Dark Time Sunshine - ANX
Northwest emcee Onry Ozzborn has been around a while, whether it be as part of Oldominion or Grayskul or as a solo artist. His latest project, Dark Time Sunshine, a collaboration with Chicago producer Zavala, only began in 2009, but they’ve quickly established themselves as their own entity. With their latest release, ANX, they deliver a moving and intimate album that is sure to set themselves apart.
The title of the album stems from both Ozzborn and Zavala’s struggles with anxiety, and the music on ANX was meant to reflect that. You can certainly parse that out of the album, which features a generally calm and gentle tone, but is given to moments of spiraling energy and tension, such as the wild, psychedlic, Zappa-esque conclusion to “Valiant.” However, there is much more to take in with ANX than just the concept. It’s a very intimate and self-reflexive album, and it sounds great when listened to on headphones, in solitude. I was first clued into this during their SXSW set, during the Fake Four showcase. While they did a great job, they were put in the difficult position of following a couple of wild and energetic acts and performing in a venue that was packed and backed up to an open balcony where tons of festival goers were shuffling past below. Despite all of this, I could still tell that there was some great hip hop happening, it just needed a different setting. Now that I can lose myself in the album in the privacy of my own home, I can really appreciate the subtleties of Zavala’z production and the poetry of Ozzborn’s lyrics. Zavala does a great job of establishing gentle grooves and beautiful atmospheres, then subtly complicating them, occasionally pulling the rug out from underneath you when you least expect it. One of my favorite aspects of the album is how a large chunk of the album will feature extended sections full of Ozzborn rhyming without a big hook or chorus, going two or three songs at a time, only to then find myself in the midst of a brilliant pop song, such as “Never Cry Wolf,” featuring Portland vocalist Reva Devito. It’s moments like that that let me know that DTS not only has a large bag of tricks, but they know precisely when to go for the big hit and when to hold back. Even the way they use a large amount of guest artists, which includes big personalities like P.O.S., Aesop Rock, and Busdriver, they never overpower the overall sound and focus of the album. Instead, each one is placed in just the right spot to enhance the music without diverting attention from the bigger picture.
I can already tell that ANX is going to garner Dark Time Sunshine a lot of much-deserved attention. They don’t have a big sound, but there is plenty of that going around. We don't have that many subtle and introspective vocal hip hop groups making records, and I can’t think of any that do it as well as DTS. Both Ozzborn and Zavala really seem to understand each other, and that great chemistry comes through on ANX.