By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Diversify, diversify, diversify: Words to live (or perhaps just eat and pay rent) by in these cursed fiscal times. Even Carmela Soprano is freaking out about stocks and bonds--and she's reaping millions from the mob! Hell, I can barely file my taxes, and even I've translated the advice into terms I can understand: Now I divide my smoke money between Winstons and Camels, and I flip a coin every time I want a diet soda from one of the global carbonated-beverage conglomerates. Every little bit counts, right?
These days, even Kid606 (a.k.a. 23-year-old Miguel Depedro) is diversifying. The Tigerbeat6 label of this drill'n'bass'n' glitch'n'scrape'n'whatever-the-hell-else- he-feels-like-making pioneer has broken from its early computer geeks only template in order to encompass a bewildering splatter of styles. Maybe the Kid is feeling the economic hurt: His last album, the ultra-juvenile mash-up The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You the Fucking Jams (released on Violent Turd, Tigerbeat's offshoot label), has been clogging up discount bins. And he must be pouring a great deal of his salary into Tigerbeat's billion-CDs-a-month release schedule. It seems he's surmised that more musical styles means more bling. T6's recent albums are a veritable case study in eclecticism, swinging from Japanese ultra-noisenik Merzbow to Brooklyn's psychedelic stoners Black Dice to smart-aleck shortypants rapper Gold Chains. Depedro even released a J. Lesser mix CD made up entirely of tunes from the sound chip of a Commodore 64. Which makes you reallystart to worry: Is the Kid so hard up that he had to sell his G4 laptops?
Soon we'll get a chance to find out exactly how well he's doing. On Sunday, December 1, Tigerbeat's Paws Across America tour comes to the 7th St. Entry, offering fans a chance to evaluate three different parts of Kid606's current roster: schlock-pop rapper Cex, postpunkers Numbers, and electronic mavens Stars as Eyes. Of the three, Cex (goofy Baltimore MC Rjyan Kidwell) is the superstar. These days, his (literally) balls-to-the-wall live show has netted almost as many press clips as Har Mar. It's a pity, then, that Cex's actual rhymes are so limp that they make Gonzales seem gifted. On 2001's Tigerbeat6 Inc. compilation, Cex envisions himself busting into the MTV Video Music Awards as "the man with no clothes, underwear, fur coat, chillin' in the alley, brandishing knives!" He trades on a mock-arrogant self-deprecation found in scenester in-jokes and suburban adolescent humor, but his silliness wears thin.
On "Gigolo Knights" (off his newest, Tall, Dark, and Handcuffed), he insists that he "ain't the type of lyricist whose big boring words will pass through your system undigested like corn kernels" over a slouchy hip-hop beat that could be an outtake from God Loves Ugly. There's no intelligent wordplay to savor once the is he really saying that? shock wears off. And on Tall, Dark, and Handcuffed, his self-effacement becomes a surprisingly unappealing self-consciousness. On his school-days saga "K-12 Days of Hell" he sarcastically justifies his love for Young MC and Vanilla Ice, but comes off as just plain defensive. And he probably should be: Vanilla Ice was a way better rapper.
While Cex may present himself as the oddball hero of the tour, San Francisco postpunk group Numbers are an even bigger anomaly. Unlike most T6 signings, they're a real old-fashioned group--like, with guitars and drums and stuff. On their surprisingly analog-squelchy T6 debut, Numbers Life, the Bay Area group's minimalist punk-funk occasionally calls for flashbacks of PiL, Joy Division, and, most particularly, Gang of Four. In fact, Numbers might rely on the latter group's ironic consumerist sloganeering a little too blankly: On "We Like Having These Things," they chant, "I am consumer!" Which means they're being ironic about being ironic. Which means they, uh, mean what they're saying, right?
But Numbers avoid the postpunk-by-numbers plague of the current early-'80s revival: They sound like they believe in their mantras, and they're having fun while they're espousing them. Who cares if their recordings haven't quite stepped out of the shadows of the postpunk classics? During their last sojourn to the Twin Cities, they transformed a house show into a kick-ass electric dance party--no mean feat for a town that barely busted a move at the recent Electroclash throwdown.
Still, don't tell anyone, but openers Stars as Eyes, the Rhode Island duo of Steve Ferrari and Craig Four Two, may be the secret weapon of the T6 tour. Where their debut album, Freedom Rock, was derivative but good IDM, their recent full-length Enemy of Fun is a 180-degree turn into blissed-out guitar noise, marrying My Bloody Valentine's sprawl with elegantly diced 'n' spliced electronics. In fact, the album recalls '90s avant-rockers All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, whose beautiful wall of sound found next to no listeners--even though their fellow Gern Blandsten label mates Dalek, Liars, and Radio 4 vaulted to widespread popularity. Stars as Eyes are just as good as All Natural, and, judging from the absolute dearth of reviews online, just as overlooked--so get to the show early or risk waiting for The Fader to discover them first.
A mishmash of a tour, then--appropriate for a hodgepodge of a label. Perhaps Depedro should be thanked for steering Tigerbeat6 out of the electronic ghetto. He once named one of his albums Down with the Scene, and his recent maneuvers back up that attitude with action. T6 now offers a multi-genre pileup linked not by electro-geek in-grouping, but by the fact that Depedro thinks the music sounds good. It's a simple idea that may save him from becoming the American version of the easily typed experimental label Mille Plateaux, with its uninteresting roster of glitchy sound-alikes. Depedro is close to making Tigerbeat6 into one of the best indie labels. Now all he has to do is shoot Cex.