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Music review: Ammoncontact – With Voices April 19, 2008

Posted by ashiah in old.
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The title of Ammoncontact’s new album is like the label on a bottle of kitchen cleaner. New and improved! Now with lemon! Now with faster grease fighting action! Well, this is Ammoncontact’s “new and improved” album, now with voices!

The blunt title says it all. The once instrumental hip hop duo are now trying their chops with the addition of many guest rappers and vocalists. All of this could easily crash and burn (see Prefuse 73’s “Surrounded by Silence”), but the inclusion of voices simply show what was missing from Ammoncontact all along.

Ammoncontact has always been known as a band with potential. The talent was there and the music was solid, but it always felt incomplete, as if other elements were missing out of carelessness. For “With Voices,” producers Carlos Nino and Fabian Ammon scrounged around LA for a wide variety of artists to accompany the new album. The collaborations are as varied as singer/songwriter Mia Doi Todd, to electro mastermind Daedelus, to hip hop performer/producer Abstract Rude.

Daring enough to stretch the genre of hip hop and take leaps outside the box, the music is a mixture of many genres – mainly jazz, soul and electronic. The first track “Children of the Sun” is a burst of ’60s nostalgia with 21st century blood flowing through its veins. “One of Ayler” is one of two instrumental songs on the album, which contain the obligatory splash of electro glitches. “Into 77” is when the voices actually emerge featuring rapper Sach, a guy you probably never heard of. This track and “Like This” take a step back for more conventional hip hop as the rappers steal the show and overshadow whatever impressive production techniques are happening in the background.

“A Zillion Tambourines” takes a break from the domineering rappers and takes a more soulful approach, featuring Kamau Daaood in a poetic rhetoric. Stand out track “Elevation” takes an otherwise repetitive riff and sample and stretches it into three minutes of absolute atmospheric solitude. “Drum Riders” is an upbeat, clever track with several interesting samples of bells, which somehow results in being strangely cute. “Earth’s Children” is a mellow downtempo ballad brewing with the gorgeousness of Mia Doi Todd’s voice. The song is almost careful in its production, only allowing splashes of violins and layered samples to surface at the right moments. “Love Needs No Destination” is another poetic track featuring Imiuswi whose confidence is so glaring that it sounds like it was her own song.

Ironically, the album that very loudly declared itself to be new, improved and with voices ends with an instrumental track. Perhaps Nino and Ammon were trying to say something more subtle with this track being the closer; maybe they wanted to show that the true underlining life force is not the voices, but the music that supports it. A gentle, yet subtle reminder.

Ammon and Nino have come very far with this record. In a society that currently sees hip hop as a dying genre running out of interesting things to say and creative steps to take, it’s refreshing to see Ammoncontact and the rest of the underground artists showing the music is much alive and with every inch of creative juice (and not pimp juice) flowing through its veins. Perhaps Ammoncontact will never find its audience with this album, but it’s comforting to know it exists.

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