Review Summary: Pushing the envelope of contemporary music in every possible way
As soon as opener "Hosanna In The Highest" kicks off ANX
, it's obvious this is the same DTS that imagined the most surprising and left-field hip-hop record of 2010 in Vessel
. Producer Zavala intentionally tips his hat to the very same technique used on Vessel
's self-titled introduction before a redefining yet familiar transition to another Ceschi-led psychedelic jam. This is a very common theme throughout ANX
- enough familiarity to remind fans why this music is truly groundbreaking, while progressing and refining their craft at the very same time.
The record's first real cut finds DTS riding an extended instrumental, evolving from a meandering, almost careless synth melody to a focused, fully developed core of "Can't Wait". It's impressive how much Zavala has grown as a producer in a short two years; no matter how busy a beat may be, he always finds his way to the most beautiful and seemingly only apparent transition. When a mood calls for restraint, he's restrained, shining a truly atmospheric spotlight on Onry Ozzborn's verbose, conscious rapping. When a mood calls for experimentation, we get tracks like "Valiant", where Zavala rocks the fu
ck out with a frenetic, syncopated drum loop that tries to overpower the composition yet is ingenious in its use. The argument could be made that such a well composed record is capable of enhancing any rapper; while true, the chemistry between Ozzborn and Zavala is easily apparent on tracks like "Overlordian" - Ozzborn is only moderately upstaged by a socially critical POS dropping one of his most insightful verses in ages:
By all means,
Tell me about your purchases.
That's great, really.
Nothing seems more poisonous
Than trying to spend your way out of worthlessness.
Smack-dab, every city's like a rat's lab,
That big scurry
Give me that, hurry back.
Fury in the belly like a hurricane,
But don't even know to bite back.
Just in-fighting and in-flight meals,
They in-step smile at cops and pay bills.
We probably not like you, correct.
We probably not
Are you? Yes.
Another well-chosen cast of featured vocalists and rappers rounds out ANX
. While not dependant on its guests by any means, Zavala uses each artist's abilities dutifully, especially using his chosen singers to really enhance his control over melody. Poeina Suddarth and Reva DeVito reprise their excellent performances from Vessel
with equally inspired features on "I'll Be Damned" and "Never Cry Wolf", respectively. Besides POS, all of the guest rappers drop absolute fire on ANX
; Rochester AP speaks truth from grave, while Busdriver and Swamburger (from Solillaquists of Sound) spit some of their best verses ever (yes, ever). Aesop Rock closes out "Take My Hand" after Swamburger and Ozzborn, completely obliterating the mic in classic Aes Rock guest rapper style. Self-titled closer "ANX" effectively brings the record full circle with an evocative exposition on serious clinical anxiety by Onry Ozzborn amidst a sea of electronics and Mendee Ichikawa's echoing chorus - "When I woke up / I saw the sky / I kissed the ground / Opened my eyes / I will be here / and I will be here / and I will be, and I will be, and I will be..." - a fitting end to what was a very emotive overall performance.
matures as a follow-up and pushes the envelope of contemporary music in every way, combining influences as diverse as dream-pop, trip-hop, psychedelia, indie rock, and others all under the ever-broadening tag of hip-hop. An exciting year for a creatively stagnating genre, Dark Time Sunshine continue to establish 2012 as the best (and most important) year for hip-hop in over a decade.