Sole & The Skyrider Band
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Sole & The Skyrider Band

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Passionate and dense, Sole's brand of agit-hop underground casts political and social signifiers in personal upheaval, reiterating a simple concept across full albums: Life's tough, and the world's not any easier. MCs like Sole, Sage Francis, and (to cross label lines) EL-P use albums like personal workbooks, sorting through quandaries in complex verse and academic esoterica. But what makes these rappers most interesting to some makes them most repellent to others. Continually pissing in the wind proves your consternation, certainly, but it also means you may ultimately be preaching to a shrinking choir while trying to pretend you're not soaking in your own fluids. It's magnetic only to those with similar polarities.

Over his last four albums, Arizona-via-France-via-California-via-Maine producer and rapper Sole has done a lot of pissing, but, thanks to extreme statements ("The white man's the fucking devil/ I wanted to be black at age 13") and tracks so rich they read like librettos, he's assembled a fervent if meager choir. Here, on his fifth album and first collaboration with textural Arizona trio Skyrider as Sole and the Skyrider Band, he huddles with his humble mass and gets ready to head for the exit. The 30-year-old MC unites two realizations on these 13 tracks: The world is fucked, and there's not shit the anticon. crew he co-founded more than a decade ago can do about it. Thanks to the urgency of these proclamations and the craftiness of Skyrider-- who lend violin, banjo, glockenspiel and a dozen other instruments here-- it's his most consistently engaging album to date.

If you know this niche at all, these lyrical themes will be familiar. Sole rails mostly against capitalism as it relates to complacency, dropping references to fake Che Guevaras and background music in shopping malls as mind control. He proclaims he's "too Bakunin for your backpack rap," and that "Living is easy with so many lousy architects." This is standard territory for Sole and, ironically, it's also his weak spot. Sole's acumen has long been clouded by poor editing, as he adulterates money shots with billows of second-rate images ("volcanic ash on a strip mall") and cracked references ("I love words like Cortez loved the Mayans"). He misses easy targets here, whether threatening to join a Death Cab for Cutie cover band (they're white, sensitive, and passé, and every fan that hears the slam will laugh at the line mostly for those reasons) or razing liberals sitting in the bathroom reading Harper's Magazine (Sole is a real revolutionary).

This time, though, the minutiae that irks Sole coalesces into swift apocalyptic visions, and these realizations-- delivered in long passages of hard, staccato syllables that leave him gasping, as if he's seeing six billion ghosts at once-- make Sole's problems with J.C. Penney's, Spencer's Gifts, and "pre-fab teen spirit sucked through the coolest scenes" suddenly more immediate and disconcerting. These qualms are part of a grand vision, and the diorama is falling apart: "Up to my neck in confusion-- or is it lava?" Sole wonders for the close of "Sound of Head on Concrete", in which he realizes words are too weak to fight back. "The universe is shrinking," he promises on "A Hundred Light Years and Running", asking, "How does it feel when your meteor is crashing?" Sole's concern is contagious, and it's even more compelling because he knows this album or any album can't save us. When the world burns, as he prophesies, these albums will only be his "etching in marble...although it's digital, it'll be all that remains. Just some songs that no one needs."

But Sole fancies himself a survivor, and he explains his existence away on closer "Stupid Things Implode on Themselves". He's already picked mice over men, and told his choir to "Let the cockroaches sort it out." He's already predicted the apocalypse of suburbia and society sinking like a ship tossed by a sea of sin. Then, "Everything went according to flames.... That ain't a pulse. That's Budweiser bubbling in the intestines still." But there's explicit hope tucked away here: For Sole, fire and smoke offer not only death but a chance at renewal, at reinvention. He knows his words are too weak to prevent what's happening-- "Hard as I try, man, I can't change this"-- but he hopes the exercise at least makes him strong enough to see what's on the other side.

— Grayson Currin, January 4, 2008 - Pitchfork Media


Tim Holland—the man known as Sole to a generation of politically conscious independent hip-hop fans—is one of the biggest and most respected names in the business. So when I heard he had put a touring band together and was going to drag them through the studio, I nearly plotzed. How did the man who penned “Da Baddest Poet” also hold the key to my dreams? Can he hear me now? Though high expectations can taint an experience, the self-titled Sole & The Skyrider Band debut easily lives up to my own hype. Working closely with multi-instrumentalist William Fritch and apt programmer Bud Berning filling in the holes, augmented by the odd piece of live drumming, they don’t just recreate but improve upon the formulas which have essentially become standard in underground rap and Sole’s own work. They embrace the record popping, sci-fi synth, classic blues and soul sampling swagger which gives Holland’s fierce social commentary its punch, but the live human element, as always, puts it all over the top. Sole is now officially one notch above Sage Francis in the artistic credibility department. - PopMatters


Sole’s early records inspired me to predict (loudly, to anyone who happened to be standing around at the moment) that much of the early 21st century’s best punk rock would be delivered in the form of independent hip hop releases. As the musical details of aggro protest music sank further and further into vapid self-parody, leftist hip hop like Sole’s emerged as a more forward-thinking alternative to the fast n’ loud philosophy which insists on rotting tragically in the sun like a melanoma victim too stupid to stay out of the tanning parlor. In addition to top-shelf beats and a bold lyrical criteria, Sole's Selling Live Water (Anticon, 2003) boasted an awareness of two appealing details that a lot of modern rock music – punk or otherwise – are sorely lacking: subtlety and nuance.

The brooding, cinematic sounds of Selling Live Water and its 2005 followup (Live from Rome) are further explored on Sole and the Skyrider Band’s self-titled album, with Anticon’s moody and orchestral sample-laden sound firmly in check. This isn’t the “conscious” hip-hop of the genre’s early ’90s renaissance, nor are these tracks the furiously political utterances of artists like Public Enemy or Paris. Sole’s rhymes are informed by the geopolitical disasters of the modern age, but he has the good taste not to address them too overtly in his lyrics like some kind of beat-mining Brett Gurewitz. This is the sound and sensation of one man’s foreboding traversal of a commercial highway at 4 a.m., the shuttered gloom of big-box warehouse stores and fluorescent mini-malls rising up around him in a grim reckoning of present history.

While the head-nodding groove of the record is comfortable to stand behind, lining it up in comparison to Sole’s previous outings reveals the unfortunate truth that not much artistic growth has been going down behind the scenes. Sole and the Skyrider Band’s self-titled LP fires the same cluster of synapses that previous records have already sufficiently stimulated. All of its tracks, while well-put and effectively delivered, seem to come and go with the same results, and with no real showpiece tunes among them, this particular entry isn’t likely to cast a new light on the corners of our culture that most desperately need it.

By Mike Lupica - Dusted


For the children of privilege/taste the pavement

Some people wonder what music would be like if Jimi were still alive. I wonder what music would be like if file sharing wasn't around. Don't get me wrong I've come up on some amazing music because of friends making me cd's or tapes for free! And even free downloads from sweet sites(like us,wink). I also have the memories of waiting in line at midnight for a new record to come out. Driving for hours to find a rare release. Digging through dusty sleeves for days to come away with two records. I work hard as a fan of music. I won't let Pitchfork decided for me what I need to hear. I'm sure half those kids just go to Isohunt and download it for free anyways.

So when the lines "only my phone can find me/only pitchfork can judge me" from the track "Children" hit my ears I wondered what all this downloading has done to potential amazing music. Thank God for Sole and Anticon. A label based around the idea of making more than hip-hop; more than just making albums about bling and selfishness. To me, it sounds like the building of a community.

Sole has been in this game since he was 15. If you do the math, he has been doing this longer than most others in the game. And where Autotune is ready to be buried Sole is just beginning. You are not going to find gimmicks in any of Sole's projects (mansbestfriend and deep puddle dynamics). Only talent and amazing skills as a lyricists. Sole doesn't need any MTV music award show stealing moments to tell the world Beyonce is better. Hell Sole could rap over windshield wipers and it'd make sense to me.



"People used to care/Now they worship garbage/These is recycled times we living in"

The anger and passion that drives anything Sole does is still evident on the new album Plastique. And yet it somehow feels less about anger and more about the impact of the environment around him. Not just responding to the outside world. But calling out to us to do more then just watch. Hip-Hop and live music are always going to be dope. As long as the music and MC are ill enough. I don't really relate to rap based around violence and drugs and whatever Kanye is into. I'm more in tune with people who have traveled outside of their comfort zone. Seen the world for more then face value. Sole is the man of the hour and everyone should pay attention.

Plastique is pure poetry and the Sky Rider band is the lines on which the words walk. If everyone had a killer band like this laying down an amazing sonic landscape I'm sure the record industry would see an increase. This is another example of why Sole is an important artist. Is this just for Hip-Hop fans? Hell no. Is this going to alienate fans of hip-hop? I sure hope it does. This is about more then hip-hop music. This is art. This is a travel trough someone elses landscape. Don't take pictures and compare it to what you remember at home. Just put this on take a hike and fucking listen people. Stop waiting for the hit that's remixed by every pitchforked band out there.

Plastique has the power that you feel in every verse Sole spits at you. Big stuttering drums, eclectic soundscapes and a guest appearance by Markus Acher from The Notwist on "Battlefields". It's got a great vibe to the whole project. This album is hard. This album has texture. This is why I pay for records. I buy the records I take the ride. I advise you do the same. I think this is an amazing album and would love to see this live.

4/5 - RockSellOut.com


Album Review: Sole & The Skyrider Band – Plastique (2009)
Review: 3 out of 5 Potholes

There’s something about Sole. Maybe it’s his unusual delivery. Perhaps it’s the odd eclectic sounds with drums that sound like they were just spattered over walls in a frenzy. One thing is for certain – the man is certainly one of Anticon’s legends who has certainly intrigued many. Not only with his solo albums, but also with group dynamics as well; many can take for example Deep Puddle Dynamics’ The Taste of Rain…Why Kneel? Now two years after Sole & The Skyrider Band’s self titled debut, they re-appear with their sophomore effort, Plastique.

Clocking in at about 42 minutes, this album definitely is a skyrider in terms of its texture. The production on it is basically its caveat – nothing sounds alike and it’s all very fluid for the most part. The affair starts once Sole’s vocals take center stage on “Children of Privilege”, where Sole raps non-stop for about the minute-and-a-half mark until the syncopated and stuttered drum deliver upon synthetic sounding violins. Lots of slow-tempo affairs come in the form of “Battlefields”, “More”, and “Mr. Insurgent”. Elsewhere on this affair you have the Skyrider Band freak-out on “Black”, which goes on for about seven and a half minutes. “Black” really makes you think why the Skyrider Band harnessed its energy for the disc’s duration.

That’s not to say most of the disc is bad. There are some songs which definitely have their worth on here. “Longshots”, for example, has Sole going on a self-critique extravaganza with a perfectly matched stark piano, whereas “Nothing, Pt. 2″ is more so an exercise in buildup where Sole’s vocals are technically frantic. “Pissing In The Wind” is very much reminiscent of what the first Sole & The Skyrider Band’s disc first contained. And this track is probably the catchiest with its very measured vocals and far-out sounding snare, which sounds like a gunshot. But above them all, “Bait” is the shining star in this disc with its frantic drum-arrangements and mood-tinged organ notes.

As with most Anticon stuff, Plastique is not for the faint of heart. Most, if not all, of the diehards of the band’s first effort will definitely find some consistency with this project. But outsiders who are fairly unaware of Anticon or Sole will find it a little hard to digest. But regardless, the disc does contain a lot of clever subtleties in the production. And some of Sole’s raps will definitely catch you off guard and will more than likely provide for some thought-provoking and thoughtful lyrics. Also, a word to the wise: If you’re a new listener, hear their self-titled effort prior to getting into Plastique. - potholesinmyblog.com


Minor chord progressions in abundance, and staccato rhyme patterns propel you into the strange mind of original Anticon member Sole on his post-modern experiment Plastique. His signature mode, massaging eerily cryptic messages into your cerebrum, while dousing sinister sarcasm on your aural palette are only appetizers to his increasingly introspective progression of ponderances into the vices of man, the projected collapse of empires, and you can’t help but be a voyeur in his post-apocalyptic world. Call Plastique an instrument of foreshadowing, or a fantastical concept album of the ethereal kind, Sole offers a new perspective to the ever-growing, yet strangely homogenous world of hip-hop.

Having experienced an existential crises of this past year, and exchanging his modern lifestyle with one of isolation in the national forests of Arizona, Plastique is the encapsulation of Sole’s year-long exercises of meditation. He is no follower of sci-fi fanaticism, but a mad social theorist making sense of the future of humankind, imperialism, and hip-hop. Accompanied by The Skyrider Band—mixing orchestral metal-electronica with breakbeats and on the fringes of familiarity to our limited ears— Sole’s echoing syllabic rhythms are a far-out ride reminiscent of earlier works by expatriate Mike Ladd with the poetic devices of Saul Williams.

-Boyuan Gao - Beyond Race


Discography

Sole - Bottle of Humans (1999)
Sole - Selling Live Water (2003)
Sole - Live From Rome (2005)
Sole & The Skyrider Band - S/T (2007)
Sole & The Skyrider Band - Plastique (2009)

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Bio

Sole, one of the founding members of the Anticon collective
and key figure in the experimental hip hop movement, returns with his Skyrider Band on the album Plastique. After nearly 2 years of touring relentlessly and playing concerts with everyone from Genghis Tron and Enon to Myka 9 and Aceyalone, Sole and company have recorded their best work yet. The follow-up LP to Sole & the Skyrider Band’s eponymous debut is Sole’s most cohesive, dynamic, listenable and interesting record to date. In contrast to the apocalyptic imagery of the first record, this album adopts the Jean Beaudrillard idea that “when the spectacle took over, man ceased to be man.” What’s more, Skyrider’s music finds itself more sparse and deliberate on this record, showcasing the talents of all three musicians: Bud Berning (producer), John Wagner (drums), and William Ryan Fritch (multi-instrumentalist). Plastique is an album full of reflections on the postmodern
mess that is the “me” generation. Sole bounces from the ironic to the
iconoclastic, from the worldly to the deeply personal. Unlike many of
his previous recordings, Sole’s rapping is at the forefront and his sharp
lyrics are clearer than ever. This is partly thanks to more immaculately
composed music, and partly to Son Lux collaborator Doc Harril on the
mixing boards.
“Battlefields”, a collaboration with Markus Acher - lead singer
of German electronic indie rock band The Notwist, is possibly the
catchiest of all tunes to come out of Sole’s arsenal while tunes such as
Longshots and Pissing In The Wind present Sole’s biting sarcasm in
classic form. Plastique is a musically mature prog-hop album with a
nearly punk-bitter attitude built around the ferocity and intelligence
that listeners have grown to expect from Sole.