Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Shabazz Palaces @ Brooklyn Bowl

Shabazz Palaces @ Brooklyn Bowl - April 14, 2012
Photo: Damien, Review: Lara Morrow

Brooklyn Bowl’s promo blurb depicted Shabazz Palaces as “forward thinkers but nostalgic for a sparer time when ancient astronomers only recognized five planets.”

Lo and behold, that connection between the past and the future held strong when I saw them hit the stage at the Bowl on Saturday night. Palaceer Lazaro (previously known as "Butterfly" from the legendary Digable Planets) perched behind his shiny silver MacBook center stage and blasted cool, electronic waves of music into the crowd, blending this notoriously Gen-WhY-not? technology with the warmer earthiness of multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire's bongos. The resulting overlap of beats and loops, cool and dark in their own right, conjured up images of desolate paths in woodsy hollows that could've made even those of us who were badasses in the '90s feel Afraid of the Dark.

Or at least, that’s where Shabazz Palaces eventually arrived as they found their groove as the night
Sort of.

It seemed as if, as soon as their woozy beats (coupled with the gentle haze of… hey, even earthy smells
in this space… anywho) locked me into a trance I could get lost in, they would change up the pace just as I was reallllllly beginning to indulge. Succumb. Get lost in the music. Which is a shame, since such sudden transitions and directional shifts can, without a doubt, result in some unexpectedly amazing musical journeys, such as TLC steering the S.S. “Good at Being Bad” or The Kinks driving the “Shangri-La” bus.

However, Shabazz Palaces, despite their Arabic slant, yanked the rug out from under my feet just as soon as I decided that I’d agreed to the carpet ride.

Also, when Palaceer and Tendai attempted to weave their individual verses together with two complimentary melodies across several songs from their debut LP Black Up, the overlap tended to manifest as mush, with the similar vocal ranges and lack of contrast deserving at least some of the credit for this. I appreciated the endeavor, but while the Brooklyn Bowl blurb  predicted that we would, “Hear. Hard and clear.” – which might be accurate for their studio work - my live experience was more like “Shhhtrain… Soffan’muttld.” It's a shame that some of their key lyrics, such as the line calling out peers that “sell out to the white man’s establishment,” managed to manifest as oatmeal upon delivery and went down just as smoothly, too.

One could perhaps argue that attendees are either tuned in to receive Shabazz Palaces' shamanistic messages or they’re not. Judging from what earthy sensations my olfactory senses were detecting to complement the earthy auditory sensations of the bongos, though, I’ll say that the rest of the crowd was too entranced by the overall experience to note the muddled vocals and quick rhythmic shifts that persisted through my first live experience with the hip-hop collective.


Thanks for the review, Lara!

While there are no other tour dates on the horizon for Shabazz Palaces, according to a recent interview for Minnesota's 89.3 The Current the group does have a new album in the works. We'll keep you posted on any new info and songs from that upcoming LP; meanwhile, check some fan video from the front row at the Bowl below.

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