Material Girl
i85mixx21-22


4.2
excellent

Review

by Hugh Jon Puddles STAFF
April 22nd, 2022 | 28 replies


Release Date: 03/25/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: i85mixxmeup

i85mixx21-22 is the first album I’ve heard in forever that has gotten deeply under my skin even though I’ve never once listened to it within my own space and comfort. This was by coincidence: I found it at the start of a final travel itinerary through a country I was reluctantly saying a long-term farewell to, and its fractured narrative of grief, despair and artistic struggle provided an unexpectedly close companion through my revolving door of half-familiar cities, trains too efficient to sleep on, cafes on the fringes of world heritage sites, nonplussed partings with new friends met along the way, inscriptions of postcards to old ones with half-remembered faces, unknown bedrooms, bathrooms that smelled of strangers, and era-of-life--severing airports. Everything else I turned to throughout that trip was nostalgic or self-soundtracking, but i85mixx21-22 found me wherever I went on wavelengths of its own. Goodness knows why: maybe there’s a point to be made about how its ever-shifting tempos x cascading jungle beats would be wasted on a single static chair in one’s fixed abode; maybe its several-radio-stations’-worth of samples and stylistic left-turns cover enough ground to transcend such minutiae as listening environment; maybe its emotional journey was tailor-made for a sadboi half-knowingly on the run from himself. Maybe it is just that good?

This is perhaps an odd way to open the book on experimental hip-hop mastermind Material Girl's latest. It’s a record that rewards a thoughtful listener more than most; I don’t know how helpful authorial self-reflection (rusty habit) is as a warm-up to lazergazing the many reasons why you should usher it into your life with intent and alacrity, but I’d like to think that this speaks to the kind of imprint it leaves. That’s a start (you’re welcome). Just describe the music cry the happy eaters and fussy readers, but i85mixx21-22’s inventory and palette - though frequently wonderful in their own right - are a paltry representation of its shape or scheme. You could frame it as a selectively abstracted hip-hop canvas strewn with overlapping spatterings of jazz and jungle, but these are all foundation rather than focus. What does this record amount to? Nothing concrete or integral enough for a convenient one-liner: if this thing has any aspirations of grandeur or perfection, they're well-hidden beneath layer upon layer of self-awareness, uncertainty, laboured stylistic discontinuity, and obtrusively, awkwardly, unapologetically emotional rap performances.

What does this all orbit? is a far more helpful question now that we’ve got a read on the go. Material Girl, together with his cast of sampled excerpts and original collaborators, presents two common threads: one of confronting the death of a close friend, one of creative uncertainty. Though it receives some measure of explication on “i85mixxdemo” (4) and “i85mixxremix” (11), the former is a less a full narrative and more a deeply fractured bedrock that informs the latter; a huge part of the record is oriented towards, even at pains over, the process, form and motivation for its own construction. Just look at that tracklist: instead of a list of distinct songs, we are treated to a ‘song idea’, entitled “i85mixx~” and filtered through thirteen permutations, none of which individually posit a final form. It isn’t random - “i85mixxinterlude” (6) and “i85mixxreprise” (12), say, are true to their titles - but the impression of a working title, an incomplete statement, a cluster of separate angles on something that cannot be articulated in absolute terms is a fitting match for the way Material Girl approaches his subject matter. He does so with myriad devices, only to stumble over it in (over?)charged delivery and retract into his maze of samples the moment his true colours acquire what seems like a definitive hue.

This may mine a little generously from the album’s prosaics, but it’s a sense equally prevalent in the [deep breath] music. The opener “i85mixxalbumversion” consists of five minutes of wonderfully intricate instrumental collage, only for Material Girl to pop up at the end and openly question what any of it is aid of; the first half of “i85mixxlive” (7) is more silence than song, disparate echoes that strive and repeatedly fail to fill the void excavated by its opening flurry of I miss yous, while “i85mixxacapella” (8) recurrently punctuates the flow of its verse with hysterical vocal affectations, abrupt cutaways of its central sample, and even a brief siren blare. This is a record full of concerted immersion-breaking choices that go to great lengths to foreground themselves as such; all its most forthcoming moments are quick to catch sight of their reflection and blush back into obliqueness. That arc of grief ties in here: the odd outburst (I’M JUST SO TIRED OF LOSING FRIENDS) or a tribute at the top of a promotional tweet aside, Material Girl frames a surprising amount of his trauma through allusion and paints the album as a work torn equally between what he is and isn’t prepared to express. Each track, each grasp at the “i85mixxfinal” cut, is just a fresh way of navigating this, and its two sides draw distinct benefit from one another: when Material Girl lands a pathos-laden verse, there’s a real sense that he’s broken through his own hesitations, and inversely, there’s a rich, evasive subtext to even his most inscrutable passages of sound collage, as though they’re either indirectly articulating or actively avoiding statements the artist is unprepared to make in his own voice.

However, while this self-conscious convection between direct/indirect, candid/oblique, blah/bluh etc. is representative and important (!) re. what kind of a record i85mixx21-22 is, it ultimately does little justice to what makes it so remarkable. Every one of its misgivings and internal tensions is poised against a superficial aspect that offers - if that’s all you seek in it - very straightforward gratification. It sounds bloody gorgeous. This is far too pleasant a record to be written off as a work of pure deconstruction or an artistic talking-point, as should be immediately apparent from “i85mixxalbumversion” (1)’s dazzling opening run. Practically every song here has enough instrumental flair that the album could have held its own rap-free: “i85mixxreprise” (12)’s soothing bossa nova counterpart to the opener’s momentous jungle is an ingenious lategame twist and much-needed comedown following the manic “i85mixxremix” (11). The nervous breakdown of a jazz instrumental that rounds off “I85mixxdub” (5) is straight-up savage, while “i85mixxlive” (7)’s translucent layering of ghostly voices, see-sawing childlike piano and stuttering swing beat amounts to the most evocative facsimile I’ve heard of a soul leaving a body since Bowie’s “Lazarus”. Don’t even get me started on that masterstroke of a closer - that one’s a journey of its own, a final, desperate level-up on all the album’s already vast ambitions that peaks in appropriately heart-on-sleeve form, tapering off into a bittersweet parable of misidentified genius and, finally, plain noise. How else?

These instrumentals are key to what makes the record great, but their real magic is the foil they pose to Material Girl’s distance-erasing lyricism and rap. They’re ultimately just as intermittent and reticent to commit to any given style or motif as Material Girl’s own fragmented utterances, but they’re a good deal easier to get lost in. It’s no great leap to see them as two halves of the same expression; if Material Girl is vocally unconfident in explicating the full scope of his grief and/or artistic powers, then this music, equal parts sombre and electrifying in all its sprawling, indecisive maudlin glory, is an obvious substitute for everything he can’t frame in his own voice. It’s almost never enough to trot out that a record’s emotional journey counts as its own reward, but Material Girl paves his with an impeccably produced sample collage so sensitively gauged that the truth isn’t far off. His mercurial interchange of citations and interjections is at once averse to being absorbed in its entirety and thoroughly grounded in its moment-to-moment affect; the effect is similar to how the scene and characterisation in a decent Shakespeare production will transmit themselves so intuitively that no English-native audience will follow or even parse every uttered word. Likewise, Material Girl’s performance, sample choices and deceptive knack for aesthetic continuity vs. structural mish-mash carry themselves above the record’s individual stumbles and inscrutable idiosyncrasies. It finds a rich spread of voices to articulate a cocktail of personal and existential despairs that rarely, if ever receive such imaginative or colourful treatment: it’s beautiful and it messes me away every time, no matter where it finds me.




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user ratings (26)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Gyromania
April 22nd 2022


35671 Comments


Oh shit! So pumped

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2022


52256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

me 99% of the time: wow i wish more music made me feel passionate enough to write earnestly and at length about the parts i love

me listening to material girl: fuck.

ignore the troglodytes in the ratings chart, this is a special record through and through. probably my second favourite thing from this year so far, take that plunge (take it take it!!!)

plussss thank you x10000 to MiloR for trashing my smelly first draft. what a time.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2022


52256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

oh damn, ninja'd!! curious to see what you make of this, Gyro - I remember you being v big on Tangram (which I like a fair bit, but haven't clicked with the same way), and I can't call whether you'll vibe or unvibe with the crass/emotional parts that this brings to the table

hal1ax
April 23rd 2022


15755 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ayyyy good stuff

been viibing with this one

luci
April 23rd 2022


12842 Comments


i wanted to love this but the rapping is really goofy at points. too bad because the production is engaging throughout. more drum and bass in experimental hip-hop please

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
April 23rd 2022


18143 Comments


this review is beautiful johnny im glad i waited (har) to read it

i kind of agree the rapping is goofy but the more into the production im getting n the lyrics the more i can stomach and even enjoy it

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
April 23rd 2022


18143 Comments


yeah i can see myself really digging into this one im glad i waited (har) to listen to it after you originally rec'd

DoofDoof
April 23rd 2022


12280 Comments


this was all over the place first listen but will try and return, didn't hit me straight away like the previous one

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
April 23rd 2022


18143 Comments


johnny where are you this review is beautiful

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 23rd 2022


52256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

phero where are you, i am here and i am hugging you

and yeah, the rapping is ~something but, strain and affectation aside, i think it's something quite compelling and distinctly unpretentious that it makes absolutely zero effort to come of as anything remotely vogue. you can defs argue that MG is pulling some bold shapes here, but he sure af doesn't pose like a poser, and i can admire that

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2022


2278 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

It has landed and it is glawrious. Ain't no smell as pungent as a Johnnydraft, what a pleasure

FrooTxLuPs
April 25th 2022


1 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Absolutely loved this record, first time listening to something from Material Girl but will dive into Tangram now. Your review is hard to digest but really nails what I love about this record. Great review for a great album!

Mort.
April 25th 2022


20826 Comments


yeh the rapping is goofy

parksungjoon
April 25th 2022


45110 Comments


this aint machine girl

Mort.
April 25th 2022


20826 Comments


machine girl is better

GhandhiLion
April 25th 2022


15952 Comments


yeah

bloc
April 25th 2022


69181 Comments


Thought this was pretty good. 3.5 for now

parksungjoon
April 25th 2022


45110 Comments


very sexual album cover

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
April 25th 2022


18143 Comments


yeah bloc id imagine youd dig this

need to give this another spin really liked it first time round

Ryus
April 26th 2022


28380 Comments


what



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