From Russia with love

Moshe’s Thinning the Herd finds its audience
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  April 7, 2010

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The Internet has, of course, ruined the music industry. That’s the conventional wisdom. But for many musicians, the Internet has been a boon. For none more so than Moshe, who’s used digital files and the Internet’s global reach to fashion, in Milled Pavement Records, a home for electronic musicians who would have struggled, let’s say, to gather an audience here in Maine. Would Moshe have been able to attract the attention of a Russian label, 2-99 Records, without the Internet? Doubtful. And with the Russian people, Moshe may very well have found the audience for which his music was invented.

Dark themes of morbidity and depression? Hell, that’s what the Russian culture was built on. This is a people who revolted against the aristocracy only to install Lenin and Stalin. Their most celebrated authors — Solzhenitsyn, Pushkin, Dostoevsky — were miserable headcases. We have famous athletes; they have famous mathletes.

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And it’s hard to imagine better music to crunch numbers by than Moshe’s latest, Thinning the Herd, released by 2-99 earlier this year. “Spine,” a collaboration with Brzowski, appeared on the Like Woe EP earlier this year, and two other tracks have appeared on compilations, but it is essentially a new release where Moshe continues his m.o. of creating brooding beats, dark ministrations to the goth set, but he has perhaps never been so precise. Even his trademark movie samples only appear here in the opening two-song set, and the Out of Sight quotes are better woven into the fabric of his songs than those bits of dialogue that appear in previous work.

“Does this make any sense to you?” JLo asks. “It doesn’t have to,” Clooney responds.

Moshe is after more sensibility than sense, and the platforms he creates for his guest vocalists bear his stamp so consistently that their deliveries can vary widely without distracting the listener from the overall goal of the work. This is definitely an album that is greater than the sum of its individual songs. It gives off a global feel, like sitting in an open-air cafe in Geneva, with guest turns from the German Audio88 in “Kardboard Krown” and the Russian George Korg in “Carrying the Burden,” where he teams with the British JamesPHoney (one of the better performers on the Milled Pavement label, with a great flow, superior wit, and that British accent that was predicted to be the next rage in hip-hop when the Streets hit, but has never really caught on with the mainstream), who also guests on “Warm Fuzzy Feeling.”

The effect is like listening to the world’s underbelly, a set of disenfranchised modern-day bards: “This is what it sounds like to throw your life away,” exclaims the itinerant Bleubird.

Maybe Moshe’s best talent is teaming the forces of his MCs. While “Senseless,” his dream-state collaboration with dilly dilly from the last Goose Bumps compilation, is a solo affair, the remaining seven vocal tracks all feature twos and threes of voices their either build in bitterness (“Paperclipped Memories,” featuring three MCs from Escape Artists) or offer cause-and-effect-like contrast. Moshe is an arranger of both sounds and people, and the results are consistently thought-provoking and interesting.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at
sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

THINNING THE HERD | Released by Moshe | on 2-99 Records | with Brzowski + Zucchini Drive + Elissa P + Mon.Key.Pod + Nobody Cares | at the Brick House, in Dover NH | April 25 |
www.milledpavement.com

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