Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reviews:: wallscenery demos - check this!

Between the two of us here at your favorite kung fu dude-mascotted music blog, I'd have to say I'm really not the guy you go to for hot new indie music trends. The Ack is certainly the guy to go to for that kind of thing, as he manages to do a rather decent job keeping his incredibly white fingers on the pulse of those things. I'm more the guy to go to when you're wondering which Chubb Rock album was the best (most people will tell you it's The One, but I'll always be partial to And The Winner Is.... That being said, I think I was in the vanguard of those discovering the very hot lo-fi movement when I discovered the wallscenery demos last year.

That last sentence is of course hogwash, as I discovered nothing. The man behind the wallscenery demos, James Hicken, is simply a super-nice dude, and a talented musician, who asked us to take a listen to his album. I did just that, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard. I say surprised because I knew the album was a pastiche of songs that Hicken created and recorded himself from samples, live instruments, electronics, and of course in the infamous lo-fi fuzzed-out vocals, but I was surprised at how cohesive and listenable it was. Well, Hicken and WSD are back with a new release, check this!, and he picks up right where he left off.

check this! certainly has the DIY aesthetic of its predecessor, but I think it feels a bit more melodic this time around - if melodic is even a word one can use to describe a sample & shoegaze-filled lo-fi record. I'll have to go back to the last album and, ahem, check this, for myself, but I think this new album relies a little less on samples & trickery, and leans more on guitar work and the assistance of his musical friends (Hicken has re-located to Brooklyn, at least part-time anyway, but a lot of the TO folks that helped with his first album return for this one) to help lead the way. In some cases, the vocals have also been given more of a chance to shine, like they've fallen down (broken snare mix), which sounds more like a traditional pop song than anything from his last outing.

But Hicken hasn't strayed too far from the formula that I thought served him so well last time out. Most of the time he keeps the vocals fuzzed-out and blended into the track, or down to a hushed warble, like on i'm not around, on which he sounds an awful lot like Halifax's own Thomas/Richard. I know from talking to him that James still has a fond regard for hip hop, and if you couldn't tell that from the hip hop-influenced song titles like i kept it real and bring that shit back, the pairing of big drums & riffs with scratches on raw shit would let you know the deal. There are also still vocal samples aplenty, with the kung fu flick stand off on stephen harper being exactly what the PM ain't: fun.

Despite that diverse array of sounds, Hicken also proves he can write a catchy tune with the best of them on a song like hooked on lame, that would feel at home with a number of genres attached to it. And that's kind of the thing, no matter how you create your music, if it isn't fun or enjoyable to listen to, you've kind of failed. Hicken certainly hasn't failed with his second WSD outing, as its 23 tracks blow by way too fast. If you're at all into the lo-fi sounds being peddled by folks like Little Girls, I think you need to check this! for yourself.

MP3:: wallscenery demos - hooked on lame

MP3:: wallscenery demos - raw shit

wallscenery demos - raw shit

Labels: Brooklyn, lo-fi, ,

Posted at 1:00 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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