Jul 01, 2011 Web Exclusive
Shabazz Palaces score out of the blocks with their debut album. Black Up points toward hip-hop as a source of headphone albums as the Seattle collaborative offers intriguingly fractured surfaces under their vocals, alternating brain-tweaking minimalism with jarringly complex rhythms and vinyl-ripped ephemera.
Led by Palaceer Lazaro, otherwise known as Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler of Digable Planets and Cherrywine, Shabazz Palaces debuted with 2009 EPs Of Light and Shabazz Palaces, but it takes a run through the full-length Black Up to get the shape of the Palaces' personality.
The opening and closing tracks sound like a yin-yang set for an album that matches its dark with light. "Free press and curl" is a morphing blend of rhythmic switch-ups, with vocal sections pumped out with the mechanical punch of the music. The resignation that comes through in the lyrics matches the bleak, hypnotic pulse: "Free to be a slave to all these things I can't escape/Trapped inside, imagination's tickling at my face."
By the end of Black Up those negative connotations are turned inside-out as the song "Swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)" goes through the looking glass, offering an upbeat ride-out with the drum-and-chant of "Black is you, black is me, black is us, black is free." (www.shabazzpalaces.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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