Review Summary: Glitches, simple beats and inspirational samples combine to make one acid trip of an album.
I was assigned Neat Beat's debut album in Sputnik’s Random Review Game, yet it feels like more than coincidence. See, Cosmic Surgery
is a heartwarming album that doesn't really understand how heartwarming it is. It's evidence enough to look at the artist's title, because any potential fans may shrug off the artist as a harvester of chill tunes. But what makes me so passionate about this release is that I hear the commitment Alvin Fenner's made to capturing the proverbial lightning in a bottle - every track strikes gold, simply through tacking memorable piano melodies onto retro hip-hop beats. It seems too straight-laced to be impactful, but this simplicity is what makes Cosmic Surgery
Fenner's debut works precisely because of its rough nature. All the tracks here are easy enough to appreciate, but some are more successful than others. The strongest moments here show Fenner at home, fusing easygoing hip-hop beats with infectious hooks. This may be achieved through an eclectic vocal sample, glitchy experimentation a la Baths, or cathartic percussion. Or maybe it’s all the above, the sheer ambition of an album that fuses all these elements into something unforgettable.
The only time Cosmic Surgery
falters is when it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The release’s midsection pursues a silly videogame aesthetic in the form of “Kung Fu of the Astronaut Drunkards” and, (surprise surprise), “Videogame Characters.” The songs are about as entertaining as misguided experiments can be, but it’s needless to say that they stick out like a sore thumb between the other gems. Perhaps Fenner could work in the 8-bit synths and chiptune influences successfully on his next release, but here they serve as detractors instead of achievements. The mark of a truly successful album, though, is one whose blemishes are enjoyable out of context. In this regard, Cosmic Surgery
is in the clear.
The best way for a musician to introduce himself seems to be to releasing something substantial enough to pique the interest of new fans. It’s safe to say Cosmic Surgery
has accomplished this, and only from a simple Youtube search. Neat Beats has effectively established a loyal group of followers from behind the curtains, luring beatheads in with quality rather than marketing. I guess this confirms I wasn’t the only one that felt an instant connection with the stutters and stops, the rhythmic pulses found throughout Cosmic Surgery. The glitches are mechanistic, but also with a deep-seated vibrancy that implies we’ll be seeing them again soon enough.