B. Dolan - Fallen House, Sunken City

Posted February 24, 2010
Tags: B. Dolan,

If the legendary Kool Herc listened to B. Dolan’s new album Fallen House, Sunken City, I...

Fallen House, Sunken City Album Review

If the legendary Kool Herc listened to B. Dolan’s new album Fallen House, Sunken City, I doubt he’d recognize it as the music that he pioneered; and that’s a good thing. Because its essential component is the taking of the old and creating of the new, of combining existing elements to create songs that simultaneously reach into the past and stretch into the future, more than any other music hip-hop is the music of the modern age; an age of experimentation, of new ideas that contain the power to either save us, or destroy us. Or to put it more simply; some people might be surprised to hear B. Dolan, a heavyweight white guy with a biker beard, make dopely creative hip-hop, but they shouldn’t be.

(By the way, if this review reads a lot deeper and verbose than usual, it’s because I’ve been listening to some mother**king B. Dolan for the last twelve hours straight. I guarantee things will be a little different for Battle of the Sexes.)

Even a fleeting glimpse at his bio should explain why B. Dolan makes the densely artistic music he does. His background goes far beyond hip-hop, with roots extending into the slam poetry and performance art circles, circles that lead him to hook up with the legendarily insane Sage Francis and Strange Famous Records. With one album already in the record books - Failure, a narrative driven album about a man trapped in a fallout shelter (ballin!) – for his sophomore effort Dolan has hooked up with indie beatsmith Alias to create Fallen House, Sunken City, an album that will likely be too left field for most listeners, but inspire intense devotion in the rest (see None Shall Pass, Deltron 3030, etc.). So the only real question is; which listener are you?

Dolan’s not afraid to hit big issues head on, in fact he seems to live for it, a fearlessness that’s on full display during the album’s lead single Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer, a track that’s exactly like its name sake 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, except instead of Paul Simon’s searching acoustic guitar we get B. Dolan skewering an often inhumane capitalistic machine over a pounding, factory-driven beat from Alias: “If it ain't dead, how do you know it's empty?”. So, you know, basically the same thing. While it’d be an oversimplification to call Fallen House an activist album, it is unapologetically political and aggressively thought provoking, most notably on tracks like the dopely infrastructured Earthmovers and the f**k Wall St. anthem Bail It Out Louder, a track that also contains a hilarious extended Walk It Out reference). In other words, Fallen House is not background music, not something to throw on during a cookout, it’s music that must be actively listened to. Music to be listened to – imagine that.

Fallen House, Sunken City isn’t all about the message, it’s also a sonically adventurous album, and for that we have Alias to thank. In many ways this is as much Alias’ album as it is Dolan’s, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least quickly delve into the production work on songs like Marvin. A track founded on an echoing piano line, Marvin is slowly but surely overlaid with haunting vocal samples, shaking percussion, subtle guitars and ghostly syths. True, Dolan’s intense lyrical performance can’t be overlooked, but it’s Alias that truly makes Marvin the gripping track it is. It’s a similar story on Kitchen Sink, a track that fittingly combines too many audio elements to name here, and Border Crossing, an epic cut that transforms a marching band into a funeral procession for the living. Too often the producer is treated like a second-class citizen; well not on these pages my friends. Well done Alias, well done.

Some albums can be misleading, containing made-for-radio cuts that don’t truly reflect the rest of the material. Fallen House, Sunken City is not that album. Listen to tracks like the slapping Fall of Troy or the slinking Hunter. If you’re intrigued, if you feel strangely compelled to hear more, you’ll love this album. And if it leaves you running for the hills, then there’s really no need in looking back. Yes, it really is that simple. But no matter your personal preference, the sheer creative force of the album cannot be denied, cannot be ignored. B. Dolan’s made sure of that.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted February 24, 2010
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