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Music Reviews

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Castle Talk
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Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Death of Frequent Flyer

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

September 11, 2006
Safety laboratory chemist Christalle Bowen - better known as Psalm One - tables her latest release, The Death of Frequent Flyer, as enforcement of two larger music themes - the rising credibility of a Chicago hip-hop scene and the growing capability of female rappers.

Although the Chicago rap community is important, it doesn't rely strictly on Psalm to boost its stock; it has several other (and bigger named) players that are sustaining its cred. The more important theme of the two is that Psalm One challenges her male counterparts, and makes it clear that she is not just talented "for a girl" but is an MC that can hold it down without reference to gender.

Frequent Flyer is a better-than-average indie hip-hop album with short and tasty soul-tweaked riffage, hot beats, and a unique rhyming flow. Both the production and rapping elements are similar in that they are serious first and foremost. In a time when many artists rely on rips, gags and novelty factors to carry them to notoriety, Psalm One doesn't have to dig into the trunk of the clown car; her talents are clear every time she opens her mouth.

There are few publicly recognized female artists who rap with the seriousness and skill level that this MC does. Female icons such as Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill can rhyme and bring a message, but rarely are their cuts as self-establishing as Psalm One's. Strengths lie in her wiry, dexterous voice and lyrical messages about life, Chicago, and socio-political issues.

From a musical standpoint the album is often built from concisely drawn sample material - a one-measure funk-soul guitar hook here, a short and soulful vocal coo there, wind/string sweeps somewhere right down the middle. Further propelling the instrumental side are slow-tempo drum machine patterns and additional peripheral colorings (shakers, background noise, different textures of drum samples) that differentiate each of the 14 cuts from each other. The variety of samples includes bluesy-rootsy acoustic guitar and harmonica (in "The Living"), glockenspiel and tight-lipped horns ("Rapper Girls"), and Indian female singing ("Rap Star"). The sound doesn't blow anyone out of the water, but it is solid and, more importantly, effective.

In addition to Psalm One's skills, The Death of Frequent Flyer also features a talented list of contributors in DJ DQ (of Glue), Brother Ali and Ant (of Atmosphere), Thaione Davis, and fellow female Chicago rapper Ang13. All told, this album is a solid perch from which Bowen should easily be able to reach higher.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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