Beats by bearded hillbilly scientists for world peace
Mountain brothers: Two Caucasians from Amador County with shaggy hair and gigantic lumberjack beards making innovative hip-hop: Sounds weird, no? And so 2007, bro-ski. Well, get over yourself and with the new era of post-Obama cultural relations, where even if you look like a Pabst-swilling truck driver you can still record a convincing hip-hop album.
And Aquifer’s Room for Growth is certainly compelling. And more. The group (emcees Nick Bianco and Tommy Fox) is what you’d call experimental hip-hop, for lack of a better term. Their witty, sometimes depressing lyrics are fastened together by dusty samples that at times sound like rapping over an antique-store music box. Crackling beats encase bouncy flows, a juxtaposition that seems like what a 1920s hip-hop record should have been.
But Aquifer’s rhymes are far from archaic. Reminiscent of many West Coast backpack groups of yesteryear (Animal Pharm, the Kraken), their intelligently crafted lyrics have a distinct edge that perhaps only the tree-lined hills of Amador can produce. “Wading of a Flood Plane” utilizes a cut-up electric-guitar sample that’s both maddening and catchy. The beat on “Right for No Reason” is intriguing, and so unique that the listener might think something’s wrong with their headphones. “What’s an Activist” is so original and so funky that it’s well worth the CD’s $5 price tag. Check out Aquifer at www.myspace.com/aquifermusic, then check them out live at the Red Fox Tavern (415 Fifth Street) in Eureka on Sunday, November 23, at 9 p.m. Wait, where’s Eureka? (Josh Fernandez)
Future-human folk: Aaron Ross, who looks not unlike John Belushi and plays with a profound acoustic force, shared with Robbie Basho, headlined Friday at a peaceful, familial potluck show downtown. His set, derived mainly from an older catalog, appealed to his loyal audience, whose mouthing of lyrics evidenced an acceptance of the songs as anthemic. Newer ears certainly were compelled, too, by his outside-of-time approach to folk: festival rhythms; self-contained, lyrical ouroboros; his cavorting vibrato, so potent and strange. And poignant, so much so that after the show the porch was littered with cans of something called Simpler Times Lager. The show was hearty, robust, traditional … and futuristic. Ross must surely be in the same Earth-changing league as the Wyld Stallyns: assembled in the present by a superior race of future-humans for the purpose of ensuring world peace in a time yet to come. (Alexa Shapiro)
Blue (balls) notes: The crowd’s energy, at first, was palpable. But as the music surged and the Faint vocalist Todd Fink launched into “The element of progress / that you mention is gone / it de-evolved,” the sound died, the vocals trailed off and the crowd was left with blue balls. Apparently the Faint rocked so hard that the auditorium at Sac State had insufficient power for the pounding bass and throbbing synthesizers of new-wave dance rock. After nearly 10 minutes, the power problem was resolved and the band catapulted into its set. Fink, donning a white lab coat and goggles, traversed the stage like a maniacal scientist, while graphic images flickered on the screen behind him. The band offered up a mix of old and new tracks that kept the crowd moving, but felt a little flat. Fink struggled with the pace of some of the songs, at times sounding like a record playing on a slower speed than intended. Even crowd favorites like “Worked Up So Sexual” and “Paranoiattack” lacked the powerful punch that the band is known for. That said, at least the Faint appeared to be giving it their all. (Erin Sierchio)