Approaching its tenth year in existence, the Anticon record label is still showing listeners that a creative paradigm in music production is nothing but an afterthought to its roster of talent. Many of Anticon’s releases float in the purgatory of classification, although they almost always end up in the “hip-hop” section of record stores and websites. They have gained a formidable cult following, but this unfair categorization has caused many listeners to dismiss their sound as “too left field” because Anticon refuses to indulge in the boom-bap and braggadocio aesthetic of conservative rap music.
Tim Holland, a.k.a. Sole, is one of the label’s founders as well as one of its most consistent contributors in terms of quantity, and this record marks his debut with the Skyrider Band.
The self-titled project from Sole and the Skyrider Band is Sole’s most accessible to date, due largely to the contributions from the band, and the subsequent abandonment of his usual dark and abstract instrumentals. Recalling a line from Sole’s 2003 release Selling Live Water, he said, “I only rap cause I’m not smart enough to write a book.” While he still opts for auditory releases, his albums contain enough dialogue to give the feeling of a rhythmic book on tape. Each song is like a chapter, packed to the brim with tangential ideas until the music stops. Lyrically, this album will take longer to absorb and appreciate than most other hip hop releases, but the Skyrider Band offers a beautiful soundtrack so you can simultaneously nod and scratch your head.
Standout track, “The Shipwreckers” is a delicate soundscape anchored by a steady acoustic drum beat and occasional glitch, creating a warm canvas for Sole to proclaim, “Welcome to the ocean, let the champagne fill your lungs, the shipwreckers name is only remembered by the sea”
Before the Skyrider Band, there was just Skyrider, a.k.a. Bud Berning. An electronic musician and dub bassist, Berning lends his dubabilities to the track “Nothing Is Free”, a nu-dub adventure that combines a traditional dub snare and key harmony with a rapid fire bassline and synth fills that retain the cohesiveness of this song to the rest of the album. (Being a beer geek, I have to mention that Sole references Fat Tire beer, the famed Colorado brew that us East Coast dwellers can only obtain on ski trips to the Rockies.) Sole also offers the valuable advice that “you can’t kill God with a slingshot”. Just in case you had plans to do so.
The distorted guitar on “In Paradise” and the acoustic strumming on “A Hundred Light Years And Running” contribute to the welcomed production diversity. The jittery, bouncy drums and chopped keys on “The Bones Of My Pets” show that even when not rocking with the band, Sole is updating and refining his sound.
The initial lyrical overload on this record should be taken with a grain of salt, and patience is definitely a required virtue to soak up everything Sole has to say. The listener would benefit if he occasionally paused to let the more poignant lines sink in, but Sole would probably object that a pause is simply a void begging to be filled with more words. – Chris Seeger
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