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Album Review: Claude VonStroke — Urban Animal

Album Review: Claude VonStroke — Urban Animal

By Alicia Greco

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Claude VonStroke, otherwise known as Barclay Crenshaw, is the man behind the San Francisco born label Dirtybird. Since his development of Dirtybird records in 2005, he has released three albums including his latest, Urban Animal.

The title track of VonStroke’s Urban Animal is a perfect introduction to the album. It has a gentle build until it gets deep, sexy and filled with many aspects that give it a cinematic feel. It is an ideal night-drive tune, when the streets are empty and all you have around  are light trails cutting the darkness as you cruise. The mood is lifted with “The Clapping Song,” upbeat with a lot of bounce. It is lively and ideal for a house DJ’s crate. The samples of genuine fun in the form of cheers and clapping can be heard in the background. It doesn’t sound like overkill and outrageous crowd noise, which gives it more of an intimate feel. “Dood,” in essence, is when things get weird; when time is not moving as it normally does, when you begin to question what time even is. The screwed vocals of it give the track a psychedelic waviness. It has synth buildups that call to mind Daft Punk’s “Rollin’ and Scratchin.’” Following the voiceover “Dood, you are so, fucking, tripping me out man,” VonStroke brings in operatic vocals inspiring the peak of insanity at which time we hear those reassuring words that everyone needs to hear at such a time, “keep it together baby.” Barry Drift comes in on vocals for “Sugar & Cinnamon.” In Dirtybird fashion there are repeated pitched-down “uhs” giving it an undeniable sexiness, if not already for the blatantly back-arching kinky lyrics. “Time to take it if you want it girl … gotta suck this if you want a taste.”  

 “The Bridge” is an extremely intricate track when it comes to vocal chopping and sampling. It could easily be superimposed over the carousel scene in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as Hunter S. Thompson and Dr. Gonzo’s mescaline imaginations become reality. The bass is heavy and vibey; it gives a lean to the track that it may not have had if it was not there.  “Oakland Rope,” featuring Mr. Fox & Py, comes in as another cinematic track. Although it falls into more of a drum n’ bass realm, which strays from the path of the album, it meshes perfectly. It is dark, sensual and ghetto. The guitar riffs are reminiscent of something from a Quentin Tarantino film. Imagine: a tinted black Coupe de Ville, cruising slow but with Jamaican influences as he calls out “wagwan.”

 Two versions of “Lay It Down Re-Smoked” are on the album; along with the original, there is a VIP edit to close out the album. Minimal booty-house with repetitive vocals, “lay it down” is echoed throughout pretty much the entirety of the song but somehow is not overdone. A rare feat for any producer, VonStroke mastered the flow of the track. The VIP edit has a bit more groove to it, especially with the more pronounced hi-hats. “Plasma Jelly” is unique. Video-game-like, it feels like organized experimental music with an 8-bit vibe. Along with “The Bridge,” VonStroke’s “Can’t Wait” is another favorite of mine. An orgasmic structure, the build up is slow and steady. The female and male back-and-forth vocals may be agreeing to rendezvous. The little build-ups throughout the song tease the listener until midway through the tune when there is a definitive plateau; that point where the production is just so shaking good you cannot quite decide if you want it to peak or just stay in this limbo of euphoria. This track is both deep and lifted with its groovy bassline and melodic piano.

Urban Animal is out now.

Claude VonStroke will be making a stop at Rendezvous Niteclub on his album tour along with fellow dirtybird J. Phlip on Friday, November 1 presented by Factory Nightlife.