Justin Cox and Jeff Ryon, once and possibly future members of the Iowa City hip-hop group Bad Fathers, are back in Iowa after a few years out in Los Angeles doing their best to hit it big. Silk Duck is their reaction to the self-promotional treadmill that trying to break into the big time can be. This EP–free to download on Sound Cloud–was an outlet for the lyrical impulses that didn’t fit the over-the-top punk hip hop of Bad Fathers.
Paradoxically, Silk Duck is more mainstream than anything the Bad Fathers ever did. Cox was the Father’s hook man, singing the choruses and dropping the occasional verse. By contrast, in Silk Duck, Ryon’s laid back R&B electronic beats provide the background, and Cox’s warm baritone is the foreground instrument. He’s an apt ballad singer and while the lyrics he writes for this release aren’t flashy, they’re well crafted. He turns R&B romanticism on it’s head with “Hoping:” “I don’t want to see you in my life, I don’t want to see you in my dreams, I don’t want to see you in my mind, hoping.” The mystery of who’s doing the hoping–is it the singer or the person he’s singing about?–never gets resolved. It is true to the intensity and confusion of real world emotions.
Ryon’s bedroom studio productions sound great, and it makes Silk Duck a genre-buster. There’s a bit of R&B style, but Ryon’s understated guitar playing owes more to R.E.M. than Prince. As a veteran house DJ and producer, he loves fat synth sounds as well. Cox doesn’t bother with the busy mannerisms that can mar R&B vocals. Silk Duck might sound radio-friendly, but they don’t get there by imitating what’s currently popular. This is the sound of two guys making the music they want to hear with no thought of anyone else’s taste or desires, and it ends up being perfect ear candy.
Kent Williams was once a little green slab of clay.