Forget everything you know about The Pirate Signal. Okay, well, perhaps not everything -- that's probably a little extreme. Maybe just disregard everything you think you know about the act, any preconceptions you might have about what it sounds like, because they're all about to be obliterated and thus rendered obsolete.
Yonnas Abraham and DJ Awhat have effectively reinvented themselves -- or perhaps they've finally discovered a way to channel what's always been inside them. Whatever the case, the paradigm has undeniably been shifted. Behold Version 2.0 of The Pirate Signal, a sleeker, retro glancing yet futuristic, urgent, affecting outfit that's completely unto itself.
Yes, you can make an argument that The Pirate Signal is, in the very least, intellectually and, to some degree, sonically, kindred to certain artists on the Rhymesayers, Def Jux and Anticon imprints. And while that may be partially true at least on the surface level, ultimately, this act is a league of its own, and certainly in Denver. Name one other group that sounds like it.
Uh-huh. Thought so.
Which brings us to the new album, No Weak Heart Shall Prosper, which you can hear here exclusively prior to its release on Saturday, May 1 at the Marquis Theater. Recorded at United Interests Sound Studios in Boulder by Evan Reeves, Patrick Tracy and Ben Romsdahl, the album was mixed and mastered at Colorado Sound by Jesse O¹Brien and Tom Capek, and features cameos from an array of top notch local artists such as, F.O.E., Karma, Kyle Simmons (Speakeasy Tiger), Andrea Ball, Catch Lungs, Adam Duncan, Adam Halferty, members of the Photo Atlas, Huck and Chris Thomas.
As you'll hear below, the record begins with a tinge of familiarity with "It's Get Busy Time, Child," which finds Abraham rhyming forcefully over an urgent beat similar in tone and texture to older tracks like "Go!" But from there, the album begins to break apart and evolve into something resembling (cue convoluted simile) Massive Attack landing on Planet Rock after joy riding with Tricky in Michael Mann's hot wired Delorean. (When you hear "Darker My Love," the album's standout track, around the 28:00 min mark, that last comparison will make absolute sense).
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Hearts is utterly compelling. The throbbing, electro passages, synth interludes and warped beats stand in sharp contrast to the soul-sampling dependent sounds of the modern era. And when woven together, the dense backdrops serve only to bolster Abraham's always compelling flow, which manages here to be more dynamic and multi-dimensional than in the past, moving beyond the typical forceful cadence Abrahams has become known for.
Suffice it to say, No Weak Heart Shall Prosper represents a giant leap forward artistically for The Pirate Signal. All the promise that's surrounded the act from the beginning has finally been realized with this record. It's also a testament to perseverance and ambition triumphing over adversity: This album, as you may remember, was born out of necessity after One Alone, the record that Abraham and company had originally intended to release was essentially held hostage by a former associate who refused to relinquish control of the masters.
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While we may never know what that album sounds like, it's a safe bet that this one is infinitely more compelling. If for no other reason, the unforeseen setback forced Abraham to dig deep and start from scratch. He poured his heart into this one, and it shows.
No Weak Heart Shall Prosper indeed.
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