Bozeman hip-hop, raw blues rock, and ambient nausea

Abaddon Snabaddon, Space Patrol 2013

This is one of the most bizarre CDs ever to come out of the Missoula music scene. It’s ambient music, a genre that shies away from the traditional trappings of other music, like conveying a message or creating a rhythm that you can dance to or at least tap a foot to. Ambient music is more about creating a mood. I’m no expert, but I can get down to a lot of ambient music, let myself sink into a deep, comfortable chair, and breathe in the electronic sounds that don’t have the tangible solidity of rock and roll drums or guitar licks. Listening to ambient music is more like taking a sauna. The music is ethereal, but also dense. Like steam, it envelops the room and clings to the ceiling, your skin, and even the passageways of your ears. When done well, the ambient mood is quite soothing.

However, the mood that this CD creates for me is often one of nausea. There are seven tracks of what can best be described as undulating noise. On some of the tracks, the tone resembles the motor of a small airplane; on others, it sounds like faraway machinery with heavy distortion. There are even some blissful chords that recall a church organ or the opening of heaven’s gates. But all of the tracks are just a tone or two pulsating at about 80 beats per minute, without even erratic drumbeats or a steady bass line that you can grab hold of as the monotone laps over the listener again and again.

I applaud the creator of this CD for the courage to do something that’s way out there in uncharted musical waters. Maybe this will be all the rage in the space patrol scene 11 years from now, and I have not culturally evolved to that level. All I can do is caution the more terrestrial listeners to perhaps take a Dramamine before throwing this one in the CD player.

Nickel B’s Other Joint, Underground Sounds Vol. 1

This self-released CD is from a hip-hop crew out of Bozeman. Scoff all you want, but these kids are pretty dope. There are three MCs—two male and one female—and DJ cutting up the vinyl. Unlike some other wily Montana hip-hopper coteries, this group is not a joke. They seem to live hip-hop. At times they match the best in the genre when it comes to reeling off lines with lightning speed or passing the mic from one rapper to the next with perfect timing. Lyrically, they distance themselves from the thug rapper stereotype, which is good. I don’t think many people would take them seriously if they claimed to be from the hard streets of Bozeman, killin’ just to survive. They say, “Never toted a Glock, never sold no rock,” etc. More often than not, however, Nickel B’s lyrical content leaves something to be desired. They seem a little too self-conscious about race. Yeah, I understand that they may catch a lot of flack for being white kids from Montana, but do they have to bring it up in every song? Running rampant on Underground Sounds are such lines as “What could be realer than a white boy’s rap? / I give my whole heart and don’t get love back,” and “I don’t think that I’m black; watch your stereotypes.” Also, NBOJ all too often fall into the unfortunate trap of the hip-hop braggart, saying they got skills to rip up the mic and all other MCs are wack. Such gloating is cliché now, but I can tolerate it—except when they employ homophobic slurs to diss someone, e.g.: “Your clique sucks dicks to the point that it’s shameless.” Come on! That’s so junior high!

All in all, these kids lay down some decent rhymes over original beats. The male and female vocals contrast nicely. It’s good to see something like this coming out of Montana.

FUQ Ninja, Liquid Panty Remover

I must confess that FUQ Ninja is one of the few Jay’s bands I’ve never seen, and honestly, I really thought I was going to hate this CD. I saw the title and expected to be bombarded with chauvinistic man-rock. I expected mediocre hard rock chords and lyrics that would either bore or infuriate me. When I finally gave it a serious listen, though, I liked it.

FUQ Ninja plays the type of raw blues rock that makes you want to sit for hours in a smoke-filled dive with a strong drink or a cheap beer. It’s mellow, and in some places it may fade into the background, but then you notice an ecstatic bass riff or a section where the drums and vocals build together perfectly to a moment of rapture, and then you’re sucked in. You listen to every whine of the guitar and every beautifully lethargic line. You let your head clear and maybe bob unconsciously to the drawn-out beat. Best of all, the recording on this CD suits the music perfectly. As far as I can tell, it’s all live, and thus really coarse and raw-sounding. That’s the way it should be. This band wouldn’t sound as good with a slick studio recording. The grit of the recording and the semi-inebriated hollers from the crowd between songs takes you away to that smoky bar, listening to the perfect soundtrack for sticky summer nights.

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