Review Summary: The mythical collaboration of an obsessive fan base’s astral dreams
If a bevy of thirty-somethings whose primary objectives in life are to a) beat depression and b) kick in the Doors of Perception Huxley-style were capable of something so taxing as clamouring, chances are they’d be doing so in order to hear a full album of Aesop Rock bars over Blockhead beats. Trails of frantic missives scrawled in Aesopian Safe Spaces the internet-wide are testament to this — Garbology
is the mythical collaboration of an obsessive fan base’s astral dreams.
Well, dear travellers, before the ayahuasca you’ve ingested to enhance your virginal listen of Garbology
winds up on your lab apron, temper your expectations. It’s not exactly epiphanic advice, I know, but let’s focus on the facts: ‘Daylight’ was released 20 years ago; ‘None Shall Pass’ was released 14 years ago. You’re old, buddy, but hopefully you’ve managed to stave off stagnation as effectively as the artists you so revere. Let us collectively join Ian Bavitz and Tony Simon in choosing to embody the aging qualities of a fine Cabernet Sauvignon rather than that half-rotten moo juice sitting in your refrigerator door, and approach Garbology
with empty brains and full hearts.
Well, maybe some
of your expectations can cross the threshold with you. You’ll have to forgive me for a hot minute here as I shamelessly spotlight Aesop’s talents. I promise I’ll keep some superlatives in reserve for the producer that is as essential a cog in Mr. Rock’s career as the ol’ Merriam-Webster, but initial impressions are that Aes’ late-career fingerprint is smudged all over this thing — he brags about being a disgusting recluse, the manifold virtues of skate culture are extolled, Kirby gets a shoutout, hooks are miss and hit, the word “horse” makes an appearance. Yeahyeahyeah, but has the menu been refreshed at all?
Honestly, new words from this smith are refreshment enough. Shit talk doesn’t get more outrageous than a lyric like “I step into the room and split an arrow with an arrow / The first trick shot is just to show’em that I dabble / I will not be aiming for the apple
”. Morbidity doesn’t come more potent than this wee gem: “Lately I treat every interaction as a living wake / Thanking people close to me before the photo pixellate
”. That these bars directly follow on from each other is proof of fucking purchase. Of course, these lyrics come straight from the lead single which y’all have had plenty of time to peruse. Rest assured that excellent lyricism is lavishly distributed across the rest of the project.
As always, picking lyrical highlights feels like selecting your favourite frames from Barry Lyndon
. They’re great on their own, sure, but the real poetry isn’t revealed until they’re experienced in motion. One-liners range from simple (“Today a mall cop told me I should get a life
”), to information-packed (“Tag-alongs become thumb tacks on wall maps
”), to unabashed fun with words (“Beleaguer a baddie and add’em to the ratatouille, oowee
”). After re-establishing his own deftness, his pot-shots at mainstream rap contain that much more venom: “That’s a whole lotta woah on the stove / That’s a whole lotta holes in your prose / Gross
”. Right, dope, cool. Let’s try a stanza that really reaches for something:
Normal is a phantom force that levitates the forks and knives
Of otherworldly parasites that quarrel over portion size
Hit the floor and you could be the next unfriendly energy to organise
Ordering corpses into the chorus line
Obviously we’re not just here to pen the world’s least brave statements about one of the overground’s (patent pending) greatest rap assets. Blockhead has been part of Aes’ story from day dot and hasn’t exactly been slacking in the years since passed. In recent years he’s even found himself involved in the Cult of Production surrounding Billy Woods and Armand Hammer, a significant player in a new niche that’s been thundering onto the largely docile shores of rap production. On top of this, he’s made some Aesop Rock remixes (check out the magic he worked around ‘Pigs’, phwoar boi) and loosies that’ve had fans drooling for reasons maybe unrelated to tetrahydrocannabinol.
’s production is primarily based around layering of succinct, catchy melodies with an endless supply of well-placed samples both dusty and dusted appearing and disappearing exactly when needed. Blockhead proves just as effective at this M.O. whether the song in question calls for floating abstraction, grin-inducing grooves, or belaboured gloom. Additionally, if Spirit World Field Guide
’s vocal processing or Malibu Ken
’s unwavering otherness got your gruts all in a bunch, Blockhead’s work here should do something to untwist your shit.
What’s really interesting here is seeing where these two come to compromises in order to effectively wield that most nebulous of music-making multi-tools: songwriting. ‘Jazz Hands’ sees Blockhead acting as the perfect gentleman, waiting for Aes to come to a climax before he even begins to consider his own auditory orgasm, holding off on any percussion at all until The Verse is finished. ‘Difficult’ takes what is Aes’ cheekiest and most obvious double entendre of the album and underscores it with creeping clarinet[?] and seedy 808s to great effect. ‘All the Smartest People’ could easily be one of the short narrative tracks from Spirit World Field Guide
, but is given a unique identity through Blockhead’s skittish lo-fi samples and a tasteful vocal delay. In broad strokes, the two seem to react to each other frequently, faders being whipped down to let punchlines breathe, extra instrumentation being inserted at logical progression points. It’s a subtle and classy brand of brilliance bereft of cheap tricks, a style that lends itself to repeat listens and accumulating returns.
While tracks like ‘Difficult’, ‘All the Smartest People’, ‘Fizz’, and ‘That is Not a Wizard’ most likely qualify for Aesop Rock’s alarmingly large Greatest Hits collection, Garbology
lacks the kind of clear thematic cohesion or Statement Piece Energy of The Impossible Kid
or Labour Days
. This will undoubtedly be a separating factor for the kind of music obsessives that refuse to eat their veges, but to really dig in and pick that nit is kind of like criticising Megan Fox’s thumbs — who gives a shit? The old gang is back together, and they’ve cooked up a project that’s compelling front-to-back, a clear progression on their established styles both separately and as a unit without a bad track in sight. While it won't attain the status of Classic or Next Big Thing, the way that these consummate professionals emanate excellence speaks to their rare longevity, as each artist refuses to simply recreate past successes, continuing to create for the sheer joy of the act alone.