Keep it Flossy
The advantage: Downtown’s H Street was quiet on Sunday night, but in a boutique next to an auto shop was a couple dozen 20-somethings, most of whom were seated on the floor in the dimly lit space. Making pretty, familiar noises in The Womb—alias by day: Velvet Leaf, a clothing store owned by designers Becky and Laura Carter—was (a missed set by) Alak, and Chelsea Wolfe, who just returned to town from a Pacific Northwest tour. Seated on the “stage” (a rug with red stringed lights around its perimeter), Wolfe yet again managed to convince open ears of every emotion offered in lyric and elegantly elegiac voice. It’s perplexing to realize that such an artist still plays such intimate venues. With talent like this, don’t take it for granted: People of the city and surrounding metro area, take advantage of these showcases by local artists who call Sacramento home.
Two musicians who call Arizona home were also at The Womb that night. DIYer from Phoenix Stephen Steinbrink (yes, he sat on the floor, too) strummed sweet pop songs on his electric guitar until the PA went on the fritz during his set’s penultimate song. He recovered well and borrowed Wolfe’s acoustic guitar to complete his musical contribution to the evening.
The other Arizonian, Hell-Kite, a young woman named Ann Marie Philipp from Tempe with pleasantly symmetrical bone structure, shared somber, minimalist songs, accompanied by her electric guitar and petite Marshall amp without a mic. It was like witnessing her play in her bedroom, and when her voice rose, the cry became tremulous and palpably intense, as if just hearing it was verging on invading her privacy.
Pregnant appropriately closed the show in The Womb with a short set of looping layers of guitar, maraca, saxophone and vocals. Sure, it was Sunday night, and the thought of sleep and a premature case of the Mondays had infiltrated the minds of the audience, but it is doubtful that more Pregnant would have been disadvantageous to the minimal mass. (Shoka)
Surprise!: There’s something to be said about a hip-hop CD that bends expectations. That’s not to say that I expected Flossalini’s latest album to suck, but there seems to be a slew of emcees who are intent on riding the hyphy wave all the way until it breaks. And, somehow, they all end up on my desk. So a part of me expected to pop in Flossalini Is My Homeboy and hear the same old overbearing synth, cute whistles and that iron-clad growl that only a mouth full of fake platinum can produce. But I learned quickly that’s not Flossalini’s style. Instead of filling out a template of a street CD, Floss stretches the bounds, trying to reinvent the street CD. That’s not to say the effort is entirely successful; Flossalini Is My Homeboy clocks in at 22 tracks and can wear you down in one listen. Yet the disc retains its shape with a handful of steel-solid joints and features such as C-Dubb, Joezy Wellz, Krypto and Smigg Dirtee. Take the track “Couldn’t Believe,” which begins with a hollow drum paired with ominous flutes over which Flossalini rhymes quick insights, like “Keep my grass cut to keep my eyes on the snakes’ heads”; it’s obvious from the care taken lyrically and productionwise that Flossalini put his heart, mind and guts into this CD.
Actually, when he handed me Flossalini Is My Homeboy, Floss gave me two copies and said something like, “Keep one in plastic, cuz that shit’s classic.” Maybe that’s not what he said, but it was close.
Anyway, surprises are abundant on Flossalini Is My Homeboy, whether it’s the xylophones on “Go Bad” or the emcee’s overall appreciation for momentum. Anticipation builds on “My Life @ a Glance,” with a Godfather-esque guitar and minimal beat—Flossalini gets mileage from the sheer strength of his voice and his intellect. It’s near the middle of the CD that it becomes slightly tedious. Maybe it’s the Auto-Tune or maybe it’s the production that seems to give up on standing out, but whatever it is, it doesn’t last long. In fact, the monotony is cleared up by “Thoughts,” which takes the form of a jazz poem, allowing the listener to quietly absorb the story of an emcee who seems to not only respect the art of hip-hop, but who seems genuinely intent on making his mark upon it.
To be honest, I didn’t actually keep the other copy of Flossalini Is My Homeboy in its wrapper—I gave it to Random Abiladeze, who is probably listening to it as you read this. You can check out some tracks at www.myspace.com/freddyflossalini. (Josh Fernandez)