(Deathbomb Arc, 2013)
This is such a great surprise, to finally find the newest True Neutral Crew release, teased for so freaking long (or so it seems anyway). That’s right everybody, #MONSANTO is here, and you’re ready for it. Or you’re not, it doesn’t matter – it’s in your airspace. It’s in your earbuds.
TNC is a supergroup of sorts. No, not of sorts, it is. Foot Village’s (and Deathbomb label head) Brian Miller retired the Back to the Future the Ride moniker that he used for his solo excursions in favor of the equally cool True Neutral, and as such has released (with help from Lightning Bolt/Black Pus octopus Brian Chippendale) a soundtrack to Patrick Wensink’s audiobook Broken Piano for President, as well as gnarly electro-drone single Call on the Herd / A Few Lights on the Wall.
And now the encore – instead of the solo thing, he’s added “Crew” to the name and busted apart any preconceptions you may have had about what this project is about, roping in fellow DBA-ers and equal visionaries Margot Padilla (I.E.) and Daveed Diggs (Clipping.) for the long haul. But the collaborations don’t end there – Todd Drootin, aka Books on Tape (and now Boo Hiss), produced “I Guess,” injecting the track with his trademark beatpunk sample madness. There’s even a bonus track, a remix of “Monsanto” by Miles Farewell and featuring a guest verse by Deli Mane that sounds nothing like the original.
Deep breath. And that’s not even all – this little collabo has been tagged with the “krautrap” label by the artists, a #grunge2 oddity if I’ve ever heard one. That’s selling it short though – each member’s contributions really stand out, whether it’s Miller’s live drums and nasal vocals, Padilla’s bouncy synths approaching chiptune territory and giddy interjections, or Diggs’ rapid-fire monotone raps that bewilder and inspire in their technique and delivery. But I love the idea introduced by the word “krautrap,” a sense of electronically based repetition infused with some of the jagged elements of rap (and of course, the rap vocals) – it bridges two distinct styles not necessarily automatically associated with one another. (See also Clipping.’s tectonic noise/rap hybrid.)
#MONSANTO is all about rehashing governmental conspiracies, whether it’s our over-reliance on corn-based and chemical products (see that cover!) at the expense of sustainability and our country’s small farms on the title track (and let’s face it, there ain’t any commercial small farms anymore, are there?), or our under-reliance on extra-governmental organizations to keep in check those in power with far-reaching and catastrophic agendas (“X-Files Clan [ft. LCKY]”). Even “I Guess” meditates on the conspiracy of culture to compartmentalize (“I guess I’m just a race traitor”), as Miller’s musings on style and scene leave him jaded and noncommittal. (Padilla’s verse on “I Guess” is one of the best things among a lot of great things on this EP: “The whole world smells like teen spirit covered in shit.”)
So eyes to the sky for unmarked helicopters, eyes to the rural passes for unlabeled train tankers, and eyes to the street where culture has jaggedly divided pretty much everybody against each other. #MONSANTO is just a shot across the bow. The saga continues this year with at least one more mixtape – perhaps the long-teased #POPPUNK? – followed at some point by in-the-works full length #BIRTHDAYS. And I’m sure other goodies here and there – this crew is nothing if not inspired and prolific.
RIYL: Clipping., I.E., Foot Village, Back to the Future the Ride