Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

OLD STUFF (review): k-os – Atlantis: Hymns for Disco

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(written September 4, 2007)

Just a quick note to all aspiring musicians: naming your album Hymns for Disco is a terrible idea. My first thoughts upon seeing this album were something along the lines of “Oh dear God, please don’t make me have to listen to this thing.”

However, my attitude changed from despair to intrigue when I opened up the case and saw the following inscription on the back of the booklet: “to the pantheon – Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, you left great maps…”

But, demonstrating that you can’t judge an album by its bizarre title or rock and roll dedications, Hymns for Disco turned out to be one of the more fascinating hip-hop albums I have ever heard.

k-os is the stage name of Kevin Brereton, a Canadian of Trinidadian descent who has achieved impressive sales in Canada over the fourteen years of his career. And after one listen to this album it is easy to see why. While always retaining its roots in hip-hop, it moves seamlessly through reggae, rap, soul, rock and funk, with moments of beat poetry and spoken word creeping in to “Ballad of Noah” (featuring Buck 65, a brilliant Canadian rapper/beat poet).

But even with these myriad styles the production never slips. From the Phil Spector Wall of Sound on soulful “The Rain”, to Jamaican dancehall on “Fly Paper” and the Kings of Leon-esque “Valhalla”, this is an album that will keep you guessing right to the end, and an album that is impossible to pin down in one style. It is a precocious album, with k-os showing off the sheer breadth of his abilities.

Also notable is the fact that the whole album is recorded with a live band and avoids all pimps, hoes and cop-killers, two things that are sadly uncommon in hip-hop. The way that k-os’ voice raps over the irresistible guitar riff in “AquaCity Boy”, coupled with a tight, funky drum-beat makes it one of my favourite tracks of the year. And it has been a damn good year for favourite tracks.

If you are in to hip-hop, buy this album. Hell, buy it even if you aren’t in to hip-hop. This is the sort of music that deserves to be supported. It’s the single most creative thing you are likely to hear for quite some time.

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