(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, December 6, 2010

CD review - Lazerbeak, Legend Recognize Legend (2010)

Aaron Mader, AKA Lazerbeak, has produced beats for a number of artists as part of Minneapolis' Doomtree hip hop collective. Most recently, he collaborated with Mike Mictlan. As Lazerbeak, his efforts have been rooted in a hip hop sound. Legend Recognize Legend breaks that pattern by reaching back to his work with the indie rock band, the Plastic Constellations. Legend shares stylistic touches with the Plastic Constellations' songs, but the sound is more electronic and layered. It's a carefully constructed album; Lazerbeak has put a lot of effort into production and engineering. The differences are clearly tied to what he's learned from building loops and beats. Now, he's working on larger scoped arrangements and harnessing those techniques to create a more complex sound that's still full of life.

Legend leads off with an electronic sound in Land's End. The staccato drive and Lazerbeak's hoarse, understated singing create a repetitive, hypnotic flow. The choppy tension and string work create a progressive rock feel, but with less guitar focus. The song defies expectation with a looped, electro pop breakdown. Pleasant surprises like this fill the album.

Throughout the course of Legend Recognize Legend, Lazerbeak hits a rich variety of sounds -- the anthemic quality of Let It Go, the moody prog rock of Bound, the Lion King flavored world beat of Wild Life, the Peter Gabriel polyrythm crossed with post punk sound of Salt and Sea -- each song offers something new and intriguing.

It's hard to pick a favorite track, but the nostalgic descending lines of Foothills stands out. He establishes the mood with a guitar and some organ, before bringing in an thickly reverbed drum loop backing the vocals. The lyrics resonate and Lazerbeak's breathy delivery
sounds both longing and hopeful. The steel guitar tones near the end sweeten the sound, but never slip into cloying sentimentality.

Lazerbeak has bridged his two musical worlds on Legend Recognize Legend. As a balance point, it's a place of transition and possibility. I'll raise a glass of Jameson Special Reserve Irish whiskey and bravely step forward.

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