Aesop Rock x Blockhead
Garbology


4.2
excellent

Review

by MiloRuggles STAFF
November 12th, 2021 | 66 replies


Release Date: 11/12/2021 | Tracklist

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.

Garbology’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.



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user ratings (66)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 12th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Shouts out to the support crew. My favourite lines won't be your favourite lines — git diggin.



PS- this was written without the help of an official lyric sheet, so please forgive the efforts of my ear and argue over whether 'hoes' is the correct way to pluralise 'ho'

WatchItExplode
November 13th 2021


9489 Comments


Name checks out. Malibu Ken is the only Aesop Rock project I've been able to tolerate. Appreciate this getting coverage though, nice one.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2021


44336 Comments


oh yes oh yes love this
feel like i just received a tipsy FBI briefing on Who Is Blockhead and love that too

Digging: Jang Pil Soon - Soony 6

Veldin
November 13th 2021


4653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Listened to a couple songs but excited to jam the whole thing. I’ll read this once I’m done with the LP. Cheers

DaleCooper2
November 13th 2021


46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Name checks out. Malibu Ken is the only Aesop Rock project I've been able to tolerate. Appreciate this getting coverage though, nice one."



That's the worst thing he's been involved in in over a decade. WTF

FadedSun
November 13th 2021


2892 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is so good.

WatchItExplode
November 13th 2021


9489 Comments


Hey, guess I'm a fan of Tobacco and not this flow. Gave it a shot wasn't for me glad folks are enjoying it.

ConcubinaryCode
November 13th 2021


6027 Comments


Aesop's last album was a hard one to digest for me so hopefully this rekindles some passion I have for him.

Edit: I'm digging it so far.

BMDrummer
November 13th 2021


14725 Comments


this was good news to wake up to

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 13th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

>feel like i just received a tipsy FBI briefing on Who Is Blockhead

I wish this were my intention so I could've doubled down on it

>That's the worst thing he's been involved in in over a decade. WTF

hmmmm it's pretty fucking singular in his discog and has Acid King and the song about an eagle eating a cat on it, so I dunno

>Aesop's last album was a hard one to digest for me so hopefully this rekindles some passion I have for him.

I feel this should achieve that outcome for many people

All of yous other commenters let us know what you think after a listen! Pls compare bars like some kind of dick-measuring contest up in here

bgillesp
November 13th 2021


8000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Heck now I have to check this

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
November 13th 2021


8823 Comments


Oof. Amazing review. I'm off to my local shop to see if they got it on wax right now.

Digging: Ferrara Ensemble and Crawford Young - Figures Of Harmony: Songs Of Codex Chantilly c1390

Lasssie
November 13th 2021


1362 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this owns

aesop is da man

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 14th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Thanks Evok, hope you were successful and enjoy!

Ye he is

Flamingo Pink vid incoming?: https://www.instagram.com/aesoprockwins/

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 14th 2021


6667 Comments


On a big hip hop kick at the moment but for some reason have very little interest in checking this out :/

Good to hear it delivers tho, gonna leave it simmerin' on the backburner until the mood strikes. Great writeup as well, your aes reviews do well acknowledging his considerable talents without getting all So Deep Bro about it

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 14th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Cheers, Komp. It's gotten a lot easier to avoid that conversation entirely now that his work is less abstract and the bars have way fewer words in them. Either way, fans tend to oversell that aspect and undersell his humour I think.



What sorta hip-hop's ticklin' you at the moment?

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 14th 2021


6667 Comments


Ig I'm kinda rocking with charismatic delivery and slick flows over intricate/detailed lyricism atm? like Freddie gibbs has been on heavy rotation, plus i've been getting really into outkast and cunninlynguists, revisiting doggystyle, illmatic, the infamous, etc etc.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 14th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Oh hell ye, straight classics all round

Cryptkeeper
November 15th 2021


2054 Comments


Still hating the production on Jazz Hands, but what confuses me more than dropping that track as the lead single is that the other tracks so far have way more solid production. As a prime Aes fanboy I will still probably rate this a 4 when I've properly digested it

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2021


1758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

What about jazz hands you not into? The sort of vocal-forward but semi-ambient clash for the verse?



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