By Rob van Alstyne
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By Emily Eveland
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By Emily Weiss
There's a definite art to finding cohesion between seemingly disconnected pieces. Culture Cry Wolf's core sound has always managed to find the sweet middle ground between hip hop and a rock-genre gumbo to create a product that sounds effortless.
For the six-piece Minneapolis band's latest work, the hip-hop side takes center stage. Atop an ever-shifting base of big guitars, punk drumming, ska trumpeting, cumbia percussion, and melodic vocals from Mike Daly, Frankie Blydenburgh, Kyle Borchert, Jaime Pelaez, and Druby Soho, rapper Botzy reigns it all in and maintains a boom-bap appeal. The Sapient Sessions EP recalls the group's earliest album with Wesley Opus, in that the musical backdrop is provided by an outside producer — in this case Portland beatmaker Sapient — giving it a distinct beat-driven sound that juxtaposes well with the full-band effort Dia de los Muertos from 2011.
"We'd been listening to Sapient beats, we've been networking with him since 2010," says Botzy. "It kind of made sense at that point, listening to his production style and how musical he is. It's like a head-nod to the style we first made for our fans. Working with a hip-hop producer allows us to show a different side of what the project can be."
Culture Cry Wolf play an EP-release show on Saturday, May 18, at Fine Line Music Cafe; 612.338.8100
Sapient provided the harmonic production for the whole EP, and it lends itself perfectly to the kind of live structure to which Botzy and Daly typically write. The songs carry a range of instrumental textures, thick with bright synths, knocking drums, and fluid rhythms.
"They're all in tempos I typically wouldn't write to. That was a challenge to hit a really solid, catchy, melodic part into that, picking wisely," says singer Daly, who's used to dictating the trajectories of the band's songs himself. "It was fun. All the other songs start with me on guitar: I get to pick the tempo, I get to pick the mood, the key, the structure, everything. This is something I've never done before. Botzy has to come to our world all the time — this is kind of like me going to his."
Indeed, this is much more of a straight rap project, evidenced further by the large number of collaborations. Maria Isa, Astronautalis, Toki Wright, Mac Lethal, and Psalm One make guest appearances on the six-track album, stacking it with a range of raps alongside Daly's earworm hooks.
"I'm excited because they have commonalities, but they're also very different," says Botzy, who has a solo record dropping in July. "They're all unique and they all bring their own style. That's the beauty of Culture Cry, we can hop in and out of these little pockets, and [Sapient Sessions] is a good demonstration of that."
Percussionist Pelaez has even added drum pads to his repertoire, allowing him to perform within a hip-hop modality in addition to his traditional instrumentation. It's a solid stand-alone project meant to whet the appetite for a future full-length, already in the works.
"We're releasing this EP, but we're not just sitting and stalling; the wheels are already in motion," Daly remarks. "I've been working on this shit for a long time, basically right after the last album got done."
The future work will draw in further genre influences, including some Beach Boys pop and even a tinge of grunge.
"Our initial goal was to take things and smash them together, but being around as long as we have, we figured out how to smash things together a little bit easier. It's not as forced, it's more organic," says Botzy. "It's Culture Cry Wolf, so we're obviously going to talk about getting fucked up, partying, how beautiful women steal our souls, all those things."