Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quoth The Browncoats, Whatevermore

Mikal kHill of the ThoughtCriminals has been one busy dude. Within less than a month, kHill has two releases in the can.

One, you may have heard by now, as kHill provided the beats and a handful of vocals on The Browncoats Mixtape. He and fellow Nerdcore star (I think we can cut “rising” out of the equation at this point) Adam WarRock have released an album dedicated to Joss Wheedon’s lamented “Firefly” series. Going in to this, I knew next to nothing about “Firefly” and wasn’t sure I’d pick up on a lot of what was about to transpire.

The good news, I didn’t have to. WarRock takes themes easily relatable - those of being your own man and standing by what’s right, relying on no one’s ideals but your own - and wraps them around stories involving the crew of Serenity. WarRock’s lyricism is deftly done here, as metaphors are easily woven in to the mix.

WarRock’s strongest asset as an MC is that he can spin lyrical tapestries that defy the human tongue, yet none of them are so heavy with slang and references that make no sense that they’re impenetrable. On the contrary, WarRock keeps things sophisticated yet simple. Anyone can follow along, but still marvel at how well the lyrics are spun.

In the case of The Browncoats Mixtape, WarRock has an excellent backdrop to tell his tall tales to. kHill takes the nouveau-Western music of “Firefly” (I assume) and turns them in to great accompaniment. The melodies are those of simultaneous despair and hope, capturing the feeling of not only WarRock’s stories, but of how many fans felt about the series itself.

The Browncoats Mixtape comes highly recommended, whether you’re a fan of “Firefly” or not. At the end of the day, it’s a solid hip-hop work. And it’s free! You can grab it from both the sites of Adam WarRock and the ThoughtCriminals.

After picking up The Browncoats Mixtape from the ThoughtCriminals site, you can then head to their Bandcamp site and pre-order the Thought Criminals live album. Whatevermore (Live from the Raven) was recorded not too long ago - July 31, as a matter of fact, on the second night of the “Pay What You Can” festival at The Raven in Worcester, MA.

For the live record, the ThoughtCriminals shared the stage with Shane Hall, a Massachusettes native with as much energy to burn as the ThoughtCriminals themselves. Having known each other a long time, 2011 is the year they started tag-teaming stages all over the country, starting at SxSW in March.

Here, the ThoughtCriminals and Hall are presented in all their independent, “no-money-mo’-problems glory”. That is to say, the record is a showcase of not only independent musicians dominating a stage with talent, guts and willpower, but also of the problems they face in doing so. The record is presented with technical problems intact to show the perils of independent art and touring, but those issues are actually rather minimal - a testament to the know-how of all involved.

And the music? You’re in for a treat. Whatevermore (Live from the Raven) represents the best of the ThoughtCriminals with tracks such as “Return of the Antagonist (Drastic Measures)” and “Warp Zone (1-2)”. kHill and company - Sulfur (vocals), Kevin Morgan (guitar), Alan Erickson (bass), Chris Wilson (keyboards), and Stephen Williams (drums) - combine to form a hip-hop collective that also include components of chiptunes (kHill does play an NES, after all), rock, punk, and just plain attitude. Hearing that on stage is a great time once it’s realized they waste no time bringing the energy. About halfway through, they are joined by Shane Hall. His manic, infectious rantings go perfectly with the ThoughtCriminals mentality of laying it all on the line each time they take the stage.

Whatevermore (Live from the Raven) can be pre-ordered now via the ThoughtCriminals’ BandCamp. On October 25, those that took the plunge will glad they did once the record is released. As Adam WarRock himself said, the album is “not just a great live RAP album, this album is a great example of acts sharing a stage, collaborating, melding hip hop and live instrumentation, and just making good damn music."

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