Union Analogtronics & Blu – LA Counting
Union Analogtronics is a French production duo that popped up with a bunch of heavy hitters (MF DOOM, Talib Kweli, Elzhi, etc.) on an ultimately underwhelming debut 4 years ago and promptly disappeared; Blu has been making rounds in the underground for a decade now so I should think he doesn’t need an introduction. This EP’s basically a teaser for their forthcoming album together that’s actually just a single that’s been padded out into an EP with three remixes, including one by long-term collaborator Exile that doesn’t distinguish itself enough from the original to warrant its own sentence. In other words, the forthcoming EP Blu has with Nottz – a proper EP with 6 distinct songs (and one remix), to say nothing of Nottz’ better chops than Union – is his better EP this year. But “LA Counting” is the sort of thing I wish he’d go back to after NoYork!: buzzed-out, busier, electronic-based beats that sound like wandering through the buzzing and busy downtown Los Angeles; solid rapped hook too. Here’s hoping Cheetah in the City follows through.
B- for the package; a B if this were a proper single.
Blu & Nottz – Titans in the Flesh
Blu & Nottz have impressive resumes as individuals, and first collaborated on the 2013 EP Gods in the Spirit. Their new EP Titans in the Flesh is a low-key success from a solid rapper and an even better producer.
For the uninitiated, Blu is the somewhat unpredictable straight-shooter who’s made several fine albums, most of which sound nothing like one another. His music varies from the soulful breakthrough of Below the Heavens to 2011 NoYork!, which sounded like Los Angeles nights of jazz clubs and hipster bars thrown in a blender, to last year’s smoked out Bad Neighbor with MED — check out the bass-heavy “Burgundy Whip” or the playful combination of plucked strings and chipmunk soul on “Drive In.” Nottz, on the other hand, has been a reliable beat-maker since the late-‘90s, co-producing “Barry Bonds” and “Nosetalgia” with Kanye West and producing highlights for Scarface as well as Ghostface Killah’s The Pretty Toney Album.
So it’s no surprise that Nottz turns in a variety of beats on Titans in the Flesh. Each of the EP’s seven tracks yield some form of sonic pleasure The guitar cadences and warm vinyl feel of “The Truth”; the swooning string hook on “Giant Steps”; the heavy bass and heavier horn blasts on “The Man”; the vocal hook throughout “Atlantis.” Sonically, this is a more varied album than Blu’s double album from a few years back. That said, the cheesy synth tone that makes the main beat on “Heaven on Earth,” is less successful, and the purpose of the vocal blips seems elusive.
As on their last EP, Titans has a lot of guest features. Shateish lends a tasteful chorus to “The Truth,” while “Giant Steps” and “To the East” are both posse cuts and long-time Blu collaborator Exile shows up on “The Man.” Perhaps Nottz’ simpler loops have a hard time juggling multiple guests over longer tracks, but the way the relaxed church-like synth on “To The East” eventually turns into a headier string hook at the back end of each verse makes the track an easy highlight.
Titans in the Flesh is a solid EP, and Blu’s second “official” EP this year, after LA Counting with Union Analogtronics, with apparently even more music underway this year. He has yet to make waves again as he did with his debut; if this is only a minor success, that’s because it is, after all, just an EP.