Week in Pop: Ghost Soda, Joey Nebulous, S.al

Sjimon Gompers

Midwest mic master S.al, fka Safari Al, transcends the underdog status in a continued push of proliferation; photographed at Shea Stadium by Rick Perez.


Crouching & catching up with S.al; photographed by Miles Lamensky.

Midwest mic poet A. L. Kollman has long since allowed the lyrical interplay with the atmospheric rhythms. The emcee previously known as Safari Al, now dubbed s.al, has always welcome the listener into journeys into creative frontiers with a signature sleep state delivery that shifts from spoken to sung bars with ease. Having just released Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day through milo’s imprint/collective Ruby Yacht, s.al’s end of the year entry into the releases of 2017 provides a calming ode of hopeful escapism from the daily routines of exhaustion & ennui. From an oeuvre that includes (but certainly not limited to) Hermitage Academy, the Highlands EP, 2013’s i’d hate to think im getting soft, on the way out (curried loops), restless, fear, uncertain, un-flood to Stone School; Kollman introduces his new work with the following excerpt from Nakagiri Masao’s “Thanatopsis”:

Don’t live today by means of tomorrow.
Don’t ever say, “But tomorrow I will….”
Your fate will be cut down
as easily as weeds by the roadside,
but don’t try to avoid it,
try rather to promote it.

Ants’ lives,
the life of green mold,
lives of the fish in the sea,
a piece of ruby,
the hair of a rose engraved in stone.

Huge things are still sham.
Even a little knowledge can witness everything.
Cut off your ears.

As the Ruby Yacht ship launches out toward international waters, S.al’s Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day sends out the panacea for the collective hectic 24 hour life cycles that consume & demand our attention. The reckoning of reasoning & calm are rolled out with opening tracks “winner + raps” & “mungry + raps” that features dusty beat grooves from Dustin Laurenzi that dishes out dialogues that moves past the points of distress for avenues of observation expressed in succinct economies. Phone call samples about Christmas letters play out on the interlude of “5 Ideas, Idea 3” that plays out an answering machine message against a lounging rhythm that segues sweetly into the addictive “Soulmender” where S.al spits the forth the chorus tag-line hook of “I’m into it, you’re out of it” that is coupled & capped off with the 21 second piano loop dirge of “mischterlude”. Self-stabs at self-coronation kick back with a fun brand of what could be considered candy bar jazz on “king size” that measure matters of earthbound rhythms in conjunction with a solar cosmic back-beat/backdrop.

The pillars of poetry & prosody arise through economic atmospheres of sparse beats as experienced on “favorite jhonny” where streams of sentiments mix existential conundrums with shout outs to Marshawn Lynch’s now infamous press conference on the S.al’s bar that states, “refuse those questions like Marshawn did.” Interludes of lamentations rise from the rhythms on “Jeremiah (the Weeping prophet)”, right before Kollman keeps the vibe wavy on the mortality measuring “your death is warm and large” while organic & acoustic aspects of life are extolled in the strums on “phones”. Abstract piano glitch exercises are entertained on “5 Ideas, Idea 2” that segues swiftly into “5 Ideas, Idea 1” that maintains the audio motif of the previous where S.al manufactures conceptual works into thoughts manifested into words that run like galloping river. Invitations to relax and take a good look at yourself are exhibited on “Home Alone” that is a reminder to slow it down with a degree of conscious discernment. S.al even offers up a minimalist cover of CLIQUE’s “Medicine” that transforms that illustrates a more understated & meditative component on “medicine (carpet dance)” that is followed up with the colloquial “seeing as it was coming by pretty face” where conversation & rustic atmospheric ambience are mixed together. The cycle of Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day is completed with “$150 of your mmoney” where S.al creates the perfect compliment for any busy day where monetary matters are elevated higher toward the humanist things in life that matter even more. The currency paper chases of life are taken into account as mandated necessities as S.al paints an exquisite audio portrait of the reflections & universal wisdom that elevate our beings above the menial constraints of material wants & concerns.

Live at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium with S.al; photographed by Rick Perez.

S.al’s Alexander Kollman took the time to chat with us about the new album, the Ruby Yacht movement & more in the following interview session:

Interested in hearing what’s new & good in Milwaukee right now.

I’m back in Kenosha, Wisconsin for the year—where I grew up.

Just getting my shit together. Assets. Spending time with my mom dad and sister by next year I’ll be on post at Central Command aka Soulfolks Records in Biddeford, ME.

A rest period before another deployment, but I love going to work.

How have you found local environments & worlds have contributed to your recent cycle of observational & introspective lyrical narratives?

Yes, I agree with what you’re saying about succinct economy of language;

…Miles Davis plays the silence.

—M. Bowen “Reincarnation Blues”

Max spit that bar on the Akrasis album God Is My Autopilot. R.I.P. Mark.

When I heard that I knew I no longer needed to…extend myself unnecessarily.

Twin titans; milo & S.al; photographed by Miles Lamensky.

There is a certain succinct economy that you abide by & really hone in on Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day. Describe the process of being the editor of your own expressions & the intrinsic & organic connection that you hold to the holistic approach to production.

The titles of the beginning two songs produced by Dustin are stylized identically to the songs on “Restless” and “Fear, Uncertain”
and this is suggestive of these works it is a courtesy lead-in to my own production style

I remember Rory saying something once, and I’m paraphrasing about how sometimes the best beats are the bare minimum elements…and then you rap! You fill it in!

This idea governs a lot of my beat-making and is evidenced in this album.

On the ones & twos with S.al; photographed by Rick Perez.

The beat is a vessel,
and that too is how I feel about the album.

You may drink from it.
You may pour into it.

You must not only give,
You must also receive.

The art, approach & praxis of S.al; photographed by Rick Perez.

Describe your own production approaches along with how contributions from Dustin Laurenzi impacted the overall vision & aesthetic of Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day. And also too as a multidisciplinary artist, what have you noticed about your own creative evolution?

The progress of my creative evolution is the result of dissolving mental barriers, of unlearning the thousands of knee-jerk social reactions that we have programmed that automate our existence and default our dispositions.

Each fear I deconstruct.
I discover what lives behind that fear,
I discover what was hidden.

In many cases I discover what was
deliberately hidden.

…and so goes the campaign…

Crate digging with S.al; photographed by Miles Lamensky.

Tell us too about the launch of the Ruby Yacht imprint & what milo & company have in the works for 2018 & beyond.

Ruby Yacht is not an imprint. It exists unto itself.

Ruby Yacht is also sitting on a massive payload for the year of 2018.


S.al’s new album Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day is available now via Ruby Yacht.

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