Will C. – Everyday Around The Cosmos
Every now and then, Boston’s Will C. takes a break from fast-rapping the syllables and curating New York rap radio history and makes something a little different. Every Day Around The Cosmos is the latest such thing; an aural kaleidoscope of wholly original production straight from the imaginarium of Will C. If you’re familiar with his work at all, you’ll know that it often appears to occur in a daydream of yester-year, with a pondering sense of ‘where we’ve been’ but never dwells for too long before shifting the focus to ‘we have so much left to do’. To this end, Cosmos appears to be concerned with the journey forward, and a quick eye-balling of the track names will confirm this. The songs are inflected with the inevitable change of things both lost and gained in the process. It’s daunting, exciting, lonely and rewarding; everything a journey should be. Crucially, Will C. convinces the listener that each one of these feelings is coming from a personal source, and they’ll resonate in your headphones just as personally too. It’s this keenness of expression, helped by a lack of vocals (bar one track) that keeps the agency sparse, preventing the self-exploration from being self-indulgent or heavy-handed. It’ll speak to anyone who enjoys music made with passion and purpose, anyone who enjoys music’s transportative capabilities, and anyone who enjoys Czech science-fiction flicks from the 60’s. Everyday Around The Cosmos is out now on Double-You Productions and is best played at dusk, looking out of a window.
Onra – Fundamentals
Onra appears very comfortable existing between the two lanes of retro and contemporary R n’ B and electro-funk; conflating the sensibilities of each as he does so. This is a knack he’s had for some time (check “Sitting Back” a couple of albums back) and, if you hadn’t guessed from the Purple Rain -type brush script on the cover, he’s back at it again on Fundamentals. True to this, the LP kicks off with a heady synth-cocktail of bass and ocean spray. The tracks that follow have a variety of features who apply raps and croons from the sincere (Chuck Inglish, “So Long”) to the border-line satirical (Dopp, “Anything”). The sounds and sensibilities presented on the album are Onra’s bread and butter and it shows in the great compositions and arrangements. Personally however, I prefer Onra when he’s embarking on dust-crackling journeys of ancestry as he did with the Chinoiseries records (Vol I & II). But I’m a sucker for those trips, and “world” music. There’s a crowd for Fundamentals though, and they’ll welcome it with open arms. Out now on All City Records.
Dr. Yen Lo – Days With Yen Lo
The road outta hell is paved with fly rhymes. Ka’s lyrical content often concerns criminal activity and hard living, and the movement away from this, though more rap-verite than the many narcotic high-adventure records of the 90’s and 00’s. The struggle conveyed is a timeless one since humans first carved symbols on rocks; this way food, that way danger, except sometimes there’s only one path. And here the soul is in as much danger as the body with talk of guns sitting within rhyming distance of spiritualism. This duality is prevalent throughout Dr. Yen Lo’s (Ka and Preservation) first collaborative record. Light and dark, actions and thoughts, past and present, the latter being particularly important. Of all the mention of metal and steel, Ka’s has an evident patina, a pensive luster. The present is rooted in the past and many will find aesthetic significance in what that entails, “I carve a lane, do it for the starving brain, mind stellar, my wine cellar put your bars to shame”. It’s there in his low rasp, years of hardship and the wisdom it reveals, but it’s great stylistically and structurally for resonance too. What did Gandhi say? “Spit only if it improves upon the beat”. You get the impression that Ka likes a good maxim and, as per the above, he knows that space and breathing room for the instrumentation is just as important as evocative lyricism. It’s a trait he presented in his own production before, and it’s one Preservation retains here, making it clear that this is a two-man album. Preservation presents his own duality, with the minutiae of organ harmonies playing off monolithic double-bass. Sometimes the instruments sound like they need some cough syrup, sometimes like they’ve had too much (meant as praise). It’s an atmosphere seemingly borne out of the darkest corners of a classic thriller score, mirroring the themes of the lyrics. Days With Yen Lo is out now on Pavlov Institute Records (CD / Vinyl / iTunes).