Back in Session: Student Sounds in 17O1 Records

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// WEEKEND

The phrase multitasking often comes to mind when thinking of students at Yale, and even then, it may be hard to believe that some among us might be bona fide rock stars in the making. It was in the belief that students had serious musical talent, not only on the performance level, but also within the realm of editing and production, that 1701 Records was undeniably created. And with their most recent mixtape, “Back in Session II,” which they celebrated earlier this month at Fence, 1701 introduces us to the diversity in music that students on campus have to offer.

On Back in Session’s Bandcamp page, one finds the following tags: acoustic, alternative, dubstep, edm, funk, hip hop and New Haven. The grouping of these words might seem suitable for a musical taste suffering from borderline personality disorder, but in the context of 1701’s vision for music on campus, the tape’s scattered sampling serves as the perfect introduction to some of their best talent.

In album opener, “Catch Your Eye,” Töks — better known as Chris Tokita ’14 — raps sweet nothings to an Eminem-like rhythm, while Tricia Coronel delivers the quintessential female R&B hook. Coronel may be a non-Yalie, but she certainly merits the inclusion, as her smooth voice is the perfect complement to Töks’s articulate rhymes.

Looking down the list of featured artists, one’s eyes naturally stop at Nero, My Panda. The band is well known for its crowded and sweaty showings at venues like Sig Ep. Sadly, their track “Thing or Two” is just okay. Their characteristically unpolished vocals don’t help the seemingly unfinished song, and their position on the mixtape — oddly lodged between a jazz-like piece and a summer beach track — does them a further disservice.

Even with Nero’s sticker appeal, I found myself drifting between Marian Hill’s sultry-sounding “Whiskey,” and Fusion’s later atmospheric electronic track, “Sakujo.” Both tracks are strong stand-alone singles, so it’s no surprise that the respective brands of these artists extend far beyond campus. Upon visiting Marian Hill’s SoundCloud, one is immediately confronted with sweet greetings from fans in Belgium and Israel; the duo’s Twitter page is filled with tweets from music aficionados claiming they’ve blasted another track of theirs called “Lovit” on repeat.

The serious genre-hopping starts with El Silver Cabs and doesn’t end until the conclusion of the mixtape with Chris Peters’s ’16 soft ballad, “Almost September.” Now, El Silver Cabs should find favor with resident Californians. Their song, “Oh No,” the fourth of nine tracks on 1701’s album, is the perfect soundtrack to those “I’m driving to the beach with my friends and I can’t see anything because my hair is in my eyes” days. “Oh No” is fun, jumpy, and a bit loony, traits on which the garage pop genre certainly depend.

The playfulness continues with “unground,” a collaboration between Yadda Yadda and Jacob Reske ’14, whose kitschy use of rhythm echoes of rock-choir fusions like the Dirty Projectors. There’s also folk rock courtesy of Thomas Hopson ’16 of Trumbull, and a pop track from violinist Caitlin Pequignot ’14, aka “Anchorage,” though the bright and auto-tuned chorus was a bit too pre-teen for my taste.

Overall, if you get a chance, do check out 1701 Records’ “Back in Session II.” If anything comes of one of these bands, you can tell your adult friends about how you went to school with Fusion before they were famous. And for some, like myself, the unmatched talent of peers, namely duo Marian Hill and lone man Chris Peters, will serve as motivation by reigniting the inferiority complex that undoubtedly defines life at Yale.

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