Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If You Do Spread Your Wings, Please Let Me Know -- Kno's Death Is Silent

Actually quite similar to how I run into a lot of metal these days, no longer hanging around any metal heads, I was unfamiliar with CunninLynguists in general and Kno in specific for certain. This happens a lot with rap, which seems to run in an even greater variety of strains and layers. There's obviously the readily available and apparent mainstream rap, there's heavily familiar underground rap, there's the more intricate varieties that focus on wordsmithing, there's the hybrid forms that meld with other genres, and the kind that has determined fans without any major hook from violating expectations. Heck, there's more beyond that. Still, it makes it increasingly difficult to get a handle on whether you might like an artist or not without simply listening. On the bright side, the nature of rap means hearing it live is one of the more accurately represented genres, so long as the place you hear it has reasonable sound and the DJ (or laptop) is solid, it bears a pretty strong resemblance to the recorded material.

When I saw this album, it screamed "independent rap," but that's a pretty wide swath of music to plow through, and there's no telling what it means. The one advantage metal does have is that, while the named genre or subgenre can be misleading, it does at least give a starting point. Subdivision of rap hasn't taken enough hold to become widespread. There are certainly vibes and feelings that I break apart in my head for my own moods, or to attempt to share a genre that receives a lot of hatred or at least dislike in the kind of circles I most often find myself in.

I mistakenly first believed this was a CunninLynguists album, as it is marked as "CunninLynguists Presents," but it is in fact the first solo album from producer/emcee Kno, who is from that duo or trio (depending on when you are discussing). I'd heard the name, outside of the obvious pun that inspired it, and was pretty sure I'd heard it associated with talent, which is what drove the (rather cheap) purchase of what I discovered was an out-of-print album.

Kno's beats are loop-oriented and relatively lo-fi, spare and heavy on vocal sampling. The title of the entry actually refers to the song "Spread Your Wings," which also features fellow CunninLynguist Deacon the Villain:

The abstract notion I have of the subdivision this falls into is somewhat confused. The beats are reminiscent of both the underground varieties of "mainstream" rap (as opposed to the more introspective varieties), and indeed the lyrical material makes reference to sex (particularly in "La Petit Mort," the French term for orgasm, I've heard--making it a clever insertion on an album that is intended to deal in the matters of death) and drugs more explicitly and at greater length than in most of the rap I do listen to regularly.

At the same time, the lyrics are also in that same vein, in that the words are impressive more in terms of rhyme scheme and witty wordplay than in terms of their perceptiveness. It seems, by and large, to be in that vein of rap that's not been moved into territory that makes it comfortable for those who "don't like rap," and is simply underground because it is not of the modern production techniques.

Kno's voice, to be honest, is a bit awkward and is regularly outdone by his guests, be they his regular group members (the aforementioned Deacon the Villain as wellas Natti) or others who appear. His words are often clever, though sometimes a bit forced, and his articulation is somewhat peculiar and uncomfortable, as if he hears his voice in a different way than it comes out. He has great control and the flow isn't off, but the emphases and the enunciation make things a bit weird--think of someone forcing a dialect unnatural to them and you may have an idea of what I mean.

The production, however, which is what Kno seems to be best known for, is excellent. And, as a bonus, the album proper is followed by instrumental versions of most of the tracks unlisted on the CD version of the album.

I do recommend giving it a listen, whatever reservations I might have, for the production to be sure, but also for those who may feel differently about Kno's voice.

You can check it out (and purchase it directly from the group) over at bandcamp.

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