Monday, January 4, 2010

Aesop Rock- Float

    “So I heard y’all wanna float”, begins Aesop Rock’s second album, aptly titled *drumroll*, Float. We’ll, it’s not quite as strong a statement as being ‘ready to die’, or relating the shaolin slums of your birth, but it supplies a befitting color to the album that’s sets it apart from the hip-hop cannon. Combining minimalist beats with the abstract word salad flow of Busdriver, Aesop strikes a winning formula with skill and levity, carrying along a few interesting guests (Slug, Dose One & Vast Air) for the ride. This twenty track mammoth deserves all the acclaim it gets and then some.

    Float truly kicks in with “Big Bang”, which (like the rest of the album) Aesop unfolds like a modernist novel with the calm of a storyteller, ready at any moment to explode a into 10,000 word-per-minute lyrical cyclone. Yet unlike other hyper-literate artists (*ahem* Morrissey), he manages to remain unpretentious and hard-hitting. The lesson here is that his flow is jazz incarnate, wherein he continually overextends, oddly stresses, or pauses in unexpected places, only to save the momentum a few bars later. “Oxygen” sees Aesop casually debating himself about God, fishing, and lemonade, while “Basic Cable” bemoans modern society’s techno-dependency poetically, not pedagogically. “Plug it in, turn it on, be my mother when she's gone, great/wipe the spittle off my chinny-chin during the breaks/if I gotta go blind I'mma do it for the love of all television kind”. Solid.

    While the record remains easy-going, it doesn’t box itself into one style. “Skip Town” bounces along on a hazy reggae beat, the trifecta of “Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner with Blockhead” adds short instrumental breaks to the dense flows, and the dark, xylophone-laden jazz of “Spare a Match” is tastefully accompanied by a Digable Planets sample. He maneuvers each new style expertly, and his unconcerned delivery makes it sound easy.

    Aesop aside, Vast Air gives some solid lines amongst his posturing on “Attention Span”, namely, the uplifting hook "it’s the simple things in life that turn the peasants into leaders", one positive message of many on Float. Startlingly, Slug’s guest spot on “I’ll Be OK” is a let-down. He is audibly uncomfortable on the bouncy off-kilter jazz of Float, delivering two flat and uninspired verses which share nothing in common with his fantastic and self-loathing confessionals in Atmosphere. Fortunately, the only thing which truly upsets me about this record was not finding it sooner


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