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Fantasmagoría

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Fantasmagoría as the very best Seattle album of 2019, saying:

Talk about a record worth the wait. Three years ago (an eternity in streaming-era hip-hop), the real-life Olivia Hatfield, who previously performed as avant-soul singer Aeon Fux, released the well-received Black Trash, White House — wielding bilingual bars and Latin American influences — and became a club-circuit fixture. An experimental current has long coursed through a faction of Seattle’s eclectic hip-hop scene, one Guayaba gravitated toward alongside fellow Seattle favorites DoNormaal and Taylar Elizza Beth. But with this month-old alt-rap opus, the Tacoma-based rapper/singer has become a creative leader among this vibrant left-of-center coterie. A hair-raising uneasiness runs throughout the album, from the spooky cathedral intro that could open a Cradle of Filth album (not a total shocker coming from this former metal singer) to the horror-flick murder screams that dissolve into a Billie Holiday cover. Beguiling string arrangements drift over lurching click-clacks, with Guayaba shifting between bewitched low-register raps and devil’s-choir vocals across this haunted-to-perfection dreamscape. (Or should we say nightmare?) Fantasmagoría is a rabbit hole you absolutely want to fall down.

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Solar Power: New Sounds in Seattle Hip-Hop

From UK music mag The Wire: “Fab comp on fab orange vinyl collating 14 leap-off points from a loose collation of Seattle based hip-hop artists and producers. The musical diversity here is ear-popping, ranging from the glitchy dubhop femme-gospel of DoNormaal and Stas Thee Boss and the electro ferocity of Remember Face to the rain-soaked doleful grooves of Jarv Dee. Crucially, the racial and gender mix ensures that the story told never gets dull; the album chops and changes to give an intriguing portrait of 14 artists you’ve never heard before finding their own ways to chart Seattle life and Seattle strength through hip-hop. Fascinating.”

From Michigan alt-weekly Northern Express: “This compilation, complete with its appropriately solar flare-focused cover art, brings together more than a dozen performers from Seattle’s hip-hop scene on a transparent, vinyl-only collection that gives these impressive artists the flair they deserve. Included here are tracks by Jarv Dee, who throws down an unforgettable remix of “I Just Wanna”; Gifted Gab, who mixes up R&B and late ’80s rap-pop on “Show You Right”; and Sendai Era, whose tropicália-influenced closer is an album standout.”

From Dusty Groove Records in Chicago: “A nice primer on the underground hip-hop scene in Seattle, circa the post-millennium teens! Solar Power doesn’t really set out to round up a succinct snapshot of a particular Seattle style and sound, so much showcase how diverse and distinctive the voices and producers in the city are. This compilation has the potential to survive as a pretty vital time capsule of this era in Seattle hip-hop history. It’s a lot more gender inclusive than many compilations, too, showing that it isn’t just a boy’s club – and tracks includes “Know Better” by New Track City, “Stop Calling My Phone” by Taylar Elizza Beth, “Front Steps” by Raven Hollywood, and more on colored vinyl.”

From Portugal’s Rimas E Batidas hip-hop magazine: “A new hip-hop edition with 14 tracks of emerging talent. Solar energy is the motto given to this compilation: The idea that Seattle stays true to its past while using its own strength as fuel for the change and renovation of its artistic panorama. This sonic self-sufficiency, a unique sonic imprint for the city, recalls the old glory of grunge, but it’s now in rap that this engine lies, emerging from a more underground, carefully manufactured sector, in the cellars and abandoned factories that will thrive there for not much longer. DoNormaal, Astro King Phoenix, Stas Thee Boss, ZELLi or JusMoni give voice to the manifesto of a constantly changing movement across the city.”

From Jet Set Records, in Kyoto, Japan: “Out of the city where Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot made their base and their mark, a 14-song limited-edition compilation on orange vinyl. From emerging label Crane City Music, this one introduces you to the current Seattle hip-hop scene. The musicians explore various experimental styles, ranging from R&B to G-Funk. Seven of the tracks are from women artists. The jacket artwork by Seattle artist Ari Glass is also brilliant along with the content.”

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Black Trash White House

The first track off of Guayaba’s EP, Black Trash White House ends with this beautiful statement of truth: “I promise that I’m honest, and I promise I’m sincere, and I’m fucked up in the head and I am fat and I am queer, and I am poor and black and may even be ugly, but I’m here.” I first discovered her confident, experimental, Latin-flavored hip-hop at a Moksha show in November, and she’s a great live performer with an acrobatic voice. There’s a bit of Nikki Minaj in her multiple personality rapping style, used to full effect on songs like “Brown Recluse.” Commanding production throughout from Luna God. This record concludes with “Paloma,” an unexpectedly sweet, soft Spanish acoustic guitar ballad.

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Distinction Management Essentials 001

This opens with DoNormaal’s “50 Jasper Horses,” (feat. the newly renamed “Rave Holly”), and the placement of that song, first, forces you to hear it anew. The flow into “Dead Rose” by Nightspace is seamless, demonstrating the genre fluidity inherent in Seattle music. (The Deadmics track, with Hekl, The Mad Scientist is a revelation.)

Distinction Management throw these ultra-hip underground parties, at places with made-up names, where everyone attending is a celebrity and you have to know them, or know of them, to know who and where and when. Last Thursday’s had pop-up clothing shops, Taylar Elizza Beth and Aaron Cohen.

Distinction puts out these coveted mixed CDs–this is the first one… The second one was just released. It’s their collection of who’s hot right now, and they know: nerdy hard rock-tronica from Youngster Jiji, gender-fluid Michete (who’s “Red Rover” kicks some serious team-switching ass), musical chameleon Wolftone and of course Sleep Steady. Anna, Jasmine, Sasha and crew, hats off to you. Of course this CD is great.

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