They've resumed the metallic, righteous blaze trailed since 1997.
David Stubbs 2009-08-20
There are virtues and drawbacks to tagging yourself Anti-Pop Consortium. On the one hand, if ever there was a good time to be anti-pop it's 2009, with the charts representing something of a corporate washout. However, the name Anti-Pop Consortium also carries with it a millstone of grim self-satisfaction and gruelling austerity. Is ‘consortium’ really the first word you'd reach for when wanting to improve the quality of fun? Or is fun itself to be frowned upon?
Having reformed in 2007, Fluorescent Black is the first album by the New York hip-hoppers since 2003's Anti-Pop Consortium vs Matthew Shipp, after which members Beans, High Priest and M Sayyid split to pursue solo careers. Together again, they've resumed the metallic, righteous blaze they've been trailing since 1997, when they first met at a poetry slam, in tandem with producer Earl Blaize.
Opener Lay Me Down blows the doors off their hinges with its squally guitars and giant, waspish Moog. With their use of samplers, keyboards, synths, effects pads and decks, they have some of the raucous, hands-on feel of a rock group. As ever, there's a hell of a lot of overmatter and innovative mutations to grapple with in the fabric of Anti-Pop Consortium's sound. On Timpani the titular percussive instrument takes a starring role for perhaps the first time in hip-hop history, and to impressively martial effect, while the laser wah-wahs of C Thru U and the lava bubbles of Volcano work like mercury in the ear canal.
Overall, there's an old-school quality to the rapping, the braggadocio concentrating on musical skills rather than gangsta fantasy: “We're problematic for the formulaic”. However, the sheer weight of Fluorescent Black can be oppressive occasionally, amounting to a clenched assertion of superiority minus the quicksilver wit of, say, a Madlib. They glorify inhumanity on The Solution, in which robot voices decry the weaknesses of flesh and invite humans to attain “perfectibility” by becoming metal. Maybe they buy a little too much into the notion of anti-softness.
Fortunately, however, there is more than enough to engage, not least NY to Tokyo, featuring Roots Manuva, with its high kicking, minimal techno strut.