Sunday, December 18, 2011

DaVinci, Handshake, Tycho


Feast or Famine EP

* * * * 1/2


Feast Or Famine, the new EP from Fillmore District rapper John “DaVinci” DeVore, is a sentimental album. Not sentimental in the mushy, namby-pamby way, but sentimental in that it is driven by nothing if not feeling, and almost fearlessly emotional without losing any of its edge for a millisecond. Opening cut “D.R.E.A.M.,” a reworking of Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” and one of the best Bay Area songs of the year in any genre, is a sympathetic depiction of life in the ghetto that finds DaVinci reflecting on the tragic outcomes of his neighbors’ desperation. “Nothing Like Home” is an ode to the Fillmore that extends beyond mindless “repping” and is actually a touching tribute to his home. DaVinci’s raps are permeated with his sheer love of the art form, and even on tracks with names like “Where My Dough At” and “Beer, Bitches, & Bullshit,” he sounds like he’s rapping primarily out of love for doing so. DaVinci’s style is as gritty as the Fillmore itself, but just as the Fillmore claims to be the “Heart and Soul of San Francisco,” DaVinci has more heart and soul than just about any other rapper out there.


“Other Eye (Right)”

* * * *

Handshake’s first single proper from their upcoming album, a remake of an older tune, may come as a shock to longtime Handshake fans who are familiar with the original and its distinctive, classic-film-invoking acapella intro. The original’s slow build and fancy-restaurant vibe have been replaced with idiosyncratic funk rhythms, swelling guitars, and a spidery riff that stretches out across the surface of the song rather than driving it along. Devin Clary’s syllabic yet soulful vocals neither flow with the song nor cut through it, instead merely traversing it like an airplane in turbulent skies. Yet the song’s greatest moment is a truly epic guitar solo from Tyler English, which almost seems like a collection of hooks strung together--at least one lick from the solo will stick in your head after the tune is finished. The only reason “Other Eye” has been denied a Best In The West tag is because the song is a grower, and I enjoy it more every time I hear it.



* * * *

Tycho is Scott Hansen, a graphic designer who makes accessible, upbeat, aquatic electronic music on the side. His music is not terribly original--the synth presets and smooth hip-hop beats often suggest Boards of Canada, and the tunes on which he pairs synthesizers and acoustic guitars are even reminiscent of Adam Young’s pre-Owl City work as Port Blue. What’s remarkable about his latest album, Dive, is how well everything fits together--Hansen knows when to deploy certain rhythms and presets, and the sequencing of the album allows the tracks to flow together. The music is ambient, but it is neither underwhelming nor overwhelming, and it is suitable for either background ambiance or a focused listen. However, Hansen’s tendency to extend his pieces until they are up to two times too long makes the album generally more suitable for the former.

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