Flipping the syntax on the popular saying for dirty stop outs "I'll sleep when I'm dead" innovative rapper El-P has released his first album for five years. The New York is a busy man of course -running his "Def Jux" label as well as producing other artists but he reckons the five yard gap between albums is an advantage anyway as it has prevented him putting out the same album year after year. As he says "I'm a different person at 30 than I was at 25".
Personally I'm not entirely convinced that this album is that much different to "Fantastic Damage". Its a little more loose and melodic but essentially EL-P is using the same melange of grimy rhythms, hardcore beats, samples, cacophonous interludes, scuffed feedback and jarring lyrical passages. Thematically it's as if the rapper has been given insight into some terrible dystopian future as he fires precise lyrical bullets at faith politics , the obsession with statistics , driving in a metropolis and rampant consumerism.
There are guest spots for Trent Reznor on "Flyentology", fellow rapper Cage on the blackly humorous "Habeas Corpses" , a judicious Cat Power on "Poisonville Kids No Wins" and label mates Aesop Rock on the dynamic "Run The Numbers". There also contributions from Mars Volta, James McNew of Yo La Tengo and Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio.
With all these guest slots beyond the hip-hop genre its a worry that this album could have an incoherent mish mash of styles and influences but El-P has seamlessly integrated the various crowd into his sound and philosophy so the music's and albums thematic core remains stable and consistent, in fact so much so I would have liked a little more variety . Still when you have tracks as vibrant as the graticulating "Up All Night" or the Gore-Tex shaving rhythms of "Smithereens( Stop Cryin)" there are few reasons to complain.
The one thing I have to say about El-P , or indeed any Def Jux artists is that I have to be in the mood to listen to them. Some days their skittering rhythms and hyperkinetic beats are just too intense for my jaded palette .But when I am more susceptible to the crushing dense textures then this is truly thrilling music to listen to and while "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" could be considered a difficult album it's one entirely appropriate for these difficult times.
on 9 July 2007
I'm at the stage with this album whereby I think it's pretty much a classic but I could end up losing interest soon. The real test is whether I get that hit a couple of months in where I listen to it once at find something even more spectacular about it.
So far I love it: the extended, prog-rock beats and electronics/noises of all descriptions. My favourites are probably the first track, last and many of the others in between. It's a lot easier to say which tracks I don't find 100% great. Flyentology has a slightly monotonous and boring beat which doesn't quite seem as dark or deep as some of his other tracks but it's still pretty good.
I bought this quite soon after getting Fantastic Damage and am currently in a sort of EL-P mode which could mean I'm a little biased but this is definitely worth a listen.
on 10 April 2007
Its been a while coming, and ignoring more low key releases like collect the kid this is El P's long awaited follow up to Fantastic Damage.Like alot of Def Jux material on first listen its alot to take in, El P production is so multi layered you either have to listen to the beats or the emcs, but by the third of fourth listen this album really comes into its own.Tracks 2 and 3 are instant, with El P chatting away in his usual off beat style and with guest emcs such as Aesop Rock and Cage appearing the flow of the album is faultless.With all El Ps other commitments on the Def Jux label im not surprised this album has been a long time coming but it certainly delivers.This album sets another landmark in the hip hop culture, with my only personal complaint is a no show by Vast Aire....apart from that,no more crying.....
on 26 February 2008
This album was well worth the long wait since Fantastic Damage dropped.
Unlike previous albums (and other Def Jux compilations), ISWYD really flows as one beautifully crafted journey from start to finish. The more I listen to this, the more I love it.
The beats are "dirty, dusty" as ever, and the lyrics still poignant, intelligent and potent. This is another proud feather in El-P's cap.
I spoke to him last October after a gig in Manchester and he told me he was already working on new material - so hopefully us Jukies won't have an extended wait for the next album!