Blue Sky Black Death
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Blue Sky Black Death

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band EDM Hip Hop

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On their fourth full-length and first completely instrumental album, the production duo of Kingston and Young God (a.k.a. Blue Sky Black Death) employs a variety of sounds to craft an orchestral masterpiece. (Think Beethoven with a sampler and drum machine.) The six-minute opening track, “The Era When We Sang,” opens with rapid keys, atmospheric percussion, and a soulful vocal sample before a breakdown of soft strings, pianos, and a light flourish of horns takes over. It sets the pace for what follows: a dark yet beautiful soundscape with heavy classical overtones and lush drops that commands listeners’ attention, navigating us through various moods. Late Night Cinema may be categorized as “hip-hop,” but it’s better suited for the opera hall than your trunk. - XLR8R


Instrumental hip-hop, a form of hip-hop that almost goes against the very basis of the genre (in essence, rhythmic poetry), makes the artist's job both harder and easier to create a timeless album in the realm of hip-hop. While the instrumental nature of the music allows for music much more melodic, it often completely leaves the hip-hop category without the correct beats, labeled better simply as electronica. Blue Sky Black Death's Late Night Cinema, the first album for the production duo to not feature any emcees throughout the album, strikes the balance between the necessary melodicism and hip-hop beats perfectly, making a stunning and enthralling album from start to finish.

With this balance, many will mark the album's primary influence as Endtroducing..., but besides both albums' incredible melodic composition, these albums have little in common. Beneath that veneer, Late Night Cinema breathes much more as a whole rather than a collection of samples – largely because many of the parts on the album were recorded live. Instead of a plunderphonic album, Blue Sky Black Death, comprised of producers Kingston and Young God, composed a true musical entity with violinists, vocalists, trumpeters, and keyboardists adding their contributions while still keeping it in the vein of hip-hop.

In terms of production, the album has that decidedly hip-hop feel, a groove completely different from neo-classical electronica, a realm that the album's melodic content takes much inspiration from. For example, the breakbeats in “My Work Will Be Done” envision an ensemble where Venetian Snares provides the background accompaniment rather than the main material. Throughout the whole album, hip-hop cliches are abound in the beats – from the actual drum sounds to the rhythm of the grooves to the fills that transition between parts. Even some of the synth melodies, such as the ones that begin “Forgive Me”, recall modern hip-hop.

What really makes Late Night Cinema stand out, however, is the way these two aspects blend for an incredible, enveloping sound that even Endtroducing... could not accomplish for more than a few tracks. The album is dense and packed with material, which is both its greatest strength and its greatest (perhaps only) flaw – at some points the listener doesn't know where to listen. Kingston and Young God know exactly where they stand, however, and each song has enough natural harmonic motion to complete itself, a remarkable feat especially for the lengthier cuts in the beginning of the album. They almost always return to a main theme and link everything together masterfully. Opener “The Era When We Sang” achieves all of this brilliantly, reaching a climax that is capitalized by a catchy trumpet melody that brings a new sense of regality to the sound with its fanfare-like rhythm. Where “The Era When We Sang” delivers its progression harmonically, “A Private Death” does so rhythmically, progressively becoming more intense with more breakbeats and rapid bass drum kicks. The frenetic string sample, which provides the song's main melodic theme, helps advance this nature in the melodic spectrum.

On first glance, it may seem that the duo placed their longest, strongest songs at the beginning of the album to give a powerful first impression that wows the listener until the album's end, thus hiding some of its flaws in the lesser tracks. And after “A Private Death”, it seems impossible that the album will continue its road of excellence. While nothing bests the first four songs (also the four longest), the album suffers from no major drop in quality. “Listen Child” offers relative repose from the constant swirling of melodic material with a simpler format, though still very evolved in comparison to other artists. “Different Hours” uses all its different sounds brilliantly, from the soaring violin to the constant undercurrent of the organ chords, perhaps the most soulful song on the album. Moment for moment, the album never falters, but what makes songs like “The Era When We Sang” and “Ghosts Among Men” stand out is the scope of the composition, the way it weaves so many threads together and remains cohesive.

Those threads extend to tie together the entire album, as it all falls inside an umbrella sound that makes Blue Sky Black Death unlike any other artist around right now. Their combined melodicism and appreciation for hip-hop cliché make an album at first accessible and still worth listen after listen after listen. And, for once, I find myself not going back to Endtroducing... to get this album, but better. Late Night Cinema is a beast of its own kind. While they have detailed their future as one of collabaroations with emcees, something they have done twice in the past with Wu-Tang affiliates Holocaust (Warcloud) and Razah, this is a duo that can stand on their own two feet and are best when not suppressed. - Sputnik Music


The production duo of Kingston and Young God made a name for themselves in the liars of the hip hop underground, producing for notables such as Jean Grae, Cunninlynguists, Hell Razah and others. Even with that track record and the hip hop tag applied to them, the group has always had a more synth-pop feel to their sound than your average hip hop producer. It’s with that in mind, the group releases it’s most diverse and distant hip hop sounding album, Third Party.

Picking up where 2008’s Slow Burning Lights left off, Blue Sky Black Death hits the listener off with electronic sounds, synths, and crisp melodies all while being backed up by vocals of Alexander Chen on most tracks. It’s these vocals that lend to the overall mood of the music. The best way to describe the sounds of Third Party would be deeply cinematic, almost causing a motion picture to be painted in the listeners subconscious. Tracks like “Set Fire,” which is strictly instrumental in nature, employs a throbbing bass line and give vivid images of a chase scene through the streets of Vienna or some place exotic. The very next track, “Institution,” with it’s mildly upbeat vocals and music gives that “coming of age” moment of a movie. “Threats of Gold,” shines the images of a hero coming back from defeat, with it’s looped guitar bit, keys and driving bass line. It’s times like these that while the music is vivid and personal, it still doesn’t diverge from being just overall great music.

One can’t really fault the group for it’s different direction on Third Party, but it’s not going to be the hip hop production that people who have been listening to them since their inception would expect. A change in style isn’t a fault, but it’s something to keep in mind for some of their long time listeners. If one can step out of their usual perceptions of the group and appreciate the different nature of the music, they will be rewarded, but the music probably isn’t going to be for everyone. The vocal presentation always tends to nearly the same, and for those of us that are in-tuned to the sounds the production, it can wear thin from time to time. Ultimately though, the vocals do a nice job of painting more sound and layering it all together. Third Party is one of the more mature efforts musically to come out of the production duo and could possibly find a niche that gives them their just due. - URB Magazine


Blue Sky Black Death: Slow Burning Lights
By Andrew Martin 10 November 2008
If nothing else, Slow Burning Lights will officially put Blue Sky Black Death above their contemporaries. Kingston and Young God, the duo that makes up BSBD, have been steadily earning respect throughout the hip-hop community for their phenomenal albums featuring a slew of underground emcees and vocalists. But for their latest, BSBD put the rappers to the side and set their sights on crafting something that can only be described as otherworldly.

Slow Burning Lights is like one part Telefon Tel Aviv, one part Cocteau Twins, and one part—and this is a big one—Blue Sky Black Death. In other words, the 10 tracks on here have a combination of dreamy textures over sometimes erratic, glitchy drums with that traditional BSBD quality that is almost impossible to categorize. The gorgeous instrumentals are paired with newcomer Yes Alexander, whose ethereal vocals match BSBD’s ghostly production perfectly. Cinematic might be a term that has been beaten to death, but it absolutely applies here. The soundscapes are thrilling as they build and create a dreamy aura around Alexander’s voice, which is akin to that of Shara Worden and Hope Sandoval. In short, Slow Burning Lights is simply a must listen for everyone: from hip-hop heads interested in the latest effort from their favorite producers to dream-pop fans looking for something fresh. - Pop Matters


Blue Sky Black Death
'Slow Burning Lights'
West Coast beatmakers forgo darkness for low-key glimmer.

The moniker of this hip-hop production duo -- who have worked with MCs ranging from Jean Grae to various Wu-Tang and Hieroglyphics affiliates -- sounds far more menacing and dramatic than their music, especially on this subdued collaboration with vocalist Yes Alexander. Her whispery tones dominate most songs (as much as whispery tones can dominate anything), floating above surgically pleasant beats and synth atmospheres. It's never as punchily trip-hoppy as Sneaker Pimps or as blatantly out-there as Joanna Newsom, but the fittingly named Slow Burning Lights sits on the same off-kilter pop continuum - SPIN Magazine


Discography

A Heap Of Broken Images ? (2 versions) Mush 2006

Blue Sky Black Death Presents Holocaust, The* - The Holocaust ? (2 versions) Babygrande 2006

Dirtnap Mixtape (CDr, Mixed) Not On Label (Blue Sky Black Death Self-released) 2007

Blue Sky Black Death & Hell Razah - Razah's Ladder ? (3 versions) Babygrande 2007

Blue Sky Black Death & Jean Grae - The Evil Jeanius (CD, Album) Babygrande 2008

Slow Burning Lights (CD, Album) Babygrande 2008

Gifts In Jail Vol. 1 (File, MP3) Not On Label 2008

Gifts In Jail Vol. 2 (File, MP3) Not On Label 2008

The Holocaust Instrumentals ? (2 versions) Babygrande 2008

Late Night Cinema ? (3 versions) Babygrande 2008

The Evil Jeanius Instrumentals (CD, Album) Babygrande 2009

The Razah's Ladder Instrumentals (CD, Album) Babygrande 2009

Third Party (CD, Album) Fake Four Inc. 2010

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Bio

Blue Sky Black Death, an accomplished West Coast production duo has mastered the art of collaboration. Their sound transforms the raw into the refined through technically building layers that exceed the boundaries of any one particular musical genre. Young God and Kingston make up the duo, and acquire additional people to help construct the synthesis of instrumental variety. Often a single track will involve a violin, cello, keyboard, and guitar mixed with live vocals and abstract samplings, so each song compiles and manipulates to make the music engage on several levels. Most of their reputation comes from their accomplishments with various hip hop collaborators (Jean Grae, Crooked-I, Hell Razah, the late Guru, Ill Bill, to name but a few). Each album surpasses the next in expectation thus creating surprise. BSBD has been recieved praise from such publications as Spin, URB, Rock Sound, XLR8R (naming “Late Night Cinema” as: “The Best Instrumental Hip Hop album of 2008. Unlike any other artist around right now”), Itunes featured artist, Imeem featured artist, ReUp magazine, Filter Magazine, Vapors Magazine, Remix Magazine, Pop Matters, amongst others, and their music has led them to receive world wide recognition.