Woe be gone

Moshe and Brzowski revel in the sacred and profane
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  January 27, 2010

LIVE IN AMIENS: Moshe and Brzowski are back from a European tour.

Though I don't agree with the notion that horrible tragedies like the Haitian earthquake require global sobriety, I do see how it can feel good to wallow in sympathetic misery. And no one wallows in misery like Moshe, he of the dark beats and the morbid movie quotes. This week, the producer teams with the sharpest of tongues in Brzowski, who isn't exactly known for looking at the bright side, for the release of a new EP, Like Woe.

Its title works on a number of levels — the liking of woe, "like, whoa!," that emotion that is like woe, but not — and the five songs on the disc have just as much depth and nuance. If only because Brzowski packs so much content into each track, hundreds of words per verse, each song is a mine of cynicism, with dozens of accusations and themes to pick through. One gets the feeling there are inside jokes, practiced diatribes, phrases included just because they sounded nice next to each other.

For just a single game you can play, see how many band and album names you can hear tossed into his verses throughout the album. I heard: Here Where Nothing Grows (Ocean); Kid A (Radiohead); Dirtnap; Letters to Cleo; How to Ruin Everything (Face to Face); the Gin Blossoms; the Wastrels; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and MIA. Are these a list of influences? Just something that's fun to do? Coincidence? All seem equally possible.

For Moshe as producer, we get samples from the indie flick Lonesome Jim (starring none other than Portland's own Liv Tyler) as bookends to the opening title track; an admonition of death's approach from 30 Days of Night to open the brutally direct "The Coming Plague." He aptly mirrors Brzowski's dystopian and disassociated poetry — Affleck: "As far as the world is concerned, people like me might as well not even exist" — and props up each song with a different spare instrumental riff: a cello in "Like Woe," a distorted fat bass for "Entrail," a guitar line (played by Brzowski) in "A Dog Named Cirrhosis," a piano in "Plague." Moshe's trademark booming synths are largely absent, replaced with crisp snares.

But if it's the beats you're noticing, you're much better able to suffer the verbal bludgeoning Brzowski dishes out than I. Unlike some of his other work, there are consistently choruses, sometimes sung, and more traditional song organization than some underground hip-hop, where the song merely moves from point A to point B. As in "Entrail," though, the chorus might be longer than the verse. Or just a spiteful reiteration of the song title, raining down like a hammer's blows.

In the verses, anything goes. Sometimes the flow is completely smooth, syllables ticked off like a metronome set at 160 bpms. Other times it's like he's trying to cram 10 pounds of words in a five-pound bag, halting and hiccupped to make things fit. The change-up with K-the-I???'s inclusion in the closing "Spine," last heard on the Brzowski mix-tape Blooddrive Vol. 2: The Wreckage Between, is like the sun peeking through on a bleak winter day (except you like bleak winter days).

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