Tacoma hip-hop trio Life Cycle's debut disc, 2008's City of Rust, is all Left Coast mellow grooves liberally laced with good vibrations. In other words: there's no rusty city poisoning the horizon at all--just palm tree's a'swayin' in the wind. Even when MCs/producers/brothers JoshuaJ and Burn One and their cut-man, DJ Hanibal, rough it up on the deeply personal tracks "Willow Weep" and "Grandma's Hands", it's more about the language than the sounds.
But Life Cycle's new nine-track EP, Grounded, available for free here, may surprise folks. It's dark and aggressive and kind of unfriendly, though the boys haven't gone goth or set music to a midnight of the mind. Rather, they've steered away from the easy-listening quality of their debut and pushed into new realms of haunted digitization, as evidenced by the tonal zips and zaps shooting through "That's the Way It Is" and the cinematic effects of "Things Change," which owes something to Massive Attack's spooky tendencies.JoshuaJ and Burn One's lyrics have also taken on more of an edge: "Drama" is a street-wise assertion of self, while "Bang Out" features stark warnings and gloomy prophecies for the usual offenders--sucka MCs and haters. All in all, Grounded presents a promising departure for a crew still searching for their sound but definitely on the right path. You can check Life Cycle for its EP-release show Friday, Aug. 28, at Nectar for $5 before 10 p.m. and $8 after.