Review Summary: The blues won't born in a bunker.
Writing about Oblivion Access
, a bittersweet final hurrah years in the making, presents mixed feelings of obligation. In a writeup for Fader
, Duncan Cooper describes Lil Ugly Mane’s "winding-down of his career [as] a commentary about its own non-viability
.” So, while it feels necessary to do his finale justice, it feels counterintuitive to speculate what it all means, ya know?
In Travis Miller (LUM)’s bandcamp description, he describes the album both crudely and profoundly, with a signature flavour of black comedy dotted with obscene self-awareness. There’s no denying the level of commitment at hand, but cynical humour is one of Miller’s best coping mechanisms. He uses a bathtub analogy, and explains how Oblivion Access
’s content is “all the shit, cum, blood, piss, sweat, flakes of dead skin, and hair collecting by the drain, too thick and clotted to fit through the trap.
” Maybe it's best to take the bone Miller hands to us. It’s an album of dealing with baggage. Ugly, real
baggage - the kind you sift through and throw out with a sigh of relief.
The sound is a bit of a departure from the Memphis flavour on 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation
, with a more industrial, Tackhead-y tinge, reminiscent of his background in noise music. Mane has stated, “THIS IS NOT A CLUB RECORD,” and the way he rides his beats reinforces this. His flow is often more poetic than energetic. More self-effacing than self-aggrandizing. On “Slugs”, Miller spits vinegar, delivering the grittiest, most infectious flow present (and watch for the Portishead sample). With “Collapse and Appear”, he uses a rigid text-to-speech system in the second half that clashes with the nuanced production. It’s questionable whether the voice adds or takes away the potency, but it pops the lyrics in a way that they aren’t embedded in LUM’s persona, but more of a deeply personal document for examination. “Drain Counter” is a productional and lyrical highlight; at times, the production is reminiscent of cLOUDDEAD’s Ten
, with a cosmic ambience that doesn’t whitewash the beats, except with more compelling wordplay. The background violin calls to mind a serene summer afternoon, as though Miller is atoning in hindsight, far-removed from the source of any wrongdoings.
There’s plenty of diversity here. “Leonard’s Lake” blends Norfolk Jazz & Jubilee Quartet vocal melodies with creaking porch swings, dusty Casio keyboard lines, and hi-hat rhythms that might have been created by hitting spoons on a salad bowl. “Warmest Flag” has traces of noise, impossibly deep bass, and glitchy tape reels. (The latter of those two isn't particularly interesting, while the former could have nostalgic context for the Virginian.) Closer “Intent and Purulent Discharge” feels uncomfortably intimate. The refrain, “what’s it all mean / what’s he saying when he says it / what’s the underlying topic / what’s the motive in his message / blugh blugh blugh blugh!
” mocks both others’ speculation of his lyrics, and his own sincerity. The disgusted tone mirrors the track title (equating his creative output to pus leakage), and falls somewhere between an actual nervous breakdown and a letter of resignation. Really, what you take away from Oblivion Access
will probably depend on how invested you are in Miller. As an experimental hip-hop release, there are more thought-out efforts outlining bolder statements; but that doesn’t matter. Oblivion Access
is exactly what it needs to be: both a collage of Miller’s capabilities, and a lament of what he is incapable of. Lil Ugly Mane isn’t a god. Not hardly. He shits, pisses, and bleeds like the rest of us.