The Ambiguities – Basement Suite
1. Hungover Dragon
2. Ambiguity Spew*
3. Dreamsong #2
4. X Formation
5. Words Thought In Arial
6. Honk Honk Rattle Rattle Crash Beep Beep
7. The Basement Suite, i: Baby
The Basement Suite, ii: come on down
The Basement Suite, iii: into my basement
8. When It’s Time to Go
Recorded & produced by:
Daniel Hales, Algorhythm Studio, Greenfield, MA
& Norm Demoura at Harmonium Studio, Haydenville, MA
Mixed and Mastered by: Norm Demoura @ Harmonium Studio
Words & music by Daniel Hales © 2015
*Except “Ambiguity Spew,” music by Luther Rabb
Du Mashmai: vocals on 6
Emily Breines: violin on 7
Hilary Weiner: backing vocals on 1 and 3
James Lowe: bass on 3
Norm Demoura: bass & drums on 2, kick on 3, 5, & 10
piano on 8, tambo on 8
All other instruments & vocals by Daniel Hales & DJ Selah
2. *from “It’s Live Over Here” by Luther Rabb
off his 1979 album Street Angel MCA Records
6. from “Tecnicolor” by Os Mutantes, off their 1971 album, Jardim Electrico, Polydor Records
Thank you! Norm, Emily, Hilary, James, Shira, The Frost Heaves,
Benjamin, Soren, Jen, JD, Suzanne, Tim, Jack, Drew, Elijah,
Crystal, Luther, Mutantes, the Voo, and you.
" …though you can also see him in the band The Frost Heaves, he’s currently occupied with a mostly solo effort, this one called The Ambiguities. Hales describes the band as “more of a solo hip-hop-inflected side-project. With the Frost Heaves, I suppose I aspire to lyrics that are closer to poetry, and the speaker in those songs is often some version or other of a ‘me’ or someone similar to me,” he says. “With The Ambiguities, I want to ‘contain multitudes,’ to try out a wide range of voices, characters, personas.”
He’s tried them on a very physical way for some time, performing Ambiguities gigs in masks and costumes. “This has helped me open up wider,” Hales says. “If you’re going to call yourself The Ambiguities, you better have some real ambiguity in your arsenal. Especially [with] singing dance-oriented music, it helps me to get into a groovier zone if I leave me at the door and slip into intense, amped-up personas like three-souled shape-shifting dragons, cocky MCs, and funkadelic sex machines.”
On Jan. 31 at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls, The Ambiguities celebrate the release of a new EP, The Basement Suite. The Suite — chiefly concocted, no doubt, in the far reaches of Hales’ basement, where much of his musicmaking occurs — is not much like Hales’ other recent efforts. There are elements of moody ambience in the music of Tempo Maps, and elements of pop songcraft in Contrariwise, a Frost Heaves album of tunes made to accompany a stage production of Alice in Wonderland. The Basement Suite is a far more unhinged affair, full of loops and beats, a careening, humourous sense of lyric-writing (see “shape-shifting dragons and funkadelic sex machines” above), and vocal stylings that range from croon to whine.
The whole “funakedelic” thing surfaces particularly in a track called “Ambiguity Spew,” a groove-heavy ’70s-inspired turn. “I can only take a small percentage of credit for the super-funk of ‘Ambiguity Spew,’” Hales says. “The bed track is lifted off a disco album from 1979, thus all the vinyl crackles in the track. It’s a short instrumental intro that I’ve loved for years, and I finally decided I had to come up with words and a melody for it.”
He quickly adds, “Since I don’t want to get sued by anyone, ‘Ambiguity Spew’ is going to be a free online track, with all the proper acknowledgments.”
Things get crazier yet with “X Formation,” a manic tangle of playground antics. In fact, if you feel as if you’ve just been insulted by a bratty kid, Hales considers that a success. “That’s exactly what I was going for. I ended up doing three vocal tracks for that song because the first two just weren’t snotty enough.”
And the taunt factor is straight from the mouths of kids. Since Hales’ day job is teaching English at a residential center for kids with emotional and behavioral challenges, he’s got a sizeable collection of such stuff from which to choose. “‘X Formation’ and ‘Honk Honk Rattle Rattle’ are both rewrites of common schoolyard taunts and rhymes that I’ve heard from various students over the years, but I altered the words to make them much more absurdist, political, and/or inappropriate,” Hales says.
With source material like that, the album is a liberating romp, one in which Hales seems to be breaking new ground in his artistic endeavors. He’s taking a break from such heady stuff as purely literary pursuits.
“Sometimes I want jams that have booty shake and brain candy,” Hales says. “I like a lot of trip-hoppy down-tempo music, but I often wish it was riskier, weirder, and funnier. I don’t think there’s anything more liberating and fun than trying to create the music you wish would be banging when you walk into a dance club.”
- 1/15/15 The Valley Advocate
"In 1976, the Ramones charged out of New York City proclaiming, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement.” “There’s something down there,” sang lead singer Joey, with a delivery that illustrated his reluctance and dread.
Now almost 40 years later, Greenfield band The Ambiguities, founded by local artist and musician Daniel Hales, is asking listeners to bottle up their fears and follow as the group opens up some cellar doors and plunges headlong into a subterranean quest on its newest album Basement Suite.
The journey begins with “Hungover Dragon.” Mixing lyrics about psychic wizards and the aforementioned dragon (which is trapped inside the body of a drunk) with a slowly unfolding rhythm, the track is a fitting entry point. But Basement Suite isn’t all about fantasy and things that go bump in the night.
“Ambiguity Stew” is a short, funky blast that samples the intro from “It’s Live Over Here” by Luther Rabb complete with the crackling playback of an old vinyl record. The song is only 50 seconds long, but still manages to fit in a bevy of lines including a rhyme that pairs mention of ‘80s rapper Tone Loc with the phrase hard-boiled yolk.
Singer/ master of ceremonies Hales culled inspiration from his day-job as a teacher for some of the lyrics for another short tune, “X Formation.” Riding along with finger-snaps and distant drum sounds, the song will remind listeners of the type of schoolyard chants or taunts that pop up during Double Dutch games complete with diss-filled language and bratty attitude.
There is no sign of childhood shenanigans, however, on Basement Suite’s moody title track. Unfolding through three parts over nearly seven minutes, the composition conjures some of the dread that Joey Ramone sang about in the ‘70s.
As the suite begins, Hales’ voice slowly emerges from electronic beats beckoning listeners to, “Come on down into my basement” and “Breathe in the mold spores.”
Though these lines and the remaining lyrics to “Basement Suite” repeat themselves, the delivery evolves. Hales’ vocals transform from a lonely croon to a distorted cat-call filled with menace. A mixture of sounds bubble up – solitary guitar, whining noise, and distant singing. Liner notes for the album even list piano, violin, and a drum-like instrument called a tambo as being used over the course of the composition.
After venturing through such an unpredictable soundscape, the impact of Basement Suite’s final number is all the more startling. “When It’s Time To Go” takes an almost country-like turn with electric guitar twangs providing the accent to Hales’ shouts. Sample lyrics include, “You gotta split before you start talking shit,” and “You gotta say later before you start talking like a hater.”
The message of such a song, some would argue, is pretty clear – know when to leave, know when to stop, or just know when to get when the getting is good. It’s a message both The Ambiguities and Basement Suite understand. Neither the band nor the record overstays its welcome. In fact, no matter what Joey Ramone sang about in ’76, there just might be a few listeners who will want to return to the basement Hales and company have created again and again. There’s something down there all right, but it’s not something to be feared. It’s something future searchers will want to explore."
-Northeast Underground, 1/29/15