Andre Afram Asmar / Circus

Gawd Bless the Faceless Crowds

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Anybody here remember Gary Clail? He's the guy who wasn't a rapper, wasn't a singer, he just blabbed on about whatever was bothering him -- usually politics -- and was compelling all the while. Circus could be his American brother, and his coconspirator on Gawd Bless the Faceless Crowds -- Andre Afram Asmar -- might remind you of Clail's old buddy, producer Adrian Sherwood. Asmar takes Sherwood's style of cramming every bit of available space with samples, loops, disembodied voices, and other sorts of muck, and combines it with a Southern screwed-and-chopped style with slowed-down beats. It's hallucinatory and smothering but compelling, and most responsible for the album's high points. Rapper Circus isn't unworthy of Asmar's production, but he's limited, obsessed with UFOs like Kool Keith used to be, and hard to imagine in any another setting than Asmar's. Sounding like a snarky Slug from Atmosphere, Circus' abstract tales of aliens are middling at best, but he comes alive when commenting on world events. His rap on "Who Killed Me???" is quick, excellent, and evidence that listeners might be hearing an artist not yet at full maturation. There's always Asmar's fascinating production to turn to whenever Circus is spinning his wheels. The partnership might be unbalanced, but you've got to appreciate a record that can still come up with its own unique sound.

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