Atlantis: Hymns for Disco

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Continuing his practice of combining elements from multiple genres into something new and unique, Kevin Brereton, better known as k-os, reaches even further past his usual suspects on his third studio release, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco. He takes staples of hip-hop, reggae, and soul but adds to them hints of rock, blues, and punk. This ambitious use of resources and influences could very easily end up creating an album that sounded severely disjointed, even incoherent, but k-os is able to make something that, despite the diversity between tracks, works very much as a whole. This is almost all thanks to his voice, which can change from singsongy rhymes to neo-soul to reggae to rap to pop depending on what the song -- or the part of the song -- requires, and so there's a movement to the album showcasing the development of the performer and what he's capable of. While the songs in which k-os doesn't stray from the pattern he followed on his first two albums ("Mirror in the Sky," "Cat Diesel" [is that supposed to be a response to "Crabbuckit?"], "Flypaper") are perfectly adequate, they also seem a bit tired, and very samey, the melodies practically interchangeable. So it's better, and it's a welcome change, when k-os reaches deeper into his musical repertoire and takes a risk, coming out with something much more interesting. Despite his hesitations about actually singing (like what he does in the Sam Cooke-inspired "The Rain"), k-os in fact sounds better as a vocalist than he does as a rapper -- his flow has never been that good, and because he approaches his rhymes from a reggae standpoint, he ends up sounding more like a second-rate neo-dub preacher than he does a conscious MC -- and his ability to pull off other styles so convincingly just proves that his talents are stifled by hip-hop rules. "Valhalla" sounds Beatles-y at first, but quickly switches into a hard rockabilly that keeps an urban beat, while "Born to Run" mixes Bloc Party, Michael Jackson, and roots reggae into something that holds its own very well. This mélange is made lighter and more fun by the fact that k-os has lost some of the righteousness that often weighed down the tracks on his previous records, as he turns his gaze on Atlantis inward ("seems I'm afraid of being afraid," he confesses on "Fly Paper") or choosing to simply explore and describe situations regarding women and love instead of pontificating and proselytizing. He seems more comfortable and more sure of himself, and speaks confidently, but not arrogantly, about life, about appreciating and enjoying it and trying to understand it and its complexities. Atlantis steps forward while still acknowledging the past, a sign of maturation, a sign of a more complete artist who's secure in himself and the music he creates.

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