The Local: Isaiah Rashad and more

Authored By pitulah

In The Local this week, spends some time with new music from Isaiah Rashad, The Deacons, Myze and Drumming Bird. Who do you think should have a spot in The Local next week?

Isaiah Rashad, “Smile”
Chattanooga native Isaiah Rashad has been spending the last few years working his way to the top of Top Dawg Entertainment’s cadre of rappers. With 2014’s masterful “Cilvia Demo,” he found a way to combine the meticulous production that framed his songs with a street view that favored family and blunts over other less than favorable options. His voice was always casual but bespoke of a wisdom beyond his years-a street sage looking for a new generation to educate, even if he himself wasn’t that much older than they were. He recently released a new song called “Nelly,” and it was a blast of pure funereal darkness. 

And now we have a new single called “Smile,” and he’s once again subverted out assumptions with a well-placed kick to the gut. The track feels far looser and jagged than its predecessor. His whiplash lyricism here stands in direct contrast to the dirge-like tones of “Nelly.” The accompanying video (directed by PANAMÆRA) inhabits a late night world of tinted scenes and old school cars. Using the tracks literally, the director highlights a revolving cast of smiles who each say their part and quickly make room for the next. The song bobbles and bounces with Rashad’s voice weaving in and out of the rhythm-he’s riding the shifting beats and dealing out hard-earned truths without flair or affectation. 

The Deacons, “Slow Rise Lady”
Recent Atlanta transplants The Deacons now call Cleveland, Tennessee, home and have brought their caustic garage rock sound with them. The band released an EP last year, and now they’ve uploaded a couple of new songs to their Bandcamp page. Ostensibly labeled as “garage demos,” these songs feel completely unhinged, and I mean that in the best possible way. They’ve always based their sound on a slightly aberrant rock aesthetic, but with these new tracks, the band has filtered their love for psych and garage rock into a “Nuggets”-worthy addition to their history. Like their earlier work, these songs tread a familiar lineage but manage to create a visceral and distinct atmosphere in which the band can stomp and swagger.

For the video to “Slow Ride Lady,” the band find themselves roaring through the song, rolling around in the streets and just relaxing in various places. The fuzzy visual effects recall a nostalgic memory of years long gone, but The Deacons are most decidedly looking forward even if they do borrow a bit from their garage rock antecedents. This track is a rollicking trip through classic rock riffs and howling vocals that recalls the best that ’70s rock radio had to offer. It has a slightly sugary melody buried beneath all that guitar bravado, and it serves as our entry point into their world of roughed up rhythms and squalling guitars. As they pile their influences in an ever-growing heap, you soon realize that they’re not simply borrowing these sounds-they’re completely reimagining them.

Myze, “Say It Soon Freestyle”
Myze, the rapper/producer alter-ego of Chaison Gordon, revels in a certain foggy hip-hop aesthetic that conjures separate but inescapable visions of claustrophobic spaces and expansive musical perspectives. His music is buoyed by a continuous innovation and an adherence to no set rhythmic blueprint. He immerses himself in a wash of skittering beats, early ’90s grooves and electronic admonitions but keeps his head above these sounds, orchestrating them all like a master conductor. But just because we can point out some of his influences doesn’t mean that we can pigeonhole him in terms of how he approaches the music. 

On his latest song, “Say It Soon Freestyle,” he drops a cavernous bass loop against a clacking percussive framework. All led by his serpentine wordplay, the track feels ominous and dangerous-it’s dense and complicated but not impenetrable. There’s a minimalist aesthetic at work, but it’s tempered by Myze’s penchant for unexpected rhythmic segues. The music stops and stutters at various point in the song, with voices coming and going in a blur. This is a track where momentum is sacrificed (and rightfully so) in the creation of a sinister atmosphere that allows him to tread where few other artists have gone. This is dark stuff, and Myze acts as our own personal Charon, ferrying us from the shore to the distant darkness and back.

Drumming Bird, “Trees on Fire EP”
Toward the end of last year, we heard the first offering from Drumming Bird’s latest EP. The song was called “Take the Tiger Home,” and it was a perfect amalgam of folk and indie rock aesthetics. But while there are countless musicians who attempt to mine this well-worn vein of rhythmic gold, Drumming Bird (AKA Chattanooga musician Austin Sawyer and assorted friends) carves out a unique patch of the genre in which to work his magic. There’s a sense of history and place in his music, of memories half-forgotten and experiences best left buried under the cover of time. But Sawyer understands the pitfalls of traversing a genre so replete with imitation and mimicry and manages to avoid all the traps that stumble his musical peers.

On his new EP, “Trees on Fire,” he focuses his attention on these sounds with a surgical precision. But that’s not to say that all the emotion and spontaneity has been leeched from his work-the opposite in fact. These songs have a lived-in and communal feel, as if he’s singing to you from across a roaring bonfire. Everything feels as though the emotion behind every word and note is barely contained-it’s a barely subdued beauty that encases the entire record in a permanent sheen. Many artists may be working their way through these sounds, trying to say something relevant and sincere, but Sawyer is one of the only ones treading these waters with even a passing understanding of what it takes to make these rhythms stick in your head.

Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.