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Aesop Rock - Daylight EP

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Artist: Aesop Rock

Album: Daylight EP

Label: Def Jux

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Aesop Rock’s Daylight EP is that rarest of EPs: one released not as a tantalizing glimpse of the upcoming full-length album, but rather as something of a prequel released after the piece of the puzzle that it help to explain. It’s a strange way of putting out music, and it might honestly not work well in any market other than the world of excited internet fans that compose much of the underground hip hop community. As it is, Daylight has been received extremely well as a retrospective of the appetizer-single and the LP proper that Aesop Rock unleashed on his listening public in 2001, with new material thrown in to give it the appearance at least of being something different.

The centerpiece of the EP, and the track(s) that make it worth purchasing for more than just your average AceRock adulating backpacker, is the yin-and-yang duo of “Daylight” and “Nightlight” that opens the EP. I don’t know if anyone has ever tried anything quite like this before in the world of hip hop, but if they have they certainly couldn’t have done it with the panache that Mr. Rock displays in carving out the sunshine of the first song to let the dark side of the soul shine through in the second. I won’t try to do justice to (or understand?) what the fuck is going on with these two; just know that a “stomach full of halo kibbles” becomes a “stomach full of diner food,” and that each time you listen you’ll find something different. “Daylight” was one of the better tracks on the album “Labor Days” (which is saying something given that Aesop Rock continued in 2001 to transcend himself and Blockhead, the primary producer of the album, must have been divinely inspired, because the man suddenly became truly gifted at creating music that you don’t want to stop listening to); “Nightlight” is exclusive to the EP.

“Nickel Plated Pockets,” another new track on the EP, is hardly anything groundbreaking and a bit of a bore, especially coming after “Day/Nightlight.” In fact, through the rest of the EP (other than the bonus track, which we’ll get to), the emcees (Aesop Rock and Blueprint, who produced the rather bland battle track he shares with AceRock on the EP, “Alchemy”) and all the tracks they appear on are out-shined by Blockhead’s instrumental success with “Forest Crunk,” a wanna-be techno track that somehow manages to be a true pleasure to listen to. “Maintenance,” the b-side to the “Coma” single released last year, rounds out the EP proper, but the track has none of the energy that Aesop Rock gives it live, and it ends up sounding repetitive.

This leads us to the bonus track (located about 20 minutes into track seven) which has been hailed by many as the best song on the EP, if not one of Aesop Rock’s best songs. Let me start by saying that neither of those is true. The track can’t touch the “Daylight-Nightlight” duo, and it falls far short of AceRock’s best work. However, it is an interestingly introspective song, dealing with the experience of having a nervous breakdown, and the four people that in some way or another saved the narrator’s life. It follows in the tradition of “No Regrets” from “Labor Days” in that it is straightforward, or at least easily understandable, which is why I believe a lot of people are having mental orgasms over it —- to hear an Aesop Rock song that they understand (and a secret, bonus one, too!) makes them feel smart.

So in the end Aesop Rock manages, even with a belated EP that at times feels lazy, to break new ground, both for himself and his art-form. No surprises there. If he can keep creating songs like “Daylight” and “Nightlight,” he can include whatever the hell else he wants to with them; it will still be worth hearing.

By Daniel Thomas-Glass

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