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

Friday, November 18, 2011

CD review - Whiskey Blanket, No Object (2010)

Classical foundation takes Whiskey Blanket beyond classic hip hop

I was suckered by the novelty. That first time I saw Whiskey Blanket live, the gimmick of hip hop crossed with classical instruments pulled me in. Even so, the band had a spark that shined through the schtick. A little time with their album, Credible Forces, revealed Whiskey Blanket's wider range of influences and offered a sense of their potential.

On No Object, their sound is maturing. Their attention to the musical detail shows as the mix of original music, backing samples, and rap is more organic than before. The music side leans heavily towards laid back jazz grooves, blurring the lines between sample and original music. Some of the songs use spoken word elements to set up context or ambiance. DJ Steakhouse's scratching and beat production leave their mark but maintain plenty of open space. Sparse grooves like Joie De Vie's backing track provide an ideal setting for the lyrics.

Whiskey Blanket's complementary chemistry has grown stronger, too. The balance is effortless whether they split the song into larger sections like on Pound Boom or toss the lead like on Another Day Passes. The lyrical flow breezes along as the band moves between autobiographical themes and positive tip conscious rap.

No Object's restraint extends to the guest artist angle. The contributions are artistic and relevant. Elephant Revival's Bonnie Paine provides beautiful vocals and subtle musical elements. Fellow rapper Macklemore brings his unmistakable open style on Rule the Roost.
Whether it's long or we pack it in short sets
Who could be better to eradicate your stress
Than the four best and collaborative quartets
The Kings of Colorado and the Mack of the Northwest
Macklemore riffs on his original visits to Colorado and hooking up with Whiskey Blanket. The Latin horn backing on the track is sweet as they cover their shared experiences building a following here in Colorado.

No Object doesn't neglect the band's shared classical foundation. Ubiquitous Wavescape of the Re-upholstered Mind provides a cool musical interlude. The cello and violin work together through a couple of interesting motifs before the beat boxing pops in. In theory, the strings and rhythm should clash, but they mesh into a balanced hybrid.

My only regret is that I'm coming late to this party. No Object released last December and I missed it until recently. Check out Whiskey Blanket's unique sound and catch them live if you get the chance. The novelty might bring you in, but their show will keep you there.

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