Thursday, August 2, 2012

El-P: Cancer 4 Cure (2012)

(Fat Possum)

This is dramatic shit -- though engaging, it's a mountain of impulses and kind of a task to get through. Four full listens, several halfway, and I don't really know what I think of it and I'm not terribly excited to hear it again. It's true that El-P's off-kilter, spittingly dense delivery has never been for all tastes; I've never really warmed to it myself. This seems alternately the most and least "El-P" effort to date, mostly because it's so ambitious. You can sift through his wordplay and find some jewels like "Walk in the zone or get less, wake in the fog of fright night / Eat where the sifters sell trash, sleep where the orphan's hell hatched" and bear witness to the extreme storytelling mastery of something like the bystanding accomplice anthem "For My Upstairs Neighbors (Mum's the Word)." But outside of magnificently fun guest spots from Danny Brown and Killer Mike, your overriding impression is that this the work of a pretty tortured dude. It's all very serious, and I don't necessarily mean to put that up as a negative.

Brooklyn courses through the veins of this record; the live tracks that encompass keyboards by Ikey Owens, bass from James McNew, and guitar from Jaleel Bunton capture these times as well as anything. El-P has called this an album about wanting to live, and in its apocalyptic tenor, the busy difficulty of it all, it seems shadowed by death, "darkness" in the author's phrase. So this might not be much of a party record and it's frankly too overwhelming to sink into, but it's certainly fascinating.

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