Keez, whose real name is Brad Jones, just released his latest EP, 'Water Creatures', which, stylistically, includes reggae, hip hop, R&B and funk. Keez hangs out in Bend, Oregon, which is just outside Portland, a locale that, generally, doesn't seem conducive to reggae and hip hop. When someone mentions Portland, most people think about tree-huggers, high-tech and Starbuck's coffee. Nevertheless, generalizations are frequently ill-advised for Keez writes music for Hollywood trailers and produces big name hip hoppers.
'Water Creatures' makes recurrent use of electronically distorted, mechanized vocals, a vocal gimmick that popped up within the hip hop genre in the last few years. Luckily, Keez avoids gimmicky aspect and, instead, takes advantage of the mechanized sound by eschewing the raffish heedlessness that often accompanies electronic distortion. In other words, when Keez injects mechanized voices, he's adhering to tasteful demands asserted by the music: the mechanization fits.
'Heresay' is a perfect example of voice distortion that works. It is hip hop with a subdued beat that tip toes around the edges of funk. A female voice propels the song with its bravura effects and eccentric, electronic mannerisms. The song lends itself to dancing. 'On The Moon' utilizes a slow, reggae beat with timely keyboard accents that enrich the reggae flavour. A laid-back melody and chorus infuse the song with organic soul.
Another reggae song, 'Git Down', introduces an electro-pop effect that, along with a simple melody, maintains the song's rhythmic dynamics. Whereas 'Feels Right' rides a dreamy, funk beat that projects an elegant pattern. One tune that doesn't work is 'Killed4profit', which meshes R&B with reggae, resulting in a reedy mish-mash.
'No Cops' is more or less just another cop dissing song. It's egregious - "fuck the cops" -, boorish and ranting, utilizing a hip hop beat and rap-like lyrics in its subjective analysis of human society. But of course, this sort of thing is de rigueur for hip hoppers and rappers.
Probably the best song on the EP is 'Old Man', which channels Van Morrison. Comprised of just vocals and a piano, the melody is simple yet articulate, and beautiful. In one or two spots, Keez's gossamer voice becomes a trifle sing-song-y, as if he's reciting a limerick, but for the most part his vocals are enchanting.
Overall, 'Water Creatures' commands attention. The EP shimmers with musical color and is by almost any standards a collection of remarkable songs and delicious hip hop, reggae and funk compositions.
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