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Stro Elliot Debut LP – Review

Stro Elliot – Self Titled (2016)

L.A. beat maker impresses with debut full length LP

by Mikey Casey

Live performance of Stro Elliot from the Soulection Live Sessions.

 

 

Aside from seeing the name on social media I had no knowledge of Stro Elliot other than his association with L.A. and the beat scene but after hearing his self titled LP released at the tail end of 2016 on Street Corner Music I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

His ability to flip a sample and make it into something special is something harder to get excited about when artists like James Brown or Kool and the Gang have been sampled so many times throughout hip hop history. Many of the casual listeners of hip hop out there have probably heard Kool and the Gang’s Summer Madness reworked or recognize a James Brown sample when it is used, but Stro never leans to heavily on the source material and only uses a sample sparingly and to useful effect.

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Stro Elliot Cover art / Street Corner Music 2016

Soul II Stro is such a dope flip of Soul II Soul’s Back to Life sample and a good example of how he uses what he needs from his source without relying on it. He uses enough in the beginning so you know instantly who it is but then launches into his own thing utilizing just a couple vocal snippets (“However do you…”) by blending them to sweet effect into his boom-bap structure.

You hear more of this efficiency on James Baby where he flips Browns’ I Got that Feelin’ into a funky cacophonous racket that will sound so dope on a big soundsystem with the right deejay cutting it into a mix. You recognize the sample from the jump being used in its original recording until the “Baby, Baby, Baby” part propels the track into Stro territory and the sampled elements are woven into something else entirely and sounds like a B-Boys breakbeat dream. The drums are the first to enter and instantly you can hear that the tight/slick funk of Brown’s original is gone and replaced with something that reminds me of Magic Drum Orchestra’s reworking of Drop It Like It’s Hot. The drums almost sound like a marching band (all skins; no cymbals) and there is so much hollow sounding space in between the notes that when the other elements, specifically the horns, make their appearance all the instruments blend together to create a really interesting break.

Drama 4 Kathy may have been sourced from 50-60’s jazz but the source of the sample, although it is familiar, escapes me. The first seven seconds gives a small taste of the original source and you can tell its follows a meandering course in the jazz-sense of stretching out time and messing with rhythm but the samples are reworked into a contemporary rhythm, no longer meandering and straightened out to follow a more direct course that is signified by the cadence of the snare hit. If I didn’t know better I would think that this was an unreleased cut from the Madlib Shades of Blue sessions.

The one anomaly on the full length is the sole vocal cut called Virginia Wolf. A nice addition that is unexpected on the instrumentally grounded record but the vocal flow, cadence, and delivery sit well on the crest of the bass/drum interplay (Note: I would give props to the performer but finding a credible confirmation as to who it is is eluding me). Based on this example I look forward to more productions with an MC as a collaborator.

This is a solid beat record that deejay’s will have a lot of fun with. The tracks are short and barely go beyond the 4 minute length. These tracks can really take on a life of their own in the very capable hands of a JRocc or Lefto and records like this are meant to be heard in a mix where their impact can be utilized to the fullest extent.

Greetings from the Void: New Solicitations

Here are a few tunes that I have come across that have been really doing it for me lately. Full on sonic satisfaction lies therein.

Tame Impala is from Perth, Australia — one of the many interesting acts emerging from the scene out there who seem to love there fuzzy guitars and hippie harmonies, which every rocker tends to toy with, but I like there style. Links below for a couple tracks to digest.

Tame Impala – Desire Be Desire Go

Tame Impala – Alter Ego

This group, The Electric Chairs, is an old punk band that used to play in England back in the late 70’s, this track is from an old 7 inch release that came out before they broke up and is a nice slice of post-punk dance music. Really wish I can track this down on wax.

The Electric Chairs – So Many Ways 

The instrumental beat producer known as Take just put out his album “Only Mountain” and it is an absolute beauty of lush rippling sounds and propulsive beats. The track ‘Crystallia’ with its cascading synth effects just speak to my dark moody musical aesthetic of other moody cinematic producers that permeate the electronic music genres.

Take – Crystallia

Nobody is another L.A. beatmaker and super talented all around musician who is following up 2008’s Blank Blue project with another album of tangenital inspiration, launching this time into a new world of inspiration using the auto tune vocal modulation  as a main component of the album. Like Blank Blue’s recreation of the atmosphere of Hendrix’s sci-fi epic, ‘1983…A Merman I Should Turn to Be,’ Dj Nobody’s latest project delves into new inspirational territory probably motivated in part by Kanye’s auto tune driven effort. Usually, I can’t stand the voice effect, but in the track ‘Harmony’ it seems to work perfectly along side the dirty hip hop beats and industrial noise like a ray of light through the L.A. haze. If you get a chance, check out this guy’s DJ sets! Amazing!

Nobody – Harmony

All this talk about Nobody and his prowess as a musician made me think it would be good to include a track off of his Blank Blue project. The album as a whole is solid, but I really love ‘Sea Roars Lead’ because the whole live capability of this band comes together in this track. The combo of Nikki Randa’s vocals, the aqua sound of the bass, and psychedelic jangle of the guitars hint at how good this band sounds live and if you get a chance to catch this group in action then do so.

Blank Blue – Sea Roars Lead 

***Next update is tentative. Will happen as I find the goodies! Click the ‘dl’ link to be transported to the download page.

Couple Jammy Jams

Here I am anticipating the onset of summer and felt like sprinkling some jams on whoever is looking for something new. I’ve got a trio of  tunes that I’m really enjoying at the moment. The first is an old rediscovered funk/jazz work called He3 Project which is something I’ll need to check out more.

He3 Project – Rapture of the Deep

The second is a remix of a Nickodemus track,  a cool little dancey cut with a funky little bass line!

Nickodemus – Sun Children (Red Astaire Rollerskate Remi

And the third is a little more chill, a new slice of goodness from DFA. It’s the B side from the new Ray Mang release, a really nice surprise considering I thought it was the Lady Miss Kier fronted A side that would have grabbed my attention. Instead,  “Look into My Eyes” has a nice lush feel to it, sounds like a sample of “Love on a Real  Train” by Tangerine Dream, but either way it’s a nice one!

Ray Mang – Look into My Eyes