When we're together, the air is full of intense melancholy, reckless abandon, and a very goofy kind of dark humor" and all of that's in this Bryan Ferry-esque torch song. The desire to be really good or really bad are often the same.
A record fueled by spite—like most noise records, I imagine—though here, spite for the kind of honky noise bros that dominate the scene and have been releasing spite-filled records forever. Black musicians Que and Jenghis show up the scene's glib honky nihilists by making the most nuanced noise record from Baltimore since TRNSGNDR/VHS's "Condominium" with "White Noise Boys." Standout 'White Excellence' begins with a sample of Birdman and then moves between splatters and squirts of static and an ornate house beat and adds some sticky guitar work—discordant solo-ing of the Hendrix, Hazel, and Prince sort.
OK so not a Baltimore song, but it it might as well be. The number of times I've heard Atlanta rapper Young Dolph mumbling "I GOT COCAINE RUNNIN' THROUGH MY MOTHERFUCKING SYSTEM" out of cars in the city and headphone-less pedestrians' phones is in the dozens. Another reason for its Baltimore success: It features a typically pissed and honest verse from Lil Boosie, a Baltimore favorite who adds some levity to Dolph's charged-up lament. "Ain't got no brain daddy's sperm was full of cocaine," Boosie admits. Later on he cops to selling crack to family members—"for the regular price" at that.