Wednesday, October 9, 2013

WMP Nominees - Metabeats

We'll find out the winner of this year's Welsh Music Prize a week tomorrow, but in the meantime I've still got a few more albums to listen to. I'm doing Caviar Crackle by Metabeats today, but if you're new here, check this page out first.

I don't feel qualified to comment on this album. I did an interview with Metabeats for The Miniature Music Press last year, and I didn't feel qualified for that, either. I think I just asked a lot of quite generic questions (What music do you listen to? Who would you like to collaborate with?) and, fortunately, his answers were colourful enough to draw attention away from my shocking lack of insight.

You see, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to hip-hop. Of all the hundreds of CDs I've acquired over the years, I can think of six that could reasonably be described as 'rap' albums:
  • The Black Album by Jay-Z
  • Angles by Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
  • 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul
  • Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by Outkast
  • Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi
  • Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
Aside from The Lonely Island (who, let's face it, probably don't count) I genuinely think that's the lot.

None of this information is especially relevant to Caviar Crackle; I'm just making excuses for the review you're about to read. You see, there are bits of this album that I really like, but I can't escape the feeling that the whole shebang is somewhat beyond my ken.

Let's start with the stuff I enjoy. It's a very nice-sounding album, for starters; the promised crackle lends the album a nice, warm atmosphere, and a lot of the samples sound very soulful and very seventies. Full marks for sonic appeal, then. The raps are great, too - standout moments include EyeSeeYou (which taught me a lot about the police and their IC codes), Spectacular (which includes a great reference to Ferngully), and Ralph Rip Shit's turn on Music (Part.1), which is just awesome all over. The Bitches is a great listen, too, winning me over in spite of the sliiiightly dubious subject matter.

So what is it about Metabeats that doesn't sit right with me? Well, oddly enough, it's the beats. I realise that I'm setting myself up for a serious tumble here, and it's not the case on every track, but some of these songs just sound off. The last minute of Battery Phunk is a prime example - the snare drum hits seem to show up as and when they please, and it's very difficult to get into that sort of groove.

I've seen this music described as 'swing', but no matter how hard I try I just can't pick out the pattern in some of these beats. Maybe it's deliberate (it's almost definitely deliberate), but I personally find that this lack of rhythmic tightness makes Caviar Crackle a very awkward listen, at least in places. Even EyeSeeYou (hear it in that video up there) doesn't entirely dodge this problem - it's a very difficult track to nod along to. it better than Furniture?
That's the question we're asking now, by the way. Uh, no, it isn't for the reasons highlighted above. Put it down to my non-existent hip-hop chops if you like - I've certainly given you every opportunity to do that here - but at the end of the day, I find parts of this LP genuinely difficult to listen to, and for that, it's not going to get my vote.

However, I should stress that, yes, there are really good bits. The aforementioned Spectacular is a personal favourite, with its hazy flute sounds and one of the most relaxed raps I've ever heard, and The Music has me very curious to check out Ralph Rip Shit's other stuff. And then there's Passport - in that interview, Che Ahmed described the Metabeats sound as 'honest funk', and I feel like that's the best example on show here.

Friday is Trwbador, I think.

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