Label: Anticon Release date: 06/12/10 Link: Amazon During the process of preparing to review the latest offering from Anticon duo Serengeti & Polyphonic, I came to an impasse. For those of you who read my review of Tobacco’s LA UTI, my dislike of Serengeti should come as no surprise. Actually, part of my reason for reviewing this was a bid to change my opinions about the man given he seems like he wants to say something (he is part of that whole “conscious hip-hop” movement) and given Polyphonic’s interesting background and my lack of familiarity with his production overall. So with that primer and the knowledge that I came to an impasse, I opened up my word processor and began typing what you are now reading. I still cannot decide if I want to go over each song or the entirety of Bells & Floating World EP or if I want to just rant – it may never meet a synthesis in this review for all I know. What I am certain of is how little there is to enjoy with this lackluster offering, a piece of supposed art and conscious lyricism that is more often banal and tuneless than interesting or gripping. And this is from a dude who likes cLOUDDEAD. Goddamn where to begin? I know that that sentence is oft overused, and as a person guilty of repetition in his reviews in terms of phrasing (conceptual continuity, as I call it and as Zappa coined) but it is a line that is all too fitting with this loose collection of sounds, vocals, and loops. Wait! Yes! I will begin with the second half of this first, the remix portion of our program. Serengeti and Polyphonic thought it would be cool if the B-side of the album was all remixes of previous songs, calling on such acts as Son Lux, WHY?, and Bracken to rework various tracks. You know, a kind of showcase of the talents of all parties involved. But instead of highlighting the abilities of the remixers, the awful delivery and writing of Serengeti manages to derail everything – a stunning repeat performance from his appearance on LA UTI. ‘La La Lala (Epstein Y El Conunto Remix)’ stands out as a spectacularly awful combination, the Serengeti verse containing such beautiful lines as “I hand my laundry out to dry…I’ll pick up an avocado on the way home,” over a beat that can be summed up as Four Tet remixing Madvillain in hell with an SP-303. The WHY? Remix of ‘My Patriots’ would be a fine song for Yoni Wolf, but instead we are treated to Serengeti per usual. I’m tempted to complain here at long, but this remix is actually the closest thing to an enjoyable Serengeti track to date, primarily thanks to the Wolf duo and some stellar arranging in general. It’s safe to say that nothing fares well for the remixers, who sound either bored (Bracken’s remix is almost painfully by the motions) or turn in such reprehensible beats that they ought to be avoided like some plague (Greetings From Tuskan’s electro-house meets Italo disco remix of ‘Call the Law’ is cringeworthy). Really only Jel and WHY? come out on top here, primarily due to their skills which translate well as backings, but are sadly trashed or underwhelming in general. Of particular note is how lackadaisical and bored Jel comes off as, a move that is tragic yet manages to make up for the shitshow of ‘Patience.’ OK, half of the EP is done…I still can’t tell if this will be full analysis or not. I do know it’s been about an hour and multiple edits in to the process of writing this. I listened to the Pickenham Dedonshire tape by Dirty Projectors to take a break from this EP so I could come in fresh for this first half of original songs with original Polyphonic beats. Whoop whoop…and hitting play. Dammit, what the fuck is this shit? I see where Polyphonic is coming from, but the Casiotone bleeps and bass hits really grind along, but at least it has more merit than the lyrics. ‘I used to be so chivalrous…like being seduced by a goose…that’s why we always get drunk…endin’ up in some fight,’ Serengeti intones, sounding vaguely angered but not really saying much. I know, I know, it’s commentary on the state of things, but it really is just so boring and third-rate slam poetry that it deserves mockery. At least ‘Get It Later’ doesn’t drone on in Dosh’s City of Dis like ‘Guelmim 5000’ does, a track that somehow encapsulates everything wrong with this album. Attempts at “deep” verses and saying something clash with a backing that is as annoyingly repetitive as it is uncreative. An arpeggiator and adding in random noise and ambient synths doesn’t always make you artsy by default – sometimes you just sound like an idiot. ‘Schoenhut’ actually isn’t too bad in terms of Polyphonic’s side, a kalimba tinged affair reminiscent of Lucky Dragons remixed by Javelins, then slowed down to drag levels (cf. Mini Dream Island on cough syrup). It moves along nicely, contemplative and downtrodden, the sound of a grey afternoon spent listening to Steve Reich and Mincemeat Or Tenspeed while lazily sipping coffee. Well, at least that’s how it plays until the attempt at a sung chorus and the worst mantra I’ve ever heard (‘Since God was dead, I should die,’ yes that’s it verbatim) come on in, courtesy of Serengeti as always. Is he trying to make everybody hate him? Or is he really trying to be a conscious rapper? Because he sounds like so many Mead notebook confessions from an activist/poet stuck on basic concepts that it truly becomes an arduous effort to take whatever he says seriously. I know the combo is supposed to encapsulate the underground scene to some degree here, but Polyphonic either can’t decide if he wants to make a beat or just some two bar loop demo or he’s making this shit at 4AM after days of not sleeping, and Serengeti is either culling from his worst memories channeled through high school or is trying to be as “socially aware” as possible and failing spectacularly. ‘Polar’ has the following lines, again verbatim: “Internet piracy, classifying music, energy drinks slash extreme denial, stealing the spotlight, living in the past, being a victim, living alone.” Now read that aloud, slowly, and think of how little is being said and how it uses buzz terms and concepts that do undoubtedly relate to “modern living,” but really are so out of the mind of almost every person today that no point can be made. What really gets my proverbial goat is how this is supposed to be taken seriously, as if some real aspect of humanity is being explored. I literally sighed in minor disgust after writing that. Shit sucks, life is hard, and most people have been through something that will lead to introspection and realization about concepts both ontological and epistemological – that is called maturation. What Serengeti manages to do is stay in that phase of introspection without ever meeting a midway point between embracing or understanding those concepts and then taking them into real life. Somewhere, I’m sure Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, and Kierkegaard are all crying. Serengeti is so obsessed with this state of being and general malaise under which things occur to him (both in the past and currently), that he is unable to transcend himself. He’s stuck in an egoistic place of outwardly denying himself an ego to “change the world”…or at least his lyrics come off as such. Maybe I’m reading too much into the little offered, maybe I’m still on a philosophy high from last night, or maybe I’m actually on to something here. All I know is I want to like Anticon, and as a fan of underground and outsider rap and hip-hop I am appalled here. It will take me some time to get this taste off of my tongue, some journey before I can embark on another excursion with either artist involved here. Photobucket