Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Though he’s been known to wear a silly ostrich mask, you’re more likely to find Toronto rapper D-Sisive playing woeful organ music in an underground cellar than strolling along Sesame Street. Both of his 2009 releases, Let The Children Die and Jonestown, were morose gloom-hop affairs dealing with parental loss, crippling depression, and alienation. But Vaudeville, out today on URBNET Records, sees Derek Christoff (as he is formally known) drop the guise, get some sun, and smile a little. Just a little.
Can’t see it happening? Consider this: on the record’s opener, an organ-driven Mary Poppins-ish ditty, D-Sisive sings “I hope we’ll be fwends forever” and drops a verse about going on a date and “getting his Bublé on.” Yes, it looks like our little ostrich boy’s smitten—he even serenades one lucky gal on the bubbly “I Love A Girl,” which sees him reference (gasp!) The Young and the Restless. (“Even when it’s a peck goodbye in the front seat of your whip / Vic Newman, above the lip.”)
Of course, things get all dark and fucked up again elsewhere. Over hauntingly brooding beats and ominous keys (self-produced with help from Andre “Fresh Kils” Kilgour), D-Sisive assumes the sombre identities of a mourning parent in “The Night My Baby Died,” a pill-popping rap idol in “Percocet,” a sight-impaired cutthroat killer in “Ray Charles (Looking For A Star),” and some shmuck who has nightmares about turning into Courtney Love in “Scaredy Cat.” There’s some questionable thug life posturing on tracks like “The Riot Song,” but Christoff nonetheless does an admirable job forgoing his old navel-gazing pity party shtick to explore other narrative voices. And, as always, his rhymes are brimming with zingers and wide-ranging pop-cultural references: he namedrops UFC fighters in one track (“You tap-out like Rampage Jackson’s clothing”), alludes to an SNL skit in another (“Same shit, different Ferguson”), and actually gets Ron Sexsmith to sing on the chillingly melancholy “Liberace.”
With acerbic wit, intricate beat-making, and enigmatic storytelling, Vaudeville sees D-Sisive finally transcend his past afflictions to expand his artistic palette. But, on the real, we’re just glad he’s stopped wearing that goddamn mask.