Saturday, May 3, 2014

Up From the Underground: Mangoseed "Basquiat"

This quartet out of London has created an album they claims inspired by the work and spirit of Jean- Michel Basquiat. Not his art work but his approach to the creative process that employed the use of old and new along with his focus on suggestive dichotomies and rebellious ability to use any influence in his work. This a quiet a mission statement for a band to take on. 

They explode into "Lioness" with the kind of fury I miss from Bad Brains, who was one of my favorite bands growing up . The vocal approach is really the only element that remains of this once they go into "Careful" which has a much darker and more electronic feel to it, not acid jazz or trip hop but they start off on a similar vibe as Massive Attack grooves on. They do build into more of a funk metal thing, which bands like Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz tread on in the 90's. 

Dance hall/ dub elements dominate "Brix-Tone" . There are some cool guitars tones on this one, though it stays close to the confines of the genre. They jump over into a bluesier feel in the warmth of the raw guitar tone of "I Shoot My Friends". This production on this track is stripped down and almost sounds like it being sung from the bathroom. The blues sticks around for "Devil in the Road". This is not surprising as the devil always seems to have on hoof in the blues. The song does take on an aggressively militant reggae swagger as it progresses. The guitar of Karlos Coleman  on this song and throughout the album is one of this bands strong points. Fans of "40 Ozs to Freedom" era Sublime should especially take note.  

The album takes a slight turn with the interlude "Soul Bird" that leads into "She is All in" in retains the same atmosphere as the interlude leading into it , but the build a groove up around it. The same sample repeats like a reoccurring mantra haunting the even more ghostly passages of guitar. The shadowy nature of this song makes it one of my favorites on this album. The album stays on this more experimental direction with the jammy interlude "Bali Men Interrupted".

They return to a more conventional rock approach with the straight forward rock of " Standing on High", which seems to be as thc influenced as the rest of the album. "This Life " is musically more laid back though the lyrical flow of the song is more frantic until the more melodic hook of the chorus. While this song would have the best chance of gaining airplay in the current climate of college radio, it is also the one I am the least partial to, even though after repeat listens the chorus does prove to be rather infectious.The album retains it's mellow feel on the even more laid back ballad "Rise and Shine". Nicholai La Barrie's vocals are allowed to shine on this song which makes the ballad worth the effort. 

A more punchy guitar funk drives the hear of of "Thief Head". The way the vocals are spit out is more in your face than the guitars, which sit back further in the reverb of the mix.The drum beat at the beginning of "Army of One" reminds me of "Run to the Hills" but no other element of the song does which is a cruising funk groove that is propelled by the vocals that bob back and forth. 

 Overall I 'd say these guys  excel at what they do. It's ummer so it's a good time for what they do, as fans of this sort of thing like to hang outside and smoke pot, so this is the perfect soundtrack for that sort of thing. I prefer the albums more Bad Brains moments and some of the darker grooves , so if you hide out in your cave, but like Massive Attack's more upbeat moments then you can find something here as well.      


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