Earning the label "experimental" next to "musician" requires more than just an internal exploration of your instrument: you have to work outside your normal — however skewed your normalcy is — working methods. Pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and Warp Records hip-hop darlings Hprizm aka High Priest and Beans (who also bring their fellow Antipop Consortium band mate Earl Blaize along for mixing duties) are all equally boundary-pushing on the micro as the macro, and this sequel to the 2003 Anti-Pop Consortium Vs Matthew Shipp is a fine example of hypotheses in action.
From a slightly mangled tape recording, "Terra Cotta" greets the listener with a concert announcer and slight applause after the introduction of the words "(presenting) Matthew Shipp". The sound bite continues with Shipp's rolling arpeggios soon manipulated into a wave of sharp panning Gamelan percussion, stuttering piano notes and Blade Runner synth blips. After less than two minutes, the quartet jumps into "Half Amazed A/B", a feature of Hprizm and Beans over an ostinato of bass, piano and a collaged loop of acoustic / synthetic percussion (think an echo of early '90s, gritty hip-hop such as Tribe Called Quest's "Excursions"). The duo wax and wane like elder statesmen of this rap game, which is always an interesting act from a couple of mainstream community shunned, well-informed, geek electronica-obsessed guys who 1) will never be on BET 2) are more focused on touring with Radiohead and production by label mates Aphex Twin and Autechre than Chris Brown: (Hprizm) "My forte causes people to say / your DNA bred a lot of clones in this rap game / beat the CAT scan / ghosts follow like Ms. Pac-Man; (Beans) "Golden throat Godzilla MC visionary astronaut on acid / mediocrity lay down your arms / These lame heartthrob SpongeBob style — so juvenile / fed-up no profanity / go intercourse with yourself". The 20 tracks proceed with this balancing act, a concrète of players and sonic-focus that integrates free-tonality, remixed and re-contextualized Parker and Shipp, bass drum-driven glitch and spoken word(s), draped in a global overlay not so much concept as Sun Ra spiritual journey meets a deliberate-yet-spacey Sextant push.
There is something for everyone here, though maybe not everything for all listeners. That is, hip-hop heads might love the MC work, though tire of some of the ambient textures and synth jams; Shipp and Parker's fans could maybe do without the tracks locked to a steady pulse. But what did I just say 437 words ago? Experimental — a word whose root entails "a test, trial, or tentative procedure...the purpose of discovering something unknown or of testing a principle, supposition, etc."
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