Review Summary: Intergalactic insanity.
It’s uncontroversial to say almost all of Justin Pearson’s projects have a predilection for pushing the listener into a sensory overload. Whether this is down to applying his punk ethos to everything he does, an insatiable creative drive that ends up pushing the boundaries, or a desire to deconstruct conventional norms and structures, all are up for debate – maybe it’s all of the above – but suffice to say, Planet B’s sophomore album, Fiction Prediction
, lives up to Pearson’s proclivities in, debatably, the most refined way possible. On the surface, Fiction Prediction
is a feral cacophony of B-movie sci-fi-horror electronics shrouded in a blistering punk attitude – a recipe that leaves you feeling rather unsettled by the end of it. However, the reason I say it’s possibly the most refined version of Pearson’s unfettered brand of bludgeoning beats and gnawing electronics is because it’s surprisingly catchy and, to a degree, accessible. Its perpetual abrasive dissonance and addiction to atonal experimentation hearkens to a Death Grips kind of sound, making it an endurance exercise at times, yet, the album manages to have the affable charisma of a Beastie Boys record while it’s pouring acid into your brain.
All of the tracks on here are forthright with their “f*ck you” energy, but if you look behind the veil for a moment, you’ll discover the tracks aren’t nearly as antagonistic as they first appear. This is largely down to Pearson’s syncopated rap style, which sits snuggly in the pocket of the groove and as a result, manages to stabilise the intergalactic-instrumental-madness on here. In fact, Pearson’s contributions are the driving force for making this album somewhat coherent, and definitely engaging – with a plethora of ice-cool flows underpinning his punkish defiance. Compositionally, “Terrible Purpose”, “Clogged Sync” and “Goals Gone Wild” are more conventional than some of the other tracks on here: drenched in this late-80s-90s hip-hop sound that’s garbed out in sci-fi-horror movie aesthetics, the tracks showcase Pearson’s bars synergising with the wacky instrumentation – be it the staccato snarls on “Clogged Sync”, or the oil-slick flows on “Terrible Purpose”. The simpler approach to the aforementioned tracks creates a more fertile ground for Pearson to lay down his groove-centric gambit with lasting staying power, but it’s on the more adventurous numbers like “Rack More Brains” (my favourite track on the album) where it would be lost in space were it not for his ferocious, albeit grounded performance. The genius in his approach stems from his observational skills and how he reciprocates to the music around him. In the case of “Rack More Brains”, the song is the electronic equivalent to a metalcore breakdown, laying down a slew of scorching synths and trouncing grooves, with the vocalist responding to the track’s fury with an apoplectic machine-gun-chugging flow that sticks close to the demolishing groove, giving the song’s overall objective an unrelenting efficiency.
On the whole, the vocal aspect of Fiction Prediction
is where I found my stable footing here, which in turn allowed me to enjoy what the rest of the album had to offer. It’s not even technical proficiency shining through either, but more the raw punk attitude and magnetism that carries the performances – with Pearson and every guest vocalist killing their parts. And indeed, while I haven’t covered the music as extensively here, for all of its abstractions, it does a great job of laying down some heavy beats and undeniable rhythms under the madcap sci-fi effects. In the end though, the repetitious vocal segments undeniably bridge Planet B’s borderless ambitions with a palatable record. For me personally, it’s definitely something I have to be in the mood for, and to be honest, that’s probably half of the band’s intention, but in spite of that, I can’t overlook Fiction Prediction
’s great songwriting and nous for sprinkling accessibility over unfettered insanity.