Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reviews:: The Extremities - The New Tonic (CBC Remix Sessions)

Considering how much I talk up my love for the horns in my reviews and other ramblings, it's kind of surprising that I don't do more jazz-related projects. Actually it's not surprising, as there really aren't many jazz-related projects that come across our desks here at the hill. Until now that is, as The Extremities are here to change that.

Based on their name, and that intro, you'd be forgiven if you were expecting some kind of jazz-fueled indie band, but that's not the case here. The Extremities are made up of the Halifax producer/DJ combo Fresh Kils and Uncle Fester, and The New Tonic finds them re-working Tonic, a jazz record made by prominent East Coast jazz musicians like Doug Riley, Chris Mitchell, Jamie Gatti, and Dave Burton. Fes provides the cuts for the majority of the album, while Kils handles the sampler and plays keys of various varieties. The album has a very authentic hip hop sound, due to the beats, the aforementioned DJ work, and appearances from solid Haltown MC's like Fiz and the grand wizard Ghettosocks, but the addition of live contributions from some of the players on the original record helps maintain a very real jazz vibe throughout the album.

Right from start, the expert blend of cuts, drums, and horns on album opener Warpdrive lets you know that you're going to get a little something different on The New Tonic. But that something different turns out to be one of the more enjoyable listening experiences I've had recently, it just flies by. The slow, summery saunter of bass and subtle horns provide the backdrop for The Way I Feel, which features the vocals of Kaleb Simmonds and raps done by Halifax vet Fiz. Fiz has been emceeing in Haltown since the 80's, and he has an old-school influenced flow that is as smooth as single malt and matches the solid drum track and piano tinkle of Square One perfectly, as he breaks down the history of his latest group, Universal Soul.

Halifax's current MC champ*, Ghettosocks, brings his signature style ("dead that weird shit like someone shot Bjork") to the jazzily named Liquor To Pandas over some solid piano, guitar licks, and some sweet sax that would make Dave Koz jealous (I hope Dave Koz is in fact a soxophonist, unfortunately I don't know any other current saxmen). Both MC's team up with the also legendary DJ Jorun on the rock-tinged Listen which is change up from the other jams on the album, but works just fine.

I shouldn't give all the shine to the tracks with guest artists, as the instrumentals here all bang pretty hard and kept my head bobbing throughout. From the slow paced piano, thick bassline, and sampled female vocals of the RJD2-like Eight Days, to the knocking drums and scratched KRS samples of Driveby, to the downright funkiness of the live jam session interplay between the DJ and instruments on 3 In The Key, there is zero filler to be found amongst the 10 songs on The New Tonic.

This album is currently my favorite album to work to, but I'm sure it would be solid accompaniment to pretty near anything. Innovation is often lacking in hip hop, so a hearty kudos is sent out to both Fes and Kils as well as the musicians for participating in a project like this that can serve to introduce fans of two genres to music of a different flavour. Simply put, this is a concept album that worked incredibly well, in my humble, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

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The Extremities Live

*Note: Strictly my opinion and not based on any kind of measureable MC science.

Posted at 1:00 PM by naedoo :: 2 comments

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At 2:25 PM, Blogger Jesse Dangerously did sayeth:

It so happens that Ghettosocks is indeed an "MC champ" by more than subjective measurement - he won the rap battle tournament in 2008's DJ Olympics in Halifax!

I guess it's still subjective on some level, but you can report it as objective fact that he was awarded the title officially!


At 3:16 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

Turns out I used that "MC champ" descriptor again in my review of his mixtape, but in that case I used The Coast's "Best MC in the City" designation as my proof. Which is also kind of subjective I guess, but less so!

And less so is good enough for me, so Ghettosocks remains Halifax's MC Champ, so says herohill!


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