(Dark Time Sunshine – ANX, Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf – From the Top of the Stack)
Propo’88 & Blabbermouf, creators of this old-school sound, did make a terrific album. Propo’88, the producer, conjures up some sensational beats, complete with jazzy horns, tinkling piano samples and old-school scratches; Blabbermouf raps about his lyrical prowess and warns other rappers to step off; all unashamedly and gloriously reminiscent of early 90’s hip hop, before Gangsta rap took over. To add to this cocktail of nostalgia, Blabbermouf’s flow is almost derivative of Chip Fu from Fu-Schnickens – who, as you guessed it, were around in the early 90’s. As a sucker for this sort of style, I drank it up like Coca-Cola. I thought it was one of the best new hip hop albums I had heard in ages. This phase went on for a few days, when, quite suddenly, I woke up one day and it was no longer interesting to me. What had happened? I pondered to myself. This is the same style of outrageously funky hip hop that I love to digest; why is it now as a bitter gall? I have to say, at the time, I had no answers, and this whole episode remained somewhat confusing to my primitive brain.
|Propo '88 and Blabbermouf|
Around the same time, I discovered another album: ANX by a group called Dark Time Sunshine. I bought the album because I’d read many terrific reviews about it; I didn’t know anything about who the group were or what they’d sound like. Turns out that, as I mentioned above, their style of hip hop was astronomically different from Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf’s. Sgt. Pepper’s-esque in its kaleidoscopic psychedelia, with highly idiosyncratic instrumentation and production, the musical atmosphere on ANX is often alarmingly progressive. Might I add, progressive without compromising its listenability. Instruments and sounds uncommonly heard in hip hop in this way are utilized with confidence and ease, at times echoing early analog Aphex Twin, the rich folk of Fleet Foxes, spacey video game soundtracks, the avant-hip hop of El-P, and a little Brian Eno. Furthermore, the MCs are terrific, spitting rhymes along the (very loose) topic of anxiety, the overarching theme of the album. I can’t say I’ve heard any hip hop that sounds remotely like it; and I’ve heard a lot of hip hop. Initially, it was too esoteric for my liking, and I continued getting my kicks to the familiar nineties sound of Propo’88, until aforementioned event where my interest disappeared. So what happened?
|Dark Time Sunshine|
Well I’m no Agatha Christie, so I’m sure the mystery was fairly obvious to anybody still reading. The throwback sound of Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf is great; it’s funky, it sounds like it could have been made 20 years ago, but in my opinion – it should have been made 20 years ago. Not today. Hip hop has moved on leaps and bounds, and I guess as enjoyable as it was, the duo’s refusal to embrace modern trends and sounds just irritated me after a while. Why weren’t they doing anything with all of the musical progression the genre has made in 20 years? Here’s the kicker, and I can tell you this with near certainty; if this album, was made 20 years ago, I would like it a lot more. I would. Context is just too important. I love the sound of this album, and I love that particular era of hip hop, but that sound is consigned to that era, and it’s long time to move on. ANX showed me how truly far hip hop has come, and to hear it, with all its innovations and daring, I find it hard to go back to Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf and look at it in the same way. These albums were both made in 2012, but they sound 30 years apart. Dark Time Sunshine are doing things few others (except El-P, Death Grips, and to my chagrin, Kanye West) are doing, and I have to give them highest praise for that. Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf made a fun album that would have been great 20 years ago, but now it’s just old hat, and like a playboy who one day wakes up beside yet another successful conquest and finds it no longer satisfies him, I too am looking for something more than cheap, familiar thrills. And that’s exactly what Dark Time Sunshine did. Hats off, fellas.
“But wait! What does this mean? Aren’t you a staunch proponent of old school music? Have you finally changed your tune?” Well, not exactly. My favourite albums still remain mostly older ones; (I recently made a top 10 albums list; three albums from the sixties, three from the seventies, two from the eighties, two from the nineties) however I must now add a caveat: I love older music, but I have no wish to see music remain that way. Music should always be progressive, because, to misappropriate Woody Allen, music is like a shark: it must keep moving forward, lest it die. What we have with Propo ’88 & Blabbermouf is a dead shark, whereas Dark Time Sunshine are moving forward faster than ever. So at the dawn of a new year, it’s my hope that I get to see many artists in the next twelve months taking risks, experimenting with sounds, and just moving forward for the sake of progress. With the hope I’ve been given by many artists in the last twelve months, I trust I’ll find a few choice examples. Happy New Year, folks.
Words – Adam.