Of MONTREAL (Polyvinyl
False Priest records) Since exploring his id on 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and fragmenting his personality into oddball alter egos on 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes has become America’s leading bipolar pansexual purveyor of Princelike pop songs about kinky sex and clinical depression. And God bless him for it. False Priest finds him teaming with producer Jon Brion, who seems to bring Barnes a modicum of focus along with his silky strings and lively keyboard work — individual songs leap out of your headphones much more than on Lamping. I tend to prefer the songs that fall on the sad side of the spectrum, as Barnes has a way of bringing out the silliness in wallowing in self-pity. You can practically see the overdramatic, anguished hand on his forehead as he moans lines like, “I don’t love you anymore — go away, go away, go away,” on “Famine Affair.” Mostly, however, the album explores his sensual and soulful side, as he name-drops Funkadelic songs and sings lines like “You look like a playground to me, player” on a duet with Solange Knowles. The mix sometimes sounds a bit too compressed, with no instruments standing in the wash of frenetic funk, but Barnes’ playful and inspiring vocals are the main instrument. — Robert B. Ker
CAMU TAO King of Hearts (Definitive Jux/fat Possum records)
With this posthumous debut solo release, rapper Camu Tao (aka Tero Smith) steps away from the indie-hip-hop oeuvre and delivers a confounding but telling album far removed from the beat-and samplecentric material that Def Jux label head El-P and his camp traditionally serve. A collection of rough mixes and unpolished demos primarily produced by El-P and Camu Tao before Tao’s death from lung cancer in 2008,
King of Hearts reveals a musician who had drawn up solid plans to knock on post-punk’s hip-hop-less door and leave a burning bag of genius on its front stoop. While there are a few unfortunate stylistic hints of that most pseudo of bands, The Black Eyed Peas, on tracks like “Get at You” and “Bird Flu,” Tao’s first and only solo effort proves to be the kind of album that, while rough-hewn and of below-average sound quality, could help bridge the gap (or at least shorten it) between indie rock and underground hip-hop. Rock and rap have commingled before — but with little and fleeting success. Tao manages to blend them both expertly here with little more than Pro Tools and raw talent. “When You’re Going Down” and “Intervention” bleed hints of UK band Warsaw circa 1978, while “Play O Run” sounds like a song Elvis Costello might have composed for Armed Forces. But don’t worry, rap fans, Tao still manages a few fine hip-hop-centric numbers (“Plot a Little,” “Major Team”) that showcase his rhyming gifts and lyrical finesse. — Rob DeWalt
Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes has become America’s leading bipolar pansexual purveyor of Prince-like pop songs about kinky sex and clinical depression.
Walter GibbOns Jungle Music: Mixed With Love: Essential & Unreleased Remixes 1976-1986 (strut
records) A shy born-again gay Christian who railed against promiscuity, Walter Gibbons was one of the most unlikely DJs to emerge from New York’s dance scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From his residency at Manhattan’s Galaxy 21, Gibbons threaded disco to the emergent hip-hop sound coming from the Bronx in a style that has only recently became au courant among rap producers. During his heyday, Gibbons’ sonic experiments went largely unappreciated. Beatboxing hip-hoppers Stetsasonic thought his astral disco production of “4 Ever My Beat” a travesty, while the patrons of Gibbons’ club (which doubled as a cabaret and porn theater) were outraged when he began spinning gospel in his club mixes. The first disc of this reissue showcases Gibbons’ talent for breaking apart choruses and restringing them over the looped disco breakbeats, as he does to brilliant effect in an 11-minute remix of soul singer Bettye LaVette’s smash “Doin’ the Best That I Can.” It’s in the second disc, however, that Gibbons’ dance-floor eccentricities come to the fore, as in his edit of Strafe’s “Set It Off,” which pairs punk guitar riffs with the electrofunk beats of Latin freestyle. Rare photos and a fine biography of Gibbons make this two-disc set a well-soundtracked time capsule.
— Casey Sanchez
tHe baD PlUs Never Stop (e1 entertainment)
Here is the first album by The Bad Plus consisting entirely of original works — there are no covers of ABBA, Richard Rodgers, Nirvana, or Stravinsky. The first song, “The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart,” opens full on, with a thick barrage of instrumental sound — chaotic on the surface, perhaps, but, but ... it makes me want to hug myself, protectively, just listening to it and thinking of how I might describe it. It is dense, profoundly demonstrative, of course, and not devoid of melodicism. About four minutes in, the musicians stop, rest for a moment, and proceed in a more classical trio mode, giving drummer David King a chance to improvise over a repeating pattern by pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson. The song “Never Stop” has a fun, chugging rhythm underneath Iverson’s wanderings and Anderson’s loud, rock-heavy drumming. It’s The Bad Plus for sure. It makes me want to dance spastically. “You Are” shows some fascinating trio chemistry. And they’re swingin’! The groove is more stately and gentle on “People Like You,” although this band can’t quite avoid waxing climactic. “Beryl Loves to Dance” is as delightfully wacky as the title. The closer, “Super America,” is clap-happy but not at all sappy. Never Stop is just very, very interesting. And loud. — Paul Weideman