Mikal kHill is not an ENTRANCE!

[rating:7.5/10]

Michael Kermit Hill is a rapper, known to his fans as Mikal kHill of The ThoughtCriminals. Mikal is a nerd, a music aficionado, and most importantly, a true artist. He quite obviously cares a lot about the art he produces. It is also quite obvious that he takes pride in his art. His debut This is Not an Entrance is a labor of love nearly a decade in the making, different in tone and direction than his work with The ThoughtCriminals, reminiscent of artists like Sage Francis or Eminem.

What does the title of the album mean? Mikal shared this with TPM:

The first real job I had when I got out of high school was working at a book store. The place had a back door that faced a graveyard. I’m not making this shit up, there was a graveyard in the middle of the mall, because the family that sold the land refused to give them the rights to that property. They just built the mall AROUND the fucking graveyard. Well, to look at the graveyard out the back door you have to look through the glass door that says, in huge block letters in Times New Roman font, “This Is Not An ENTRANCE.” I recorded a series of spoken word pieces originally intended to open the record, and they just kept getting incrementally bleaker. Zombies are an overarching theme for the record and in a lot of the music I make, and the last spoken word piece I recorded dealt with a description of me clawing my way out of a coffin, because I sort of felt like that. The kid I was is dead. I’m a new person, but I’ve been here the whole time. Eventually, I’m going to do a follow up EP with some of the songs I cut off of the original record, but by the time I had completed the record, I sort of felt that while the title was perfect, I had outgrown the feelings expressed in some of those pieces.

The opening track, “This is My Serious Face”, is an in-you-face tune that sets the tone. With (seemingly broken) promises to his family, he forges forward, has a little bit of fun, and spits serious rhymes about where he’s at. This track is the only track with any other vocalist; the other vocal on this track is lent by Mikal’s brother:

My brother is the only person that appears vocally on the record, he’s the guy screaming “WHAT WHAT” with me on “This Is My Serious Face.” That was sort of a flash back, for me, to us recording stupid things in our bedroom when I was seven.

While Mikal provides all of the vocals on the LP, he does have an incredibly talented supporting cast here. The music, beats, and production are top notch:

Arit Harvanko is on this record, he is a brilliant producer from Minnesota that taught me a TON of stuff about how to properly mix and record instruments and vocals. We met on a messageboard, which is how I’ve accumulated quite a few collaborators over the years. Eggplant Xanadu is also on this record, the song he produced was directly inspired by some stuff he was going through at the time. Also I worked with Varick Pyr on the record, he’s most well known for producing “Bridle” by Sage Francis. He’s a great producer as well, but I lose contact with him for months at a time. I’d love to do a whole record with him at some point. Smaller collabos on the record include Kevin Morgan, he’s on the song “Never Good At Goodbyes” playing some additional guitar stuff on that, that song is probably singularly responsible for me reforming the group in its current form. Technically, the ThoughtCriminals started as me and Kevin Morgan about 15 years ago or more, playing acoustic guitars between games of Magic on his front porch. Other people slowly joined over the years, but he’s always been part of the core group.

Some tracks are almost entirely by Mikal and Arit (guitar, bass, drums, keys, you name it), while others involve his aforementioned cast of friends. “Paragraph” is one of the tracks by only Mikal and Arit; it also happens to be one of this reviewer’s favorite tracks. Its backbeat, coupled with some synthesized cello, is infectious, especially when the hook catches on in the chorus. Another favorite track, “Never Good at Goodbyes” features Kevin Morgan of The ThoughtCriminals on guitar, dope drumming, and thought provoking lyrics. Twelve tracks in all, all solid, each with its own unique feel:

This album started when I was an over the road truck driver delivering loads all over the country. I did that for three and a half years, and some of the stuff that still wound up on the album, some of it didn’t. At the time I had just dissolved an earlier incarnation of The ThoughtCriminals called “kHillmorgan” because I felt like we had lost our direction and we couldn’t really find our sound again. I started toying more with trying to capture something between the folksier stuff I listen to (like Elliott Smith) and the more industrial sounding stuff I was influenced by (like El-P and Company Flow and NIN). The irony is, while this album took around 6 years to complete, the ThoughtCriminals record was completely finished in something closer to six months. I probably recorded 60 songs for the This Is Not An Entrance record, as opposed to the maybe 25 we recorded for the ThoughtCriminals.

Both entirely fantastic albums, The ThoughtCriminals’s self-titled debut and Mikal kHill’s This is Not an Entrance are two completely different entities:

I think the ThoughtCriminals album is probably more fun than my solo record is, but it’s not the kind of record I want to throw on because I wanna dance or have a good time or even get pissed off. It’s a record I listen to in the same way I do listen to someone like Sage Francis or Elliott Smith or Trent Reznor. I fully expect that someone could hate this record and absolutely love The ThoughtCriminals. The solo record is much darker.

In closing, this is a darker and more intimate look into Mikal kHill. So, if you are interested in something more fun, start with The ThoughtCriminals

For fans of: Sage Francis, Eminem, Atmosphere, and Aesop Rock.

~ by thepaintedman on April 19, 2010.

3 Responses to “Mikal kHill is not an ENTRANCE!”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Harlan. Justin Harlan said: Nerdcore gets a dark makeover… @kHillmatic 's solo effort: http://bit.ly/9WVJbR […]

  2. […] Mikal kHill remixes tracks by Sage Francis, Ghostface Killah, Sole, El-P, Bernard Dolan, Prophylic, Reanimator, pianorag, and O Ne Rawk. […]

  3. […] illustrious site has covered the likes of Beefy, Shael Riley, Dual Core, and The ThoughtCriminals/Mikal kHill, as well as nerdy acts that don’t identify specifically with the subgenre like Pigeon John. […]

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