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El-P - Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3

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Artist: El-P

Album: Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3

Label: Gold Dust

Review date: Aug. 9, 2010

El-P’s Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is said to have been inspired, in manner if not in sound, by J Dilla’s beloved Donuts. This makes sense — both are essentially instrumental and neither sweats the structure enough to be called a proper album. But that’s about where the affinity ends. El-P’s aesthetic is almost the opposite of Dilla’s freewheeling sonic-scavenger approach to production: he goes for depth, not breadth, refining a static consciousness instead of letting it stream. The consciousness is the same one he’s been developing since Company Flow, a thump-and-skitter cityscape of new-age paranoia, a Blade Runner-inflected jumble of signifiers that have gotten rusty but are no less ominous for it.

Weareallgoingtoburninhell gets that consciousness across as cleanly and purely as you’re likely to ever hear from El, foremost because nobody’s rhyming. On one hand, that’s refreshing; verbal clarity has never been his intent or forte, and his dark wit comes across amply in his choice of sounds, his rhythmic gestures, his song titles. On the other hand, it’s harder to latch on and stay focused; unlike Dilla’s donuts, these tracks never veer off suddenly or hit unexpected sweet spots. There are a few standalone bangers, particularly “Time Won’t Tell” and “He Hit Her So She Left,” and a few confounding tracks — “Contagious Snippet” is a funk odyssey led by Wilder Zoby, of Def Jux lounge lizards Chin Chin; “Eat My Garbage 2” is a mini-mix of the entire megamixxx with all but the drums removed — but little that’ll jolt you to attention. The one communicative sample on the mix, a Twilight Zone clip at the beginning of “How To Serve Man (Stripped)” isn’t chilling, exactly, but it does give the steely menace of the track an explicit context, which is good for at least a few minutes of engagement.

In the absence of more such framing devices, some of these tracks run together or run aground — which would be disappointing if the mix had pretentions of breaking new ground, or simply of being an album. But Weareallgoingtoburninhell‘s appeal is simply that it showcases El-P less as a producer who makes constantly compelling instrumental songs than as one working tirelessly to describe a mood, one who can take the futuristic sci-fi horror flick in his head and put in your head, too. The mix’s most pleasing moments and its most successful don’t usually overlap: some of the beats are fresh, some of the basslines impeccable, but it’s the extramusical sensations, those slithering intimations of robotic insects rooting through the garbage for your financial information, that make this worth engaging with on his terms, not your own.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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