By Thomas Johnson, September 28 2017 —
The Outfit, TX — Fuel City
Fuel City is a fictitious, claustrophobic and diesel-doused urban utopia of The Outfit, TX’s making. It sits somewhere between Atlanta’s futuristic strip-palace nocturnality, the unholy menace of a Memphis dungeon and Saturn’s sixth moon.
The newest album by the Dallas ensemble sounds an awful lot like southern rap’s future. From Outkast’s extraterrestrial tendencies, the slower tempos of DJ Screws or Three 6 Mafia’s sinister hyper-violence, it’s evident The Outift, TX have taken note of every letter in the envelopes their forebearers pushed. In turn, the trio has taken those envelopes and sent them rocketing to the closest habitable heap of moon rock.
Fuel City sounds like an isolated, self-sufficient world run on unleaded gasoline. The trio, consisting of Mel, Dorian and Jayhawk, exhibit a worldview cultivated from scratched CDs, dusty tape decks and 22-inch subwoofers.
Fuel City is a perfect synthesis of the lineage that preceded it. Gothic and warped, it’s a blisteringly progressive turn to the future. It’s angry and hedonistic, standoffish yet approachable and catchy as hell. With Fuel City, The Outfit, TX have built an uncompromising world that demands to be visited.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Luciferian Towers
Montreal’s notoriously political prog-rock troupe return with Luciferian Towers. With four songs stretching just shy of 44 minutes total, the format remains unchanged since their 2012 revival. It includes two shorter shoegaze interludes that thrive on atmosphere and tension-building. There’s two 15-minute behemoths built from several movements, each filled with their respective peaks and valleys. As always, the record is completely instrumental.
Luciferian Towers presents a distinct departure from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s typical doom and gloom. In spite of its name, the album’s monolithic anthems stand as pillars of optimism in a time of dire need. There is an urgency that suggests a responsibility to uplift. The massive climaxes of “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem For No State” explode into lush arrays of texture. In between, the droning of “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” and “Fam / Famine” provide a respite from the titanic waves occurring on either side of their duration. The crescendos here do more to part dark clouds than to add to the increasingly dystopian world in which we mill about.
The move comes at a peculiar time. Perhaps Godspeed reached the limits of their inspiration with our current state of affairs and decided to shift their discourse. Maybe it’s the fact that ‘Canadian’ has become an increasingly celebratory distinction.
Whatever the case, the change is welcome. For more than 20, years Godspeed have made brooding and conjuring soundtracks for a black dawn. Lately, it’s starting to feel as if that horizon is edging ever closer. In the face of such daunting circumstances, Luciferian Towers may be the band’s boldest statement yet.
Buy Muy Drugs — Buy Muy Drugs
“You have to be an entrepreneur to survive in this economy.” So goes the opening soliloquy of Buy Muy Drugs, the self-titled debut by NYC rapper Denmark Vessey and Chicago producer Azarias. The record is high-concept, revolving around the fictional designer drug ‘MFKZT.’ It uses a variety of twisted familiarities to illustrate a hellish present where capitalism, despite its repercussions, can mean salvation. Vessey plays the part of a disenfranchised MFKZT pusher and Azarias paints a twisted canvas of a world fiending for another fix.
It’s a perplexing album both lyrically and sonically. Vessey is a nimble MC that raps with compulsive tendencies. He hops between breaks in the rhythm before emphatically turning cheek to the idea of a concrete melody. He has a penchant for martial ad-libs that punch through the beats, break his cadence and allow him to alter his flow, which lead to some of the most bizarre stretches of rap you’re likely to hear all year. The toxic environment created by Azarias is punctuated by rap’s most cacophonous production since Death Grips. Grime and boom-bap are crudely stitched to African tribal music with skull-crushing results.
Buy Muy Drugs is worth a listen for numerous reasons, not the least of which is a Yasiin Bey feature in 2017. As adventurous as it may be, its immediacy is made all the more unsettling by a central conceit — the world Buy Muy Drugs inhabits isn’t all that different from ours.
Tony Allen — The Source
Legend has it that each of Tony Allen’s four limbs can play individual time signatures simultaneously. His resume includes being referred to by Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived,” musically directing the seminal Africa 70 and co-founding the Afrobeat genre with Kuti. He is a supreme presence in modern music.
While Allen’s extensive list of credentials are primarily concerned with Afrobeat, he has sustained an interest with American jazz throughout his storied career. His newest album, The Source, is a testament to that affair. For its 10 fluid songs, Allen and company walk basslines and and tickle keys around his whimsical drumming. The album packs a myriad of horns into its system, somehow managing to stay loose and uncluttered despite every suite crossing the five-minute mark without the aid of vocals. Instead, Allen’s drumming provides a unifying presence and a solid backbone upon which everything else can lean.
The Source is proof that brilliance and innovation aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It validates sustained excellence over constant transformation and challenges the notion that revivalism is a young man’s game. Jazz is in the midst of resurrection, not because Ryan Gosling saved it, but because geniuses like Allen have hands capable of keeping up with their imagination.