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Lazerbeak - Legend Recognize Legend CD/DVD

Lazerbeak - Legend Recognize Legend CD/DVD

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The Twin Cities hip-hop underground is one of the last rich refuges for unabashed indie rock/indie rap hybridization, a place where crossing genre lines is as natural a day-to-day fact as crossing the Mississippi. Slug quotes Lifter Puller and Kool G Rap with equal conviction, Fog's Andrew Broder turns turntablism into a vital component of avant rock, and P.O.S fronts a hardcore band, Building Better Bombs, that shares a good-sized fanbase overlap with his b-boy followers. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that one of Minnesota's most prominent young hip-hop producers has a simultaneous footing in the indie rock world. Aaron Mader was a guitarist/vocalist/songwriter with the smartly Fugazi-indebted Plastic Constellations until their indefinite 2008 hiatus, but as Lazerbeak he's also produced much of the Doomtree crew's best material, including some of the hookiest, hardest-hitting tracks on P.O.S' Never Better.

If you think there's some sort of potential contradiction in that career path, his solo debut, Legend Recognize Legend, might confuse you before it converts you. That's because Lazerbeak's first full-length draws out a third facet to his style: its pop-song structure and its sample-based construction build an odd-angled, raspy-voiced take on indie pop that doesn't shred or bang as much as it kind of twinkles. It's a bit twee without being all that cloying about it: A synthesis of harps, flutes, acoustic guitars, and chimes flutter over brisk basslines and drums that still have some suppleness in their spines, and all these elements are combined in a way that actually has some groove to it. Where some artists try to approach R&B from a grounding in indie pop, Lazerbeak appears to be taking the opposite route, and even the lightest, most subdued moments here ("Let It Go"; "Pearly Gates") have some real rhythmic snap behind them.

Fortunately, dude's too savvy to go Owl City on us-- for one thing, he can actually write lyrics that don't hemorrhage treacle when you pull them apart. Lazerbeak infuses Legend Recognize Legendwith a fair amount of North Woods conceptualism that, in its most Minnesotan trait, depicts nature-- and the things it represents, human behavior included-- as something that can turn on you without remorse. There are mentions of the urge to break the claustrophobia of stifling winters ("Cannon Falls"), the difficulty of escaping undertows alone ("Salt and Sea"), and the feeling of being knocked around by forces out of your control ("Tempest"). And this is all delivered in a voice that sounds raw, ragged, frostbitten, and battered, a love-it-or-hate-it rasp that drags its flatness across simple melodies through what sounds like kicking-and-screaming force.

The voice and the tunes don't always match-- the sparser the production, the more intrusive that rasp feels-- but sometimes that dissonance between the rough-edged singing and the fine-hewn production provides a compelling pop thrill, like the resilient, dramatic swells of "Salt and Sea" or the mournful intensity in "Bound". Disappointed hip-hop fiends might want to find more accommodating solace elsewhere-- for them, I suggest Doomtree cohort Paper Tiger's fine Made Like Us-- but if you're interested in finding out just what a scene without borders is capable of coming up with, Legend Recognize Legend is worth the initial disorientation. - Pitchfork Media

1. Dream Team
2. Land's End
3. Let It Go
4. Bound
5. Wild Life
6. Salt And Sea
7. Pearly Gates
8. Cannon Falls
9. Tempest
10. Foothills

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