Underground Fossils is run by Dimxsk and Trylemma. Posts are now Tuesdays (miscellaneous posts, often new music reviews or lists although time being what it is sometimes we have to just upload something cool) and Fridays (always music upload posts). We do all we can to make sure we don't post stuff that (1) You can still reasonably buy from the artist directly, (2) You can reasonably buy secondhand for cheap, (3) You can download easily elsewhere, (4) The artist(s) asks us not to for any reason. Rips will include our own personal rips, old scene rips, and random web rips.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

New Music: Thorts131 (Thorts & sMoKeY131) - Weightlifters



So it's been a very exciting month for me as far as hip hop goes. Not only did I hear from one of my heroes and get a chance to preview their excellent cassette release The Subjugation of Bread (Brzowski & C $ Burns, see my last post), but shortly thereafter I get an email from another artist I'm slowly but surely developing some serious respect for asking for another preview post. So that artist is of course Thorts who, coming right on the heels of his oddball project with Sweden's own art rap superstar Joel Siméus has done a 180 and released an album with Germany's sMoKeY131 of Milled Pavement fame as Thorts131. Their debut collaboration Weightlifters displays not just his unique personality and quirky sensibilities but his remarkable songwriting prowess and skill with the pen. I'm particularly excited to share this gem because while his last collaboration was endlessly entertaining and fascinating I knew that it would not be for everyone. Thorts131 I believe may be the release that could get most indie rap fans on board with this cat in a big way. Of course, as he lays out on the album opener "Rock":

I don't need to stay relevant

I wasn't in the first place

I'd rather spit what I want with intelligence

The race is irrelevant

I'll never come in first place

While I respect the humility and the artistic integrity he expresses here, I really do have to say that anyone who loves hip hop should be a fan of this album and while first place probably isn't a realistic goal when the judges are easily confused, there are people who appreciate real art and this is it.

So that's out of the way. Thorts has been in touch and given me a bit of background information on himself to give this post some more depth. Born in a small town in Victoria, Australia, Thorts became a fan and a rapper at virtually the same time when he was introduced to Cypress Hill in 1995 at the age of fifteen. Following some "really bad tapes" (his words not mine, I'd love to hear those) made through clever use of analogue equipment he began battling and making appearances on the radio a few years later. He's moved around through his home country and prior to the internet remained a fairly isolated voice in his neck of the woods. Now he mostly performs with artists outside Australia (with the notable exception of his talented partner Kady Starling, who he did a split with recently that's mind blowingly good as well as Aetcix [collaborations found on his Bandcamp page {see below <another parenthesis>} as Field Trip and Thorts & Aetcix] and DJ Silence). Now that you're suitably confused by that last sentence, we can talk about me for a bit. I was introduced to Thorts' work on Variex's album Beneath Six Feet of Dust performing alongside Tommy V. and A.Hymnz. I immediately felt like he had something special to offer, and it seemed like from there he began showing up more and more.

sMoKeY131 is a producer from Germany, who’s been a fixture in the scene through his tapes and live turntableism for a good 20 years now. I’ve seen his name I've seen pop up on a lot of albums by artists I enjoy, especially from Europe although he made some appearances on the fantastic Goose Bumps compilations Milled Pavement put out a decade or so ago. If you don't have those then go pick them up, we'll wait. Even nearing age 50 he still spends his time digging in crates to elevate his production and make more awesome music for us to enjoy. That wisdom gained through experience in the hip hop scene is very easy to see on this album, as I'll go into below. 

What can I say about Weightlifters? First off the production is basically flawless for the content and style that Thorts is employing on this album. Old school and dope, melodic and hard, part Dj Muggs part Dj Abilities. sMoKeY makes use of a combination of sound effects, dusty jazz and surprisingly beautiful strings to create a sense of depth and darkness with a humility that allows Thorts to benefit from, but not have to battle over, his music. "Meat & Bones" in particular, a song that picks apart the superficial differences between people and identifies our commonalities is stirring, gorgeous and emotional without being preachy or self indulgent. The rest of the album surfs between this sound and a darker a-melodic style (this is where the Muggs comparison originates) but it is all professional, smart and original. The album wraps up with a beautiful string sample based instrumental track "Black Swans (Reprise)" that leaves the listener feeling as if they've awoken from an unsettling but ultimately hopeful dream. Given the darkness of the rest of the songs, the album closer is sorely needed and really caps Weightlifters nicely.

Thorts is really on another level of awesome on this release. As I said last time I reviewed his work, it seems like with every album he drops we get to know him a bit better. His ability to be brutally honest about his struggles with addiction, anxiety and self doubt give his music a humanity that never seems artificial or gimmicky, a problem I find can arise when an artist may set out with the intention of being brutally honest. What I mean is I think Thorts gives us the art he does because it's just what he makes and couldn't be anything but this. This is not to say that there are not moments of humor on Weightlifters, also in common with some of his later work. "Cats for Catnip" makes use of a nursery rhyme that seems very left field but is incredibly charming and actually manages to get stuck in your head. This in some ways adds to the dark quality of the songs we find here, as even when he's being weird he sounds a bit cynical and the juxtaposition between the use of cat as literally a fuzzy animal and as a metaphor (catnip being self destructive behaviors) makes the song amusing in a very dark way. Something else that's notable is the way this album pays homage to those who came before. There are old school references found in many places, and given what we now know about Thorts' education and experience in the hip hop world this is not surprising. It's refreshing to hear from someone who acknowledges and respects their history.

I'm starting to run on a bit long. One last thing. This album is basically without credited features, except for one notable exception. On "Myself When Young", we have Variex, the very rapper who introduced me to Thorts (also a rapper I have a lot of love for), and one of my personal favorites and someone I was beginning to think I'd never hear from again, Staplemouth of New Cocoon "fame". Both of these features are extremely effective as Variex is at his best lyrically and stylistically, while Staplemouth has taken a break from his usual apocalyptic and occultist stream of consciousness mind blowing double time rhymes to speak a bit about himself. I may be mistaken but with the exception of some of his really old material with Riff Raff (no, not that one, he goes by Self Target now and is primarily a seriously talented producer) I don't believe he does much of that. So this track is worth whatever the price of the album alone. It's personal and unique as hell.

All that said, if I haven't convinced you yet to give this one a shot Thorts was nice enough to put together a few clips featuring songs from the album. "Slide" is a track about resentment and rage, while "Black Swans" is a sort of stream of consciousness fairy tale gone bad. Both give the viewer a good idea what to expect from Weightlifters and are worth checking out for any fan of hip hop period:

Thanks for reading, and thank you so much Thorts and sMoKeY for giving me the opportunity to peep this gem. It's amazing and you should be proud as hell of it!

Get Weightlifters here on October 1st!

Note: I just heard from Thorts this morning that there a few uncredited voices on the album that deserve a mention. Rapping the nursery rhyme on "Cats for Catnip" we have his 10 year old daughter Sage Advice, and rapping the chorus on "Pages" we have his 21 year old daughter Paige Turner. Seriously dope family right there. Hopefully on the next round we can hear from his son who didn't want to be on Weightlifters. Teenagers... :-)

Friday, September 18, 2020

Future Shock - Focused (2000)


Today's post comes from OG Christian rap independent extraordinaries Future Shock and their 2000 release, "Focused." 

Future Shock consists mainly of Sojurn, Ajax, and Ahred (then known as Redbonz) (there's been some DJs involved throughout the tenure as well.) Future Shock is perhaps best known for helping to found the left coast collective Tunnel Rats (alongside the likes of Shames Worthy from the Good Life Cafe/Project Blowed.) This release, "Focused," collects previously released loosies into one single release - courtesy of the great MP3.com! For those who enjoy that minimalistic lofi 2000s indie rap sound, with some goofiness in the mix, peep it! 

Huge thanks to Timburton20 for hooking me up with this. WMA files as sent to me. 


Oh yeah - and for those who need to get more of their Hallelujah on (just remember - god isn't real,) check out the new album from Dee-1 and Murs, "He's the Christian, I'm the Rapper" that dropped today HERE

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New Music: Wool See - Podcasts Vol. 1


As my Northwest is currently on fire, I thought I'd highlight some fire from the Northwest (#bars.) Wool See is the one man band moniker of Iame of the Sandpeople/Oldominion (originally from Oregon, now residing on the East Coast.) Over the past weeks, Iame has been releasing tracks on his Youtube page that serve concurrently both as songs and as mini-"podcasts." This six-song release, which is currently free to download on his Bandcamp page, collects the first set of these tracks. 

Ever since covid broke in the U.S. this year, Iame's Twitter page has been a great source of both information and coping in relation to the crazy 2020 that we've had thus far - from the coronavirus, to the racial unrest, to the upcoming presidential election cycle, to the fires that have me wiping my eyes. His "podcast" series builds upon this by transforming his tweets, and greater overall thoughts, into (self-produced) songs. 

For those who shy away from the preachy (which includes myself generally,) no need to fear here. Iame approaches the topics with a sense of humility and even humor at times, while still making sure that lasting political and social points are made. And the songs hold up as songs as well, with some infectious electronic glitchy production and some pretty catchy hooks - which is all super impressive considering that a couple of these joints are 100% freestyled off the top! 

For those looking for another friendly voice in a weird era, check out "Podcasts Vol. 1" (again, available for free download) HERE

Friday, September 11, 2020

Mad Squirrel - Bear With Me (2003)



Okay, so I'm coming down to the wire once again this week and I had to pick something to post for you lovely folks. I vaguely remember someone requesting this one a few months ago though. At the time I didn't have it, but Trylemma worked his magic and managed to dig this up recently. Awesome.

So I haven't had a chance to even listen to this yet. I included two versions because one is apparently not so great, the other is supposedly better. You can decide. It's a tape rip, so keep in mind it's gonna sound like a tape rip. If you're even reading this you probably have hundreds of those though so why am I saying this? It's Thursday night, I've been awake since 3:30 for work. Oh that's why.

Anyway Mad Squirrel is a key member of the many years defunct Bay Area based Forest Fires Collective. His flow can sort of be compared to a weirder Kirby Dominant, but the truth is he's got a sense of style and poetic sound that's all his own. His work with the FFC is good, as is his work with Blake 9 as The Acorns. Those albums are all fairly easy to find, but this number is not.

This album, like most FFC material is produced by both Edison Victrola and Feller Quentin. You can find a few more albums by Quentin here, just click that tag! His work is great and I actually made that Latter tape rip so I'm proud of it.

Wow I'm tired and I need dinner. You guys just ignore me and listen to some dope West Coast underground now okay?




Tuesday, September 8, 2020

New Music: Brzowski & C$ Burns - The Subjugation of Bread



Well guys, as you know we at UGF do our best to cultivate positive relationships with the artists who's work we love. That's why we have stricter rules than some about what we post on Friday's, why our reviews are more posts about music we like than positive versus negative critiques and why took the time to give our shout outs to our favorite artists of the 10's. And I'm honored to announce that one of my personal favorite artists not just of the last decade but definitely of this new one as well, Brzowski was paying attention. So he offered UGF the chance to listen to his newest cassette The Subjugation of Bread (out 9/11/2020), and I of course was honored and excited to be given that chance.

There's the background. Here's a bit more. Entirely produced by C Money Burns, who's work with Brzo  as Vinyl Cape, that alt rap-metal hybrid machine that will kick you in the balls if you call it nu-metal led to some of my favorite Brzo songs to date, The Subjugation of Bread is quite a bit different from what the duo has done before. C Money Burns has proven himself to be a multi-talented instrumentalist who can not only put together some seriously heavy metal tracks but also spacey and emotionally stirring melodies. His solo work as Elevator Hotels is very much worth a look if you're interested in music outside the hip hop genre, especially if you grew up listening to Depeche Mode or The Cure. His work here is in a way a summation of his skill set, a mixture of live instrumentation, sampling and his signature heavy percussion that evokes very effectively a world on the brink of total collapse.

Speaking about impending doom is par for the course with Brzowski. He's dark like American currency is green and blood is red (see what I did there?), he wouldn't be the musician he is without a depressive bent and a desire to express it. That however is a serious oversimplification of what his music has to offer. Rarely in the music scene have I had the good fortune to find a poet with his ability to speak coherently with such unusual vocabulary, and with such a solid disinterest in adhering to conventions. Take for example the mind bending alliteration found on "Red Lanterns" below:

"Subverting and exploiting the desires superstructure can't satisfy

A self-shot pic from the machinery, self-surveillance, spectacular spook chasing"

Nobody sounds like this, and make no mistake how much I appreciate his contributions for that reason alone.

On The Subjugation of Bread we find Brzo taking the plunge into serious protest rap. We've been seeing for a while his willingness to share his political views with the listener (most recently on the excellent "Tear the Facists Down", found on what may be my favorite of his albums, mixtape or not, Blooddrive Vol. 4). The Subjugation of Bread is a serious look at the state of the Western world and how capitalism has worked for us in practice. I agree with what he says here, it's hard not to if you live in the US and bother to follow current events, um... ever. His penchant for twisted and clever verbosity helps keep what is very solid political conversation well outside the realm of preachy, and I think manages to effectively make his point while at the same time keeping the experience fresh and entertaining, as music should be.

The combination of vocal samples and lyrical content, together with sophisticated instrumental work by Burns allow each of these songs a visual quality that makes them immersive and powerful. The included tactical manual also offers more insight into the duos thoughts, and overall depth to the message. I am not as articulate or educated as the man himself, so after asking him for a summary of the message behind The Subjugation of Bread and getting this response, I feel like the best thing I can do is step back and let him tell it to you:

"Willful ignorance is dangerous, self-education is essential, media literacy needs to be ingrained (who OWNS your favorite news/magazine/site/radio/video channel etc.).... Capitalism has been pointed to as the only available avenue to deliver prosperous futures, that are heretofore not arriving, for the vast majority of people living in these systems. This is the Hauntological aspect of Capitalist Realism. I understand the irony of selling anti-capitalist music in a capitalist society, but have been overwhelmingly supported in this project with C$Burns, which tells me a fair amount of people are willing to pay-into this kind of artistic/philosophical exploration, if not try to move these ideas into physical space after the fact. I'm seeing a lot of pre-orders from new names that I don't recognize, and this is an encouraging development.

In November of 2019, C$ and I were having a humorous phone conversation, derisively laughing at how often peers and pundits alike throw around terms like "Communism", "Socialism", and "Anarchism" having no idea what they actually denote as political systems. We went on to talk about how irksome it is to have your average US citizen use the terms "the Left" to mean "the US Democratic Party" (which is functionally Center-Right). This was the genesis of the project: "Hey, let's make a project that explains it to them!", and after another round of cackles, we decided this was in fact precisely what we would set out to do. We of course are addicted to information-based complexity, and so poetry, metaphor, obscure references, and more than a few in-jokes are included in the lyrics and the design of the book itself. We want the project to unfold and become a richer experience beyond "music" after digging in beyond the initial listen.

The purpose of including the lyrics, images, and the "suggested reading list" was to offer a richer understanding of the content by providing a map to triangulate our position, much the way Media Literacy functions. One has to plot and triangulate what art means by its historical/cultural context. This was a rare occasion where the content and sentiment became more relevant between the time the project was completed (February 2020) and when it was released (9/11/2020)." - Brzowski

Very good. As I told him I remember reading one of his posts a few years ago, basically making the point that apathy is as destructive as active destruction. Viewing evil as too powerful to overcome is an excuse to be lazy and allow someone else to do the good work that you might've been called on to do yourself if you bothered to care enough. That resonated with me as at that time I was definitely feeling as though protesting, voting and organizing were unlikely to ever amount to anything real and therefore not really worth the effort. This was mostly a result of depression rather than a lack of concern for the state of things, but what I got from what he said was that it doesn't really matter, I was still allowing myself to be one less voice on the right side of things.

On fully listening to the album twice now, and doing my best to read the accompanying Tactical Manual (see what he says above if you're debating picking that up along with the music. It's essentially half the album you'll miss out on without it) on a computer which is difficult because of the format (I can't wait for my preorder package), I came out of it with this sentiment. Things like drugs, shiny possessions and so-called esteemable positions are what we use to survive in a world that basically lives off the suffering and humiliation of MOST of us. It's never been more obvious than it is now. Brzowski and Burns want us to stop accepting what should be unacceptable, and they're letting us know in a way that's dark, clever, funny in some places, melodic, sad and hard hitting. This album not only offers a half hour of dope hooks, crazy poetry and head-noddable instrumentalism, but it's a very handy way to get oneself excited about possible solutions. This album is fantastic and sorely needed in the world of today.

I just want to take one moment to thank Brzo for reaching out and giving me this opportunity. I can say for Trylemma and I it's seriously awesome to know the artists we love are seeing the stuff we post on this humble site. See ya'll Friday!


Do yourself a favor and pick up a physical (or I guess a download works too, maybe if you ask you can get a PDF of the book although good luck reading it on a computer) of Brzowski and C$ Burn's cassette The Subjugation of Bread here, dropping this Friday! You don't have to be a fringe Leftist to love it though, don't worry!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Lyr-x-ist - The Krossing (2004)


I was slated to have a guest post today, but that has temporarily been postponed, so instead I'm posting a homie's recent request: Lyr-x-ist's "The Krossing" from 2004.

Lyr-x-ist is a trio hailing from Saskatoon, SK, Canada, consisting of DJ/Producer Are-Tis-tik and Rappers Atrium and Apostle. The group has a number of various projects under their belt, but "The Krossing" seems to be the most prominent. While I am told that the crew didn't have lots of overlap with contemporary Saskatoon crew, Side Road Records, "The Krossing" is very much in line with that prairie-rap sound, in both rapping and production. Comma Concept and Patty C (aka Forgetful Jones) are even featured on several of the tracks. 

I'm not sure about the current status of the group (it looks like they haven't released anything for well over a decade,) so if anyone is up to date, let us know! Enjoy this old FTD scene rip below!



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

New Music: Comunalien - Live At TOMFEST 1997


About a month ago, Nickels Hawkeye dropped a jewel on us with a recorded live performance dating back to 1997 from the legendary Comunalien! 

Comunalien consisted of producer Nickels Hawkeye and rapper Rochester A.P. Rochester is perhaps best known for naming the Northwest collective, of which both he and Nickels were/are a part of, "Oldominion." He tragically passed in 1999, shortly before the collective released their album "One." The Comunalien duo never released anything official while Rochester was alive, but various tapes and cdrs kept their name out there, and various albums, post-Rochester's death, have dropped.

This live production was recorded in 1997 at TOMFEST, a Christian music festival (many members of the early versions of Oldominion identified as Christians to some degree - Comunalien was, for all intents and purposes, a "Christian group.") The sound quality here is very rough - the source is likely some bootleg that one of Nickel's buddies recorded from backstage. Even so, for big fans of Rochester, Comunalien, and Oldominion - it's a treat to hear him in a live setting such as this. We're given various (soon to be) album cuts, interactions with the crowd, and a couple things I haven't heard elsewhere before, which is always a bonus! 

Peep "Live At TOMFEST 1997" HERE