Review Summary: Outsider beats turned inside-out
Aesthetics lay dormant in their heydays all too often. Discussing a genre, it’s likely that one will refer to its origins (or rather its acclaimed hallmarks) but it feels as though we can, at times, zero in solely on the archetypes. When you look at the Wikipedia page for “Trip Hop,” a style established and fully embodied by 90s greats like Portishead and Massive Attack, you’ll find that the heading “Trip Hop in the 2010s” only directs readers to the resurgence of Massive Attack and DJ Shadow alongside BEAK>, the krautrock endeavors of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. That the fires have died down is no question, but the torch is still being carried by forward-thinking eccentrics.
The second offering in Arca’s Stretch
EP series is trip hop in the sense that it’s truly a trip to listen to. Elaborating upon themes set by Stretch 2
’s spacious predecessor, the NYC-based producer makes an even greater effort to puzzle listeners by submerging his misshapen verses in floridly mutant beats. More infectiously narcotic than any of cloud rap’s household names, “2 Blunted” lurches forth with viscous bass that consumes much of his pitch-warped lines. It begins stark, but once a squeaky synth wheezes its way into the mix like puffs of smoke, the void becomes filled with peculiarity-- a potent slab of electro-contortionism that reinforces the EP’s immersive nature.
Arca has a great ear for the off-kilter, but he’s just as well equipped to construct an unfettered banger. Stretch 2
introduces itself with “Self Defense”, which is guided by a jaw harp-like bounciness coupled with towering thuds and perfectly accentuated clamor, and even more impressive rhythmic dexterity is upheld on “Brokeup”, wherein Arca’s rhymes skitter over the kick in an overwhelming stride, and a hook later recites, “It’s too much for me to take.” Individually, these may not be too remote from early Flying Lotus, but they play as thrilling counterparts to finespun and unparalleled arrangements (i.e., “Maiden Voyage”) in context.
is a clear-cut advancement, not just as a sequel but as anything dwelling under the electronic umbrella. Even a stomach-churning feat like “Ass Swung Low” from Stretch 1
would seem feebler alongside mindblower “Tapped In”. Concisely bold, it attains symmetry between bombast and finesse. Not too long after “Fortune” throbs and stutters, “Meditation” and “Manners” (an undisclosed instrumental suite) explore and savor their idiosyncratic textures; it’s unsettling and mesmeric all at once. Though its functions may at times resemble those of Maxinquaye
, Stretch 2
really challenges definition.