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12 O'Clock Track

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A new compilation uncovers soulful treasures from 70s and 80s Somalia

Posted By on 08.22.17 at 12:00 PM

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I'm inspired and excited by music fanatics with very precisely defined specialties, whether in a specific style or a single region—they constantly seem to uncover sounds utterly new to me. Over the past couple decades, Africa has been the favored territory for a slew of such intrepid sleuths, and we've enjoyed a bounty of musical blessings thanks to the likes of Brian Shimkovitz, the Evanston native who runs Awesome Tapes From Africa; Tunisian-German crate digger Samy Ben Redjeb, the mastermind of Analog Africa; and Portland obsessive Christopher Kirkley, who's focused a crucial lens on contemporary modes of pop-music transmission in Saharan Africa through his Sahel Sounds imprint.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Chicago rappers Chris Crack and Vic Spencer mesh their distinctive personas on Blessed

Posted By on 08.21.17 at 12:00 PM

Vic Spencer and Chris Crack - COURTESY OF VIC SPENCER'S FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy of Vic Spencer's Facebook
  • Vic Spencer and Chris Crack

Late last week, Chicago rappers Chris Crack and Vic Spencer released their second collaborative full-length as Chris Spencer, Blessed. These hardscrabble MCs continue down the path they set with last year's Who the Fuck Is Chris Spencer?, which is as much about the intersection of their distinctive personas as it is about what makes each one unique. Spencer is rough around the edges, with a gruff voice whose power can make a rich instrumental sound brittle by comparison, while the flamboyant Crack doles out colorful hyperbole with a nasal bite.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Peter Perrett of England’s the Only Ones emerges triumphantly from under the rubble of addiction

Posted By on 08.15.17 at 12:00 PM

Peter Perrett - STEVE GULLICK
  • Steve Gullick
  • Peter Perrett

If American listeners know about British singer Peter Perrett, it's probably from the 1978 classic "Another Girl, Another Planet," a brilliant pop tune covered by the likes of the Replacements. In England Perrett's band the Only Ones, who originally cut the song, were would-be stars who made three albums before Perrett flamed out in the early 80s while fighting heroin addiction. He got his shit together to make a 1996 with a band called the One, and over the past few years he's been involved in occasional Only Ones reunion shows in Europe. But few would have expected that Perrett had a record as strong and convincing as the new How the West Was Won (Domino) left in his 66-year-old self.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

An overlooked 1972 cut from singular southern soul singer Arthur Alexander

Posted By on 08.08.17 at 12:00 PM

Arthur Alexander - PHOTO BY JOHN DONEGAN
  • Photo by John Donegan
  • Arthur Alexander

Southern soul singer Arthur Alexander was always something of a square peg, making music that often split the difference between soul and country. His early work exerted more influence in the UK than in the U.S., and some of his best songs were immortalized in cover versions by the Beatles and Rolling Stones ("Anna" and "Soldier of Love" by the former, "You Better Move On" by the latter). In the late 80s I picked up a copy of the indispensable Ace compilation A Shot of Rhythm & Soul, and it's remained a favorite for three decades. I've also collected his less consistent later work, and I was heartened to see him rediscovered in the early 90s, after which he cut a wonderful album, the 1993 Elektra/Nonesuch release Lonely Just Like Me. He seemed on the brink of the late-career renaissance he deserved, but on June 3 of that year, just a few weeks after the record dropped, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 53.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Chicago hip-hop producer Ikon throws a party with his friends on ‘Believe That’

Posted By on 08.07.17 at 12:00 PM

Ishmael Raps, Rob Lyrical, and Ivan "Ikon" Pryor - COURTESY OF IKON'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Courtesy of Ikon's Facebook page
  • Ishmael Raps, Rob Lyrical, and Ivan "Ikon" Pryor

Nearly a year ago, Chicago producer and engineer Ivan "Ikon" Pryor nearly died in a fire that destroyed suite 42 at Fort Knox, an Irving Park building that housed several rehearsal spaces and recording studios—including the facilities of hip-hop collective and indie label Private Stock. Ikon had been resting his eyes in suite 42, and left the room just before the blaze. As my March Reader feature detailed, the Private Stock family have rebounded, and they've focused on getting out a mess of music this year. At the end of last month they put out Ikon's EP Auragami.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rediscovering the genius of the early B-52s

Posted By on 08.01.17 at 12:00 PM

The original B-52s lineup - COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
  • Courtesy of the artists
  • The original B-52s lineup

We all know about how absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I think with music sometimes absence makes the ears grow sharper. A few weeks ago I stumbled across live footage of the B-52s playing "Private Idaho," and I couldn't tear myself away. In my teenage years, the B-52s were my gateway into nonmainstream music, opening the floodgates for every weird, outsider, and experimental act I've sought out in the decades since. But at a certain point I put those records away, metaphorically speaking. I could still enjoy them, but I'd come to see them as just silly pop. Encountering that performance of "Private Idaho" (a song from the group's second album, 1980's Wild Planet) made me reconsider my outlook, and now that I've dug out the band's self-titled 1979 debut, I'm the one who seems silly.

That record holds up remarkably well, with its uncanny mix of whimsy, catchiness, weirdness, and experimental impulses—the B-52s even seem to channel the vocal techniques of Yoko Ono on "Rock Lobster," whether they meant to or not. The production is amazing too, and to this day the album sounds like nothing else in the world, hijacking all kinds of kitschy musical tropes to create something dazzlingly original.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Chicago producer Mulatto Beats does the best work on his new album with his old friend Qari

Posted By on 07.31.17 at 12:00 PM

Qari and Mulatto Beats - BRYAN ALLEN LAMB
  • Bryan Allen Lamb
  • Qari and Mulatto Beats

The new debut album from Chicago producer Mulatto Beats, .22 Summers, includes a somnambulant track called "Good to Lose," where rapper Qari says, "I'm not relaxin', I'm just practicin' my style." He lets his words tumble out easily, during a pause between verses; like the best of his rapping, it feels ad libbed, whether or not he spent hours figuring out when and how to say it. And the line fits not just the mood of "Good to Lose" but his work with Mulatto Beats in general—and there's a lot of it. They've been collaborating steadily for about six years: first in Supreme Regime, then in Hurt Everybody, and now that both those groups are defunct, just as themselves.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

West African stars Orchestra Baobob and Oumou Sangaré head in opposite directions on their first albums in years

Posted By on 07.25.17 at 12:00 PM

Orchestra Baobab's recent Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
  • Orchestra Baobab's recent Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng

Two of West Africa's most storied acts put out terrific albums this spring: Senegal's Orchestra Baobab dropped Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit), its first new recording in nearly a decade, while powerful Malian singer Oumou Sangaré released Mogoya (No Format), her first in eight years. The former are one of world music's most reliable traditional ensembles, and Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng continues their embrace and reconsideration of their own rich past; the latter has made a decisive shift toward a more modern sound while retaining her music's roots in the Wassoulou region.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Chicago rapper Duffle Bag Buru finds his voice—and earns a cosign from hip-hop outlet Lyrical Lemonade

Posted By on 07.24.17 at 12:00 PM

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On Friday, the Portage Theater hosts a rap showcase organized by Lyrical Lemonade, which has come to occupy an unusual position in the local hip-hop scene since music videographer Cole Bennett founded it in 2013. Bennett, now 21, has developed Lyrical Lemonade into much more than an outlet for his video work: today it's also a rap blog, a show promoter (LL booked Lil Uzi Vert's first Chicago show last year), and a clothing line. Bennett's star has risen this year because he's made videos for several fast-rising "Soundcloud rappers," including Web sensations Smokepurpp and Famous Dex. They're not necessarily part of a scene or community, but they've all built their substantial audiences on Soundcloud—and some of their shine has rubbed off on Bennett, who last month was the subject of profiles in Genius and Rolling Stone.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

With his new GSPL, Phoelix may stop being one of Chicago hip-hop’s best-kept secrets

Posted By on 07.20.17 at 12:00 PM

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If you've been plugged into local hip-hop over the past year, you've no doubt listened to Phoelix, whether or not you recognize his name. The vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer met Chicago rapper-producer Saba in fall 2015. The two hit it off, and last summer they decamped to an AirBnB in Los Angeles with Chicago rapper Noname for roughly a month, where they worked on two of the best hip-hop releases to come out of any city in 2016. Phoelix coproduced seven of the ten songs on Noname's Telefone and nine of the 14 songs on Saba's Bucket List Project.

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