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Spectre - Internal Dynasty

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Artist: Spectre

Album: Internal Dynasty

Label: Wordsound

Review date: Mar. 19, 2009

Brooklyn’s Spectre is one of those rare artists who appear to operate entirely in a musical vacuum, where it’s possible to mine one’s own creativity without the distraction of pesky outside influences. Whether this is accidental or of his own doing is ultimately less crucial than observing how this protective shield keeps his records sounding innovative, intriguing and utterly bizarre. Although he first announced himself as an affiliate of Bill Laswell’s and a collaborator with artists like Prince Paul and Techno Animal, Spectre’s beats rarely sound influenced by any others who dwell within the hip hop underground. In his best moments, Spectre’s butchered beats and sinister sampling techniques almost seem like remnants from a historically undiscovered place and time, and on Internal Dynasty – Spectre’s seventh full length album – abundant evidence is offered for such an argument.

His considerable acumen aside, it’s important to note that a large part of what makes the iconic Brooklyn producer so intriguing is the impenetrable mystery he cloaks himself in. Spectre has long promoted himself as a kind of visitor from a parallel universe, where he is known variously as “The Ill Saint,” “The Dark Knight,” or simply “The Eye”. Even with his frequent collaborations with an assortment of left-of-center MCs (Sensational, most notably) he purposefully reveals nothing about himself, apparently preferring enigmatic communiqués over easily understood facts and figures. Subsequently, it’s fair to assume that the prevailing questions for any newcomers to this album will be mainly of the ‘what the hell just happened?’ variety.

“Let it Grow” is among the album’s many highlights, with a teutonic sci-fi vocal track from Hyperaktiv delivered amidst Spectre’s marriage of staccato beats and shortwave radio static. “Unseen Forces” dials up an unsettling ambience that lies somewhere in between the X-Files and Michael Myers’ theme music, while “Waziristan”’s clamorous horn blasts notch up the general urgency of the album to heart-threatening levels. There’s a great deal of variation from track to track, but the album’s 42 minutes remain systemically disquieting, off-kilter and reassuringly distanced from any current trend in hip hop. If the mainstream’s preoccupation with money and material pursuits bores you to tears – and it certainly ought to – Internal Dynasty’s frenetic analysis of human despair, self-doubt, and search for a universal spirituality comes across with exceptional intensity.

By Mike Lupica

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