Friday Five: Balance, Hannah Baiardi, Lunch, HUES, Grandmaster Rodimus
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features jazz by Balance, soul-pop by Hannah Baiardi, no wave by Lunch, and hip-hop by HUES and Grandmaster Rodimus.
Pianist Michael Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot have created a special synergy after playing together for many years around Southeast Michigan, including time together at the University of Michigan. Their second album as Balance begins with the powerful title track featuring guest poetry by Chace Morris, a longtime Detroit writer and educator, slamming the powers that be in the city while celebrating the resilient people who live there. He's also on the penultimate track, "Serpent's Serpent," which elaborates on the themes of "Conjure," again highlighting the way Detroiters continue to fight and thrive in face of governmental neglect. The great drummer, native Detroiter, and former U-M educator Gerald Cleaver appears on two tracks, "MRA" and "Number 4," giving a fuller sense of what the duo's music might sound like rounded out with more musicians. (It also reminded me to play Sonic Refuge, Elliot's 2017 debut, again because it's a quartet release with Malis, bassist Ben Rolston, and drummer Stephen Boegehold.) The other four tracks on Conjure are just Malis and Elliot, but that's enough; they are so good together, so finely tuned to each other's harmonic movements, melodic motifs, and internal rhythms that the songs sound fully realized even with the limited instrumentation. Conjure is a lovely end-of-the-year surprise from two of Michigan's finest jazz musicians.
Hannah Baiardi, "This Fight"
Following fast on the heels of her recent new-age-leaning album Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation, Ann Arbor's Hannah Baiardi returns to the keyboard-driven soul-pop that has mostly defined her previous albums and singles. "This Fight" is a passionate, bluesy ballad that has the feel of a 1970s soft-rock radio hit—the first artist who came to mind is Helen Reddy. (Check out 1974's "Angie Baby" if you're unfamiliar with Reddy.)
This no-wave instrumental band from Ann Arbor specializes in a falling-down-the-stairs-while-playing-your-drum-kit sound for the most part, but "New Parlance, New Colores, New Chromium" has more of a quirky, wiry, meandering post-punk vibe. Lunch's four-track demo has other great song titles, too, such as "My ocular retina is swollen, it won't be long before I cannot see" and "#1 Priority! Search and destroy Mailman, priority #2 Buy Mineral Oil."
HUES, Greetings From Tombstone
In November, I reviewed HUES's album Beyond (MadMen Edition) and came away super impressed with his producing skills. I feel the exact same way about Greetings From Tombstone, which HUES describes as a "cinematic, western-themed hip-hop album produced by HUES, filled with dusty samples and gritty bars." And once again, I don't recognize the name of a single rapper who appears on this album, each of whom kills it. (There are, like, 20 guest spots on the 16 tracks.) RIYL: Wu-Tang Clan, MF Doom, and Czarface.
Grandmaster Rodimus, Final Boss EP
When you name your release Final Boss, you gotta occupy the last slot. Ypsilanti's Grandmaster Rodimus would be a perfect rapper to collaborate with HUES because his producer, Lord Gamma, shares a similar grimy and stripped-down but cinematic production aesthetic. And like HUES's guest rappers, Grandmaster Rodimus excels at over-the-top battle-rap bravado and NSFW stories. Also RIYL Wu-Tang Clan, MF Doom, and Czarface.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.