The music blog that feels so good
What better way to kick off a music blog than to post a review of your favorite album of 2012 (so far)? Sounds like a good idea, so here we go. Time for a review of ANX, the latest release from alternative hip hop duo Dark Time Sunshine.
Dark Time Sunshine is rapper Onry Ozzborn and producer Zavala. The two are based out of Bothel, Washingtion – a city I actually lived in for a short time. Nice place, no desire to go back. Their first release was an EP, Believeyoume, in December of that same year. They would follow that with their debut LP Vessels in April of 2010. The two were met with almost instant popularity and would make a number of high profile live performances, including Soundset 2010 and their Make a Darwish Tour in the fall of that year. In October, Zavala was named one of 10 Awesome New Beat Makers by URB Magazine. Needless to say, Dark Time Sunshine is a pretty hot act. I hadn’t heard of them until recently, but, you know, whatever.
ANX is their sophomore LP and their only release since Vessels save for an EP of material recorded over the course of Make a Darwish. I don’t listen to a whole lot of hip hop. Not for any real reason, I just rarely find myself invested in it. I probably would listen to a lot more if I actually made an effort toward finding groups. Albums like this one certainly make me want to, if only to find something like it. Ozzborn immediately struck a chord with me; his style is very laid back and personable. I've found that some acts in the hip hop world like to use something of a persona for their music. I certainly don't mean that as a bad thing, it's actually a very common thing in music and indeed art in general. It's not something that concerns me in any way, if I even care to notice.
But on the other hand, honesty can make for a very enjoyable experience as well. Connecting with the man behind the voice can improve a finished product. A lot of times this is the appeal of lo-fi or minimalistic production taking away some of the artificial elements of the sound leaves nothing between you and the heart of the creator. Dark Time Sunshine is no means lo-fi or minimalistic, but Ozzborn doesn’t try to manipulate his delivery or act in any way. He lets the lyrics flow from him organically and naturally. He’s very laid back and fairly easy to connect with. The lyrical themes of the album are much of the same token. Ozzborn isn’t much concerned with the conventions of rapper image or any of that sort of posturing. What he has to say is what hits him at home. What matters to him, whether it be past relationships or what have you.
The other half of Dark Time, producer Zavala, brings everything together with some simple, often synth-laden and lightly layered beats. Think of it as the polar opposite of a group like Death Grips. There’s no intention to punish or seek club rotation. The album is built around a soaring synth manipulation, giving the listener plenty of room to breathe and digest. Zavala adds another personal touch by including a very tight and crisp drum break on a couple of tracks. The drums are loud and really pop, especially in the debut single “Valiant” which is dominated by Zavala going absolutely ape shit on the kit. Later appearances are more controlled, so if you’re not a fan of that sort of thing don’t let that discourage you from checking out the album. As a fan of the drums, though, I enjoy it a lot and that track is one of my favorites on the LP.
Like any hip hop record there are, of course, a number of guest appearances and each one is pretty damn cool. Not all of them are by fellow hip hop acts, however. There are a few guest rappers – you might be delighted to hear a lengthy contribution by Busdriver on “Look At What the Cat Did” and Aesop Rock appears two tracks later – but there are also a few vocalists, such as Rita DeVito and Poeina Siddarth. Montreal RnB duo Child Actor shows up twice on the album, providing the hooks for both the aforementioned single and “Forget Me Not” A couple of lesser known rappers also contribute verses, such as P.O.S and Rochester AP. I found each guest appearance to be meaningful and enjoyable, my favorites being P.O.S and Busdriver, both of whom have releases slated for this year. I eagerly await the chance to review them for this site.
ANX is comfort in the form of hip hop. It doesn’t want to amp you up with an aggressive flow or beat you down with chaos and volume. There’s nothing here to get you ready for whatever you need to kick ass at. ANX is going to sit you down and tell you a little something about two guys from central Washington. But at the same time it’s a foot-tapper. I found everything about this album to be personable, unique, and memorable. It’s the kind of album that really raises my spirits and I connected with it almost immediately. If you’re looking for the sort of album that you can enjoy rather than simply experience then I strongly suggest you give Dark Time Sunshine’s ANX a spin.