Review Summary: Taking power from stagnating major labels one PBR&Bstep at a time.
Since the recent emergence of electronic-influenced production techniques interlaced with R&B vocals, critics and the internet music nerd genre police alike have been quick to latch onto this evolution with some newly fabricated terminology. Alternative R&B (alternative to what"), PBR&B (whatever the fu
ck that even means, I'm guessing something to do with hipsters, whatever a hipster even is anymore), ethereal R&B, and troves of other vague descriptors populate the blogosphere lately but are ultimately unnecessary. While basically clumped in with this supposed new breed of R&B experimentalists, Inc. only remotely adhere to the non-existing tenets of R&Bstep, or R-Neg-B, or whatever. No World
is an evident microcosm to this greater problem the critical universe experiences at large.
Yes, the opening bars of "The Place" feature a tinny snare, hi-hats, and even some atmospherically charged pearl drops. But make no mistake, the production here is traditional through and through, merely suffering variations on a theme. No World
is a fundamentally solid R&B record at its core, nodding at influences from the greats as a practitioner of any trade should. "Trust (Hell Below)" could have been a Prince B-side in an alternate reality where Prince wrote generally less engaging music. It's this air of synth funk combined with early 2000s club grind that is the true sound Inc emulates - merely supported by a few modern electronic techniques and lo-fi aesthetics seemingly pilfered from How To Dress Well's Love Remains
The real detractor to No World
lies with Inc.'s horrible ear for vocal processing coupled with technique and delivery that would make an elementary school music teacher commit suicide. Album highlight "Desert Rose (War Prayer)" is nearly ruined by these miscues; a chilled out vibe builds into a busy trip-hop epilogue almost calling to mind Blue Sky Black Death in approach. But nearly all of the vocals are mumbled in such an incredible way that the English language being used to convey thought here is nearly indiscernible. Said "words" impinge on each other even further as to become indistinguishable due to an amalgam of whispered annunciation and far too much reverb on every vocal track. It's really unfortunate that Inc. hasn't been able to elevate beyond these very basic production mistakes; they give an impression that No World
was either unmastered or mastered haphazardly at best.
Regardless, groups like Inc. are refreshing in the sense that they are heavily influenced by their indie contemporaries, effectively taking the torch and power away from stagnating major labels that classically gauged success on grind-ability alone. This more thoughtful evolution of R&B is simply taking over at this point, while encouraging liberal infusion of other genres and ideas that will hopefully maintain this new-found air of innovation for years to come.