27 March 2007

El-P / I'll Sleep When You're Dead / Def Jux [2007]

"I'll Sleep When You're Dead"
Choice cuts:
"Tasmanian Pain Coaster," "Up All Night," "Drive"

"I'll Sleep When You're Dead" begins with David Lynch's tragic heroine, Laura Palmer, describing a fall in space, culminating with a burst into flames. The epic journey to follow is akin to this Lynchian, high-speed descent. The rhymes are convoluted yet insightful (El-P's flow is both wordy and witty), and they zip by at warp speed surrounded by space-age synthesizers and futuristic sound effects.

Apocalyptic themes promise a worldly downfall as El-P plays frenetic oracle over music more analogous to experimental rock than your little brother's bling-hop. Songs like "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" expand into progressive-electronic outros never fearing ambitious musical hooks. Lower in the mix are El-P's verses. They are crowded with ominous prophecy, frantic with description like a Tolkien novel. The verses favor detail in storytelling, like in "Habeas Corpses," the futuristic tale of robotic love on a prison ship.

El-P spits with the urgency most emcees reserve for diss tracks, as though his reputation is being eternally challenged. Certain the game doesn't get his "whole existence," El-P pronounces himself "a natural B-boy brainiac who'll smack you out your mittens" on "Smithereens." This chip-on-the-shoulder style results in searing verses to match his innovation and atmospheric production, producing a truly progressive rap album on which each song sounds like the soundtrack to a catastrophic, science-fiction car chase. �

- Joseph Coscarelli

Washington Square News

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