California Sounds: Thundercat gets chopped and screwed, Quitapenas honors migrant workers and Charlie Overbey celebrates Eddie Spaghetti
Thundercat, “Drank” (Brainfeeder). Last year, the Los Angeles bassist issued his funk gem “Drunk,” and this new reworking suggests that in the interim, he’s been steeping the finished tapes in cough syrup.
A complete “chopped and screwed” remix album, “Drank” is inspired by the sound of the late underground Houston artist DJ Screw, who made bootleg tapes of popular rap albums in which he slowed the tracks to half-speed, rendering woozy both the beats and the lyrics. In the process, he reconfigured the pokey rhythms with turntable scratches, stuttering snare drums and drunken repetition.
Wisely, for “Drank,” Thundercat went as close to the source as possible by enlisting Houston DJs Candlestick and OG Ron C, who, along with cofounder DJ Michael Watts, helped put the city on the rap map with Swishahouse Records
As with his work with Paul Wall, Mike Jones and Slim Thug, OG Ron C on “Drank” zeroes in on specific rhymed couplets and then loops them, and the effect makes the lines hum and resonate.
On “Drink Dat,” for example, the DJs loop guest Wiz Khalifa rapping about pride for “young black Hollywood.” The deep beat, combined with the repetition, reinforces the message. On the great song “Them Changes,” the remixers revel in Thundercat’s pitched-down bass line and during a break in the beat, transforms his layered voice into into an extended meditation.
Best, those that have wondered how soft rock singers Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins would sound chopped and screwed now have an answer: Their voices crawl with a mesmerizing viscousness on “Show You the Way,” like sap rolling down the trunk of a maple tree. Got a turntable? The double-LP version is pressed on purple vinyl.
Quitapenas, “Campesino” music video (Quitapenas). According to an accompanying note, the new video from this Inland Empire band is “dedicated to those who continue to do this work everyday, who have given their lives and who have lost them.”
The clip and the song shine a light on the overworked immigrants who help drive the American economy at the expense of their physical well-being. Quitapenas singer Daniel Gomez opens the lament by describing the “callos en las palmas de tus manos” — the callouses on your hands — of his brother, then turns to a sister’s endless working days.
As he sings, images of farmworkers and garment workers, of kids picking oranges and women focused on sewing machines, flash.
The clips are rendered through a filter that turns them grainy. Edited in are sequences of the band performing its transfixing sound, which draws on Mexican rhythms and Peruvian chicha guitar sounds.
Charlie Overbey, “The Ballad of Eddie Spaghetti” (self-released). Lifelong Angeleno Overbey named his last record “California Kid,” so he’s not concerned with hiding his western roots. An artist who has sweated the L.A. country rock and punk scenes for two decades, he’s maneuvered through bands including Big Bang Babies and Custom Made Scare — and a stint in prison — while working behind the scenes as a booking agent.
His forthcoming album, “Broken Arrow,” will arrive in April, and he’s been teasing it with a few prerelease songs. “The Ballad of Eddie Spaghetti” is about the singer and guitarist for the twang-punk band the Supersuckers, who was diagnosed with throat cancer a few years ago.
Written as a kind of last will and testament, Overbey inhabits his friend’s psyche to celebrate his life with thrilling glee. “If I die at 47, if I die before my time / Would they drag me up to heaven or drive me off to hell in my prime?” (The good news is that Spaghetti was declared cancer-free eight months after being diagnosed.)
Another forthcoming song, “Echo Park,” rolls with rock ‘n’ roll momentum suggestive of the E Street Band, if Bruce Springsteen were singing about lost love not in Asbury but Echo Park.
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