Monday, 28 May 2018

JPEGMAFIA "Veteran" (2018)

Mentioned in vein with Death Grips and free to download on bandcamp, it seemed foolish to pass up on this praised Experimental Hip Hop artist. Stylized as JPEGMAFIA, pseudonym of Baltimore rapper Barrington Hendricks has put together an oddball, esoteric project that's very much a niche of its own. I can't think of anything quite like it other than some abrasive parallels to Death Grips and given JPEG's first release was in 2015 its probably fair to say they have been a big influence, however its no imitation game, this project explores some interesting, unique to my ears, avenues of sound design.

The record plays like a mine field of aesthetic experiments, drifting and wandering through all manor of sporadic, schizophrenic sounds with bursts of rapid glitching, frequency manipulation and distortions that can be almost disorienting at times. With headphones plugged in the record livens up into a new dimension as many of these samples have ASMR sound waves that may cause strange sensations deepening on your reaction to this internet phenomenon built on condenser mics.

Much of the instrumentals feel disconnected, unfocused and free flowing. Which is like the record itself, everything breezes from one instance to the next. The drum beats seem to emerge and disappear on a whim between the stark bold samples that dominate the records texture. They sound sparse and spacious yet the quiet and meek sounds are mixed to bleed into the spaces and create a strange atmosphere where all sorts of noises, scratches, knocks, strikes, crashes etc represent a minimalism that becomes larger than itself... Its tough to put into words.

On the lyrical front things feel equally disconnected with unstructured, songs having bursts of bars all over the place as well as many instrumental passages. Its casual and mostly plugged into our internet dominated culture, referencing many cultural quirks and modern political state, referencing "libtards" the "alt-right" and fake news. Not much of it stood out to me beyond picking up on a few reoccurring themes.

There are moments where the interest is fruitful and others where the experiment becomes heavy and tiring. Jpeg straddles the territory between the catchy and obscure and more often than not the beats don't quite catch the instrumental and bang. It often sounds like that's the intent and Baby I'm Bleeding is a keen example where its blunt vocal sample pushes a micro repetition too far before the snare and bass kick groove. It mostly comes down to preference, I like many aspects of this project objectively but its not often that in clicked in the way you really feel the music.

Rating: 5/10