The Dramatics – ‘Whatcha See is Whatcha Get’ / Black Menace – ‘Str8-Up Gangsta’ / Snoop Dogg – ‘Doggy Dogg World’
Sometimes one truly is the loneliest number, so rather than a single tune this week, here are three. To forestall any accusations of cheating, note first that there is a common theme, readily apparent, to all three; let’s look at this less as a flagrant violation, and more as a creative circumvention, of the rules. The first track came to my attention via the superlative second season of Fargo, where it appears (attached to Simone Gerhardt) to unsettle the ‘good’ in ‘good intentions.’ In the second, the smooth Detroit sound we just heard is used to underscore an extended provocation, an assertion of type that warns against mistaking Black Menace for ‘a punk-ass prankster’: his ‘best advice to you is find someone else to fuck with,’ for he is, of course, a straight-up gangsta. The final track rounds out the trilogy as an audio-visual treat. I won’t say more, but will instead close with the advice of Daz Dillinger: ‘grab a seat and grab your gin and juice and check out the flow.’
To Move Alone To – Guilty Feeling
Guilt is hard to represent. Do it with the guilty person’s voice and you risk self-indulgence, and try to write outside of this character and there’s little more you can say than “____ felt guilty.” Thankfully, Guilty Feeling by To Move Alone To sidesteps both these traps by being that feeling, that voice you hear when you are guilty. As such, and true to the EP’s title, these songs aren’t confessions, they’re ontological, they’re a dealing-with. Like in the brilliant and evocative repetition of “Do you see a body,” that opens ‘Hangaman (Feat. Drew Marvell)’: The body is never resolved, it remains and haunts the song as it goes somewhere else. There’s hints about a failed relationship, but nothing concrete that one can grab onto and through which say “This is what this song is about.” Rather we’re left with an impression that someone’s sense of dread has been justified, and we’re hearing the aftermath.
It’s a dark EP, the synths are blurry and the percussion snaps,* the imagery is vague and To Move Alone To’s delivery ranges from deep, downtempo and grim to a despairing, auto-tuned cry. And while all these are apparent across the EP, they come together in a stunning fashion in ‘Steep Float’ – a six-minute journey of a song whose geography is the series of images it evokes. It’s spatial songwriting, the music and lyrics generating a sense of (non)place, like To Move Alone To’s artist bio:
All the places you’ve been but never seen. The space in-between us. Handprints left on the head rests. An undetermined terrain, where the horizon is the same from all glances. An exercise in landscape. Guilty feeling. The bit just before. An unsolvable crime (on my way back). Steep float, slow build. A proposal for the final hour.
These images don’t resolve, but slip into each other, and taken as a whole come together into a sense of weird, tantalising alienation. Something is wrong, but it’s impossible to know what it is. This doesn’t mean that the EP is alienating. It isn’t. It’s an incredibly confident (and consistent) first release, and it keeps me coming back for more.
* Really, really well. The percussion sounds incredible.