In 1989 when London’s Stereo MCs released their debut album 33-45-78,
newfound fans used cassette tapes to blast the band’s jams – hip hop beats that
palpitated speakers throughout homes and street corners in both the UK and U.S.
Twenty-two-years later and with the release of their latest LP Emperor’s
Nightingale, the Stereo MCs rehash that magnetic tape magic with low-fi
resonance and an old school hiss that’s reminiscent of their music’s past. But,
alas, there’s a twist. The proclaimed “big boys of British rap” have
overstepped their musical boundaries to produce a record that’s a little bit o’
electronica, a little o’ bit house, and a little bit o’ everything in between.
And – unlike most of the band’s records following 1992’s critically-acclaimed Connected – it works.
In Emperor’s Nightingale, there’s never a dull moment
in the album’s electronic, dance-infused momentum. Never knowing what to expect
from one track to the next, there are a multitude of surprises – instrumentally
and lyrically – within each song. Vocalist Rob Birch trades in his signature
rap stylings to sing on the album, such as in the coming of age piece
“Boy” and the 90’s trance inspired “Phase Me.” Synthesized
sounds swirl around sinister piano notes in the fun dance number
“Tales,” while hollow backbeats take center stage in the trip hop
track “Bring It On.” “Wooden Heart Reprise” concludes this
musical smorgasbord of sounds and genres in an entertaining album that follows
no musical rules, a record interconnected by one common denominator – that
there happily isn’t one.
DOWNLOAD: “Phase Me,”
“Tales,” “Levitation” CECILIA MARTINEZ