My reviews are more of impressions (as the tag suggests) now than ever before. Not having the ability to thoroughly listen to any release from the beginning to the end I put them on whenever and wherever I can – in my car driving to/from work, on my tablet in the kitchen while cooking dinner, or, like right now – on low volume in my “office” (a mostly abandoned place as of late) while my 10-month old is taking her nap. Yes, I know, I’m missing a bunch of details and nuances this way and some releases are all about details and nuances. But on the other hand, I feel like this gives me a more objective image of the release – after all, this is how most of the albums will be listened to by The Average Music Fan. So, I think giving my impression of a release isn’t the end of the world. And here’s my impression of the new release by AM444 (vocalist ChaCha + DJ Jay.Soul to whom we talked a little while ago) – I couldn’t help envisioning the old Soviet sci-fi movies from the 70’s – not the dark and tripped-out ones like Stalker, but the ones where people with bright eyes floated around in drapey outfits and the aliens were either friendly or, in the worst case, misunderstood (cover art contributes to it as well). Even though I would classify Rooms as a predominantly hip-hop record (if I had to classify anything) – bouncy rhythms are aplenty and ChaCha confidently raps through most of the tracks, there is this overall poetic and optimistic atmosphere filled with Jay.Soul‘s synthesizer beeps and blips and silly (in a good and playful way) “interloops” that keeps taking my mind away from the dancefloor and into the vastness of the unusually warm and inviting space. There are no boundaries holding AM444 back, there are no rules to their game, and this is probably why they have so much fun playing it. Albums like that are rare these days – it’s dance/pop without all the nauseating cheese and ripping off fresh hits and following trends; it’s indie electronica – but without all the gloom and pretentious weirdness that’s trying to come off as fresh but is really oh so old; it pays homage to old school – but in such an effortless and organic way that results in the album’s fresh and fun sound. I don’t want to say that release doesn’t have much structure – it most likely has a structure that I just didn’t get (plus it has more cohesiveness and style than you can shake a stick at) – but while I personally loved some of the unexpected transitions (like an especially “intergalactic” “Lies” followed by a funky hip-hop number “黑寡妇之爱 (Hei Gua Fu Zhi Ai)” – followed in turn by the echo-y “Interloop 2”), I personally felt like the record just sort of… ends. Not that “Whatsoever” isn’t a good track, but it didn’t seem to have that “closing note” feel to it. Maybe it’s not the end, but an invitation to a repeat listening – which the album definitely benefits from.
And of course I have to mention “Born, Burn” – as broad the genre spectrum of records reviewed here is, there is usually at least on track on most of them that feels like it was written with the sole purpose of pleasing my trip-hop soul. Excellent track, much darker and more intense than the rest of the album, but, just like the on rest of the album Jay.Soul‘s beat is spot on, instruments are well balanced and meticulously selected and ChaCha‘s vocals are full of energy, confidence and emotion.
Whether you are in or around Shanghai (in which case you probably have a chance to catch AM444 live, which I’m sure is a blast) or anywhere in the world – you will at the very least find Rooms interesting and fun. I found it exciting, fresh and quite amazingly warm and good-hearted.
R.I.Y.L. rjd2, Wagon Christ – Toomorrow, dreamy old sci-fi movies
personal favs: “Born, Burn”, “Lies”, “坍塌的床 (Tan Ta De Chuang)”