Friday, November 18, 2011

Mono Tonique - 2011 - Street lights

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Welcoming the ever dropping mercury in your thermometer comes six songs of trip-hop goodness straight from mother Russia with “Street lights”. I can't really explain trip-hop to anyone who has never heard it, suffice to say its often slower hip-hop beats with intricate compositions laid over top (often electronic or classical in nature), with little ambition of getting your ass shaking. “Street lights” doesn't reshape the trip-hop landscape (not even the artists who created it seem to have that power anymore), but does a damn good job of creating its own mood that is well worth a listen. The first half of the record is mostly based around electronic beats and has a somber, lonely feeling. 'Sunset mirage' for instance is awash in layers of synth and noise surrounding chimes and a simple drum machine loop that is comforting but decidedly detached. Mono Tonique are taking you on a voyage through a beautiful, empty but not quite natural place. If an electronic sound dominated the first half, instrumental hip hop makes its home more clearly in the second half of “Street life”. 'P.S.' has the same sort of lonely vibe as the three tracks that precede it but uses horns and piano as its driving force, giving it a sound reminiscent of Endtroducing...-era DJ Shadow. It's a nice change of pace right in the middle of the album following the more alien sounding 'Far Side' with its gitches and new age-y synth backdrops. 'Street homeless' then shatters that somber, lonely mood completely in one fell swoop as a throbbing baseline and snare drum transport the listener from cold and lonely emptiness to a dirty, thriving urban setting complete with grinding street traffic and constant sirens. I dare say it reminds me of early Cypress Hill (minus any rapping) in this regard. If the four tracks before this were “somber” and “lonely”, this is “claustrophobic” and “depressing” music for being swallowed up, unnoticed by the surrounding cityscape (something its title implies). It's the standout track here and the one you'd likely tell friends about, on an album full of excellent tracks. Trip-hop fan or not, definitely check out Mono Tonique's Street lights. it would be a shame to miss this record.

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