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Typically, when I write reviews I let the music stand for itself. I don’t read the booklets included with the music until I start writing and need to reference who produced the track, played on the track, etc. However, when I started listening to Satellite Kite, the first album by Beautiful Eulogy, I was struck with an overwhelming urge to take a look at the digital booklet included. Boy, am I glad I did. Not only are the lyrics for all the songs included in the liner notes, but there’s a brief paragraph written about each song’s origin, composition or meaning. I love getting glimpses, no matter how brief, into the creative processes that different artists go through, and the insights given in the notes allowed me to have an even better understanding of the heart that went into the making of this album.
Beautiful Eulogy, if you’re not aware, is a group consisting of emcees Odd Thomas and Braille, and instrumentalist/producer Courtland Urbano (formerly known as Xperiment). This musical triumvirate is responsible for some of the most creative hip hop of the last few years, and Satellite Kite does nothing but add to that resume. From the concepts to the beats to the lyrics to the delivery, everything about this album is on point.
I was fortunate enough to hear Courtland Urbano’s work for the first time 2 years ago when I wrote the Rapzilla review for Braille’s 2010 album, Weapon Aid. At the time, I said that his production “certainly fits a producer who calls himself Xperiment.” Even though he’s dropped the moniker, it doesn’t change the fact that his beats are experimental, in the very best sense of that word. In addition to traditional hip hop instrumentation, Urbano uses different sound effects and techniques to add atmosphere to tracks (check the water droplet sounds on “Anchor”, and the wind-like sounds on the album’s title track). But creativity and experimentation don’t make great music. Great musicians can use experimental techniques to make great music. Courtland is, and he does. Courtland’s variety on this album ranges from Dr Dre-esque Boom-Bap (“Beautiful Eulogy”…I love the strings that mirror the vocals), moody piano based R&B (“Anchor”), electro based hip hop (“Entitlement”) and even a sort of indie rock vibe (“Beautiful Eulogy”). To me, the most interesting track, musically, is “Wonderful”. The song features drums and soulful, almost avant-garde harmonica playing combined with a vocal chord progression that wouldn’t sound out of place at an a cappella festival. It creates an extremely interesting track for Braille, Odd Thomas and featured guest, Propaganda, to rap over.
Braille and Odd Thomas have similar styles. Each has the ability to go machine gun with their flows and spit out words with a crisp diction that makes every single word clear. They can also slow it down to fit the mood of the track and the subject of the song. Both are extremely talented, and that talent is in full display on this album. One of my favorite songs, “Entitlement”, features the two rapping at a pretty quick pace and tossing lines back and forth. You can tell the two are completely comfortable working with each other and that they are completely comfortable working with Urbano. And that’s one of my favorite things about Satellite Kite. This is not an album where a producer created beats in his studio, and sent them to two emcees who recorded their vocals separately, and then sent them to someone to mix. There is nothing wrong with working that way, but when you get three people working in concert, in the same studio, to create songs from the ground up, that’s special. You can tell by listening to these songs that they were lovingly crafted. There is a working relationship between these three men that is obvious by listening to this album. There is also a shared creative spirit that is obvious, and it’s that creativity that makes Satellite Kite great. If you’re a fan of creative hip hop, Satellite Kite doesn’t disappoint.
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Label:Humble Beast Records
You can purchase the album on iTunes
1. Hello from Portland
2. An Open Letter To Whoever’s Listening
4. Take It Easy ft. Catalina Bellizzi
5. The String That Ties Us
7. Anchor ft. Josh Garrels
8. Satellite Kite
9. Wonderful ft. Propaganda
10. Motive 1,2
11. A Bridge Between
12. Surrender ft. Lee Green
13. Beautiful Eulogy