The Madison tracks and mixes we’ve been listening to in May.
Rich Robbins, “Down To Start A Riot”
Rich Robbins, a Chicago-raised MC who graduated from UW-Madison’s First Wave program last year and is currently based in Madison, has been at work recently on a new album to follow 2015’s Nimbus. His new single “Down To Start A Riot” finds Robbins, real name Christian Robinson, rapping over a bouncy and austere beat and considering the different ways oppression can come to a head. “They thought we went crazy, I feel you / How else you act when the system will fail you / We down to riot, it’s not about the violence, it’s more about refining the shit that define us,” he raps in the second verse. Another recent First Wave, grad, vocalist Janel Lee, leads the song into a more lush, synth-padded phase on the third verse.
Robinson told me he sums up the song this way: “Whether it's a party or a riot—unfortunately often times a gathering of Brown bodies, whether in celebration or in anger is considered a riot—we are going to stand up collectively and change how we are viewed by the masses." He says the new album, AllThisGold, should be out sometime this summer.
Nick Nice, "Prince Marathon” mix
Veteran Madison DJ Nick Nice had a gig the night Prince died, and responded by spinninng this epic, nearly four-hour set, which he later shared on Mixcloud.
DLO, “Hands High”
Rapper and producer Bradley Thomas, aka DLO, has been kind of quiet the past couple of years, following a series of six instrumental albums and collaborations including the dynamic Dumate crew. But he tends to always be tinkering with something in his basement in Madison, making warm and electic beats and honing a level-headed flow with verses about, well, just being a responsible adult with a family. Things are picking up again—Thomas plans to put out a new instrumental album in June, and he’s been releasing some SoundCloud one-offs, including “Hands High,” which features a new DLO-produced beat and a verse from fellow Madisonian Sincere Life.
Chants, The Zookeeper EP
On a string of releases including last year’s We Are All Underwater and 2012’s Night After EP, Madison producer Jordan Cohen’s project Chants explored a lot of ethereal territory, with hazy synths, eerie guest vocals, and percussion sounds that provided as much meditative texture as they did rhythm. His new EP The Zookeeper swerves hard into a more stark vision. The beats on “Crushed Lollipop” and the title track are harsh, and Cohen’s rubber-mallet sub-bass makes them harsher still. The EP still benefits from Cohen’s love of collaboration—it features Maxwell August Croy on koto, Ida Jo on violin, and several unidentified, disembodied vocal samples—but that doesn’t soften the pummeling kick drums or distorted, warped hooks. There’s some quiet respite thanks to the warbly pianos of “Susurrus Pt. 1” and “Susurrus Pt. 2,” but even those tracks feel new and a bit unsettling.
In other random listens we’ve covered recently, don’t forget to check out Chris Lay’s writeup of Madison stand-up comic Dan Bacula’s new album, a new track from Vanishing Kids, and our recent guest mix from Beau Devereaux of Samantha Glass. Also, two other things have dropped that admittedly involve Tone Madison contributors, so full disclosure and all, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them: CRASHprez’s furious new single “Illegal” and noise-punk trio Coordinated Suicides’ False Pleasure EP.