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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Fat Jon & Styrofoam
The Same Channel
Morr Music

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


October 24, 2006
Whether he's delivering rapid-fire oratory on the bedroom wars between the sexes or coolly flaunting a "Space Gangsta" persona as ridiculous and funny as Dr. Octagon's, Fat Jon's rhymes are always smooth and articulate. Never furious or hard, the Cincinnati emcee may change speeds to sync up with the glitchy frenzy or slow, interplanetary jams of The Same Channel, but his steady tone never wavers. On this unlikely project, Fat Jon is a grounding force, an anchor in fairly calm celestial seas of electronica and super-clean, unobtrusive guitar. Navigation is Styrofoam's responsibility.

Hailing from Five Deez, the low-profile, progressive Cincinnati hip-hop collective he still belongs to despite now living in Berlin, Fat Jon hooked up with IDM wizard Styrofoam, aka Arne van Petegem, in 2001 and the two became fast friends. Sharing a fondness for computer-scripted music, the brothers from different planets - Petegem being from Belgium, which might as well be the moon as far as hip-hop is concerned - teamed as lab partners. The result of their experiments in genre alchemy is The Same Channel, a uniquely imaginative collaboration that artistically blurs the worlds of rap and electronic music.

Another step in the evolution of hip-hop, though not a huge leap for mankind or the science of musical breeding, The Same Channel is a preliminary study of how dark, starry atmospherics, pristine space-pop, chill interplanetary funk, tightly coiled rap and the occasional light post-rock breeze can coexist within the confines of an album. The results are stunning. After a dizzying meteor shower of blips and body-locking beats in the opener, "Acid Rain Robot Repair," the pair eases through the Notwist-like programming and earnest Kanye West-style buildup of "Bleed" into "Runnin' Circles," where Fat Jon's darting lyrical flow gets interrupted by dark, rippling pools of electronic sound and harmonized choruses, and the transitions are seamless. The guitar parts are subtle and sterile, but the white-gold tones are beguiling. Better yet, pieces such as these move smartly along, only slowing down to admire, and get lost in, the melodic wonder of the sonic galaxy they've created.

Sitting together uneasily, however, are "Space Gangsta," the first single, and the down-tempo groove of "Nervous Inaction." A fun, robotic take on Kool Keith's seriously fucked-up space travels and weird fantasies, the head-bobbing "Space Gangsta" moves fluidly, but ends up stalling out. The problem is one of direction, something it loses because of aimless repetition and a resolution that unravels. And then there's the default option: along with an interesting assortment of squiggles and odd noises, the pair unfortunately tend to fall back on those same watery ripples that sound cool once or twice, but when used too often, become trite and boring. The down-tempo "Nervous Inaction" doesn't raise pulses either, despite distorted, scratchy, arcing screams and a sly groove. But "Upgrade" is an unexpected pop gem, with Fat Jon's easy wordplay, breezy backing vocals and a light, twinkling melody, while the "Scream It Out" rides on fat tires of electronic beats, handclaps and fractured electronic funk breakdowns. More dreamy and reflective are "Generic Genes (Spare Parts)" and "The Middle," but it's not just the hypnotic current of their molasses-like melodies that's affecting.

As a lyricist, Fat Jon offers smart, insightful commentary on modern-day relationships - from his own selfishness to competing interests to the "greener pastures" mentality that leads to wrong choices. Not afraid to explore themes that other rappers ignore in order to boast about how much bling they own or the vast numbers of women they could sleep with if they so desired, Fat Jon tears down hip-hop's misogynistic facade to show vulnerability, confusion and a sincere wish for the kind of companionship that's meaningful and so hard to come by. Nobody in rap is talking about this stuff with the depth, honesty and genuine humility that Fat Jon has.

No, he doesn't have the thug-life street rep or ripped abs of 50 Cent, and his even, consistent flow won't ever stand out in a crowd, like the nasally toned nastiness of Eminem. If Fat Jon were shooting for international rap superstardom, that lack of a distinct personality would be a career killer. But that doesn't seem to be an issue with him. His decision to move to Germany was guided by love. Wanting to erase that which separates different musical genres appears to be the reason he seeks out challenging musical partnerships like this one.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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