Hip-hop

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Stephen Fitz­patrick

The Past Beats In­side Me Like a Se­cond Heart­beat Urth­boy Elefant Traks

Tim Levin­son didn’t like synths a whole lot: “I’ve al­ways been a lit­tle bit care­ful about [them], maybe it’s a bit of an aver­sion to 80sstyle pro­duc­tion; that was a lit­tle bit be­fore my time.” With his fifth solo al­bum the Syd­ney rap­per known as Urth­boy spreads the elec­tronic love big time. “As time has gone on I’ve re­ally loved how [synths] stretch what you per­ceive as a hip-hop sound­ing song,” he says “And while I feel like hip-hop is my medium, it’s not the most im­por­tant part of what I’m try­ing to do now. What­ever I do is al­ways go­ing to sound like some mu­ta­tion of hip-hop, so the synths be­came a big­ger and big­ger part of what we did.” It helps in this re­gard that two of Levin­son’s long-time pro­duc­tion sidekicks, Luke “Dubs” Dub­ber and An­gus “El Gusto” Stu­art, have be­come, with their gi­ant-killing duo Her­mi­tude, Aus­tralia’s lat­est kings of elec­tron­ica, play­ing sell­out fes­ti­val per­for­mances across the US.

Dub­ber and Stu­art, along with fel­low Urth­boy au­ral ma­gi­cian Pip Nor­man, lay a solid foun­da­tion for Levin­son’s ex­cur­sions into his­tory, both fam­ily and so­cial. Open­ing track Long Loud Hours, which fea­tures the ex­quis­ite vo­cals of Ber­tie Black­man, tells the ex­tra­or­di­nary tale of the 1999 Sil­ver­wa­ter jail break­out, via a hi­jacked he­li­copter, of armed rob­ber John Kil­lick by his Rus­sian lover Lucy Dudko. Sung from Dudko’s per­spec­tive, the song, which hit No 33 on this year’s Triple J hottest 100, sets out to re­deem the love that mo­ti­vates crim­i­nal be­hav­iour. Se­cond Heart­beat, fea­tur­ing the sassy vo­cals of Sampa the Great and Okenyo, is a ge­neal­ogy of sorts, a hip-hop fam­ily tree (“mu­sic is my life from be­fore I could breathe / cos my daddy sang my mommy some melo­di­ous keys”). Syd­ney’s prop­erty de­vel­oper scene gets the blow­torch in Hey Juanita, an ode to the miss­ing, pre­sumed slain, heiress Juanita Nielsen, and the theme con­tin­ues in Wolves at Bay, cel­e­brat­ing the 1970s build­ing union “green bans” that kept Syd­ney’s Botanic Gar­dens from be­ing turned into a carpark.

Lit­tle Girl’s Dad is a bounc­ing love song to Levin­son’s now three-year-old daugh­ter and Wade in the Wa­ter, fea­tur­ing the phe­nom­e­nal vo­cals of long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor (and fel­low the Herd band­mate) Jane Tyrrell, re­veals by its ti­tle Levin­son’s love of the gospel form, but takes it in an en­tirely novel di­rec­tion. “What we came up with, and what Jane sang, is to­tally dif­fer­ent to the ref­er­ence point that we were look­ing at,” he ad­mits, adding that “even more im­por­tant than synths (on this al­bum) was a spirit of gospel.”

Amen, brother.

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