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Relaxer - Coconut Grove Music Album Reviews

Relaxer - Coconut Grove Music Album Reviews After years of kicking against dance music’s strictures, Daniel Martin-McCormick delivers something close to a pure techno album. A product of turmoil, it’s a satisfyingly confident statement.
Daniel Martin-McCormick’s past always seems to dominate the conversation about his present. No matter how many new groups he’s formed or new aliases he’s tried on for size, his music continues to be evaluated through the lens of his earliest projects. Since 2002, Martin-McCormick has logged lengthy stints in groups like Black Eyes and Mi Ami and recorded solo as Sex Worker and Ital. (Full disclosure: he’s also an occasional contributor to Pitchfork.) Launched in 2016 with a series of five self-released EPs, Relaxer is the New York producer’s latest undertaking, and his new album, Coconut Grove, potentially represents a final, complete break from his noisy post-hardcore roots.

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Thaiboy Digital - Legendary Member Music Album Reviews

Thaiboy Digital - Legendary Member Music Album Reviews
The Thailand-born and Sweden-raised rapper offers a dreamy, melancholic, and abstracted take on mumble rap.

Born in Thailand, raised in Sweden, and influenced by American rappers like Soulja Boy and 50 Cent, Thaiboy Digital (real name Thanapat Thaothawong) testifies to rap’s status as a global commodity. He also illustrates the gap separating the life of the music from its makers; Hip-hop might go where it wants, but human beings often have more trouble, and Thaiboy’s had a number of scuffles with Swedish immigration authorities over the years (he was deported back to Thailand for a spell in 2015).


Those troubles don’t necessarily manifest in the lyrics of Legendary Member, Thaiboy’s debut album, but they have impacted how the album was made. His deportation to Thailand turned his creative collaboration with Drain Gang, a Swedish collective that includes producers Yung Sherman and Whitearmor and rappers Bladee and Ecco2K, into an entirely digital relationship, a wireless transmission pinging back and forth between different countries and disparate styles.

A restless spirit, Thaiboy drifts between relentless and repetitive flows and Auto-Tuned falsetto crooning. There’s a sense of jubilant menace to straight-up rap cuts like “Drainstar Rock” and “Nervous,” which recount the expected tales of Bentley trucks and double cups. The simplicity of Thaiboy’s hooks — Volvo-sized couplets like “Break it in half/Kit Kat” and “Nowhere else to go/Kiss me through the scope” — betrays the complexity of his vocal delivery and the intricate production that buoys it. Thaiboy’s voice drones like a Gregorian men’s chorus when he’s rapping, but his most confident register is the melodic flow he flexes on glossy love songs like “Kiss Me Through the Scope” and “Lip Service.” The latter track, a duet with Drain Gang associate Ecco2K, is Thaiboy at his dreamiest, a lovestruck ode to an angelic raver girl. The production, handled exclusively by producers Gud, Whitearmor, Woesum, and Ripsquad, is equally dreamy: cascades of vocal samples on “Baby,” wind chimes on “Can’t Tell,” the glittering synth line that lends a melancholic chill to “Legendary Member.”

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It’s striking to consider how much-maligned American “mumble rap” has opened up space for rappers like Thaiboy and his seasonally affected compatriots in Stockholm, who come to English as a second, third, or fourth language. In an interview with The Fader, Thaiboy Digital describes his thought patterns as a trilingual speaker: “If I get surprised, I think in English. I like to curse in Swedish. And when it’s some real shit, I think in Thai.” Though his lyrics are almost exclusively in English, there are times where it sounds like Thaiboy is rapping in different languages in his mind. His vocal delivery overrides the specific meaning of individual words, making melodies from the sound of language itself.

Mumble rap transforms what would have been considered mistakes or imperfections in another era of hip-hop into stylistic attributes; there’s meaning in how a voice sounds, not just in what it says. Precision and enunciation, the privileges of native speakers, aren’t priorities in hip-hop like they used to be, and it’s reshaped the linguistics of rap worldwide. The words that come out of Thaiboy Digital’s mouth are often slurred and unclear, their exact meaning obscured until you look up the lyrics, but the intended emotional effect is impossible to miss.


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