Review Summary: A melancholic and beautifully arranged outing of intrumental hip hop that is experimental, yet not alienating, dark but not bleak.
My shift into instrumental hip hop has been significant over the past year or two. After really getting stuck into more recent outings by artists like Metaform, Blue Sky Black Death, PSY/opsogist among other similar artists that specialise in creating an atmospheric and musically diverse environment, I wanted to find something more localised from my area. I had heard of TZU, who are currently touring in this years Big Day Out festival, who are well acclaimed in the local hip hop community and utilise old school synths in which Rolling Stone Magazine praised their ability to ‘meld classic eighties electro with the more traditional funk keeping the emphasis on authenticity and class throughout’. However, what struck my attention was what the turntable dude was doing in his spare time (which I can’t fathom how much spare time he has with his commitments not only to TZU, but his other projects Curse Ov Dialect and Symbiotic Sound System). In early 2005, Pasobionic aka Shahab Tariq completed and released his debut album, Empty Beats for Lonely Rappers. Although it was well received by reviewers, it hadn’t received that much attention hence why it took me almost four years for me to stumble across Pasobionic when reading about TZU.
Most of the album consists of murky basslines, hypnotic and wonderfully sampled piano, xylophone, and guitar loops accompanied by organic and infectious drum rhythms. From haunting downtempo excursions into melancholy such as the title track and Empty Beat 1, to highly experimental ambient tracks like Dead Like the Young and the industrially dark Dislocated, to the downright evil circus escapade, Empty Beat 4, there is an overall haunted tone to the whole album, even with all the scratching and beautifully arranged guitars and strings. In particular Hollow Bones is a concentrated encapsulation of this tone and the aptly named track demonstrates Pasobionic’s awareness of this subtlety of tone and the ethereal. Everything is way too meticulous and painstakingly arranged for a clash of tone or feel
To compare this album with a similar artist, I’d have to say PSY/opsogist’s Suffused with Static would have to be the closest, which is probably highly debatable, but personally I find that both artists have an inclination for a progressive and ambient feel with more organic sampling rather than having a thick electronic disposition. But where Pasobionic excels is that the album as a whole flows so well even with the changes of theme. For example my personal favourite Echoes of Blue is the lonely uptempo track filled with fluttering xylophones and bass that somehow turns to the dark side when the piano kicks in, then melds with the uptempo rhythm for an intensely tasteful concoction that goes far beyond any lowly adjective.
This album, to put it simply, is an amazing achievement and instrumental hip hop of the highest calibre. It deserves a heap more recognition in a genre that is incredibly fascinating because it’s very foundation is exploratory in its use of sampling which requires the composer to be able to utilize those samples in such a manner that those samples becomes unrecognisable from their manipulation and new context. Fans of instrumental hip hop and ambient music, this is a must listen if you can get your hands on a copy.