28 June, 2004@12:00 am
Fans of Atoms Family will know that Cryptic One is their production mainstay, his booming basslines, crisp drums and cinematic soundscapes forming an equally dark yet more conventional alternative to El-P’s explosive grime. On Euphony he gave Aesop Rock the truly superb “Water” to flow over and dropped “Half Life”, whose elaborate concept and powerful imagery proved he had nothing to fear as an MC. Two years after it was announced, his solo album is finally here, a slightly re-jigged “Half Life” included. Was it worth the wait?
Technically, The Anti-Mobius Strip Theory is impressive. The beats are always sharp and intelligent, with plenty of punch if very little bounce. Glacial strings soar and waves of synth burble and surge, creating a vibe halfway between a sci-fi movie and an intellectual horror flick – Pulp Fiction, Dogma and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy all get sampled. Blockhead’s three contributions fit in seamlessly, as do Jestoneart’s two and Blueprint’s “Intricate Schemes”.
The level of MCing is also high, with Cryptic’s flow bringing unrelenting pressure, battering you with a ceaseless flow of intellect, dramatic imagery and battle raps. His guests all maintain, too; Aesop Rock with a commentary on the current situation of the (hip-hop) world on “Apocalypse Zone” and Hangar 18 (Alaska & Windnbreeze) repping the crew with their ludicrous flow on “Tempt Fate”.
The flaw in this potential indie classic is its mindset; unremittingly grim and serious, it proves wearing over an entire album, Cryptic’s “meatcleaver-sharp wit” and clever narratives not-withstanding. He attempts to show that, although “evil repeats itself like history” and the world is doomed to move in cycles, things are not entirely one-sided (hence the title) – that despair can be fought with moral determination. “See who wins the fight – flowers and bunny rabbits, or power, money and bad habits”: Cryptic One’s talent is undeniable, but the listener will wish he would cheer up occasionally and quit shoving harsh truths in their faces.
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