REVIEW: Phatchance – “Inkstains (Acoustic)″

You probably don’t remember, but last year I reviewed Phatchance’s debut album Inkstains. If you can’t be bothered reading it, let me just say it was incredibly positive. The album is amazing, and Phatchance is a very talented artist. His latest release reinterprets those classic tracks in a stripped back, acoustic setting, and it works surprisingly well.

This was the first time I’d ever heard a full release of acoustic hip-hop tracks, and it was certainly the first time I’d heard acoustic hip-hop done so well. Fans will be pleased classic tracks like “Mountain of Glass” and “Build It Up” get a chance to shine (the latter being the lead single). However what’s really impressive is the amount of effort put into the arrangements and instrumentation. Every track sounds great, with over-layed banjos and vocal harmonies playing a large part. The songs truly sound reinvented; Chance has done the original tracks justice. Unlike some artists who just play some guitar chords and count that as an “acoustic version”, Inkstains (Acoustic) takes it to the next level and firmly sets the bar.

Maybe it’s a testament to the effort put into the original tracks, or maybe it’s a nod towards those who helped out on the release (Charlie Mayfair, Jon Reichardt, amongst others), but for something so new and different, this short collection of tracks works very well.

Importantly, Inkstains (Acoustic) isn’t just some lazy half-baked release. In fact, it’s anything but. This is an amazing reinvention of some brilliant tracks, accompanied by the impressive tease “Infinity” from Chance’s next album. Lending the songs an acoustic air suits them, and at the risk of seeming like I’m sitting on the fence, they sound just as good as the originals, especially with Chance’s style of rapping. If I had to describe these songs in one word, it would be “refreshing”. Hopefully this will help introduce a whole new audience to some great Aussie hip-hop, because trust me: more people need to hear this.

Inkstains (Acoustic) smashes apart any stereotypes hip-hop has been branded with, and does so with stylish quality. This is just something you have to try.

Grab lead single “Build It Up (Acoustic) feat. Charlie Mayfair” here from Phatchance’s triple j Unearthed page, and pick up Inkstains (Acoustic) online here!

BRAND NEW: Death Cab For Cutie – “You Are A Tourist (Phatchance Hip Hop Remix)”

You might have heard about Death Cab for Cutie’s new track “You Are A Tourist”. They did a film clip for it which was broadcast live on the internet (the first ever, I believe). It was a pretty impressive effort.

Well, Aussie hip-hop artist Phatchance recently stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to remix it. Throwing some amazing rhymes in-between Ben Gibbard’s lyrics, Chance manages to preserve the tone and themes of the original while putting a new spin on the song. The result? A remix that actually works incredibly well. As much as I love Death Cab, I think I find it a bit more interesting than the original. Sometimes Death Cab seem to have those spaces in songs where they just lose my attention a little bit, but this remix seems to take care of that altogether.

Take a listen below, download it, and share it around. It’s brilliant.


When SoundCloud runs out of downloads (which I’ve heard it will), you can grab the mp3 here.

If you like your music a bit less lossy, you can grab the wav here.

LIVE: Mind Over Matter, live at the ANU Bar, Canberra (07-04-11)

Coptic Soldier and Johnny Utah.

I Forget, Sorry! can be credited for really broadening my interest and faith in hip-hop. The Australian based collective create some brilliant, innovative music that deserves much more attention than it’s currently receiving. I’ve been a fan for quite a while, and recently I was lucky enough to catch a few of them live on Mind Over Matter’s Just Like Fireworks tour.

My friend and I arrived at the ANU Bar a bit before 7. The place didn’t look incredibly lively, but by the time the first supports took to the stage there were a few people wandering around. Unfortunately I think Illy playing a show the next night may have had a small effect on the turnout, but everyone looked like they enjoyed themselves throughout the night. Even if they’ve probably played to bigger crowds before.

If I’m blunt, I don’t remember a whole lot about some of the local supports. That’s not an insult to Canberra’s hip-hop scene (if there is one – I’m new here), it’s just they didn’t grab my attention and I was hanging out with a few mates. Although I do remember a duo called Domesticated Apes. Their songs got better towards the end of the night, although a few were hit and miss. Repeatedly saying “Sh*t C**ts” over and over didn’t do much for me to be honest.

I think it was about 9.30 or so before Coptic Soldier and Johnny Utah came on. To say the least, I was a little excited. Johnny Utah’s EP The Welcoming Party was a solid release, and I love Coptic’s acoustic stuff I’ve heard lately. At any rate, these guys have been a part of my hip-hop diet for almost a year now, and I was pumped to see them perform live. They did not disappoint.

Coptic Soldier and Johnny Utah (with Count Effectz DJ’ing)

That night was the first time Coptic and Johnny had performed live together, and I was incredibly impressed. The interplay between the two was great. Playing tracks they would normally perform individually, each knew the right moment to jump in and the right moment to hang back. As a result, the older songs sounded collaborative and fresh, but didn’t take anything away from the original.

The duo went through tracks from Johnny’s debut EP and Coptic’s The Sound of Wings. We even got to hear “I Hate Sleep” from The Sound of Wings 2, the acoustic release (which you should all buy by the way! – acoustic hip-hop sounds brilliant. I’ll have a review up soon). I was lucky enough to hear some of Johnny’s new songs too, which will hopefully feature on his debut album Handful of Gravel. They sounded brilliant, and I’m keen to hear the studio versions.

Coptic Soldier and Johnny Utah were a great support act, and despite the fact they didn’t have a live band like Mind Over Matter, they energy they put into the performance was amazing. Great songs performed by great musicians, with enough energy to get everyone pumped up. Count Effectz was DJ’ing for them and did a great job as well. Seeing these guys was a highlight of the night, and has only reinforced my belief that I Forget, Sorry! deserve more attention across Australia.

Mind Over Matter

Next up Mind Over Matter came on stage, and the crowd reacted incredibly well. I haven’t heard Just Like Fireworks yet, although I’ve heard good things about it. After seeing them live, I’m convinced I’ll enjoy it. The songs they played had amazing hooks and sing-a-long choruses (see “Be A Pirate”), and everyone really got into it.

The addition of a live band did the set wonders. Ernst Carter Jnr’s back-up vocals were amazing and added a whole new dimension to the songs. It really did sound great, and the live bass and drums gave the whole act more stage presence. Everyone had more to look at, and the way it all meshed together is a testament to their talents and preparation.

The general consensus from the media is that Mind Over Matter have really launched themselves into the Australian hip-hop scene with this album. Their live show reflects this in a way that you have to see to understand. I thought they were going to play longer, but I think noise restrictions came in or something. At any rate, they put on a great show, and for $10, I think everyone felt like they got more than their money’s worth.

Mind Over Matter

It’s a pity that brilliant artists like the ones that performed all night aren’t getting the recognition or airplay they deserve. I could go into a large rant about support of Australian musicians, but it’d detract from the review. Suffice to say, like Coptic and Johnny, Mind Over Matter put on an incredibly entertaining and engaging show. In my case, familiarity with the songs means that I personally enjoyed Coptic and Johnny a tiny bit more. In some cases familiarity can go a long way, but Mind Over Matter buck that trend. Despite the fact I knew only one or two songs they played, their show emphasised their talent as live artists, and these days that talent can be quite rare.

I Forget, Sorry! are a brilliant collective. Download the free mixtape I put together last year and give them a go.

Don’t forget to get over here and check out the rest of their dates. You should definitely head along.

VIDEO/TOUR: Illy – “The Chase”

Those of you who cherish your Aussie hip-hop will no doubt be familiar with Illy – one of the newest and fastest growing names in Australia. Well he’s released another single, which also happens to be the title track from his latest album – “The Chase”.

For me, as much as the the catchy hooks and melodies contribute to a song, hip-hop really shines with the messages it sends. In fact, so does a lot of music to be honest. It’s a combination of the two, because usually both are needed to make a good song. No matter the topic, if an artist can express themselves in an interesting way, and send out something worthwhile, then their work becomes instantly more appealing. There seem to be so many artists that can create a catchy melody, but only a select few that can write engaging and great lyrics.

Illy is one of them.

Welcome to the chase, thats life man / What you can hold up in your left and your right hand / And it could change overnight with the right plan / With little more than a MacBook and a micstand, look where I took it.

Lights blurred, no safety belt / I’m on the chase, hard out man, success aint gonna make itself / And I ain’t gonna wake when I’m old / And regret that I woke out of a dream, just to chase the gold.

The clip is shot really well. Definitely worth checking out. Illy has the ability to rival the top of Australia’s scene, and with time he could just get there.

Don’t forget, you can check Illy out on his national tour if he hasn’t already passed you by! Details below!

ILLY – THE CHASE TOUR – REMAINING DATES!

FRIDAY 1 APRIL – FOWLERS LIVE, ADELAIDE (Lic AA)
With guests: Pagen Elypsis, Mase & Matic
Tickets from Moshtix 1300 438 849, www.moshtix.com.au and Moshtix outlets

SATURDAY 2 APRIL – THE CEMENT EVENT, KALGOORLIE (AA)
Tickets from www.ckb.wa.gov.au

THURSDAY 7 APRIL – MANNING BAR, SYDNEY (18+)
With guests: Dialetrix and The Tounge
Tickets from www.manningbar.com, Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.au and Oztix outlets

FRIDAY 8 APRIL – ANU BAR, CANBERRA (18+)
With guests: Raw City Rukus, Purpose Motive & DJ Hacksaw
Tickets from Ticketek on 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au

WEDNESDAY 25 MAY – PRINCE OF WALES, BUNBURY
Tickets from the venue, Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.au and Oztix outlets, Heatseeker 08 6210 2850 www.heatseeker.com.au

THURSDAY 26 MAY – PLAYERS BAR, MANDURAH
Tickets from Star Surf Mandurah 08 9353 4500, Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.auand Oztix outlets, Heatseeker 08 6210 2850 www.heatseeker.com.au

FRIDAY 27 MAY – STUDIO 146, ALBANY
Tickets from Vibes Surf 08 9841 7577, Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.au and Oztix outlets

SATURDAY 28 MAY – AMPLIFIER BAR, PERTH
Tickets from Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.au and Oztix outlets, Moshtix 1300 438 849, www.moshtix.com.au and Moshtix outlets

SUNDAY 29 MAY – THE NORFOLK HOTEL, FREMANTLE
Tickets from Star Surf Perth, Mills Fremantle; Planet Mt. Lawley, Heatseeker 08 6210 2850 www.heatseeker.com.au, Oztix 1300 762 545, www.oztix.com.au and Oztix outlets

REVIEW: Mind Over Matter – “Free The Wolves” Mixtape

Mind Over Matter are an Aussie hip-hop duo consisting of Willow and Smiles Again, and “Free The Wolves” is their second mixtape, arriving after their debut LP “Keepin’ It Breezy”.

The release begins with a bit of a monologue, and it’s nothing short of ear-opening. Just exactly what you’re in for here is up for debate as soon as it begins, but luckily what follows is a solid selection of original material, remixes, and collaborations with other prominent local hip-hop names, like Coptic Soldier, Phatchance, and Drake MC.

Standout single “It’s Not A Secret” has something truly alluring about it. The beat consists of a sample of ping-pong balls being hit, but the timing and sound that they get from it is something I’ve never quite heard before. With light strings being plucked behind all of this, it’s a good example of the creative ideas Mind Over Matter bring to the table.

Musically the mixtape becomes much more interesting in later tracks, like the orchestral vibe of “Willow & Smiles’ 7th Symphony”. They make great use of samples, featuring a few more than familiar melodies (I’m looking at you “Still Skinny (Remix)” and “For Real Radio Better Play Me Right Now”), but if you go in expecting something fun then you’ll get what you’re after, and there’s more than enough original material for the die-hard fans.

The rapping is solid, and the interplay between Smiles and Willow works well. Phatchance’s production skills manage to balance things out well, and altogether it sounds great.

When it comes down to it, “Free The Wolves” is solid, but doesn’t feel revolutionary for me. It feels consistent, but not very cohesive (at least not until the second half of the album). That said, while it got off to a rocky start, this is a mixtape, not an album. There’s some great songs here, and the vast majority of them are good fun. Well worth a go, especially if you’re into the Australian hip-hop scene.

Verdict: Positive.

Check out some of Mind Over Matter’s stuff from their Unearthed page, or download my I Forget, Sorry! mixtape here.

REVIEW: Phatchance – “Inkstains”

“Inkstains” is the 2009 debut album from Aussie hip-hop artist Phatchance. In hindsight, I can understand exactly why he’s nabbed spots touring with The Herd and Bliss N Eso, because “Inkstains” has got to be one of the most enjoyable and consistent debuts I’ve heard for quite a while.

Driving brass instrumentation leads the opening title track, and from the off-set Chance’s strong rapping slices through the fray, rising clear and balancing out with every other part, highlighting not only his vocal skills but the high production values instilled in this release.

Dealing with topics such as the difficulty of a music career, alcohol problems, and relationships, inspiration has been drawn from a myriad of situations. They may not all be brilliant feel-good hits of the summer, but as it’s put in “The Catchy Song”:

“That’s not true either, but I’m happy a lot / I just don’t make songs about the candy shop.”

Ultimately this sits perfectly with his music as well. Though that’s not to say this is a depressing album – Chance’s brilliant lyricism walks the fine line between emotive and moving, introspective, and entertaining. Filled with the kind of playful jibes at James Blunt and Kanye West in “The Catchy Song”, and the McDonald’s verse at the end of “Invisible Queen”, we’re given another side to Chance – one that ultimately benefits the album.

To compliment this, the variation in musical sound lends the album some movement. So many artists release material that all seems to blend together. “Inkstains” introduces guest vocalists (though not in excess!) like the brilliant Sam McNeill on “I Don’t Know”, and 360 and Smiles Again on “The Catchy Song”. Incorporating jazzy piano melodies on “Invisible Queen” then drawing in distorted guitar chords during the climax just shows the contrasts that Chance can bring together to form something cohesive and unified.

“Inkstains” is ultimately a solid debut, and the work put into it shows. The vocal delivery is brilliant, and with the lyrics manage to be both witty, serious, and heartfelt at the same time. Musically the album changes tone through a diverse range of melodies and instrumentation. This is a great debut. Let’s hope there’s more amazing material to come!

Verdict: Positive

You can check out some of Phatchance’s stuff at his Unearthed page, or download my I Forget, Sorry! mixtape here!