Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Whirlwind D - Nomansland Record Review

If 2013 was the year of the single then surely 2014 must be the album's time to shine.
With new product bursting out left, right and centre it's almost too difficult to keep up with the avalanche of music at the moment - and the best thing is that a hell of a lot of it is from these very shores.

Read the review after the jump below.

The UK's B-Line label is gearing up for the launch of Solid n Mind's MC Whirlwind D - serious music-head, journalist, record collector and "the nicest guy in UK hip hop" - as he has something for us which has been a long time in the making.
Nomansland, the first long-player from Liberty Grooves' favourite wordsmith sees a world-wary Whirlwind D dropping dope drum drops beneath lean, lambasting, linguistic and quite legendary lyrics with an ever-present reminder of life's omniprescence where age is a constant in this stage of his life.

So, to begin at the beginning. What faces you first before you even start to listen to the music is the album's artwork (from the always-reliable Mr Krum) which due to it's such non-hip hopness makes you stop and stare at the cover photo of this lonely figure wandering in a barren landscape which is at once beautifully-picturesque but also horrifyingly desolated and deserted. The bridge between the last gasp of an age of a playful, no-worries fancy-free lifestyle and the impending grown-up world of work, bills, kids and mortgage?
It's a brave step.

The album contains nine songs and begins proper with How I Get Ill keeping the consistent theme of age ("old man rap, that's what I'm talking to you about") in a stream of self-deprecating lyrics over a slow-ish blues-influenced ELO kind of rock break. And we're in.
Breaks are indeed the cornerstone of hip hop and the chopped old school funk break utilised so simply in Heroes works perfectly with D speaking on the rise of the talentless "heroes" in banal reality television and the like compared to proper heroes such as teachers and nurses. The content and intention of this album is clear very quickly and maybe should carry an age restriction - over 35's only? The subjects D deals with are now more developed and apart from the odd brag rap here and there he speaks on affairs straight from the heart which declare his intentions in almost a world away from when holding a mic in the early 90's. It's called growing up and it happens to all of us.

There are collaborations on here with luminaries such as Inzaine, Truck, Mr Fantastic, Sir Beanz, Phil Most Chill (whose Run Fast cut is a real uptempo monster that wouldn't be out of place on a DJ Format collection) as well as labelmates Chrome & Illinspired amongst many, many others.
The Norwich lads rip the mic over that previously-released beast of a track, Strong (which was produced by one of the UK's heaviest beatmakers, Waxer) now dubbed Stronger and extended with extra beats and scratches. This is the kind of production that I compare to classic Bomb Squad with its brooding orchestral film sample and layers of beats and panning. That intro still sends goosebumps up your arm with it's determined Elfman strings that skate along the surface of your lugs and abseils through your ear-canal like a pissed-off ninja. Beautiful.

There's another angle to D getting older and that is his taking notice of the wider world around him. On Gain My Perspective he shares his outlook on world events and the whole media that transmits it questioning the apathetic stance that a many of the population take and really just examining the values of the adult world. Sitting in his ride on the M25 that so often resembles a massive car park, his mind wanders as he's listening to the news on the radio and thinks about much of the hurt in the world, corruption, war and so on. However he realises that even though "we're just a small corner" but we (still) have the freedom to express ourselves here in old Blighty.
Upon my first listen of this song I didn't quite understand why with the pretty heavy lyrics the music seemed out of step with it's light, breezy tone. It suddenly clicked when I realised that the music was the metaphor for the dreary, dull prison sentence spent waiting in the a 3-mile tailback traffic jam.

Still keeping with the theme of contemplation is the Specifik-produced Night Time, a tale of a nocturnal, cranial onslaught where the stillness of the dark is a catalyst for hidden, repressed memories.

The Beattrix-produced Think is an instantly catchy track due to its use of a large brassy sample on the chorus and cuts by Sir Beans OBE.
A booming, bass-heavy remix of Star (Star Refix) is included which I really enjoyed on it's previous 12" Bristol Built release as the flip of Late Night Rhyme. A great scratch-intro that I initially thought (hoped!) was about to burst into an 85-sounding electro boomer with its twinkly smidges of synth. The original was a great, dirty break-showcased cut but here has a great, dirty dub-steppy bassline in it's place and the new break is a winner.
Whirlwind D has never made a secret of admitting one of his favourite songs is the Marley Marl-produced Shan track, The Bridge and he uses those familiar distorted horns on Stories From The Battlefield. The nicely-chugging beat is helped along by the godfather, Mr Brown and is arranged by Spatts ("the nicest beard in hip hop") out of The Criminal Minds. Inzaine guests alongside Whirlwind D telling a tale of his early years listening to Schoolly's 'PSK' "whilst popping on the lino in the town centre" and then one day hearing Battle Creek Brawl which was a life-changing moment for him causing him to fiend for the Britcore sound that would soon follow. An incident that I bet has been mirrored a thousand times throughout the country.

So to sum up, Whirlwind D fans will be happy as it contains his familiar delivery with hallmarks of 'back in the day' tales over lovingly-crafted beats from a whole army of some of the UK's best dj's and producers.
I would, however love to have seen the inclusion of the previous 12", Broadway as to my mind it is one of D's best tracks. And Mr Thing's skills are second to none over the top.
All in all a solidly-produced tableau of work that is very mindful of the talent that is currently abundant in British hip hop. Without taking liberties Mr D has achieved a collection of songs that you can groove to whilst simultaneously think about as well.

See also:
Whirlwind D's Discography

Whirlwind D Facebook Page

Buy The Album

Listen to preview tracks from Nomansland below in the Soundcloud player:

©Repo 2014


Waxer said...

Excellent review my mellow, similar thoughts to mine... I need to put it on tape to reallyt appreciate it!

Wock said...

Just got my lp and wow what a brilliant album.Just got to say that on an album of amazing cuts waxers stronger is standing above all of them and shows how good the original was.

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