Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spark Master Tape - Silhouette Of A Sunkken City Review

Call it unfortunate timing but in 2012, when mystery man Spark Master Tape released his debut mixtape, another unknown pitch-shifted demonic spitter came out of the underground too. His name was Captain Murphy, Duality was his claim to fame. With a slew of conspicuous features and production credits strewn about Duality the intrigue was certainly higher than a man doing it all by himself. It was then revealed to be Flying Lotus and any chance Spark Master Tape had at being notarized and original went out the door. Another tape dropped in 2013 to ensure his cult-like status, the more famous #SWOUP Serengeti, but just like Murphy's presence disappeared as expected as his identity, Spark did too. During the interim period between then and now, the face behind the mask was (likely) revealed, rather unknown London based emcee Last Standing Poet the culprit. Where talent, skills, and fame lacked, Spark Master Tape aimed to mask those problems with a hint of mystery, giving Poet an outlet to peruse experimental beats with braggadocios rhyme styles. Silhouette Of A Sunkken City is more of the same, as confusing as it is intriguing.

If you're unsure as to what exactly Spark's sound is 'Intro,' the first of 22 tracks here, does an adequate job at explaining. Empty bars hidden behind a deceptive voice over constantly fluctuating beats and samples running the gamut. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, I do appreciate the attempt at experimentation, but the consistency to which Spark abhors structure is his own downfall. Not a single song, apart from the sample interlude 'Must Die,' start and end at the same point, pinballing back between ideas that 22 songs would easily justify on their own. If you think that number is hefty enough, with how often the production shifts within, the 'feeling' of excess is much more. Take it for what it is, Silhouette is littered with a hodgepodge of ideas, the split between interesting and dull is fairly even, and once the gimmick of his voice subsides the lyrics do absolutely nothing to draw listeners in. This makes liking even a single song hard, choosing more to focus on pieces of each. So while the first half of 'Reefa,' for example, is something I'd tend to ignore, the second is a beautifully constructed, sample-laced refrain. Makes for a frustrating experience where you continuously hope he sticks to a single idea at least once.

What the production ADHD achieves though is a constant sense of fixation. In other words, Silhouette, by its very construct, can not bore. If one moment eludes you the next, which could possibly be your favorite, is not more than a minute away. And on a 22 track, one-hour long mixtape, this pattern happens a lot. This makes for an exciting, albeit slightly facile approach to structure that constantly keeps listeners on edge only because it itself is on edge. On one end it's a shame that songs with seemingly good direction, like 'Goin' Robbin',' which could've easily turned into a solid radio worthy anthem based on the initial chorus, loses control thanks to some large bass and dark corners. On the other end though, tracks like 'Tenkkeys' benefit from the constant detours, largely composed of two sides that fit each other snuggly, utilizing similar sounds with different measures to create a banger followed by an after-banger. One of Silhouette's better tracks though, 'All About The Money,' nearly abstains from shifts, lingering underneath the bubbling turmoil of its counterparts, seeing concrete content (the lust for money) make it all the way to the end of the track.

Another aspect of Silhouette that seems peculiar at best is the decision-making. Plucked from a walloping bowl of content, Silhouette seems, at times, to be the rambling's of a schizophrenic with nothing interesting to say. It's quite striking to see the contrast between the exploratory palate on the production and the stale regurgitation in the lyrics, where one is so rife with jaunty imagery as the other merely glides by off styles long since created. Thankfully as an emcee Spark sports a variety of flows and has the charisma to boot, making many of the songs a fun form of aggression that goes hard while still remaining silly. However the biggest outlier to this already poor decision making has to be 'She Started Talkin',' and for readers who've already heard the tape, you know why. Putting it as passive as I can the beat's backbone is primarily composed of a girl gagging on a guy's genitals. Hey, at least the content doesn't get distracted, this time, focusing exactly on what you'd expect. It's a novel idea sure, and a certain risk, but one that puts the battering alarm clock on clipping.'s 'Get Up' to shame in terms of being off-putting.

For the questionable moments Silhouettes Of A Sunkken City is composed of a handful of bright spots. Now that's largely due to the fact that it has five handfuls in the first place, one is bound to succeed with just how much is spewed out, but nonetheless. Spark Master Tape's return will be a welcome to already endowed fans, as it's more of the same in greater excess, but to weary listeners who aren't already a part of the cult, Silhouette certainly isn't open to pleasant salutation's. At times it oozes Hip-Hop finesse, a fantastic combination of styles that engulfs the likes of Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli (both featured as sample snippets here) into unorthodox configuration, not concerned with the placement of parts, like a jumbled Lego creation that hardly gets by on functionality. As an outsider there's no reason to not take a look, the sight is something to see, but don't expect a favorite here or there, this is, after all, 22 tracks favoring Dadaism to the point of absurdity.