Thursday, August 17, 2017

Milo - Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!? Review

In the Internet age where globalization is inescapable, niche products once destined for a select few hands are now being appreciated by millions. A community exists for every topic you can imagine, to the point where former cult commodities stand toe to toe with more mainstream works. This has significantly affected Hip-Hop's underground, a genre once teeming with identity, now faceless amongst the crowded field of everything. To think that the best image we currently have is one that originated over a decade is telling, but true. Formed in 2011, disbanded more recently than that over undisclosed drama, the Hellfrye Club represented the last artistic bunch from LA's ebullient underground scene. From Busdriver, typically hailed as the originator of Art Rap, to Nocando, Subtitle, Open Mike Eagle, Milo, and more, the now-defunct collective of like-minded poets, both clumsy and serious alike, essentially Hip-Hop's final purveyors of abstract lyricism. Currently, Milo's the key grip. His language is stilted, his beats abstruse, his flows accessible, three transparent corners that form a completed project for listeners to pick apart. For many, the hype of Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! promised an Art Rap epic. The result, however, is no different than years past. It's good, but not exceptional.

In 2015, Milo released So The Flies Don't Come. It was his best project yet in more ways than one, welcoming in a newfound fanbase with relative practicality while adhering to the morals of his meditative past. All this stitched together in a neat, 10-track project where features, production, and color revealed itself immediately. On Who Told You To Think, raw cohesion builds the mold, leaving sonic distinction as a secondary thought. The tone is consistent, the atmosphere cold, stark, and near expressionless, contrary to the luridness of So The Flies Don't Come and the spacial saturation of A Toothpaste Suburb. This then, quite clearly, posits Who Told You To Think as Milo's most mature work yet. A damning statement with circumstantial evidence in the art being projected. Here, abstract ideas aren't prompted by stray jacket tomfoolery in the left field, but rather, serious worries in life as we know it. The shift in mood a reaction to Milo's personal strife and our nation's ruinous turmoil. With the opening track 'Poet (Black Bean),' and the closing track 'Rapper,' Milo attends to the importance of art as a combatant, seeing himself as the purveying philosophical voice.

This tends to backfire, as rather than crafting more conceptual songs with oracular vision, Milo unspools pretentious inanities that, more often than not, feel compelled to showcase his textbook intelligence than drive home an unambiguous belief. This makes each and every song inherently personal to Milo, but difficult for the listener, as having Wikipedia reachable to understand the references isn't always possible. Therefore the lyrics, cavernous and cryptic as they are, are the LP's weakest aspect, despite the illuminating moments where tangible thoughts pull through. These can be seen on the heartrending romance of 'Note To Mrs,' the fearless confidence of 'Landscaping,' or the Rap-centric criticisms of 'Call + Form (Picture).' For sanity sake, much of the feature spots also bring stability, excelling in their own right. Elucid riffles through his jarring jabs and sparring seduction on 'Landscaping,' Busdriver plays the role of Rap god on 'Rapper,' and Self Jupiter steals the show with vivid depictions of Swan Lake on 'Ornette's Swan Song.' The latter, a gorgeous soliloquy that borrows heavily from Blackalicious' conscious perusing; namely their megalithic work 'Release.' While Milo gets ousted when others are around, his talents as an entertaining rapper don't diminish when he's left alone. Fumbled, dead end lyrics don't conflate with his presence as an emcee.

Whereas the high-sounding rhetoric teeters between amusing and annoying, the production tells a more concrete, distinguished tale. Largely produced by Milo himself, under his Scallops Hotel pseudonym, Who Told You To Think's minimal palate of modest Boom Bap and Glitch-infused ataxia stumbles on the delicately sublime. Nowhere has Milo's evolution as an artist been more clear than in the soundscapes he creates, choosing to operate out of Hip-Hop's past, finding frailty in the aged. The wonderful strings of 'Ornette's Swan Song,' the padding patience of 'Note To Mrs,' the beefy cortex of bass on 'Sorcerer,' the opaque grumble of 'Rapper.' While a few tracks beseech the passe, like 'Take Advantage Of The Naysayer' or 'Paging Mr. Bill Nunn,' the bulk flourish in enclosed tranquility. This, in direct contrast to Milo's own unfriendly egotism, finding peace in the soft-spoken recluse. This shines most vividly on 'Embroidering Machine,' Who Told You To Think's best track. From the get-go patience is a virtue, christening Milo's omnipresence with static hiss and a solemn piano lost adrift. Some muffled percussion, gracefully inserted Soul samples, and an extended outro that brings it all together effortlessly declares 'Embroidering Machine' a masterwork, and one of Milo's best creations.

Despite succeeding in atmospherically being whole, Who Told You To Think really is 15 separate brain stems. The sporadic jumping of ideas bares more resemblance to Milo's work under Scallops Hotel than his former projects, which have tended on the side of brevity, excluding A Toothpaste Suburb's significant steps as ambitious debut album. Here, the 43 minutes are divided amongst malnourished fragmentations, akin to MF DOOM's catalogue, instead of thorough compositions. Only two of the 15 songs eclipse four minutes, with a hefty streak of eight in the middle that never reach three. This fits Milo's deictic with a fine pen, although I wish it hadn't, considering length fosters initiative which lessens informal abstractions. Composition is key, pacing around half-baked hypotheses like 'Idk' or 'The Young Man Has A Point (Nurture)' amount to nothing more than wasted space. Think of each as the fifth question mark and fifth exclamation point in the title, are they really necessary? Prominent issues of hubris aside, the album marks another success for Milo, growing in the field of sonic ambiguity while conceiting to doing the same, needlessly, with his words. Who Told You To Think is a sketchbook of misshapen interpretations, just like the cover by which it's represented.

No comments:

Post a Comment