Definitive Bedtime Stories
It is gratifying to follow the music of someone like Angle over a long period. This writer has known him for 15 years and lost count of the albums and EPs of his that have been reviewed in Little Village. Angle (aka Jarid Catrenich) has always had a distinctive flow and powerful voice, but his writing has gotten deeper over the years.
Last year’s White Andy (with Angle rapping and Coolzey producing) was a high point of thoughtful comedic hip-hop music. Definitive Bedtime Stories consists of collaborations with producers the Dust Collectors, Sean Vasey, Iowa City’s Tack Fu and others. Guest vocalists include Gadema, Psalm One and Felix Thunder.
Angle likes the head-nod inducing, sample-heavy style of classic hip hop. He’s chosen beats on this record precisely because they inventively re-contextualize fragments of other people’s music, while retaining a feel-good party vibe.
“N.W.A.A.” steals a hook from a ‘70s soul song, but there’s no lack of originality on display. Angle’s staccato delivery and precise diction are necessary to put across dense wordplay like “I’ve got an understanding if you’ve caught the wrong sampling and wandered in the joint to catch some random wackness rambling.”
“Center” rides a tinny lounge keyboard sample laced up with an intricate drum loop full of of ghost snare hits. Angle sings the hook in a goofy voice full of vibrato, but it fits the lyric. “Life is better when you’re centered,” is a bit self-help and new-agey, but the inventive lyricism redeems the rhyme: “From the fetal to the freezer to the sequel, life is lethal.”
“Better Shake” rides a Hammond organ riff and funk bassline, and Angle’s verse comments on itself, “What? We’re doing a take? Stop? No such thing as mistakes.” Angle’s vocal delivery has become lethally tight over the years. The pattern of syllable accents functions as a percussive counterpoint to the beat: “I’m at home on a microphone, where vocal tones will stab your brain with nose bone.”
Combined with maybe his best collection of beats to date, Definitive Bedtime Stories is a high water mark for Iowa hip hop.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 143