Now on PBS
by Porter Ray
Feature Records for the week beginning Mon 27 Mar 2017
Porter Ray Watercolor (PBS Feature Album)
Like their forebears from the Native Tongues collective – including all-time greats A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul – Seattle’s multidisciplinary Black Constellation collective is quickly establishing itself as something far greater than the sum of its parts. Centred musically on hip-hop outfit Shabazz Palaces, the first rap artists signed to indie label Sub Pop, the collective has grown and developed new directions in sound, with Seattle MC Porter Ray being the latest piece of this puzzle.
His debut LP proper Watercolour follows on the promise of a string of guest verses, EPs and mixtapes he’s put out since 2013 and firmly puts Seattle – a city forever associated with guitars and flannelette – on the hip-hop map. While Native Tongues traded in positivity and Afrocentrism, the artists of the Black Constellation are more concerned with contemporary notions of identity and the future of Black America.
Sonically, Watercolour has a foot in the old school with classic 808-inspired drum sounds anchoring much of the production, and Ray’s lyricist flow evoking the greats of rap’s golden era. Despite this it is undoubtedly a forward-thinking affair, with lush synth sounds and live instrumentation taking a lead role where samples might have featured if this were nothing more than a throwback. A long list of Ray’s contemporaries including Shabazz Palaces’ Fly Guy Dai and The Palaceer and fellow Black Constellation artists THEESatisfaction lend weight to the record, with well-executed guest verses on all but three of the album’s 14 tracks. Ray’s debut is as much deeply personal as it is another statement of intent from the burgeoning rap scene of the Pacific Northwest.
Watercolor was recorded in various studios in Seattle, mostly mixed by Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Tacocat), with a few songs co-mixed by Vitamin D (Macklemore, Abstract Rude, Black Sheep). Watercolor was produced by B Roc, with additional songs produced by DJ El Grande, KMTK, and Tele Fresco.
Review by Cam Durnsford (PBS Music Coordinator).
Anohni Paradise (Featured on The Breakfast Spread)
Following her well-received record of last year, Hopelessness, Anohni delivers an extension with her new 7 track EP, Paradise. Out via Rough Trade and Secretly Canadian, this release sees the continuation of collaborations with Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never as well as efforts from femme poets, activists and artists that feature as the album artwork.
Disrupting the usual narrative of what it means to be a successful electronic artist – Anohni executes a sincerity and vulnerability in a plea for people to reflect and take action on the world around them. This record is rooted in concern for the future of our ecosystem - it is an urgent call to arms for people to change environmental and social behaviors.
In a bid to reframe the traditional relationship between creator and consumer, Anohni has asked her fans to email her with their hopes for the future, a gesture of of “anonymous vulnerability” in order to access the last song off her EP. This act of humanizing the creator-consumer relationship accentuates the direct effect of taking action. She is asking her audience to be active in consumption and in reflection on our responsibility in creating change.
The themes echoed throughout the EP seem particularly pertinent to an Australian audience with a nation undergoing an identity crisis. “She Doesn’t Mourn Her Loss” features Western Australian Aboriginal artist Ngalangka Nola Taylor asking “What is happening to the world?”
Paradise is a continuation of Anohni’s resistance – it is an appeal for people to connect to each other and the land whilst highlighting the links between environmental degradation and the subjugation of women.
Review by Beth AQ (The Breakfast Spread)
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