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Gold Chains - Gold Chains

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Artist: Gold Chains

Album: Gold Chains

Label: Orthlorng Musork

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The marriage of innovative electronic music with quasi-cerebral hip-hop has been long and shaky. The relationship can be traced all the way back to the dawning of rap, when Afrika Bambaataa replaced Kraftwerk’s vocoded vocals with his own “beat” poetry. Turntables dominated the backdrop throughout most of the ’80s and ’90s, but many attempts have been made during the last few years to rekindle the old flame. Timbaland’s nervous and fidgety beats presented fantastic possibilities to the mainstream, but legions of imitators as well as Timbaland’s own stagnation have all but negated his trustworthiness for any real progress.

Meanwhile Chocolate Industries birthed the Anticon collective whose whoosh-jitter-click-hop is a nice idea but is much better on paper than on record. While their complex and offbeat (or beatless) production is pleasantly innovative, much of Anticon’s highbrow lyrics and bland flow result in a soulless music that is hip-hop in name only.

With so many near misses, inevitably someone would finally really nail the IDM/hip-hop genre mesh, and with his self-titled debut EP San Francisco’s Goldchains (a.k.a. Topher Lafata) has done it masterfully. Gold Chains (released on Kit Clayton’s Orthlorng Musork) has all of the sass, gloating and thuggery of a classic rap album, as well as dynamic and epic production that is surprisingly melodic. Lafata’s raspy Mike D-esque flow is quick and hard, and although his inflections sometimes lapse toward the uncomfortable region of rap-core, these moments are rare and usually covered up nicely by Lafata’s electronic manipulations.

On “No. 1 Face in Hip-hop,” Goldchains combines orchestra hits with reggae-strummed guitar and a maxed-out bass line. The song is a tribute to his own status and skill, which is funny coming from the stout and unknown artist. He gloats of absurdities (“Hear a taste from your stereo speakers / you think you’re bad, I got diamond sneakers”), as well as his prowess (“that’s alright with me / if you’d like company / meet my friend Stephanie”), but with production as precise as Goldchains, it is difficult to not take him seriously. After all, as he explains in “I Come From San Francisco,” “I’ve got a bass degree / It’s a PhD / Complements of Hard Beat University.”

The last song on the EP “Rock the Parti,” is a phenomenal demonstration of Goldchains’ capability to fuse and create genres. He samples live drums over a loop taken from Stereolab’s “Transient Random-Noise Bursts” while rapping frantically in double-tracked vocals about his various international dissatisfactions. The song is punctuated by a soulful female singer, a horn section, and eventually a loudly distorted guitar played by Lafata himself. With his new EP, Goldchains has succeeded where many other have failed, and has surely impressed his professors at Hard Beat U.

By Sam Hunt

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