By: Nerhys Hall
Toronto-based hip-hop group Grand Analog released their latest EP in mid-June. Their Donna Summer EP features four songs; two original and two alternate versions of the title track. Don’t let the fact that three of the songs share the same title fool you, though. Each of the three versions is distinct and sonically interesting. The EP represents lead vox/MC Odario Williams’ favourite season and he comments that:
“Donna Summer captures the flirty, sticky, magical vibe of the first days of summer. The dawn of summer. It’s the soundtrack to longer evenings that lead us into longer nights. Recorded in Toronto, and composed strictly for car stereos & open windows. I suggest you play it loud. Be the don of summer”.
The EP opens with the title track, “Donna Summer” featuring Maiko Watson. It’s a funky, upbeat track with disco undertones. Watson sings melodically while Williams uses a spoken-style vocals. Underneath the vocal harmonies, a simple backing rhythm keeps the tempo of the song moving forward and there are some really interesting synth effects that come through. Crowd sounds like applause along with echo effects make the song sound like a live performance. A clean ending ties the song together.
The first alternate version of “Donna Summer”, the MUNESHINE REMIX, is track three. It takes a more laid-back approach to the song and begins with male vocals. The underlying rhythm is slightly different and there are more overlapping and weaving layers. Vocal lines repeat several times, and the track fades out. The second “Donna Summer” alternate follows immediately as the EP’s final song. This version is entirely instrumental and as you listen, you can really hear the different layers and how they weave in and out of one another. My favourite part of this version is the use of silence and some of the new sounds that they added in. Like the original version, this one also has a clean ending.
The second song on the EP, and second original song, “Sugar Baby” featuring Steven Mulcare, is a quick-paced track with intricate rhythms and layers. The rhythms, however, don’t vary much throughout the song, allowing for a sense of stability amidst the intricacy. Unlike the vocals on “Donna Summer”, this song has only male vocals, but like the title track, “Sugar Baby” includes one voice singing melodically and the other speaking in a hip hop style.
Grand Analog sets themselves apart from other hip hop bands by focusing on live musical instruments. Their latest EP Donna Summer really exemplifies their unique sound that blends multiple genres together. If you’re looking for an album to crank up in the car — and also vicariously relive the early days of summer as the weather begins to cool down — check out Grand Analog’s Donna Summer EP.