Matson on Music
Album review: THEESatisfaction - "Snow Motion"
Posted by Andrew Matson
THEESatisfaction's "Snow Motion" is out today. You can buy it at Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine in the Central District, or listen to it at THEESatisfaction's blog. "Snow Motion" is another part of Seattle's strongest year for hiphop in quite some time.
(BTW: I will never again write "Thee Satisfaction." It's THEESatisfaction.)
The first part of the review below will be in the paper soon. The track-by-track part is for the blog only. Here's the single, "Waltz":
What jerk won't appreciate "Snow Motion"? Local girlfriend duo THEESatisfaction's pure-heartedness shines on its second recorded release like a trusty headlamp, as Cat (singer) and Stasia (um...floeticizer?) spelunk through mid-fi hiphop pastiche, art-school ambitions, and predominant lyrical themes of death, blackness, outer space and sexuality.
That "Snow Motion" came together in a moldy, rat-infested Central District hovel during Snowpocalypse 2008 is no surprise. It's hard not to hear the album as shelter from the storm, with its fractured, pieced-together jazz-hop playing the role of welcome womb during a time when all of Seattle thought it might die, and some of it did. Remember: When roads were clear downtown, it was still an Ice Age in the CD. And yet, isn't the CD always a different world? On the noisy, echo-y title track, ghosts are summoned, the winter shooting of concert promoter Tyrone Love recalled, the Black Male mourned for in general, and a special kind of anger expressed. Then it's back to melodic, spaced-out free-associating, with serious/funny stories about feeling (and not feeling) bisexual, and staring out the window listening to Bob Ross talk about nothing. "Breath of fresh air" doesn't come close.
Track by track analysis after the jump.
Photo by Maceo Paisley
Words speak about happy clouds, sad snow, and notice "It's really coming down." Main characters introduced: snow and sadness. The 43 second long scene is set over a hobbling synth break.
Stasia sing-raps about living in a snowed-in hell, housebound and turning towards domestic violence. Peace wins out, but it's an everyday struggle. Also factoring in: chronic brokeness. Stasia finds her sense of humor in a "Living Single" reference, and Cat soothes with singing about rediscovering "the language of positivity." The beat is a loping bass bounce and playful rap clap.
"Thatd Be Rude"
Incredibly weird. Stasia and Cat are laid-back, calmly running down insults and also asking not to be insulted, singing nonsensically and talking about smoking "Rasta-tuff." Beat sounds like "I Wish" by Skee-Lo played backwards.
The "single." Not an actual waltz, it should be pointed out, but a 4/4 shuffle. Listening to Cat's vocals panned to the L and R channels is like having two angels on your shoulders, and Stasia's jazz-isms delight: "shake what my ma-ha-ma gave me" and "this beat is jazzi-er-er than Jeff!"
Stands for "Post Traumatic Slave Disorder." Music is warm, slow synths, possibly stolen from a mid '80s reel-to-reel soundtrack, maybe for a "your body is changing" movie shown in junior high schools. Also sounds like a "Reading Rainbow" intro/outro. Programmed drums are lo-fi basic hiphop.
Stasia's lyrics are softly, precisely spoken, tumbling out in rhythms first, becoming meaningful a few seconds later:
"No child left behind....
What about a whole tribe?
My whole life,
my so-called life is
Life is so cold, right?
And I'm so-called black."
Cat's sung chorus follows an upward synth arpeggio, and she over-enunciates when she sings it. Stasia is the MC. Cat is the broadcaster:
"We've been written off.
What's the price?"
Words about wanting to disco-dance in the sky, or something. It's 27 seconds long.
Cartoony, proto-rap beat serves to support two lighthearted story verses from Stasia, the first of which details an encounter with a woman, the second with a man. Both stories end up with "I might be bisexual." Cat sings the hook. Importantly for the public image of bisexuals everywhere (and people who, like Stasia, might be bisexual), there's no shock value in the song whatsoever. Stasia sounds exceedingly level-headed.
Malcolm X starts off the track: "If you're black, you were born in jail." Song is about how not-simple it is to be black and free, owing partially to the facts "black" and "free" are indistinct notions, despite often being talked about like things everybody understands. Stasia talks in opposites, while Cat sings about that great (fake) day when she's finally absolutely free.
"Divide and conquer,
light versus dark,
mansion in Medina,
Bench in the park,
ignorant black girl"
"When I get my showcase position,
I'm a blast the music on high,
Sit back and let it all fade away.
But after a dream or two I'll find
it's all just a waste of time
and all my lies have become the truth."
Dreamy piano rap, all about stimulating one's mind and remembering not to live in the past. An important point to make if you're going to talk about slavery and racism on your album. THEESatisfaction is all about forward motion.
The speak-rapping is coming from Stasia and Cat at once; it sounds like they're sitting at a piano together in a living room with a drum machine on the couch. Completing each other's lines, pausing for flair, the refrain goes: "Times are changing, quick-fast / And I hope that you don't fuh- / -get that."
"Snow Motion (For Tyrone)"
Sounds like it's taking place in a gymnasium. Serious echo snaps on the beat, and there's floating resonance that sort of sounds like what you might hear after you banged two metal pipes together. A plodding bass line leads the way, followed closely behind by soft, fake-organ synths. Vibe: steely.
Clearly inspired by last February's shooting and death of Tyrone Love, a concert promoter who was very well-liked, by all accounts. His shooting happened on Cherry Street, and was a violent bookend to the winter. The other bookend was the Halloween shooting just a few blocks away by the Garfield High School Teen Center, where 15 year-old Quincy Coleman was shot in the face and died later.
Stasia, starting with Snoop Dogg's flow from "Gin and Juice":
"There's so much drama in the CD,
it's kinda hard being Satisfaction and THEE.
Gunshots ringing in my ears [...]
but not because we don't trust the police.
Because we don't want to be dead next week."
"Making Me Crazy"
Succeeds in truly sounding like craziness. Song starts where the first one did, happy clouds, sad snow, but there's an aggro tone.
Stasia, talking about something I don't understand, but think is very funny:
"You thought you were clever
when you pulled the lever,
but now you're dumb, you're stupid, you're blonde, you're Heatherrrrrr..."
Cat, making fun of her own chorus?
"We can make warrrrrrrr
Or make babieeeeeeeeeeeees."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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