TONIGHT: Palace Brothers

Hengeveld.jpgBY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Digable Planets’ Ishmael Butler, aka Butterfly, may have spent the better part of the last decade on on the “whatever happened to…” list, but he’s back in black with his new project, the altogether mind-blowing Shabazz Palaces, which plays Kung Fu Necktie tonight. Late next month, Shabazz Palaces will drop the most def Black Up, the first hip hop album to be released on Sub Pop records in the Seattle label’s two decade-plus history. It might have taken them a while to get started, but as a rap label Sub Pop is already batting a thousand. Black Up is rich with hypnotic, minimalist layers of tricked-out keys, echoey horns, and sinister synths courtesy of alchemical sound engineer Eric Blood, and an eerie drum-circle ambiance hangs over the whole album thanks to the spellbinding rhythms of multi-percussionist Tendai Maraire. Some tracks sound like computerized Baltimore house beats, while others sound organic and live-in-the studio. Butler’s vocals sound deviated, stutter-y and drag dreamily just Shabazz_Palaces.jpgbehind the beat, often reminding me of an old Camp Lo track. Head-fucking echoing effects blast “Youology” into the realm of full-bown psychedelia, wherein Butler declaims over an impeccably spare drum loop and bass frequencies that alternate between grumbling hi-fi saws and 16-bit wubbing. “An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum” is positively haunting with the sampled sounds of moaning children triggered by the rubbery bounce of a deep kick. On “Recollections Of The Wrath,” the album’s pinnacle, Butler tosses around ideas of predestination intertwined with sheer braggadocio and the pursuit of knockin’ boots. Frankly, this is some of the most innovative sound fabrication I’ve ever heard on a hip-hop record. Black Up, with its bewitching combination old-school boom bap spirit and new school otherness, will make you forget why you ever thought about giving up on hip-hop.


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