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Anti-Pop Consortium - Arrhythmia

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Artist: Anti-Pop Consortium

Album: Arrhythmia

Label: Warp

Review date: Apr. 9, 2002

Just based on the name alone, one might suspect that hip hoppers Antipop Consortium have positioned themselves as far way from anything jiggy, pimpin’, or even remotely involving Courvoisier as they can. It’s a fair assumption too when listening to their debut Tragic Epilogue. Although hailed by many as a modern classic, the record always struck me as patchy in parts, too heavily reliant on GRE caliber lyrics to notice that sometimes the deliberately stripped down arrangements left something lacking in the overall sound. It’s one thing to be indie as fuck, but it’s a whole other story to just be sloppy. The group’s first EP for Warp Records, however, riveted down the sound the group had been going for. On the few vocal tracks, the flows were tighter, the beats harder and more cohesive. E. Blaize’s production had stepped up to the challenge as well, trading off patchy drum machines for solid, electro-infused beats. The only problem here was that the release was far too short – seventeen minutes was hardly enough time to introduce the world to the new sound. That task was left to their impressive new full length Arrhythmia. This is Antipop’s strongest release to date, as the group are finally starting to figure out how to make their lyrical and sonic abstractions move with the force of anything tossed out by the Neptunes.

The album begins proper with the congas and synths that lead into “Bubblz.” The lines here are tighter than anything Jay-Z could spit, and the simple repetitive beat succeeds in moving your ass. At the same time, however, this is not your modern day Hot97 hip hop by any stretch of the imagination. The group reveals some of the inspiration for their sound with tracks like these: Afrika Bambaataa’s electro-fried funk experiments of the 1980s. “Ping Pong” takes its cues from a sample of the game of the same name, adding another hard beat to match the rhythm in addition to an almost RZA-esque piano line. It’s an accurate title, too, as the lyrical back and forth among the three talented MCs is some of the strongest to be heard on the record. At times they make it seem as effortless and as graceful as table tennis, only something that would blare comfortably at any party. “Dead In Motion” works hard to merge thumping beats with modern electronic touches and succeeds admirably while the MCs continue their trend of rhyming as far away from conventional rap as possible. On “Silver Heat”, producer Earl Blaize steps up to the mike over a sparse yet hard beat to drop some rhymes, and more surprisingly, some scat rhythms towards the tracks conclusion as well. “Ghost Lawn” careens on top of hyper fast flows and an insistent almost jungle beat (honestly, I think this track just begs for the DJ Screw treatment, but that could just be me). The album ends with the one-two punch of “Conspiracy of Myth” and “Human Shield”. The former rests on synth flourishes and a disjointed beat that still manages to make the head nod, while the latter reverts back to the dirty, raw, electro-funk sound the group works on throughout the rest of the record, randomly speeding it up and slowing it down at key points.

Unfortunately, not all of the group’s sonic experiments pay off with as many dividends. “We Kill Soap Scum”, while somewhat interesting, doesn’t work well at all, with the lyrics existing on some abstract plain that even my deepest understanding of metaphors can’t really explain. “Focused” lacks all the punch of the rest of the tracks on the album as well. Lyrically it’s tight, but overall the track still drags. These are but two minor complaints in the overall scheme of the record, however. The rest of the tracks swing harder, faster, and tougher than anything else Antipop has released thus far in their short career. Much like their previous releases, the production duties are shared by Beans, High Priest, and M. Sayyid to excellent effect as each beat master finds new and creative ways to keep the music original, creative, raw, and yet still somewhat funky. The true strength of this album is the fact that it throws down the gauntlet to the rest of indie hip hop – yeah, it’s one thing to spit complex vocabulary like a thesaurus, but how about you make your music move? With Arrhythmia, Antpop Consortium answer their own challenge to hip hop in full effect. Now it seems that the group are just one or two clunkers away from recording a bona fide masterpiece.

By Michael Crumsho

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