I don’t know much about S-EM-C other than that she’s a “recording artist specializing in Hip-Hop, R&B and Pop.” I had a good feeling about her new single “On the Go” (Blackhawk Records) when I saw that the cover featured the Delorean from the original Back to the Future. The production quality of “On the Go” is exceptional for an indie hip hop song. What I most enjoyed about this track was the backing music, which was smooth and entrancing, almost hypnotic at times. Not the kind of hypnotic that puts you to sleep, but the sort of late night trance you can get into on the dance floor with the right music playing. S-EM-C is also a capable rapper and able to keep the pace with occasionally complex beats.
For a bit of background:
Kobi Arad, a professional Israeli-American musician who resides in New York, performs and composes in such noted NYC establishments as Blue Note, Jazz at Lincoln Center and City Winery. Kobi has collaborated with Stevie Wonder (a co-production with Stevie Wonder’s manager, Stephanie Andrews and Stevie himself.) Kobi obtained a Doctorate in Music from the New England Conservatory and has released over 20 self-titled CDs. He has participated in different aired panels and interviews on IBA (Israeli national radio). In 2014, Kobi Arad received an award from the Israeli government for special excellence in Jazz and creative improvisation. Recently, Claes Nobel requested that Arad assemble 21 Grammy winners and nominees and produce them in Los Angeles with a band called Ganda Boys. His song ‘Forever’ recently won Silver Medal for Exceptional Achievement from Global Music Awards.
Kobi’s latest endeavor is his new CD “Ellington Upside Down,” which is something of a worthy musical homage to the late great Duke Ellington. It doesn’t take much listening to recognize that Arad is an excellent piano player and professional composer. What I’m also impressed by though is the recording technique, which manages to capture an authentic 20th century Jazz ambiance. A lot of people can produce great sounding jazz music, but these songs actually feel like you’re there experiencing the real thing. They have an organic, analog quality to them. Musically, Kobi works the keys with precision and lightning speed. This is a very high quality release and an admirable tribute that lives up to the name it’s intended to honor.
Aaron Beri, an Australian-based singer/songwriter, recently released and is promoting his debut album, Avalanche. The album itself features nine tracks, but we’ll be focusing on the lead song, “Connected.” It’s reverberating, spacey synthpop but with more of an R&B twist. The best way to describe it would be if you combined Erasure’s music with a contemporary Top 40 pop vocalist. Beri is clearly a professional quality singer and isn’t shy about singing about personal subjects like the delicate intricacies of relationships. when discussing his album he reveals that he “named it Avalanche as the tracks are about the cold and destructive side of love.” Knowing this is key to understanding the song, Connected. It’s naturally the first track on the album, because forming a strong connection with someone is often the first stage of a relationship. The Avalanche comes later, and if the connection forged was/is strong enough…the love will endure the collapse.
Buni Milani’s new single “Ride” has an almost 80′s power girl rock or new wave vibe, which is interesting because Buni recently released a project that was called “The New Wave” (which may or not have anything to do with new wave music from the 80s.) The backing music is commanding and action packed. Producer Spider Deuce did a great job in putting all this together to form a solid track. Milani for her part carries the song well. Her vocals come off as passionate and emotive enough to engage the listener and make them feel like they are right there along for the ride.
Dublin, Ireland based Hip hop artist Mythill Grim’s new track “Comfortable” has an avant garde quality to it. He manages to to avoid the mistakes other rappers make. He doesn’t come across as overly flashy or flamboyant and his style is relatively nuanced and low key (coincidentally a producer who goes by the name Lowkey is credited with the production.) Rather than being a tryhard that promotes a transparently frivolous image of himself, Grim focuses on substantive lyrics which tell a dark and brooding story. “Comfortable” is refreshingly serious and thought provoking compared to most hip hop I come across. It is a very personal song. Mythill’s flow is smooth and his tone is that of a slightly jaded lover or friend but one who is still coherent enough to explain his perspective logically and clearly.
As the opening title credits and aesthetics to the video suggest, this is almost more of a short art film than a music video. In fact, if there were no music at all it would still pass for a pretty interesting little abstract horror movie. The color usage is intentionally bleak, at times almost reminiscent of gritty horror films set in children’s insane asylums. It utilizes a lot of “glitch” type 80s and 90s effects but only subtly. It never really goes into full on “vaporwave” territory. It’s tough to find any real flaws with this other than it would be great if it were longer, due to the nature of the storylike presentation. However, it states that this is only part I, so it’s likely there will be more unfolding here over time. Grim is just keeping us hanging and waiting for the next installment of this jam.
Zerugy is a German rapper who is set to release a brand new EP in October 2017. He describes his music as doubletime rap with hard trapbeats, and his primary influences are old school hip hop artists. Visually, his distinguishing feature is that he rocks an illuminati bandana with runes on. The subject matter in his Zerugy’s songs tend to revolve around misunderstood youth and people who act poorly in relationships. Stay tuned for his new EP, which we will most likely be reviewing here when it’s released.
Morty Shallman’s “Pop Fiction” is sort of a blend of spoke word storytelling, light rap and pop music. What differentiate it from other similarly esoteric and indie avante garde projects is that it’s incredibly well produced. Typically this kind of jam would be lo-fi, recorded by some guy with a turtleneck and a tape recorder, but Morty went all out on production and his songs are meticulously constructed. In addition to being highly creative, “Pop Fiction” also energetic, fun and poppy. It never comes off as dreary, creepy or self-indulgent. There’s some real potential here for Shallman to break out.
Manhattan based singer/songwriter Aprilann’s latest release is “Crown and the Girls.” It’s striking how well-produced it is (credit Artie Skye of Skyelabs in NY.) The chorus is catchy and repetitive in that “department store pop music” kind of way that gets the song stuck in your head for days. I could easily see this becoming a hit pop song. Aprilann is a terrific young singer and has more genuine vocal talent than many pop stars (who are often hired merely for looks and dancing ability.) She will have a good future in this genre if she continues to surround herself with the right people in a competitive field.
Atlanta based artist King Saylee has a new EP out, titled “Elevation.” The second track “Saucin” is the prominent single of the album. Saylee’s style is very vocal oriented, with the backing music and aesthetics lending itself to an almost psychedelic style of hip hop. Vocals are cleverly and smoothly layered to create a “hearing voices in my head” effect, adding the the cerebral nature of the song. King Saylee flows nicely, and there is some good potential here.
Former American Idol contestant Jerome Bell is still pushing forward. He has a new single out called “Helpless.” The singing is as good as you would expect from someone who was able to pass through the rigorous and brutal audition process of a network talent show. Wisely, Bell limits the musical backing to some minimalist piano playing, allowing his well trained voice to lead and carry the song. Jerome’s vocals are brimming with complexity and emotion, creating a top shelf quality soul/pop ballad. Good stuff here.
On iTunes: https://itun.es/us/65jhjb