Whenever people tried to classify Adam Drucker a.k.a. Dose One's old band, cLOUDDEAD (which, side note, also featured Yoni Wolf, a.k.a. Why?), usually using some combination of “surreal,” “arty,” “abstract,” or some other term that didn't really describe what they sounded like, he would implore them to “just call it hip-hop.” Which was smart, because it probably saves a lot of time/stupid adjectives, or at least, it would have if anyone had listened.

The genre diagnosis was always a little easier to apply to Dose's other project, Themselves, a duo formed with producer Jeff 'Jel' Logan because although their records were still pretty surreal and arty and abstract, they were way closer to a traditional hip-hop sound than cLOUDDEAD were.

Keeping up so far? Okay, well, at this point, The Notwist get thrown in to the mix. That German band who started out as essentially a metal band, but eventually calmed down on 1998's Shrink and started making electronica-fuelled indie pop. The four piece joined up with Dose and Jel to release a record back in 2005 under the name 13 & God, and it was about as far away from as the genre's biggest names as you could get whilst still considering the thing to be under the broad umbrella of hip-hop. Dose's request seemed to be a little harder to honour with that one, thanks to the indie rock and electronic pop influences that came from The Notwist, combined with some trip-hop and a ton of gorgeous strings. But there was still some hip-hop at the core, and it was pretty much the most beautiful hip hop album ever made. It would wrap you up in its downtempo tones, and drag you down in to some pretty twisted dreams. It was incredible.

Anyway, after all of that, we finally get to the point – it's taken six years, but they've finally done another one. There's a lot of pressure on this record to be good, which will obviously lead to over-analysis of how it sounds compared to the first one and all of the dozens of great records in the combined musical history of all of the members with the end conclusion being that it's not quite as good and why do things have to change? Right? Maybe. No. Probably not. Look. It's good, alright?

For a start, it's a whole lot sunnier. Where the first record is this dark, fucked up hip-hop, with lyrics coming through an evil smirk, Own Your Ghost is, at times, a summery pop record. The delicate acoustics of 'Oldage' are a case in point for the generally upbeat vibes that float across the record at times, making for a striking change to the collaboration's previous work. Whilst the first 13 & God album was brilliant, to simply replicate it would have been counter-productive and counter-intuitive for a collective who have created some of the most innovative hip-hop of the last decade, so it's great to hear them trying something else. Tracks like 'Death Minor' do swing a little closer to the darker style of the previous album, but with enough differences to keep things interesting – horns instead of strings is one of the key changes that gives things a totally different feel. Then there's 'Sure As Debt', which features Dose opening up and just rapping in a way that he hasn't had a chance to do quite so much for 13 & God, but should be familiar to fans of Themselves whilst the beats frantically bounce away in the background, with upbeat guitars battling with gloomier pianos to make for a tense, fast-moving track and one of the record's highlights. Things are, in general, a little more hip-hop orientated than the far more trip-hop based first record, but still with heavy doses of indie rock in the mix – it is perhaps the closest Dose One has come to sounding like former cLOUDDEAD bandmate Why?'s work, but still retains a twisted magic to it than only Dose can seem to manage.

Unfortunately, Own Your Ghost doesn't contain any absolutely killer standout tracks in the way that 13 & God did – there's no equivalent to the sprawling seven-minute string-drenched epic 'Superman On Ice', for example. But maybe that just means the album is a little tighter and a little more consistent, with no tracks dominating the record and pulling attention away from everything else on offer – an incredibly creative hip-hop record perfectly suited to melancholy summer days or lonely nights, and probably the best in the genre so far this year. Whilst not quite having the same impact as the first album, perhaps due to the massive expectations upon round two, Own Your Ghost stands up brilliantly in it's own right. It's not watered down, or weaker, it's just taking a different route, and finding some new tricks along the way. If you're missing out on this, then you're missing out on something special.<.p> Photobucket