Music reviews: Sleaford Mods, Jacques Greene, Ibibio Sound Machine, Ensemble Mik Nawooj

Vancouver Sun

By Stuart Derdeyn

The Bay Area has always been a hotbed for hip hop that moved the music out of a rut and running into something exciting and new. Oakland-based Ensemble Mik Nawooj is led by Korean-born, classically trained composer JooWan Kim. His vision of how to present a musical form he sees as revolutionary within the context of his San Francisco Conservatory training is distinct, if not “the future of hip hop,” as proclaimed. Fronted by rappers Do D.A.T. and Sandman, the core ensemble also includes strings, winds, kit drummer, keyboards and backing vocals, and can grow to a dozen players. What they create is covers of songs such as Snoop Dogg’s Gz and Hustlas, boasting a quite straight-ahead delivery of the lyrics fused with baroque-like string breaks loaded with airy flutes and flourishes of grand piano. It’s not entirely successful, but the originals, such as Shame on a Brother, with its pounding beat, operatic backing vocals and atmospheric orchestration, works far better. Given the group’s penchant for selling-out performances, it’s a good bet that the live show delivers something more than the recording. 

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