The New Alliance EP

feat. Madhat McGore

Music Review

It is more precious than diamonds or gold and more lucrative than cocaine or tobacco.  More sought after than food and water.  It causes countless security alerts and will be the catalyst for future wars. Today, the most precious commodity in the developed world is not petrol, chemical or mineral.  It isn’t even tangible; you can’t taste, touch or smell it; eat, snort or smoke it.  It exists only on our screens, our smart phones and our flash drives.  It lives, en masse, inside racks of servers in bombproof basements.  It is splattered across this tactile realm, yet flits invisibly in the form of wireless ones and zeros, a fabled code which everyone knows of and yet which hardly anyone knows.  Its language is binary, but we call it by its street name – data.

Our grandest symphonies, most hallowed paintings, favourite novels, top computer games and greatest movies have all succumbed to the inexorable digital transition.  Everything we hold dear has been transferred from the analogue world to the binary.  Da Vinci; De Niro; Bukowski and Jaz-Z – their oeuvre, like that of all the greats (and not-so-greats) can now be accessed online for free, lurking in The Pirate Bay or hiding out on TV Shack.  In streams, torrents and downloads, we grab the data as eagerly as we can, cramming it into our iPads and USB sticks to digest at our leisure.  Football matches; computer games; Adobe editing software – it’s all yours for the princely sum of hee haw.  Accessing digital media has become a giant supermarket sweep – the swag’s on the house, so fill your trolley.  Of course, the Da Vincis and Bukowskis of this world probably don’t care that their art is being pilfered; they are dead after all.  And as for the De Niros and Jay-Zs, well, they got rich before downloading killed everything, so couldn’t give a damn either.

But what about the new guys and the small fry, the underground musicians and writers trying to make a name – and possibly a living – for themselves in this cruel, giveaway world?  Many kids have never known what it’s like to buy a CD from a record shop – are you gonna tell them that they should find a tenner for its iTunes equivalent, when the exact same ones and zeros can be spun for free on YouTube and Spotify?  Indeed, what’s the point in even paying to download an album when you can just stream it while on the bus, straight out of the ether and into your headphones?  Anything that comes with a plug these days seems to have built-in wireless and its own IP address.  Some of the most inhospitable regions known to man are being kitted out with wi-fi including the Megabus and London Underground.  There might be no oxygen on the moon, but you can bet your Blackberry gets a signal there.  And of course the wi-fi, like the content it streams, is completely free.  Paying for data is so last decade.

The more accustomed people become to getting something for nothing, the more resentful they become of paying something for something.  It’s like a man prone to squandering his money on prostitutes discovering that he can sleep with real women for free.  By swapping the red light district for Shanghai Club (read: iTunes for uTorrent) he can attract a similar calibre of female – but without spending a penny.

It’s just as well that the EP featured in this review is a free download or no one would ever hear it, no matter how good it might be.  Let’s be honest, if Beethoven were alive today, we’d only bother checking out his symphonies if someone ripped them to YouTube.   Of course, the trouble with free digital media is that it’s not just great art that becomes accessible – it’s everything.  The bad, the boring and the indifferent – they’re all out there, clogging servers with their substandard ones and zeros.   With so many whack rappers and screamo bands cluttering up cyberspace with faux angst and bad rhymes, separating the wheat from the chaff can be an arduous process.  Thankfully, Edinburgh Uncovered is on hand to point you in the right direction.

If you like hip-hop (so long as it’s free) or scottish music (so long as it’s free), you’ll enjoy The New Alliance EP (which just so happens to be free).  It features Edinburgh’s Madhat McGore and London rapper Silas Zephania spitting bars over German beats.  This tripartite collaboration is released by Politiks Productions and Scotland’s MFC Records, and also features Glasgow MC Marrik Leyden Deft.  Scintillating as all this name-dropping data is, the real measure of the EP is in its music however.  Do these ones and zeros sing, or do they sound as dull as binary?

If you’ve had the patience to read this far into the review, you’ve probably got a surfeit of time in which to click on the link and decide for yourself.  If bandwidth is at a premium because you’re currently downloading every episode of The Sopranos however, here’s some words to tide you over: The New Alliance EP is good.  In fact at its peak, it’s better than good – standout track ‘The Dead Live‘ is six minutes of languid hip-hop chilled to perfection.  ‘Have you seen what I seen, been where I been…we salute the past to the present’ reflects Silas Zephania over a melancholy orchestral beat.  It’s the sort of Sunday morning music that deserves to be heard every day of the week.  In the olden days, five years ago, people used to pay for music that wasn’t half as good as this.  The New Alliance EP is free and it’s worth every penny.

The New Alliance EP can be streamed and downloaded here.

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