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THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE

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Artist: THEESatisfaction

Album: awE naturalE

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Mar. 27, 2012

The trouble with a good platform is you start to feel like you have to say something on it. Seattle duo THEESatisfaction have built themselves a pretty terrific platform, a breezy fusion of cubist Stankonian funk and jazzy hip-hop that is, happily, more Digable Planet than Shabazz Palace. (Ishmael Butler turns up on their awE naturalE and they on his Black Up, but Shabazz’s alien churn is an ornament here, not a foundation.) At base level, it’s a little smarter than the beatscape of your garden-variety post-R&B effort; at best, like on the propulsive “Sweat” and the Madlib-plus “Existinct,” it’s a revelation.

But … well, the message falls short. That the lyrics (and their alternately crooned and flat-rapped delivery) are nothing new is probably the worst that can be said of them; if you have a need in your life for more Burning Man-type self-actualization rhetoric (“What are the ideals that hold you back? / What kind of support do you lack?”) or simplistic party rhymeplay (“Turn off your swag / Check your bag”), go ahead and ignore this paragraph. The duo’s conjoint heart is in the right place, no question, which has historically more than sufficed in all the musical traditions to which awE naturalE is heir.

Anyway, that imbalance of word and sound is the only drawback worth pointing out; for what it’s worth, asking the word to match the complexity and occasional challenge of the sound would surely court its own problems. What remains is to ignore the message and enjoy the medium, which makes the case — practically, not spiritually — for figuring out how to unlearn English for a few minutes at a time.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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