AUDIO: EarthEE – THEESatisfaction

THEESatisfaction - EarthEE

EarthEE, THEESatisfaction‘s sophomore LP release on Sub Pop records, is an illustration of the fluidity of the Black American perspective. Beats shift from the ancient to the vintage to the modern. Lyrics deal in the historic complexities of sexuality, race and art. The vocals of Cat and Stas show how intrinsically tied are hip-hop and R&B.

EarthEE seems committed to shaking off the baggage of centuries of skirmish for the sake of finding a higher, more redemptive groove. The best thing about this record is how self-referential it is without seeming exclusionary, something THEESatisfaction’s musical cousin Shabazz Palaces has achieved time and again. Most of us are envious outsiders — culturally, philosophically, musically — to THEESat’s particular pedigree, but the music of these two women couldn’t be more inviting.

Preview tracks from EarthEE and purchase the album over at the Sub Pop website and watch the video for “Recognition” below.

Audio Audio / Video

LISTEN: awE naturalE – THEESatisfaction

Photo by: David Belisle

The title of THEESatisfaction’s debut album on Sub Pop Records (due March 27) is stylized to read: awE naturalE. Group members Cat and Stas have universal style in spades, though, so fanciful alphabetic manipulation is unnecessary whenever concerned with this duo.

The record in question is streaming in its entirety over at NPR Music and I suggest you click on over now. The LP is short enough to listen to during your lunch break, but its musical, lyrical and spiritual depths plumb more toward eternity. It’s as obsessively advanced and enlightened as Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up and, just like that triumph in artistic spirit, it was grown in your own backyard, Seattle. Take joy in this one.

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INTERVIEW: THEESatisfaction (New York, 8.25.11)

Photo courtesy The Stranger.

THEESatisfaction’s recent week-and-half long swing through New York City was hugely eventful. Group members Cat and Stas can thank both Mother Nature and their new label, Sub Pop Records, for that. They performed well-received shows at Bowery Ballroom, where they opened for labelmates the Handsome Furs, and were a featured act in the 14th Annual Black August Benefit Concert at S.O.B.’s the following week. And oh yeah, just for good measure they also survived the Virginia earthquake of August 23 and last weekend’s Hurricane Irene debacle.

(Click here to continue reading at SSG Music.)

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DOWNLOAD: “Do You Have Time” – THEESatisfaction

Click image to D/L at Subpop Records.

Freshly-signed Subpop artists THEESatisfaction dropped this track last weekend (#LatePass). I consider myself lucky to have been able to meet Cat and Stasia back in ’09 during their foray to CMJ out here in New York City (where I live). Read the 206UP.COM Interview from that meeting, here.

Someday soon I’ll be able to say, “I met those girls back when they were recording mixtapes in closets and booking all their own shows!” THEESatisfaction deserves all the future success that is soon to come.

“Do You Have Time” – THEESatisfaction

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REVIEW: Snow Motion (THEESatisfaction)

Snow Motion (THEESatisfaction)

Avant-garde hip-hop is usually something of a mixed bag. There’s some sh*t that points an obvious and welcome finger into the future (Dabrye’s experimental Two/Three is a decent example) and other stuff that is undeniably creative but just too weird to be an effective advancement (some of Busdriver’s songs come to mind). Like most modern art, determining the worth and personal enjoyment of such music is a better experience when allowing yourself to feel your way through the music, personal preferences and expectations aside. It is, after all, meant to be progressive and by common nature therefore not entirely accessible.

The problem with such music is that its typical stylings rarely result in a fun listening experience. Quite often it requires listening at night, in a darkened room, and usually by yourself, otherwise there’s a chance you won’t “get it”. That’s why THEESatisfaction’s Snow Motion is such a welcome addition to the topsy-turvy sine wave that is hip-hop’s avant-garde. Group members Cat and Stasia have made a smart and convivial album that still manages to be decidedly not-of-the-norm. And you can even dance to most of it!

The central reason why THEESatisfaction is so immediately likable is because their funkiness is so familiar. We’re drawn to their recognizable cool. Cat and Stasia are like Missy Elliott’s funkier backstage cousins. The artsy and hip scenesters to Missy’s mainstream gloss ‘n glam who, unbeknownst to those who’ve just spied them, might actually be deeper and headier than their more popular cousin.

And when I say “deeper” I mean smarter, more conscious (damn, there’s that word again). Examinations of sexuality and blackness are the dominant themes here, though the approach to said issues are done serendipitously. It’s not an aggressive Dead Prez militancy, but more of a, “Oh what — you didn’t know this is my life?!”-type proposal. Though that doesn’t mean we’re meant to take it any less seriously. “PTSD (Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder)”, for example, is a heavy-handed meditation on what it means to be black and “written-off”.

Likewise with their sexuality. These girls are not just partners on the mic, they’re partners in life, too. And openly living as strong black women, who also happen to be bisexual, in a society that is loath to comfortably accept either, is a strong-enough statement in itself. The track “Bisexual” is a straightforward come-on. And, in fact so sexy, that any listener — male or female — wouldn’t mind being on the receiving end of Stasia and Cat’s aural explorations.

Production-wise, there’s a lot of intentionally placed dissonance, some harmonious (“Cabin Fever”) and some not so pleasant (“That’d Be Rude”); there’s traditional boom-bap (“Waltz”); and some space-disco (“Bisexual”). And it’s all done in a compact 20 minutes and with an ironic nod to the popular futurism that is so prevalent in a lot of contemporary hip-hop production.

The unfortunate low-point of this record is its audio quality. It’s pretty poor and, dare I say, amateurish. While this can be an endearing aesthetic to certain DIY bedroom-style hip-hop, it definitely detracts here. The futuristic drum ‘n bass would be better-served with higher-quality mastering. (To be fair, maybe my digital version of the album is the reason behind the low-quality. If someone out there knows anything about this, please let me know so I can re-evaluate.)

An interesting thing happened on the way to this review: I actually liked Snow Motion more and more each time I listened to it. There’s a fun yet serious vibe that offers a profoundness beyond just good party music. I’m sure at THEESatisfaction’s live shows, folks “dance, dance, dance” as they’re told to, but the deeper fathoms of the record necessitate a quiet listen-through on your headphones, too. The consciousness and resultant hip-hop sentimentality ultimately define the album, but it’s the progressive sonic leanings that add the vibrant color. The 206 should be proud to have this offbeat canvas hanging on its wall.

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