Monday, October 10, 2016

Blu & Fa†e - Open Your Optics To Optimism

Blu's career trajectory has often been the subject of discussion. A critically-acclaimed debut followed by years of unorganized turmoil, almost a decade removed from Below The Heavens and Blu is still very much active. In fact, 2016, by all indications, may be his most bountiful year yet, with four EP's and a soon-to-be-released LP, all collaborations with various producers. Earlier this year he worked with Ray West on Crenshaw Jezebel, Union Analogtronics on LA Counting, and Nottz on Titans In The Flesh, all of which covered different themes held together by Blu himself. This strain of thought continues with Open Your Optics To Optimism, where Blu projects his self-absorption even further, working with Fa†e to create a project that's arguably his most abnormal yet. On the first two EP's, Blu was more concerned about his native surroundings, Los Angeles, but recently, with this EP and Titans In The Flesh, Blu sees himself taking on a god-like approach, passing down beliefs about our existence and the nature in which we exist. The production, while evocative and ethereal, feels a tad too unconventional for Blu to tackle, despite the concept and bars intriguing more so than usual.

If the cover and titles are any indication, Open Your Optics centers around enlightenment, seeing the truth, and reveling in it. From learning about ancient beings to preparing for our future in space, Blu tackles gargantuan subjects with sincerity, even though his beliefs seem tangled. 'His Story,' in particular, substitutes Blu's traditional rapping for a spoken word monologue discussing the evolution of man, marked by dates of importance. Whether you believe in creationism or evolution, the two don't intertwine, and when a handful of biblical references insert themselves amongst tangible facts Blu's version of the truth becomes a little ambiguous. However, one can't doubt his commitment to such ideas, using every song to parley his intellect. Despite these proclamations, the majority of Open Your Optics intends to ask questions, as Blu does on tracks like 'Think' and 'Thought.' He even brings along the supercilious duo of Milo and Open Mike Eagle to dabble in philosophical rhetoric on 'Oblivia,' which also makes for his highest-profile song since his work with Madlib and MED on 2015's Bad Neighbor. And then there's 'UFO' which unintentionally bears resemblance to clipping.'s Splendor & Misery in the dissection of human feelings when discovering sentient life beyond earth.

Half of Open Your Optics, like Blu's previous EP's, revolves around a single producer, in this case Fa†e. The LA producer, a relative unknown, does a fine job utilizing his space alongside Blu. His aesthetic, similar to Nosaj Thing if things were more concrete, emphasizes minimalistic beats with drawn out synths and drums. It's Blu's way to side with the stars, something he did similarly with Ray West and the LA them or Nottz and the cartoon hero theme. Given some space, like on 'His Story' and 'Cosmophobia (Revisited),' where Blu isn't the primary focus, Fa†e thrives with some graphic beats that see him lead the veteran emcee. His best work though comes on the closer 'Thought,' where both him and Blu collide on production that wouldn't feel out of place on the latter's Her Favorite Colo(u)r or Amnesia EP's. Spacious with grains of a distant vocal sample chopped in and around groundless drums, 'Thought' ends the EP on good terms. While not as expressive or grand as Nottz' work on Titans In The Flesh, Fa†e helps Blu travel to the stars, even if his vision is a little blurry.