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Oct 10th
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All Grown Up

music_atmos1Indie-rap crew, Atmosphere, shows signs of evolution in sound and maturity
Upon listening to the latest effort from Minneapolis indie-rap crew Atmosphere, the word "maturity" comes to mind. And while it is arguably a fair adjective to describe the new album, The Family Sign, the group's front man, Sean Daley, doesn't like it.

"I make rap music, so 'mature' is kind of a bad word," says Daley, the MC better known as Slug. He prefers the word, “evolved.” "Ultimately, this is music for kids," he explains.

The group's sixth LP has passion, machismo and plenty of snark—only in a more grown-up kind of way. And Slug is fine with that.

"I can't freak the funk," he says. "I can't make another God Loves Ugly"—2002's ode to debauchery and depression, wherein Daley bemoans the loss of his fictional muse, Lucy Ford, while drowning in booze.

In fact, at this point in Daley's life (he's nearly 40), it wouldn't really make sense for him to drop another Sevens Travels, either. While it is a fantastic record packed with plenty of brilliantly caustic revelations on human nature, and while Slug manages to move beyond his lovesick lamentations, he only does so with the help of more drink and a steady stream of women who clearly mean nothing to him.

But, by the time Atmosphere released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold in 2008, something had changed. Slug, as a narrator at least, had given up binge drinking and sleeping around, and Atmosphere producer, Anthony "Ant" Davis, had begun experimenting with live instrumentation—both in concert and in the studio.

Still, there were traces of the old Atmosphere in Lemons. The record made a stylistic break from prior albums, at least lyrically. On "Your Glasshouse," for example, Slug paints a morose, hellish picture of alcoholism—a far cry from "Shoes" off of Sevens Travels, which makes light of blacking out, then passing out, in a strange girl's apartment.

However, as Daley points out, the new musical direction wasn't as zeroed in on Lemons as it is on The Family Sign. While Davis' production embraced live instruments, Daley says, "Ant was still using instruments like samples"—chopping up bits of guitar here and piano there.

music_atmos2On The Family Sign, Daley's more “evolved" lyricism meets production that has managed to do something very difficult: make band-backed rap that doesn't sound tacky.

"Shit," Daley says. "If we did do that, it was accidental." Taking on a tone of modesty, the MC explains that he, Ant and the band (Atmosphere now has a permanent keyboardist and guitarist) simply attempted to capture the sounds from genres they love—like blues, country and rock—and stir it all up in a way that made sense to them.

"We were just trying to capture moods and vibes like we would if we took them off a record," he says.

The result is an album that straddles genres in a very compelling and innovative way, taking rap in a direction that is both new, but also familiar.

Daley is now a married man with children, and that is very apparent on The Family Sign. The track "She's Enough," is a oath of fidelity to his wife—a definite head-turner in a genre that prizes notches in the bedpost.

All the same, as Daley says, perhaps he is evolving more than he is maturing. There are definitely vestiges of the old Slug—the one who made God Loves Ugly—the one who is self-absorbed, cynical and perpetually drunk.

On "Bad Bad Daddy," one of The Family Sign's standouts, he croons about bringing a group of children to the bar. It's not a song about deadbeat dads, he explains. It's a metaphor for all the indie-rappers he has sired—all of whom have lost their way.

"It's me talking about all the other indie-rappers that came out of my balls," he says. "That song is basically saying that I gave birth to you, and I'm looking at you and I'm disappointed."

Now that is the Slug we all know, and sometimes love.

Atmosphere plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $41.75. For more information, call 420-5260.
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Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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