Review Summary: Innovative production complementing excellent lyricism - one of the first memorable records of the new decade
Relaxing and always likely to yield some results (positive or negative), crate-digging is a vacation hobby of mine. In town for Seattle's 2008 Bumbershoot festival, I walked into the (somewhat) renowned Silver Platters record store seeking not only to relieve a bladder beyond capacity, but also enlightenment on the local music scene. With respect to hip-hop, the first name out of several mouths was "Grayskul" - being well known in the underground is typically a good sign, so that made Bloody Radio
an easy selection. While the overall sound was pretty typical for the region, one part of the equation really stood out: MC Onry Ozzborn. So I've kept my eyes peeled for the past two years - albeit a few equally uninspired releases followed, Dark Time Sunshine's Vessel
was well worth the wait.
The DTS project rectifies every Grayskul-presented hip-hop faux-pas by, first of all, removing all other lyricists from the mix. Ozzborn, reborn under the new pseudonym Cape Cowen, is given a chance to shine. And shine he does, beyond all expectations set by his prior involvements: insightful storytelling, multi-syllabic and internal rhymes, and an obvious intelligence presents a unique interbreeding of several "indie-rap" innovators. For sake of comparison only, picture elements of Slug, Aesop Rock, and El-P, sans the scientifical wizard-rap. A true testament to his abilities is his capability to keep up with highly respected featured artists; where P.O.S., Aes Rock, and Solillaquists' Swamburger drop fantastic verses, they never overshadow the star of the show, who justifiably and creatively maintains any listeners' focus.
The second important facet of Dark Time Sunshine's success is its forsaking of Northwestern tradition with respect to production. Chicago producer Zavala further expands his region's burgeoning sonic renown to include not only the pop-rap and electronic ideals of his peers and precursors, but also an experimental aura courtesy of late 90s-era Company Flow influences of sorts. Zavala puts forth what seems to be roots in rock composition and sampling, combining this with electronic-heavy beats, soulful choruses, and more-than-adequately performed vocal cameos. The result is a completely different breed of hip-hop, drawing from the psychadelic.
Everything about Vessel
just works, from the operatic-come rock leanings of intro "Vessel" to the epic chilldown outro of "No Eye Contact", Dark Time Sunshine's sophomore effort is a ride worth taking from start to finish. This not only for fans of indie-rooted hip-hop, but eclectic music in general and will be remembered as one of the first great joints of the new decade.
To Purchase Vessel