live at the Twisted Pepper
It's often a hot topic amongst music snobs that rock music is rather stale, cue the calls for invention, reinvention every decade or so. Maybe less than this. But hip hop is generally accepted in its usual forms. Streetwise lyrics. Performance videos with guest appearances. Common clothing is worn. Common gestures are shown. And at the end of the day the likes of Lil' Wayne make their money.
Shabazz Palaces are not normal hip hop. This is experimental stuff and sounds like nothing that went before. This is the reinvention. Kanye did the Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album which blended so many ideas together, the album became almost impossible to package as any 'genre.' Alongside him, creativity has bloomed. Acts like Death Grips - sparse and raw - Odd Future - hyper and violent - and the cool tongue-in-cheek hustle of A$AP Rocky, have sprung up showcasing extraordinary young talent and ingenuity. They have stepped away from what used to be synonymous with releases; multiple producers, multiple guest appearances, that often took a lot away from the album and really watered down the actual ability of the main act itself. Shabazz Palaces puts the attention firmly on themselves and the effect has been intoxicating.
It wouldn't be fair to call Shabazz Palaces a minimalist act (there are just two of them). It's just that they do so much with so little. Their album Black Up, released last year, has no guest appearances and the same producers play out across the board. Their stage presence, black clothes, black shades, and their songs are fuller, fatter than almost anything out there. The style itself relies not on choruses and hooks but on an almost hypnotic word usage, via Ishmael Butler, and a flow of musical percussions and sounds by Tendai 'Baba' Maraire, a vastly experienced multi-instrumentalist.
The result? Waves of sound. Walls of noise. Overlayered voices at once ghostly and high-pitched and the next deep and throbbing. Keyboards bend and permeate in jazzy lilts often beneath the snap and crackle of drum machines. Mbiras and bongos are used alongside haunting electronic ebbs and flows. The whole effect is loud and mesmeric.
The duo worked their way through their debut album to a small but deliriously packed room at the Twisted Pepper. A room that just barely managed to contain them. It was a relatively quick run through that left the crowd baying for an encore. So anyone that wants to catch standout tracks like 'An Echo From the Hosts that Profess Infinitum' and 'Are You Can You Were You' in a live setting should keep an eye out for the remainder of their live dates across the summer. A selection of which are listed below.
02 - 03 June, Free Press Summer Festival, Houston Texas
13 June, Upstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC Canada
21 July, Ums Festival, Denver CO US
24 July, THEEsatisfaction, Brooklyn NY US
28 July, Hornstull Strand, Stockholm Sweden
03 â€“ 05 August, OFF Festival, Katowice Poland
08 August, Terrasse Palais des Festivals et des Congres 2012, Cannes France.
visual word: Ronan Crinion
Shane O'Reilly is an award-winning writer based in South Dublin, Ireland. On the other side of the Foxrock tracks. When not picking apart the work of Lars Von Trier (for the aforementioned award) he can be found at Dublin's University College, immersed in English and Philosophy. This picture was taken in Vietnam, as he was wrestling back his camera from a would-be camera collector, shortly after another of the locals had successfully taken his wallet, and a rising clash of personalities took his g/f. Great trip.