Lawless Element

Soundvision: In Stereo
(Babygrande)

Lawless Element is an odd combo, a mixed-up mash-up of old-school posturing and neo-futurist neon tubing. Instead of rat-a-tat drum machines or screwed-up soul samples, the band lays conversational rhymes over icy, pulsing electronics and a bass boom bigger and deeper and colder than a black hole. It's sonic schizophrenia -- the sweet soul hook that corkscrews across "One Night" seems at odds with its stoic analog synths, and the weird gothic-castle arpeggio that flaps like a bat around the rafters of "Represent/Motown" sounds like it was razored off a Walter Carlos record. You can trace some of that back to fellow Detroit rappers Slum Village (whose Jay Dee served as a guiding hand here), but where Slum bent and twisted its synth squiggles to replicate old funk records, Lawless is weirder and more remote. Fortunately, the moments when it locks into a warm, steady groove ("Love" is a particular peak) thaw out the intermittent spells of chilliness.

 
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