Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Memphis Industries
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Divine Ecstasy opens (and later closes) with a spoken word monologue that melts away into smooth jazz pounded by jungle breaks. That's Supreme Cuts in a nutshell. The quirky Chicago duo of Mike Perry and Austin Kjeultes have always had rap and R&B at the core of their sound, but myriad other influences bubble to the surface on their second LP. Instead of the instrumental hip-hop of days past, Divine Ecstasy is a cosmopolitan pop record that sustains all the gravity and mystique of their earlier work.It's the vocal samples that cement Supreme Cuts' shift toward the middle ground, and Divine Ecstasy is full of them.
While the other laptop producers in their hometown were pummeling dancefloors with the kinetic sounds of ghetto-tech and footwork, Chicago's Supreme Cuts are like a sublime rebellion demanding the return of all things serene. The aptly titled Divine Ecstasy finds members Mike Perry and Austin Keultjes offering the same mix of smooth, soulful, and crafted that colored their not aptly titled 2012 release, Whispers in the Dark, but here, vocals are welcomed, and suddenly the duo has become a Massive Attack or Zero 7 for the cloud rap age with an album full of standard-bearing songs. Late-album highlight "Faded" may be slang for stoned and yet vocalist Py floats on a light drum'n'bass track that's immaculately constructed, while the Shy Girls feature "Cocktails" is like the dream, not nightmare, combination of Robin Thicke and the Weeknd, or maybe Justin Timberlake and Toro y Moi.
Chicago is a city with a wide-ranging musical history; rather than have a single scene for which it’s known, it sports many different genres and styles that have represented its beating heart. From the sounds of soul and blues that came out of Chess Records to the stylish synth-led artists that have emerged since the ’80s (don’t forget that it’s the Windy City that gave birth to house). Then there’s the extensive hip-hop scene, too substantial to dissect in a succinct and meaningful manner.
Masses of interstellar brume, nebulae are conglomerations of hydrogen, helium, dust, and various iodized gasses. Imagine one, if you would; that which you are visualizing most likely comes from the famed photograph “Pillars of Creation,” shot by the Hubble Telescope, wherein massive columnar elephant trunks rise as if from a carmine swamp, tendrils and flagella backlit in a pea soup corona, a soupçon of natalitial appendices seeming to slough of their phallic form. The pillars are so named because nebulae, upon reaching a critical mass, will collapse into stars, birthing planets and asteroids and satellites.
Supreme Cuts are a US production duo of a very modern stripe, walking the tightrope between the increasingly close worlds of underground rap, electronica and R&B. Where debut effort ‘Whispers In The Dark’ explored an ambient wooziness, ‘Divine Ecstasy’ finds them shooting for proper songs with the help of a number of guest vocalists. The chrome-played cry of Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh adds gravitas to the swirling rush of ‘Envision’ while ‘Gone’ is pure Chicago house revival.
Mike Perry and Austin Keultjes are an unlikely production duo, in that they have instead adopted a misty R&B sound shrouded in fuzz. It’s helped them to stand out among the legions of ethereal hip-hop producers, especially when considering their percussion takes a backseat on a majority of their productions. It’s a murky and avant-garde approach to R&B that remains gripping throughout their second album as Supreme Cuts, ‘Divine Ecstasy’.Clouded in thick walls of sound, their euphoric take on R&B is as experimental as it is alluring.
The "exquisite corpse" technique was invented by the surrealists with the aim of making things as confusing as possible. OK, they may not have said as much, but the practice of turn-based creation (kind of like the game Consequences but on canvas) doesn't aspire to cohesion, that's for sure. In recording this album, their first full release in the UK, Chicago duo Supreme Cuts played around with the technique and, although they haven't followed one bar of moombahton with two of polka music, it seems every contemporary style of dance music is in play.
With their second full-length album, Chicago production duo Supreme Cuts attempt to make a big leap. Their 2012 debut Whispers in the Dark was a strikingly trendy and sometimes engrossing stew of bass beats that seemed more eager to confound than galvanize. There were few rhythms to groove to and no words to sing along with, but on Divine Ecstasy that changes.
Is there any word more bastardized in contemporary culture than “ecstasy”? A concept that dates back to the Ancient Greeks, ecstasy as an overwhelming euphoria that renders time, space, and surroundings irrelevant — “the culmination of human possibility” — was pondered by everyone from Christian mystics to Existential philosophers, long before being co-opted by gurners on MDMA. Divine Ecstasy, the second album by Chicago duo Supreme Cuts, takes its title from the traditional meaning of the word, rather than stoking the flames of the molly-obsessed zeitgeist. Similarly, the album eschews the conventional wisdom of what a full-length musical experience should feel like in 2014, be it electronic, experimental, dance, or pop.
Whether she’s playing a lone lo-fi guitar or fronting her Velvets-rooted studio band, whether she’s singing as if only to herself or opening up with hints of torchy sorrow, Angel Olsen aims to keep things blunt and essential on her second album, “Burn Your Fire for No Witness” (Jagjaguwar ….
On the first track of Supreme Cuts’ sophomore LP, a lisp-laden voice begins a monologue over echoing keyboards. “My body actually converts feelings into physical pain,” the voice says, foreshadowing what you’re about to spend 53 minutes listening to. Then, a thunder-like wind checks in, gusting and billowing through an eardrum-irritating progression of keys before crashing into a mess of raw, mangled saxophones.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN Chicago’s Mike Perry and Austin Kjeultes tried to make their names as rap producers before forming Supreme Cuts, and it shows. They should probably try breaking into that racket again now that they’ve established themselves somewhat, since, at their best, Supreme Cuts are essentially producers. They spend most of sophomore effort Divine Ecstasy making a robust cast of guest vocalists (only one full track lacks a singer), not all of whom are especially gifted, sound downright amazing.