With Voices

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Prominent members in the West Coast production scene, Ammoncontact continue their trend of strong releases on With Voices. The first of their records to include a guest (be it vocalist or musician) on every song, the 16 tracks on With Voices do a good job of showing off not only the talents of the other artists but also of Carlos Niño and Fabian Ammon Alston and their ability to adapt to other people's styles. They -- either collectively or separately -- create heavier beats that work well with the rougher deliveries of MCs like Sach and Lil Sci, but then focus more on basslines and melodic breaks for the spoken word pieces, including "Beautiful Flowers," which features lyrics from Prince Po and Yusef Lateef and, despite its reliance on electronic instrumentation, has a very organic quality about it. Perhaps that's the most interesting thing about Ammoncontact: their ability to give breath and emotion to what can be very cold, sterile music. Niño uses his keyboards subtly and effectively, cutting them out when necessary, bringing in further percussion, changing things up while at the same time keeping everything constant and smooth. Alston instead adds an earthy quality to the songs, with funkier instrumentation that, in the pieces in which the two play together, meshes well with the more electronic and ambient mindset of his partner. The extra musicians on With Voices really help to create new meaning within Ammoncontact's beats. Bassist and drummer Dexter Story appears on seven tracks, including the excellent "Drum Riders" (which features scratches and remix elements from super-producer Cut Chemist and rhymes from former X-Clan member Brother J), and the insight he brings to the rhythm section helps make the album work so well. Even Mia Doi Todd shows up (Ammoncontact did a remix for her on La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita), contributing her ethereal voice to the neo-pastoral, sultry "Earth's Children." Ammoncontact have had guest artists before, but never to such a great extent, and it's nice to see how well they're all able to work together to produce something so satisfying.

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