Artist: Cannibal Ox
Album: Cold Vein
Label: Def Jux
from the new underground empire of Def Jux (formed when El-P left Rawkus)
comes Cannibal Ox and their latest release "Cold Vein". Sounding
more like a 15-track stream of consciousness than a typical hip-hop release,
"Cold Vein" is one of those albums that's sure to be heartily
ignored by the clubhoppers and discussed widely by the emcee connoisseurs
for months to come. It's even a safe bet that it might show up on some
of their "
of 2001" lists.
"Cold Vein" is damned underground even for an underground album.
Cannibal Ox were clearly on a mission to deliver their particular vision
of hip-hop, no matter how distinct or alienating. The composition of the
album is very dark to start with, almost recalling the hollow soundscapes
of Radiohead, albeit in a very satisfying breakbeat form. The musical
background thumps and loops ominously throughout, rising towards peaks
and then falling into distortion. Up to the task of lyrically matching
such complex arrangements are emcees Vast Aire and Shamar. Both manage
to bring such a consistent and wordy flow that it will easily take the
most initiated listener a few listens to catch AND understand what was
laid down. Their subjects tend to stay grounded, but the delivery can
be almost ethereal at times.
You may already realize that "Cold Vein" isn't something that's
going to be bumped in the clubs this summer
short of some really
sentimental DJ who gives props to Def Jux artists. It's a more cerebral
effort than some might be used to, and frankly demands more patience than
some might have. And to bring a double-edged sword to the table, it's
the songs where they relax a little where "Cold Vein" starts
to lag some. It's not a completely fair assessment; to expect them to
keep up the same energy of opening track "Iron Galaxy" for such
a long time might be more than any artist can really manage. "The
F Word", a love track, for example, sounds a bit out of place and
doesn't really add anything to the album. On the other hand, the near
constant dark mood of the album could be more than some hip-hop listeners
Approach "Cold Vein" with a completely open mind, then. It's
a lot to take in, but is expertly constructed and obviously done with
a lot more attention to detail than much of today's hip-hop. This isn't
Cannibal Ox's definitive word, and they still have room to move. More
for the intent listener than for the hip-hop weekender, "Cold Vein"
demands attention and rewards it nicely.
-- Maurice Downes
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry
Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| August 2001 | Issue 17
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