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Bigg Jus Machines That Make Civilization Fun Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Ex-Company Flow rapper’s radical, mind-scrambling fourth solo album.

Stevie Chick 2012

Since pioneering New York underground rappers Company Flow dissolved just over a decade ago, Bigg Jus has plotted an altogether lower-profile path than former bandmate El-P. His first post-Flow solo release, 2001’s Plantation Rhymes, was a powerful, painfully autobiographical set that mixed tales of childhood desperation and hip hop salvation with visionary glitch-hop productions that never made for easy listening, but were never less than electrifying. Subsequent solo albums – along with releases as Nephlim Modulation Sessions, his insurrectionary side-project with producer Orko Eloheim – burrowed further underground, thorny thickets of challenging noise and compelling conspiracy theories.

Now Jus breaks the seven years of silence that followed 2005’s seething, Hieronymus Bosch-inspired, Poor People’s Day with this paranoid dub masterpiece – albeit a “don’t mean they’re not after you” kind of paranoid, and a futurist flavour of dub that swaps old-school tape techniques for digital stutters, echoes and overloads that overwhelm the senses. Making even The Bomb Squad’s work sound spartan by comparison, it’s a dense, chaotic assault of corrosive Blade Runner synths, ever-evolving drum loops, acerbic samples and distorted dubstep wub, fashioning twisted hooks from the electronic wreckage.

Over this speaker-strafing soundtrack, Game Boy Predator imagines videogames as morality-deadening indoctrination machines operated by the Military-industrial Complex, dropping samples of dialogue from Gears of War into its scintillating sonic battlescape; the queasy lurch of Food for Thought, meanwhile, predicts the rise of corporate globalisation resulting in a diet of “s*** sandwiches”. Never dull or preachy, Jus’ raps are instead surreal, hypnotic, acidly cerebral, celebrating himself on Black Roses as an “atom-splitting nautilus… with the audacity of a pitbull humping a hippopotamus,” his swagger sharpened by a beat that could flatten Skrillex.

It’s Jus’ most uncompromising album yet, no question, one that confuses and disorientates on first exposure. But persevere. Machines That Make Civilization Fun challenges the listener to hear funk within digital warfare. Once your ears tune into the warped tempos and frequencies of Redemption Sound Dub and the shuddering car alarm symphonies of Kush Star Catalog what first seemed like an impenetrable puzzle will prove endlessly engrossing.

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