This week saw the drop of Shabazz Palaces’s much-awaited second album “Lese Majesty” on legendary Seattle Label, Sub Pop Records. Shuf went along to Manchester’s Gorilla, to check out first-hand this duo’s particular brand of futuristic, experimental and jazz heavy hip-hop.
First on the bill was a somewhat surprising support act in the form of Manchester’s very own From The Kites of Sen Quentin, (FTQOSQ) performing as a reduced line-up of three. However, they still managed to keep the crowd transfixed with their bizarre but somehow, oddly tantalizing, mix of intergalactic industrial beeps and beats with delicate and ethereal vocals.
After an hour of feeling as if I’d been celestially transported to a parallel universe, it was time to turn up the funk.
As the stage quickly filled with tribal African tapestries and some very exotic instruments, the crowd packed out and smoke filled the room until the two men had taken centre staged and began playing.
Formerly of New York based jazz-hop collective, Digable Planets, Ishmael Butler (Butterfly) cracked jokes and adlibbed extra vocals as he kept the crowd singing along to favourites such as “Blastit” and “Gun Beat Falls”. On backing vocals and instrumentals was Tendai Maraire (Buba). The pair worked seamlessly together, setting the stage ablaze with synchronized dance routines intertwined with impressive live percussion. They used the loop pedals to their advantage, sounding at times like a much larger group, as vocals, drum beats and even the sound of maracas criss-crossed over each other in a cacophony as they reminded us all that “The beat will always save us”. Sticking to his roots, Zimbabwean Tendia Maraire even employed his use of the steel drum into their newer material, giving the sound a richer tone, and musically mirroring the playful aspect of their lyrics which often toys with surrealist sounds, words and images.
However, not every bizarre moment or instrumental experiment throughout the set worked as well as was intended. Some came across a tad disjointed, or random for the sake of it, taking away from the hip-hop feel. Every now and then it seemed like a few minutes of bad Turbojazz reworks of my slightly booky, Jamaican year five music teacher getting freaky with the rainmaker and banging on a xylophone. Although I can say, that when these experiments did pay off the results were unparalleled. Despite a few incoherent moments, over all, their performance was brilliantly disorientating for all the right reasons and genuinely like nothing else I’d seen before.
Words: Tash Mellor