Review Summary: The Infomatics channel an ambitious mixture of east coast rap, jazz, Irish folk and northern soul
Of all the things Ireland is known for around the world- Guinness, leprechauns, St. Paddy’s Day, construction workers?- it’s a pretty safe bet that hip hop is not one that’s likely to come up too often. There are some very good reasons for this, none of which are particularly interesting, but in recent years the concept of “Irish hip hop” has migrated from Plastic Paddies like House of Pain
and ex-pats like Marxman
to the domestic scene, centred around Dublin. Scary Éire
and Exile Eye
paved the way during the ‘90s, mirroring attempts across Europe to adjust a uniquely American art form for very different domestic context, but it is only since the turn of the millennium that a truly independent scene has emerged.
Frequent patrons of this web site will be all too aware of this writer’s unbridled Messiah J and the Expert
fetish, however Dublin five-piece the Infomatics will not be quite so familiar. They’ve been hovering above the scene for a good five years now, fine-tuning their sound and resisting the urge to release. A risky strategy undoubtedly- just ask Axl “Soon
is not the word” Rose- but one that has paid off handsomely for the group with the nerdy name. With Kill Or Create
, the Infomatics have justified the underground hype that has been heaped upon them since their much-praised demo emerged in 2006, and have decisively broken MJEX’s hold on the “only Irish rap act of note” crown.
Sonically, one half of Kill Or Create
is a relatively conservative outing, mining the same east coast treasure chests that have come to shape indie hip hop in recent years. Echoes of The Low End Theory
, Critical Beatdown
and Daily Operations
are clearly heard in the sparser, jazz-inflected numbers like ‘Kill Or Create’ and ‘You’ll Get By,’ while the general tendency towards the sinister and the atmospheric calls to mind Nas
’ opus Illmatic
. The attention to detail displayed on these tracks is quite exceptional: ‘You’ll Get By’ utilises the sound of joyful exhalation to give the track a slightly acid dance-y quality, while the beat that underpins ‘Irish Times’ has a quality that sounds remarkably like somebody wobbling a thin piece of cardboard. These minor touches, not always noticeable on the first or second listen, add much to the character of these less adventurous tracks.
On the other hand, there’s an altogether riskier side to Kill Or Create
, one that clearly channels Marxman’s pioneering studies in trad/folk-influenced trip hop. ‘Back To Front’ balances a series of bright and cheerful flute melodies (recorded live and sampled by beatmaker/producer Boc) atop Run DMC
-like trade-off vocals as MCs Dero and Konchus Lingo trade war stories of pre-menstrual girlfriends. ‘Copper Chopper’ takes a similar approach, though erring on the electronic side, but the best tracks on the CD are the ones that fall neatly into neither camp. Lead single ‘Wake Up’ is tense and upbeat, criticising modern Dublin from the inside with the aid of choice northern soul samples and fluttering electronics, while ‘Irish Times’ (titled after the country’s leading broadsheet newspaper) lifts the lid on death, teen pregnancy and the media’s ability to revel in both.
Another highlight, ‘P.O.P.,’ sums up Kill Or Create
in a pleasant, if disarmingly inoffensive nutshell. A disgruntled indictment of manufactured pop music, ‘P.O.P’ balances flute samples with elegant jazz piano as the MCs utter the group’s work ethic: “Songs are paragraphs/Albums become a chapter/The book of life writes itself from the past to now and after.”