Blue Sky Black Death

A Heap of Broken Images

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Generally, when a group releases an instrumental and a vocal record simultaneously, it's the latter that is better appreciated by a larger number of fans. The instrumental selection may get occasional late-night play by a few aspiring DJs, but for the most part it rests untouched inside the case or the sleeve, all but forgotten. However, for production duo Blue Sky Black Death's debut, A Heap of Broken Images, it is the second disc, the one that features lyrical appearances from Jus Allah, Guru, and Virtuoso, among others, that runs the greater risk of being ignored. Not because it's a bad collection; it's just so greatly outshined by the instrumentals. Actually, the term instrumentals is a little deceptive. Kingston and Young God do include spoken vocal samples as well as live singing into their 12-song set, which, added to the guitars, pianos, trumpets, strings, woodwinds, and bass they mix with their drum loops and keyboards, create a fairly stunning effect. It's lush and harmonious, sprawling through different watery landscapes and ideas, yet there's a constant undercurrent of pain and isolation that pervades even the less ominous tracks. "Days Are Years" begins with vaguely cacophonous layers that spread out into guitar-led fluvial meanderings, finally ending in a quasi pop song with a "Leaving Las Vegas" bass and repeating vocal line; "Not Here," with its opening trumpet and piano riff, takes on a darker, more trip-hop feel, and though its jazzy break tries to convince its audience that perhaps there's a bit of light underneath the murky scum of the pond, as an empty drum loop and forlorn guitar finally bring it to a finish, the realization that the surface is actually very far away suddenly becomes quite clear. It's depressing, yet the music is so intriguing it's impossible to stop listenining and to stop looking. Because Blue Sky Black Death prove themselves quite adept at creating descriptive, unique environments on A Heap of Broken Images' first disc, the relative straightforwardness of the second is a little disappointing. Though "Floor Chalk" does use the guitars and keyboards that were so effective in disc one, basic eerie synthesized hip-hop arpeggios and hollow bass still take over and dominate the record. Perhaps these sparser production techniques were used so as not to overpower the MCs' voices, but everything ends up sounding predictable instead, and the strength of some of the lyrical performances (Rob Sonic and Mike Ladd's or Virtuoso's, for instance) isn't enough to compensate for what is lacking elsewhere. Disc two is completely adequate, but in comparison to Kingston and Young God's instrumentals, it falls short, and unfortunately depletes the overall power of what A Heap of Broken Images could collectively be and do.

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