Throwaway Style: Astro King Phoenix and OC Notes Traverse Space and Time on Delicate Surface


Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.

Time travel stories often take a certain path. Someone wants to go back in time to change the past, which inevitably comes with its own repercussions. Or if the characters do go into the future, it often leads to a mission to go back to the present to prevent whatever atrocities are ahead for civilization. But what if someone leaps forward through time and gets stuck there? That’s the predicament Seattle rapper Astro King Phoenix and producer OC Notes find themselves in on their latest collaboration, Delicate Surface.

As times have changed, so have perspectives on how we interpret or imagine “the future.” Whatever your daydreams are for what lies ahead also reflects on the world as it is now. As such, Delicate Surface doesn’t imagine a Utopian world that has it’s shit together. Instead, Astro fervently raps over OC Notes’ urgent beats about a world full of murder, wizards, and ectoplasm. It’s this dichotomy of 21st-century feelings with next-gen realities that threads throughout the album that makes the narrative so compelling. Astro doesn’t seem fazed as he goes from rapping about portals and reanimating ashes to love and regrets he’s left in the past.

“I just wanna see what the stars are telling me,” he raps on “Cloudy Eyes,” spacing out looking at the cosmos through a telescope and reminding himself that “traveling through time you can’t forget that you’re a fraction.” Even as he’s existing in the future, he still wonders what’s ahead of him. Time may be fluid in this world he and OC have created, but the humanity in them is still a constant. On the jittery “Spaceship Piles,” he builds out the world even further. Cannibals roam the earth while Astro watches from his bunker and contemplates the abstract elements ruling the world he now resides in.

In just half an hour, Astro and OC create an immersive world that can only be attested to great writing. The plot juts in numerous directions throughout the 16-tracks, but it serves to immerse the listener rather than confuse them. It moves by at a rapid sprint as well, with most of the tracks clocking in at two minutes or less. Bow down to Astro based off of breath control alone (seriously, listen to his flow on “Ectoplasm” and “New Hours”), but seals the deal with his imaginative and provocative lyricism. Even on tracks that land in the one-minute range are jam-packed with mind-bending concepts that you’ll want to spend some time with this record to try and catch everything he’s throwing at you. OC likewise is moving ahead at warp-speed with beats that whip by your eardrums, never overstaying their welcome and leaving you wanting more until the next beat drops and has you spellbound all over again.

It’s hard not to think about MF Doom and Madlib’s Madvillainy going through Delicate Surface. There are some obvious parallels like the concept of a rapper and producer throwing themselves into a fictional world of their making. There’s also OC’s far-ranging beats that have just a hint of jazz. But I think it’s the audacity and chemistry of both projects that really puts them in the same category. It’s rarefied territory they find themselves in and they’ve earned it. The future might be filled with flesh-eating monsters and portals that only work one way, but at least we can rest at night knowing we have Astro and OC to soundtrack the madness when we get there.

Delicate Surface is out now. Astro King Phoenix plays tonight at Barboza with DoNormaal, Norda, Nightspace, and Raven.

New and News

Mo Troper Releases Music Video for “Tow Truck”

Portland’s Mo Troper dropped one of the finest power-pop albums in recent memories last year with Exposure & Response and he’s continuing the ride that wave with a new video for the single “Tow Truck.” Troper and his band embrace a public access television ethos as they play in a room full of paper flowers and unsettling baby dolls. The VHS distortions only help elevate the bright tones and cynicism of the song.

Shelf Nunny Shares New Song, “To Her I’m Invisible”

Last year, Seattle producer SHELF NUNNY dropped the bright and stirring Little Time We Have EP on Hush Hush Records and it looks like he’s already back at it again. His latest single, “To Her I’m Invisible,” shifts the tone of his previous material slightly, embracing melancholic vibes while also displaying his tasteful production style. The beat flutters underneath distant wailing vocals, capturing the longing the title implies.

bzkt drops new song, “LEVEL UP”

Federal Way/Seattle rapper and producer bzkt continues to make some of the most aggressive and exciting beats in the scene right now. His latest offering, “LEVEL UP,” sees him pushing volume to its extremes with bass that rattles and clips like a truck rushing past your window. That overblown sound feels physical in headphones and speakers, making the delivery of his deep voice in the mix feel even more ominous. For an artist that’s as prolific as bzkt, it’s always exciting to see how he continues to innovate from track to track.

SassyBlack Announces Pop (& R&B) Treasury Vol. 2 Destiny’s Child, Shares “Baller”

SassyBlack loves playing with pop culture. Last year she dropped the remix tape Pop Treasury Vol. 1: *NSYNC , which saw her manipulating sounds from the iconic boy band. Now she’s back at it again with Pop (& R&B) Treasury Vol. 2 Destiny’s Child. Her first offering her latest installment in the series comes with “Baller.” The track samples Kelly Rowland’s vocals from one of the group’s most celebrated singles, “Bills, Bills, Bills.” Taking on a classic can be tricky business, but Sassy comes through with an innovative take on a timeless track, twisting two words into an experimental jam.

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

Jan. 4: Sandrider at Nectar Lounge

Jan. 5: Planet 39 Album Release at Cafe Red

Jan. 5: Gifted Gab, Ill Writers Guild, Rocket, Dadabass, and Don Dishes at Substation

Jan 6: Little Big Show #20 with Pickwick and Porter Ray at The Neptune

Jan 6-7: 5th Annual Big Ass Boombox with Theoretics, General Mojo’s Fabulous Downey Brothers, Vox Mod, Jupe Jupe, and more at The Crocodile

Jan. 7: Turtlenecked, Mo Troper, and Little Star at Rontoms (Portland)

Jan 9: Tomten, Señor Fin, Ghost Soda, Thank You, and Real Guy at Chop Suey

Jan. 10: Anime Creek, Taylar Elizza Beth, Mirrorgloss, and AlAIA at Chope Suey

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