Review Summary: An ethereal and beautiful hip hop dream world.Preface: PSY/OPSogist has made this album and all of his others available for free download on his blog at psyopsogist.blogspot.com. Included here is a direct download link for
Suffused With Static: http://sharebee.com/13ce4ffa
In a year suffused with unknown, self-made musicians gaining attention with highly personal albums (Have a Nice Life, The Flashbulb, Son Lux, Bon Iver, etc.) it's easy to see how PSY/OPSogist's Suffused With Static
flew under the radar. However, Suffused With Static
, PSY/OPSogists' fourth official release since he started composing in 2005, is as deserving of attention as any other lo-fi, homebrewed album to come out this year (or last year in the case of For Emma, Forever Ago
). Resident of Goochland County, Virginia, PSY/OPSogist, real name Emory and from here on referred to as PSY, releases albums as entire compositional units. In his words, "[n]ot songs, but a whole piece to be listened from start to finish." Fittingly, Suffused With Static
announces itself with a deepthroated monologue that says, "PSY/OPSogist presents..." After the introduction PSY then launches the album into fifty minutes of continuous instrumental hip hop that PSY astutely labels "Atmospheric Headphone Music."
His style is obviously a product of the DJ Shadow school of instrumental hip hop (even sampling "Organ Donor" on "All Is Not Well" if my ears don't deceive me), favoring big, open drum sounds, tripped out or jazzy instrumental samples, and long, slow-burning passages. However, PSY only uses that paradigm as a starting point. His compositions are much less arced than Shadow's and tend to fade in and out of different compositional ideas instead. The overall, continuous format of Suffused With Static
suggests this relatively flat structure immediately; every song is connected by drawn out, ominous fades and beat exchanges that smoothly blend all of the individual songs together rather than alternate them with large dynamic contrasts. Similarly, within any given song, PSY prefers to just phase in and out of different ideas by adding or deleting samples one at a time, instead of creating jutting sectional segues. The result is a series of songs, and within that, passages that feels like a steady journey through a highly detailed soundscape rather than an emotional rollercoaster with a gripping narrative. Like recalling a dream after waking up, there is a tangible yet detached feeling associated with the entirety of Suffused With Static
that is its greatest strength and weakness. It's a strength in that the album is mesmerizing and cohesive as a whole, but a weakness in that any one section is nebulous and amorphous and blends into that larger whole once elapsed.
Despite the album's proclivity to a holistic listening experience rather than a reductionist one, when breaking down any one song or section, the production is interesting and engaging. At the song level, PSY does a great job of encapsulating genre and feel. "Service Preparation" does a revamping of Austin Powers-esque 60s psychedelic pop, including a catchy chromatically descending chord progression and wild distorted organ. "Between the Keys" sounds like it could have been lifted from Illmatic
with its raw sounding drum kit and sparse piano accompaniment. "Transmigration (Stranger)," a darker and smoother sounding track, really aligns with DJ Shadow or Blue Sky Black Death in terms of beat and atmosphere. Going a little deeper and looking at how individual sections and parts blend together, "Opposing Drives" is a dub-inspired song who's child-like bassline belies the bleakness of the rest of the production. "Non Music" throws an Indian drone sound up against a garage-rock beat and other ambient production nuggets, creating a puree of varying sounds. "V-SIS" wedges a jazzy standup bassline and a standard hip hop beat against wailing echo pedal trails and guitar / glockenspiel arpeggios, pitting rhythm-centric genres against pitch-concerned genres. This panoply of different genres is what gives the album its different flavors, as if moving from section to section is like moving from scene to scene or locale to locale. Each song is a stop on a strange time and space distorting trip through hip hop history - past, present, and likely even future.
Though PSY nimbly manages his influences and his production techniques are spot-on I can't help but wonder what would happen if he put more into crafting each individual song as its own entity. As aforementioned the flat arc is both enabling and disabling. Interestingly, when holding up any one song on Suffused With Static
against any one on his most recent EP, Souls Touch
, a collection unreleased songs written for various songwriting competitions, an SWS
track will feel somewhat deflated. For what PSY gains in cohesion and aesthetic by seamlessly blending his soundscapes together he loses in songwriting as evidenced by the upstaging memorable stunners like "Still" and "Operation Dandelion." Speculation aside, PSY/OPSogist has left us with another translucent and beautiful hip hop dream world to enjoy, Suffused With Static
, that holds up well against the year's other elite self-produced releases.