More EP Than LP, Aesop Rock’s New Record Is Worth An Occasional Listen At Best

Courtesy: Rhymesayers

When Nintendo first released its now timeless video game “Super Mario Brothers” way back in the 1980s, that game and its soundtrack were groundbreaking.  In the decades since its release, they have become timeless.  At the same time, so much has changed about the connection between video games and their soundtracks.  Largely gone are the midi files that made up soundtracks for the games and in their places are songs from some of the most well-known recording artists in the industry.  From racing games, to fighting games and more, video games and the music industry have become increasingly entwined with one another.  Aesop Rock’s latest album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) shows just how connected music and video games have become throughout the decades.  Aesop Rock’s new album is in fact a collection of songs that he crafted for the video game, which is available through the Nintendo Switch.  The record is labeled an album despite only boasting three new full-length songs, which are themselves accompanied by an instrumental of each composition.  This is both a positive and a negative for this presentation, and will be discussed here.  The four other original instrumentals that accompany the three original full-length songs are positives and negatives in their own right, and will also be addressed here.  Keeping all of this in mind, the album proves itself worth at least one listen, but is hardly the year’s top new rap/hip-hop record.

Aesop Rock’s latest album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) is an intriguing new offering from the veteran rap artist, who has been making beats and rhymes for more than 25 years.  That is because it is a record who musical content all comes from the soundtrack of a video game.  Clocking in at a brief 23 minutes, the 10-track record features only three brand new full-length songs, which serve as the record’s first, second and third songs respectively.  The songs are actually engaging and entertaining thanks to their combined musical and lyrical content.  ‘Play Dead,’ which opens the record immediately lends itself to works from the likes of Busta Rhymes thanks to the beats and Aesop Rock’s own vocal delivery style and sound.  The infectious beats and electronics incorporated into the song add to the composition’s entertainment.  Aesop Rock (a.k.a. Ian Bavitz) presents lyrical content along with that musical content that is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  He even goes so far as to make a direct mention of the game in one verse, stating, “Fuel up and I steamroll/You better moonwalk when that screen scroll/I feed castaways/To these gamma rays/And my handshake is all sleeper hold/Ease in and get heave-hoed/With no easy mode and no foul play/Bounty hunters get found out/Power up or get outpaced.”  The mentions of the power up, the easy mode and screen scroll are clearly all direct references to the game, in which the song is featured.  The rest of the song’s two verses come across as a commentary of sorts, and that, coupled with the aforementioned musical arrangement, makes this song a strong start for the record.

‘KOWP’ maintains the engagement and entertainment established through the record’s opener.  The song’s musical arrangement is another old school hip-hop style work complete with sampling, scratches and pure, infectious beats.  Those elements are complimented through Bavitz’s vocal delivery style, making the song’s musical element that much more enjoyable.  The song’s lyrical content adds its own interest to the work, with Bavitz presenting what can be essentially considered one of those braggadocious works that finds the rapper pumping his chest so to speak.  That’s evident in all three of the song’s verses.  It’s not exactly what one might consider memorable, but is still enjoyable with the occasional listen.

‘Drums on the Wheel’ is the last of the album’s full-length original songs, and is another entertaining work in its own right thanks to its musical arrangement.  It takes some old school rap and hip-hop elements and mixes them with more modern elements to make the whole its own infectious beat heavy work that audiences are sure to enjoy.  One can only assume in listening through the lyrics that they are directly connected to the game rather than being anything substantive.  Either way, the delivery of the lyrics and the very layout of said lyrics makes for its own share of interest.  Simply put, it’s something that audiences have to hear for themselves in order to appreciate.

Now once these three songs are done, the album repeats the songs in exact order, except sans lyrics.  All three songs’ arrangements are presented following their full-length presentations.  The arrangements are enjoyable in their own right, but the problem here is that they are just that, instrumentals.  Considering copyright laws, etc. their only use is for listening.  That is unless some other artist out there wants to legally sample them by paying royalties.  In other words, the instrumentals that accompany the record’s only three full-length originals are essentially just an extra.  Such works are typically saved as extras for singles, so to that end, it makes this record seem that much more like it was just released for the sake of fulfilling contractual obligations.  Keeping this in mind, it would have made more sense for Aesop Rock to just release this as an EP instead of trying to call it an album, when there is so little original material.

While the lack of extensive full-length content is clearly a detriment to the record’s presentation, it doesn’t make the album a presentation not worth hearing.  There are four other original instrumentals featured along with the three full-length instrumentals in the form of ‘Rat Skull,’ ‘Snowmobile,’ ‘Twice Fried’ and ‘Frozen Caveman.’  These original works are interesting in their own right, and add a little bit of engagement and entertainment to the record.  Each work features its own unique, infectious, modern arrangement.  ‘Snowmobile’ for instance is a keyboard-driven work whose beats compliment it well.  ‘Twice Fried’ meanwhile is more melodic in its approach.  ‘Frozen Cavement features its own unique old/new school hybrid sound and ‘Rat Skull’ boasts a bit of a rock approach with its hip-hop element.  All four arrangements, again, are unique in their own way, and serve as starting points for those who want to legally do sampling, but are worth little else, considering that none of the works even breaks the 30 second mark.  Each arrangement is so brief that it seems like it begins and ends in the blink of an eye.  If the arrangements had been longer, maybe they would have been more engaging, but being so short, they just don’t really do much, if anything, to enhance the listening experience.  Keeping this in mind, these original instrumentals are entertaining, but aren’t at the same time.  To that end, these extremely brief arrangements are entertaining, but add little at best entertainment value to this recording.  What this means is that these arrangements, when considered with the original full-length songs, make Aesop Rock’s new album worth at least an occasional listen at best.

Aesop Rock’s new album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) is an intriguing new offering from the veteran rap artist.  That is because despite being called an album, it really only presents three original full-length songs.  The four very brief instrumentals that round out the record’s second half barely even add up to the length of a regular-length song.  They are at least a little engaging and entertaining, despite being so brief.  The problem is that being instrumentals and so brief, they are useful for little more than listening unless someone is willing to pay the royalties to use them for sampling.  The same applies for the instrumentals that accompany the original full-length songs also featured in the record.  All things considered, Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) proves to be entertaining, but sadly leaves one wanting for far more in the worst possible way.  To that end, it is enjoyable, but is anything but the year’s best new hip-hop/rap album.  More information on Aesop Rock’s new album is available along with all of his latest news at:









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NCircle Entertainment brings back another piece of television nostalgia

Courtesy: NCircle Entertainment

The 1990’s was one of the greatest eras of television.  That’s especially the case for children’s programming.  However, it wasn’t the only great era of broadcasting for kids.  Kids had a lot from which to choose during the 1980’s, too.  One of the greatest of the cartoons from the 1980’s was the one and only Super Mario Brothers Super Show.  Who doesn’t remember watching this after school animated classic on the original Family Channel way back before it became Fox Family and then ABC Family?  Now, fans that grew up watching Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool take on King Koopa can enjoy a whole volume of episodes all over again, thanks to Super Mario Brothers Super Show Volume One.

Originally, both volumes of this classic cartoon’s episodes were released by Shout! Factory in 2006.  Now, NCircle Entertainment has re-released the show in a trimmed down format.  This collection offers all of the classic Super Mario Brothers Super Show cartoons sans the live action segments that bookended them in the show’s original airings.  As enjoyable as those segments were, the cartoons themselves were just as enjoyable.  And Volume One has more than its share of enjoyable episodes.  Volume One sees Mario, Luigi and Toad having to care for Princess Toadstool after she’s turned into a baby.  Also, Mario and company tackle the classic tale of Jack and The Beanstalk in their own way.  And in a Halloween themed episode, the gang faces King Koopa and his evil minions in their own take on Brams Stoker’s horror classic, Dracula.

One of the key episodes in this most recent release of Super Mario Brothers Super Show is “Two Plumbers and a Baby.”  It could be argued that the title is a spoof of the classic 80’s movie franchise, “3 Men and a Baby.”  In this episode, Mario Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool are in the kingdom of youth.  They have to face down King GooGoo GaGa Koopa.  Of course, it’s really King Koopa in disguise.  They are hunting Koopa down because he’s using the kingdom’s fountain of youth for his own evil purposes.  Surprisingly, the fountain works.  Only it works too well.  When Princess Toadstool accidentally falls into the fountain, she gets turned into a baby.  So Mario, Luigi, and Toad are left to protect her from King Koopa.  She causes all kinds of trouble for the guys along the way, including being carried away on a raft.  Things reach a head when the princess follows some fireflies to Koopa’s castle. During the conflict, Mario and Luigi swing King Koopa into the fountain, turning him into a baby, too.  Once he’s out of the way, the guys turn the water’s flow and turn everyone back into an adult.

The Super Mario Brothers Super Show spoofed more than popular culture during its run on television.  It also spoofed classical literature.  One of the best of those spoofs is in the episode, “Mario and The Beanstalk.”  This episode is a loose take-off of the classic tale, with a few minor changes thrown in.  Mario and Luigi have to get 100 Gold Coins to save the Mushroom Kingdom orphange.  So the princess tells them to sell the royal cow to get the coins.  They end up selling the cow for a handful of Garbanzo beans.  When they bring the beans back, the princess is anything but happy.  She tells them that she’s allergic to Garbanzo beans, and tosses them out.  While everyone is sleeping later that night, a giant beanstalk grows.  The group discovers the beanstalk in the morning, and climbs it to see how high it goes.  It leads them to a castle in the sky.  Instead of a giant, they encounter a giant King Koopa.  In their attempt to outrun Koopa, they stumble on his treasure room, and the fabled “Golden Goose.”  Instead of laying eggs, the goose lays Gold Coins.  When they help the goose escape being held captive by Koopa, the goose helps Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad get away from the castel.  They all get out together and climb back down the beanstalk where Mario cuts it down.  When the beanstalk falls, it brings Koopa’s castle with it.  The castle falls into a pond, causing Koopa to shring down to their size. 

Jack and The Beanstalk is just one piece of classical literature that The Super Mario Brothers Super Show spoofed during its run.  In “Count Koopula”, Mario and the gang are lured into the castle of Count Koopula, who is, of course, really King Koopa.  This time, he takes on the mantle of the infamous Count Dracula.  As they try to escape Count Koopula’s castle, the group has to face wereturtles, zombie Goombas and Koopa’s lead henchman, Mouser.  When the princess is captured, the guys take some spare garlic that they have, and eat it.  They use their powerful garlic breath and natural light to defeat Koopa.  Koopa turns into a bat and flies out the castle, leaving it to crumble after being defeated.  The group gets out of the castle safe and sound before it crumbles.

Super Mario Brothers Super Show has so many great episodes.  There are far more in this new volume of episodes than there is room and time to discuss.  That in mind, this is one more great piece of nostalgia for anyone who gew up in what is arguably one of the greatest eras of animation.  After having released so many single disc collections, it’s great to see NCircle Entertainment release this newest double disc set.  And with any luck, whenever the next volume is released, it will include  not just the rest of the show’s original episodes, but the Mario Bros. plumbing live action segments that originally came with the show, too.  Until then, this first volume is still a great chance for many viewers to go back to their own childhoods once again.

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