Review Summary: hesitation is a virus in god mode, and nostrum grocers is the firewall
…And so here we sit, watching Milo and Elucid sink into their pasts in the hope that they re-emerge with a blueprint for the future. Nostrum Grocers operates at times like a lucky dip of references; just in the first track Milo breathily mutters “…budding ornithologists grow weary of tired analogies”, hearkening back to The Days of Rob, and both lyricists doggedly spit their truths from the rooftops. Nostrum Grocers will not have you be mistaken: they are the mediums. They are the scholars of Black America. They are the ruby yacht.
The following is an excerpt from walter hudson
Elucid: ”…there’s a wrong to correct, there’s a debt to collect. If I hear another mother***er say this ain’t my job…this ain’t my job…
Milo: ”…well it is my job.”
And therein lies the crux of this tape. To Milo and Elucid it's more than just taking the initiative, I think; that the wordsmiths decide to adopt these pursuits as their calling is a matter of urgency, of necessity, and it’s been that way for years now. It's imperative that Milo and Elucid cause trouble, it’s their job to kick up the muddy banks in order to reveal the deep-seeded corruptions laying dormant underneath. However, both of them understand that, to do so, they need to resolve the inner conflicts of their fellow man/woman.
Fashioning themselves as “black liberation technicians”, the pair conjure a tacit understanding that they themselves are already liberated, or -- perhaps I should take a step back -- enlightened. As technicians of a fledgling revolution, the tape calls out to the oppressed, assuring them the water is warm, that it’s fine to jump in, and that they too can reclaim that sense of independence which has long since been subsumed by societal prejudices. Independence, naturally, precedes the idea of choice and free will. That notion of agency -- an omnipresent spectre in both rappers’ careers -- undergirds all the jokes, references, and tangents here, and on a record where the beats are patient, laconic even, it’s interesting to note how it’s still a rousing and potent listen. Could it actually be because of how unhurried it feels at first? The opener is a track called circumcision is the first betrayal
. I guess even when our old pal Elucid is invoking the image of his dick jammed in a sock, we’re acutely aware of this album’s premise.
Digging around the crusty footwear, the geometry of ghosts, the 90s film antagonists, we find that individuality is the currency with which Milo and Elucid are wont to trade. The significance of this uniqueness, especially as a means of rebellion, is really the galvanizing force here; songs like camera
are a middle finger in the face of conformity, a smoky saxophone stretching and yawning as Elucid admits his plan to “complicate the narrative”. And indeed Nostrum Grocers are purveyors of mischief -- they spin webs that tangle and ensnare and confuse, but they always have faith that The Cult of the Open-Minded will glean the meaning from the abstract.
But not only are the two adroit technicians -- they’re also tour guides, inducting the listener into a society of new ideals and systems. Bear with me while I retread old paths, but if we take a brief look at Nostrum Grocers’ bandcamp page, their biography summarises the last two years of these two lives intertwining, before honing in on a quote that wouldn’t have felt out of place on the album itself: “…the two explore a new world that deviates from the oppressive ones currently in place.”
The focus is on the word “deviates”, because that’s what's happening here -- left turns and volte faces. Even the beats feel different, though still distinctly ruby yacht (Ferriera and Hall produced this record with no outside interference). A lot of the instrumentals sound like a less nebulous Scallops Hotel (read: thermometer), beautiful reverb-drenched piano chords mingling with idiosyncratic vocal outbursts mingling with slack-wristed percussion. The rhythms…deviate, too -- sometimes (as with ashwaganda
) it sounds like The Grocers have borrowed a typical hip-hop beat and scrambled it until it barely resembles its original form. Connecting the dots is overrated. It's in rearranging the dots to form your own image that progression is mined.
I thought, at first, that this album was an abstract portrait of two rappers suspended in a point in time, but now I’ve decided I was off the mark. Nostrum Grocers
is more an urbanized landscape with Milo and Elucid standing next to each other, distant but still dead center. Landmarks of the past surround them, repurposed as safe houses for the disenfranchised. Those who are confused and/or feeling their own identities slip through shaking fingers will find refuge at places like the Wahoo Monastery. Tongue-in-cheek references are a form of security. In this “new world”, the sole focus is turning confusion into brilliance, lost souls into heads of state. If that’s Nostrum Grocers’ job, I think we can all agree they’ve found their calling.