Cal Thaddeus/Cyrus Is - Collaboration
(Snowfall Tapes 2014)
This might be the first time I've reviewed hip-hop on Half-Gifts, but this live collaboration between West Virginian beat creators Cyrus Is and Cal Thaddeus is too satisfying to pass up on. Most noticeably pretty about this tape is its design. The cover photo, for one, is a more barren take on the twinkly-emo art motif of the traditional neighborhood landscape. There's less of an inviting atmosphere here than on the cover of, say, American Football's self-titled album. Sure, both were taken in the winter (as the dead trees suggest), and even include similar looking houses, but something about the warm glow of the window against the pea green sky on the American Football cover suggests a friendly sense of intimacy longed for by the onlooker. Is it seen through the eyes of a passing pedestrian who can't help but try to peer through windows? Or maybe the creepy kid who has a crush on the girl who lives there? Perhaps it's even the lone walker on the Cal Thaddeus/Cyrus Is cover, which I feel conveys a strong feeling of isolation. Though he's strolling through a decently populated neighborhood, he's all alone with the gloomy chill of the winter air, surrounded by a vast expanse of front lawns and sickly foliage. Maybe I just dig it because the surroundings look a lot like where I live, and I often take walks. Maybe I look too far into album covers. I can't be too sure, but once again this tape's cover photo really condenses the vibe of its contents into a single moment suspended in time.
I see this tape as background music composed in that pedestrian's head as he makes his way around the block. The tracks are not exactly full songs, rather short song fragments composed of repetitive samples. Side A has a really sparse, icy vibe, with a focus on melancholy saxophone, hushed vocal samples and slow, pulsating drum machine loops. It kinda reminds me of the Hey Arnold soundtrack a bit, which makes sense for such a low-key cartoon. Side B revolves more around jazzy piano and keyboard, but it still maintains its lonely atmosphere. Track 6 on this side actually includes rap, but I can't tell if it's sampled or performed live. Anyhow, it's still my favorite cut from the side. Great tape, bump it in your walkman and take a trip around the block if you can.