In a very short period of time producer A.M. Breakups’ Brooklyn based Reservoir Sound collective has become one of my favorite underground rap labels. Similar to other NY labels like Backwoodz Studioz and Uncommon Records, Reservoir Sound may have roots in the underground hip hop boom of the early 2000’s, but their focus is on advancing the art with unique and talented artists who are willing to take chances and are given freedom to create. While they’ve released a handful of EP’s and singles, as well as an LP from A.M.’s longtime partner from 11:00A.M. MC Eleven, their new compilation ALEA IACTA EST (The Die Has Been Cast) feels like a coming out party. With A.M. Breakups’ highly anticipated Cult Favorite LP with Elucid right around the corner, this compilation serves as an appetizer the main course that Cult Favorite should be, as well as an introduction or update to several artists within the collective.
The majority of the compilation is produced by A.M. Breakups, including two standout instrumentals that bookend the project in “Filters (4LAS)” and “2 Hours of Attention”. A.M.’s roommate and beat making collaborator Jeff Markey offers a couple instrumentals of his own, as well as the albums funkiest track “Gimmie Dem Boots, Inc.”, made with Breakups under their moniker Surface Tension Beekeepers. A.M.’s frequent collaborators Elucid and Eleven each make four appearances and deliver several of the album’s highlights. Eleven contributes one of his strongest songs to date on the A. Smart produced cut “Alpha Alpha (beta version)” which is immediately followed by Elucid’s standout collab with label newcomer Hype Wonder “Newer, Better”, also produced by A. Smart and featuring the memorable chorus from Elucid- “A newer you, a better me/ and I don’t mean superior”.
Baltimore MC Teddy Faley is also prominently featured, contributing vocals to four tracks as well as showing off his production chops on a couple tracks, especially his solo track “DC4”. Faley’s beat for “DC4” is a flat out banger, matching his gruff delivery to a tee. A.M. Breakups contributes a stellar remix of Faley’s classic cut “Straw Man Argument” which was originally recorded back in ’08. Faley hasn’t released a solo project with Reservoir Sound yet, but he’s definitely become one of the collective’s greatest assets.
Warren Britt and new addition Shape round out the MC’s who have tracks and A.M. Breakups’ frequent collaborator billy woods makes the compilation’s one guest appearance on “We Are Not For Them –Captures, Pt. 1”, which also features Britt and Eleven. Britt and Shape both contribute excellent solo tracks, showing how deep the Reservoir Sound talent pool runs. Starting a record label in the current climate may be a roll of the dice, but when you can lead with a project like ALEA IACTA EST you may not need luck. Stream/Download the album below and find out why the Reservoir Sound collective is one to watch.
Written by John Bugbee
The state of indie pop/rock, always in a constant flux, seems to be trending towards the sounds of synths and other electronic additions in 2012. Hell, one band this year even ditched their entire sound in favor of a drum machine and tweenish vibes, and in the process, their own fans. But you know what…electronic additions for the sake of adding depth is really no way for a band to approach raising their craft. If the glove doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. And for the love of all things music, let’s not lose the edge of the rock side for the sake of trying to appeal to 14-year-old dubby steppers.
The Natural Shocks are a breath of fresh air for me in the early fall. Led from the mind of Jim DeLuca who hails from Toronto, his sound not surprisingly seems heavily influenced by a band that mastered the art of indie pop/rock with an edge. That band of course is fellow Toronto born Broken Social Scene, but Jim’s sound really only takes on the brasher BSS sound heard on their self-titled album with songs like “Superconnected”. The Shocks four-song EP opens up with heavily distorted vocals and a stepping guitar riff on “Change”. “Chosen Ones”, my favorite track, adds group vocals to go along with what appears to be a cello led bass line. The strings make the vocals, which are already laced with emotion, stand out that much more. “Daydream”, an ethereal track featuring a slick little drum machine beat, and “War of Attrition”, showing off more even distortion close off this extremely solid debut.
Stream Kobayashi Maru below and be sure to grab a digital copy via the group’s Bandcamp page for whatever price your little heart desires.
Written by Greg Dahman
Within the not-so-friendly confines of the modern music industry, making good music often isn’t enough. It seems that being prolific and learning how to market one’s self are almost equally important, as there’s always something new over the horizon to take hold of our limited attention spans and distract us from something possibly more worthy. Illogic and Blockhead have traditionally been the type of artists to focus on tightly crafted albums rather than one off projects and mixtapes, and thus haven’t had to release music at the rate the modern music fan is becoming accustomed to. The large amount of music they have recorded over the last couple years though, has allowed them to promote their upcoming album Capture The Sun with a series of EP’s and videos, keeping their name out there and making sure their full length LP will get the proper attention without sacrificing quality for quantity’s sake.
Not only have Illogic and Blockhead’s promotion and presentation been excellent for the previously featured Preparing for Capture EP and the newly released Preparing for Capture 2, but the music’s been pretty darn good as well. While the first EP was more contemplative and introspective in tone (in both Illogic’s rhymes and Blockhead’s beats), Preparing for Capture 2 has a raw edge to it that’s not really the norm for either artist. Blockhead’s beats thump particularly hard, but maintain his excellent use of texture shifts and subtle ambient touches. The three song run of “A Mile From Dead”, “Uncharted Path”, and “Wing Span” is a perfect example of why Blockhead is one of the best hip hop producers around. It’s not the instruments or sounds he samples, but the way he arranges them and makes the compositions his own that truly sets him apart. All three songs have similar elements, but each has its own unique feel and rhythm that always keeps his production fresh.
Illogic’s rhymes on Preparing for Capture 2 find him playing the role of observer more often than not and sounding more than comfortable over Blockhead’s up-tempo production. Illogic hinted in an excellent interview he and Blockhead did with Hardwood Blacktop that the EP was a little darker and more political in nature, which explains my sense that the outside world was his primary inspiration for the majority of these songs. “Dreamin” serves as the lead single and speaks on the economic machination of the world, featuring top notch wordplay from Illogic- “they got us burning books and Kindle Firing” (video). “Heartless” and “A Mile From Dead” are especially sharp lyrically, the prior taking people to task for materialism and a lack of compassion “you got your favorite cardigan, but tell me where your heart has been” and the latter serving as a calling for people to strive for a better life and to defy expectations and stereotypes.
Just like the first EP, which featured a stellar appearance from Rob Sonic, the guests are kept to a minimum on Preparing for Capture 2. Thoughts on Tracks favorite Open Mike Eagle and Has-Lo are the lone guests on the posse cut “From Scratch” and both deliver standout verses. Illogic ends the EP with the killer song “Past/Future”, tabbing Matisha Worthy to sing the hook. He uses the first verse to look back on his life to this point and the second verse to look towards the future. It’s a fitting way to end the EP, as the future looks very bright with Capture The Sun on the way. Listen to the release below. Name your price for a digital download or pick up a physical copy of Preparing For Capture via Bandcamp.
Written by John Bugbee