Astronomy Class: Exit Strategy

My sincerest apologies to The Herd for my comments about them below. I have just listened to thier latest album Summerland and retract what I said about them never quite reaching thier potential. Rest assured, a review of Summerland will be up soon, expounding its awesomeness!

I have noticed, since my review of Bliss n Eso‘s Flying Colours album, that alot of people seem to be reaching our page by searching for Aussie Hip Hop and that there seems to be some demand for writing about it. So, I’ve decided to follow up with another of my favorite Skip-hop albums of the last couple of years. Settle in and get ready for some smooth, sunny, reggae and dub influenced hip-hop. Welcome to Astronomy Class:

Astronomy Class: A Bright Tomorrow

That’s the stuff. You really can’t praise these guys enough, but I’m going to try. The group is made up producers\DJs Sir Robbo and Chasm, MC Ozi Batla and the astoundingly talented bass player, John Maddox. I’ve never heard such a layered, organic hip-hop album. Sir Robbo and Chasm‘s perfectly constructed tracks bleed seamlessly into the lyrical and melodic wizardry of Ozi Batla while Maddox‘s thumping bass lines tie everything together. When I listen to this album I continually marvel that what I’m hearing is not a huge live band but the hard work of a handful of astronomically talented individuals (pun absolutely intended, Martin).

I’ve been a fan of the previous work of all the members of Astronomy Class but I’ve never been nearly as obsessed with any of it as I am with Exit Strategy. Together, the group is more than the sum of thier parts. Ozi Batla is famously the politically outspoken frontman of The Herd. I’ve loved Batla‘s message in his work with The Herd but just can’t get past the fact that I find much of the production and music on the album to be pretty boring. I’ve always lamented the tragedy that, as a live band (with nine members, no less), they have the potential and freedom to move into some interesting experimental areas but don’t. There are some outstanding exceptions to this (77%, Unpredictable, We Can’t Hear You and I Was Only 19 are all great examples of what Hip Hop can be) but by and large I was disappointed that Batla didn’t have an appropriately awesome platform (or soap-box) to broadcast his lyrical wonders atop of. This is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy The Herd, I just never felt they reached their potential. It is interesting then that it would take intensive work with producers like Chasm and Sir Robbo to create the progressive and exuberant Hip-Hop album that Batla needed to truly shine.

If my calculations are correct (and you clicked on it) you should be mid-way through Bright Tomorrow, so let’s talk about that for a while. This is one of the sunniest songs I’ve ever heard. From the get-go this is an anthem for the underpaid and under-stimulated (but basically optimistic) youth. Batla recounts the experiences of the teenage summer perfectly. Menial job, check. Quietly confident apathetic swagger, check. The sweet distraction of music and video games, check. This is a song that everyone should be able to relate to. It’s one of those musical moments which perfectly articulates an almost universal human experience. Who hasn’t wasted a teenage summer with casual work and video games? Again, however, it is not merely Batla‘s wit and lyricism which floats the song, but the supernatural synergy which occurs with the music that accompanies him. Motown hooks, reggae guitars and video game audio samples form a complex tapestry of sound which has much laying beneath the surface, waiting to discovered by the intrepid listener. There is, however, more to this album than catchy hooks and witty lines.

Astronomy Class: Rewind the Tape

Thankyou for flying Astronomy Class, your friendly skies

Despite popularity and growing support from radio stations like Triple J, the major labels are refusing to invest in the talent which is coming up in this country. This means that it falls to those groups who recieve any level of success within the Australian Hip Hop scene to support unsigned acts and the scene in general. Rewind the tape is a great nod to the masses of people working to create a hip-hop scene in Australia who are receiving no support from the music industry. Best of all, Astronomy Class put their money where their mouths are by giving unsigned MCs lotek and BVA significant track time to display their talents. This good will extends through the entire album with guests appearing on nearly every track. This makes listening to Exit Strategy like looking at a snapshot of the state of hip-hop talent in this country and around the world. It isn’t enough, however, to merely give these underground artists track time. Batla, BVA and lotek’s lyrics meditate on the plight of the indie hip-hop scene:

The steel platters turn, it’s the latest real ditty, cunts don’t listen to the words, and that’s the real pity

These are the words of a cerebral, talented music scene that wants a break. Anyone who’s been involved in any kind of independent music has stared despairingly at music videos, burst into tears listening to commercial radio and lamented the fact that pre-fabricated ‘entertainment’ gets the lion’s share of publicity and distribution. Batla‘s despairing plea for people to actually listen to what he’s saying is tragically justified. If most people held lyrical content and deeper meaning paramount to thier enjoyment of music then songs like this wouldn’t have reached number one on the charts. It’s not as simple as what people like, however, but music industry as a whole. As Batla points out:

The paradigm is cleberity status, while making dope music is all that really matters

We’re faced with an industry who have placed the image and commodification of a star above the qulaity of the songwriting. For an industry that deals entirely in songs and music this is a major problem. Surely the musicality and talent of the group or individual should come before the posters and reconstructive surgery. This riling against the illogical and baffling world in which we live forms the topical backbone of Exit Strategy, all the while placing it in front of some of the catchiest music you’re likely to hear. That’s right, folks, they’ve it all. You can have both great music and a great message at the same time. People have been doing it for a some time. To cap this review off, I’d like to leave you with Batla‘s plea for civility, Nuthin’ Nice:

Astronomy Class: Nuthin’ Nice

What can I say, it was a lovely day, just a shame some cats don’t let their love display

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder why people just can’t be nice to each other. In fact, fuck nice, I’d settle for civility. As a result I find this song to be somewhat cathartic, having myself been glared at by a shopkeeper or copping attitude from a bouncer. It’s an alienating feeling and, as only he could, Batla sums it up succinctly and skillfully with “scrutiny is new to me in my community”. It’s another example of the humble, poignant and thoroughly human tone the whole album. If you want something that will satisfy your heart and your head then Exit Strategy is for you.

You can find a copy at Elephant Tracks official website or on iTunes.

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~ by Morgan on September 15, 2008.

6 Responses to “Astronomy Class: Exit Strategy”

  1. cheers for the review bro

  2. No worries, don’t suppose you had a hand in the album? 🙂

  3. […] production bonanza Summerland, Astronomy Class and their full-flavoured, reggae-rich inauguration Exit Strategy, Muph + Plutonic’s And Then Tomorrow Came, Downsyde’s All City, Drapht’s Brothers […]

  4. […] Some time ago I promised you good people and The Herd that I would review their stunning album Summerland. That was about ten months ago. I’m sorry. I got distracted with uni and other writing projects and, after a while, I felt the moment had passed and it was too late. This morning, however, I was like ‘No, Dammit! That album is still awesome and the people must be told!’ So here it is. The Herd’s Summerland. Better late than never. […]

  5. […] production bonanza Summerland, Astronomy Class and their full-flavoured, reggae-rich inauguration Exit Strategy, Muph + Plutonic’s And Then Tomorrow Came, Downsyde’s All City, Drapht’s Brothers […]

  6. […] Some time ago I promised you good people and The Herd that I would review their stunning album Summerland. That was about ten months ago. I’m sorry. I got distracted with uni and other writing projects and, after a while, I felt the moment had passed and it was too late. This morning, however, I was like ‘No, Dammit! That album is still awesome and the people must be told!’ So here it is. The Herd’s Summerland. Better late than never. […]

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