If I were to tell you that Melbourne hip hop outfit Curse ov Dialect once sampled the sound of a plant growing, then recorded rhymes over the top of it to make music, you might give me a funny look. It’s an odd one, but how it works is not important and the more you try to figure it out, the less likely you are to get close to understanding what this group is all about. It’s hip hop, but not as you know it.
Members of Curse ov Dialect (or Curse for short) first came together through a mutual love of the underground, leftfield hip hop that was coming out of the US in the early 90s. The soon-to-be band members were into the progressive artists that were doing things differently, often making their mark with a sharp political edge. Acts like X-Clan, Brand Nubian, New Kingdom and Public Enemy had the music, style and socially charged ethos that held the most appeal. Building on these influences, the boys forged an alternative path for their own group, steering away from what was going on around them. They enforced their own isolation from the local scene and, as a result, they’re about as far removed as you can get from the larrikin bravado that has undeniable been a hallmark of Australian hip hop. Their music is more thoughtful, it has more conscious, it holds more purpose.
A quick scan through their press clippings and you’ll come across words like ‘avant-garde’ and ‘art hop’, descriptions born from the groups theatrical facets, namely the symbolic costumes they wear on stage and the distinctive physicality of their live performances. But the guys themselves aren’t entirely comfortable with the ‘art hop’ tag as vocalist Raceless explains, ‘I don’t know if I agree with that,’ he counters. ‘I think people just want to find labels. But I don’t intentionally make it that way. I just think we make our type of music.’ Their type of music uses unconventional samples sourced from every possible musical outlet in existence! Restless make a conscious effort to seek out, research and sample obscure and distant sounds – world music, classical, pscyhadelic rock, Scottish folk, it doesn’t matter what it is, Restless says he can see the potential in all of it, ‘I’m always on the hunt for quirky samples,’ he says. ‘The sound of an occa smashing a beer bottle is hip hop to me.’
When it comes to rapping, lyrics and messaging, Raceless and the other 3 vocalists in the group, Vulk Makedonski, Atarungi and August the 2nd, tackle a wide range of topics including religion, racism, sexism and cultural origins, all the time backed up by DJ/Producer Paso Bionic on the decks. But their lessons never feel like lectures and it’s refreshing to hear some considered content rather than listening to another MC re-read the typical hip hop script. ‘A lot of the tracks are about being misunderstood for being different as people whereas some tracks are really just surreal or cryptic. We’re into rapping about new things that aren’t clichéd.’ It certainly seems to provoke a reaction. ‘People have gotten up at our gigs and lost the plot,’ recalls Raceless. ‘Audience members have attacked us but I think they’re attacking us in a good way!’
Having recently returned from Japan, where their twisted playfulness is particularly well received, this year Curse also embarked on their 3rd European tour, hitting most of the main land countries and building on their growing international fan base. It’s now time to host the home leg of the party to celebrate the launch of their new album, Crises Tales. Unsurprisingly, they’ve got rappers, belly dancers, punk bands and a DJ playing Turkish Psychedelic rock to provide support, as Curse ov Dialect continue to traverse the divide between the surreal and the sublime.