Wednesday, February 18, 2015
The highly anticipated debut by Billy Pilgrim is finally here! When I first heard that he was working on a solo project about a year and a half ago while passing on him on Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill on crutches, my first response was one that I'm sure was shared by many, it's about fucking time! Billy Pilgrim has been a consistent source of artistic talent and expression in Pittsburgh for many years. A talented MC, musician, writer, poet, artist, performer and DJ, still makes me think I'm leaving out some more attributes that makes him a very unique soul. The eight track EP titled, Big Empty Things, is now available. I was lucky enough to have this sent to me in December to really take it in. I am very impressed with the overall sound and feel of this album. I'm a product of an analog world that is now being pushed away further and further with each passing year, that in this new digital era, I often find so many bodies of work to resemble each other too closely. That's not a good thing. As all the albums that I enjoy and take the time to share and write about, they have the special ability to have their own identity; and this EP embodies that.
The instrumentation use of percussion really brought about a tribal feel in the intro, The Road, featuring Guitar Zak, that stayed consistent throughout the EP. This is a very original arrangement, yet more importantly, is in Billy Pilgrim's wheel house of style. It's a very spiritual and soothing rhythm to the album that flows into my favorite jam on track 2, Pilgrimage, featuring Unsung and Shad Ali. I loved the choice here for these two features as all three emcee's roll off the tongue in their own talented way. The ending verse by Shad Ali, "Aesthetically I got these stripes like a referee, cause beauty and the beast fucked and gave birth to me." was something that made me smile. Billy takes complete lyrical command on track 3, So it Goes and showcases his ability to switch up cadence and deliver with complete control. Track 5, The Hoek is faced paced give and take with Unsung as they go back and forth feeding off each other every couple of bars. It reminded me of an Blackalicious Alphabet Aerobics with a partner. Billy touches base with his spoken word skills on track 6, Sucker Punch. It is a nice transition to tmy favorite overall song, rack 7, Melancholy Milly, which is a beautiful soul song. It took me back to The Pharcyde, Otha Fish, on this vibe that can take your mind away. A strong finish with track 8, Selfies at the Funeral seeps into a more serious side of Billy Pilgrim showing a no non-sense flow that wraps up this really great EP. I thoroughly loved the ride I feel like I was taken on. It was a beautiful blend of hip hop, soul and spoken word done with high level of artistic expression I come to expect. I would love to see these songs performed live, which is really important to me. I feel this was done in a way that showcased the ability without being overproduced and over synced in a studio. This is really one that I recommend you check out.
The official release date is actually tomorrow, February 18. There is an official party to celebrate at Howlers in Bloomfield tomorrow night for a $10 cover which includes a copy of Big Empty Things. I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do and enjoy the future work of this multi-talented artist.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Pittsburgh recording artist Amuck has an EP that was released at the end of November titled Detonate. It has 4 tracks that were produced by Kiltervision at Battlemute productions with additional production done by Sikes. I first heard Amuck perform with Sikes and Kiltervision at Diesel in 2010 as they opened up for one of my all time favorite hip hop groups, Jedi Mind Tricks. I was really impressed with the live performance for a few reasons. To be honest the crowd turn out that early in the evening was very poor, but the energy and music that I was seeing made me get up and get closer to the stage as I was impressed to see it being performed at a high level. I think that tells a lot about the bands character and passion when faced with an event where there is a below average turn out, the band rocks it as if they were performing in front of 20,000 people. That really stuck with me. The bottom line is, no matter how much passion you have, the music has to be original and have feeling. It has to come across as an extension of the people performing it and I really dug what I was experiencing. That's exactly what an Amuck live show is, an experience. Of all the shows I've seen from any level of success, from the commercially iconic names in rock and hip hop to the indie level of punk, I always thoroughly enjoyed my experience at every Amuck show I've attended. It's something that I think is one of the highest compliments that you can give an artist is that they are able to rock a stage and pour their skills and creativity into a package that lets you into their world. It's a special attribute a lot of people and bands just simply don't have.
Detonate is short release but isn't short on content. It's definitely hard and unfair to compare this music since it is very original. It is on my hip hop blog because there is a lot of characteristics that are alive that fit a hip hop style. Amuck, Sikes and Kiltervision all have emcee skills on the mic. The beats are laced with some hard hitting rock, electronica, punk, hip hop feel. If I have to lay some music that it reminds me of when I hear it, just name of a few Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Jedi Mind Tricks, Beastie Boys and Cage come to mind. A lot of pure hip hop heads have a lot of interest in other genres like metal, punk and alternative rock and would find this to be refreshing. The first track on this EP is NA (Necrophiliacs Anonymous). It's got a real alternative electric pace to the track and is a good track placement to start off the album. It poses some interesting points on some ways that Amuck would like to be more like a teen idol, making it rain, being more accessible finishing with you can tell him over his dead body about what he is supposed to be. The next rack Binge is probably my favorite song of the EP. The beat is more up my alley on things that I'm really into, making me bob my head as I walk down the street every time this blasts through my headphones. A little more upbeat with drums that are funky. I like the contrast with the beat and the way that Amuck sings the chorus with a really strong pitch that will make you want to jump up to the stage and sing right along with him. Switching gears again with Magnets, this is back to a more electronic feel, slowing down with some singing that goes into a flow that would be reminiscent of El-P. It's a challenging delivery packed with a lot of energy. I do like the reference to "tagging his heart up" with the sound of a rattling spray paint can in the background stating that "no one gets me." Lord knows I have only felt that way most of the time, haha. The EP finishes strong with Dark Matter. A louder, chaotic track that I think is a good way to end this EP stating "Fuck religion, mother fuck politics, fuck these pigeons that are dropping bombs on my car and shit. If you're listening to me and you don't think that I'm ill, I'm going to recommend an entire bottle of sleeping pills.". But my man is always open for constructive criticism.
I enjoyed this EP and I think it's a strong piece of work done on his terms. That is what I have found very refreshing. Please check this album out for yourself here:
I strongly recommend to go see a live show as soon as you can to take part in the high energy experience. There aren't many of them out there. Enjoy,