Traditionalist scenes often spawn artists who resent the ties binding them to their neighborhoods and the music made by their fellow citizens. For example, Nirvana came from a conservative, boring scene, regardless of what MTV tells you. Few were willing to take chances with the kinds of rock music that Seattle, Washington was turning out, and the same goes for the seventies pub scene in London that eventually produced the Sex Pistols. Curse Ov Dialect travel similar terrain.

Anyone with a straight face, a clown wig, and a microphone just can't be real hip-hop, but somehow it is this time. Curse Ov Dialect's vision of hip-hop obviously comes from an entirely different direction, and no, not "posi-core" or "emo rap" either (who came up with those names anyway?). If KRS-One was about (t)his music reflecting the true urban point of view and one cheek touching the wall then he's probably already a fan of this Melbourne crew and their debut, regardless, or because, of how fragmented and challenging they are to listen to.

[Photo by Andrew Cosgriff]

Lost In The Real Sky wasn't an easy album to digest. For one, it took almost an hour to stop playing the first track, as I kept thinking of friends that I'd show it to -- imagining their reactions as the rappers August and Raceless hit the chorus, and the mood and tempo seemed to sink downward a moment. DJ and producer Paso Bionic begins cutting the syrupy and sluggish "Baby, how'd we ever get this way?" soul vocal sample, while Speak N' Spell-era electro toys chime, rattle, and speak I'd feel flush for a moment -- like I did when I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Nirvana), "Rise Above" (Black Flag), or "Rise Above" (different song by Napalm Death). Then I'd play the track over from the beginning -- again and again. And again.

A country that is renowned for just about everything but music, Australia always has a harder time being taken seriously, than, say, Austin, Texas. For one, Oz is at the bottom of the map, and, believe it or not, is often considered as an untamed territory. As such, any time someone there climbs out and doesn't sound safe, aimed at "the rest of the world," and at least a teensy bit like Olivia Newton John(1) they get lumped in with the so-called "savages" or Aborigines roaming the land. Better known for producing acts like the Bee Gees, Silverchair, Men At Work, Little River Band, and Midnight Oil, the country continues to not be taken very seriously (regardless of your hidden personal affection for "Beds Are Burning"). Oz might be at the bottom of the map, but this is precisely what has kept their true headz awake at night making sick beats, writing songs about Water Thicker Than Blood, and rhyming President of the United States with Chilean Fetes. "Lost In The Real Sky" is a debut that'll take you at least a few listens to grasp, and will then rid your collection of sonic rubbish once and for all.

[Photo by Andrew C. Bulhak]

To say the album goes deep is an understatement on par with someone who just woke up announcing that the new version of Metallica doesn't cut it anymore. I'll give you another example: Curse Ov Dialect's Family Assorted track welds twenty distinct sections (movements) onto nine minutes. They could have easily released that as an EP, and said more than most bands with Big Statements do on sprawling double albums. "Lost" gets better as it moves toward the end, with the last six tracks feeling more like a fragmented urban opera than just "sociological avante garde" music. If this band represents innovation what were Sonic Youth?

Curse Ov Dialect are a multi-cultural faction, but unlike 90% of the Anticon label stable their songs luckily don't feel clumsy or forced (Sage Francis, your own asshole will see you in his office now). Curse Ov Dialect did their homework. "When it comes to Anglo Saxon Culture we try to focus more on the pagan side, pre Christian. We'd go out and look for pre Christian music and throw it in," explained lead emcee Raceless. "Curse brings all these cultures together to sort of create an aesthetic of open-mindedness. I guess we're like the new folk music, with hip hop vocals."

1 I'm just kidding about her. Isn't she Danish anyway?

(C) 2003 - Jason Thornberry