What dates Lōc’ed After Dark to the late 1980s isn’t the beats, a hip hop cover of The Troggs, or Tone-Lōc’s signature delivery. No. It’s what was at the time a throw-away line in “Wild Thing”:
Shoppin’ at the mall…
The mall??? Who the hell goes to the mall these days???
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Lōc’ed After Dark is a two-trick pony with it’s pair of Top 5 hits “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina”. But have you ever listened to the entire album? Because I hadn’t until this week. And holy hell!!! The opener, “On Fire (Remix)” is a stone cold jam and the title track… oh that sweet funky title track… so damn good. Those no-wave horns that open “I Got It Goin’ On”, later followed by that Caribbean percussion and scratching? Baller. Using the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidocious‘ on “Cutting Rhymes”? Classic. And he throws in a One two, Buckle my shoe???? And that’s just side A.
Lōc’ed After Dark holds up, at least to these old ears.
There are a wide range of words and terms that Styrmir Örn Guðmundsson uses to describe the project that is Styrmir & the Medical Faculty. Stand-up comedy. Hip hop. An opera. A criticism of the arrogance of Western medicine. When you combine all those things there’s a lot to unpack. And when you add the visual component of the full-sized booklet of drawings, one for each song, attached inside the gatefold of the vinyl version of What Am I Doing With My Life?, you’ve got a compelling package designed to take your brain out of its comfort zone and mix things up a bit. There are references to Hitler and samurai swords and E=mc². There are beats. There are experimental tracks. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff here.
The Medical Faculty are a large and diverse group. There are a half dozen people who take on lead vocals across the album’s 14 track, and most of the folks contributing don’t appear to be involved with many other music projects, at least not as near as I can tell from looking at Discogs. The two exceptions are Bergur Thomas Anderson, who is associated with Sudden Weather Change, Grísalappalísa, and Oyama, and of course the ubiquitous producer Curver, who has probably worked on more Icelandic albums that anyone who has ever lived. Despite the broad range of contributors the whole thing holds together, all of it orbiting around the concepts and frequent vocals of Styrmir.
Recommended tracks include “The Liking Vortex” and “Most of the Cosmos is Compost”, a pair of stylistically disparate songs that provide a good general flavor of the album as a whole. The former is a bit on the experimental side, while the latter is the most traditionally hip hop effort (with an honorable mention to “Göngutúr”) on the record. You can check them out, as well as the rest of What Am I Doing With My Life?, on Bandcamp HERE, and you can purchase it on vinyl there as well. My copy notes that it is from the first edition of 700 copies, and I presume that’s still the edition that is being sold
Waving The Guns are a hip hop group from Berlin. Their style has been labelled as “conscious” and their flow certainly fits that description, though since all the vocals are in German I can’t speak much to their message. German Wikipedia offers some hints, though: Waving the Guns make political rap with a clear anti-fascist attitude. They have some party songs that are about alcohol and drug use. The title track, which translates to something along the lines of “That Must Be Able To Endure a Democracy” (I suspect the literal translation is a bit clunky…), made it to #4 on the German hip hop charts back in March, so they’re getting some play in their home country.
I like Waving The Guns’ flow. Musically they don’t overly rely on heavy beats to provide a dense structure to hid behind, using a variety of instrumental samples to provide unique beats to their tracks, like the Spanish guitar mid-range on “Das Privileg”. The vocals are front and center, the centerpiece of the songs, and they are delivered with extreme clarity. This is an album you don’t need to understand German in order to enjoy.
I recently listened to and enjoyed Muted’s 2018 album Empire, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of his super-limited (edition of 100) 2013 release Lizard On Ice. I was intrigued to discover that the two albums are actually quite different. Whereas the overall chill vibe is somewhat similar, the compositions on Lizard On Ice seem to be briefer, generally leaving me wanting more, even if the more is just more time to enjoy the world Muted created.
Muted describes Lizard On Ice as a hip hop album, and there’s definitely an undercurrent of that genre cut into these grooves, particularly in the beats. There are also some elements of soul and atmospheric dub. Things are definitely chill as hell, the perfect record to have on while relaxing and unwinding.