Aleister X

Keepin' It Real

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Musical mutant and concept artist Aleister X threw every imaginable style, instrument, and altered state of consciousness into the blender on his 2013 debut, Half-Speed Mastered, and the result was one of the most enjoyably strange listening experiences released that year. The entire album sounded like it was wrapped tightly in some kind of psychedelic shrink wrap, and all the unexpected combinations of dancehall basslines, toy drum machines, drugged-out lyrics delivered in a fake British accent, and hard rock bumbling got smashed together and could be seen through the translucent production. Thankfully, sophomore album Keepin' It Real takes no steps towards normalcy, but instead gets even more out there in its sea of clashing currents and genre-hopping. The album starts out of nowhere with the miswired rock of "Lou Reed," a song modeled after the lyrical style of its namesake, paying tribute to Reed's tales of N.Y.C. tweekers, prostitutes, and various other freaks. This song butts up immediately into the alien pop of "Rules," a mesh of stoned, summery funk and a chorus so grating and shouty it's astonishing the song remains as catchy as it does. Even more than on his schizophrenic debut, X never settles on one style for long. The album races through backwoods hard rock on "Hi Enuff," brittle tropical club fare that bleeds into segments of grimy rap on "Venice Beach" and "Oo Dat" and even gets into anthemic arena punk singalong territory on tracks like "Negative Gurl." Much like its predecessor, Keepin' It Real is a dizzying, sometimes bewildering affair, with production somewhere between the gutter rock of Royal Trux at their most deranged and some demented bedroom version of shiny club pop. The album may be challenging for some listeners, with no comfortable immediate reference points or clearly understood core. The best part about Aleister X is that he's fully aware of this and clearly doesn't care even a little bit. His breathtakingly weird music is a singular force, and even with its stylistic pastiche and songs titled "Jerry Garcia" and lyrics that rhyme "Dancing and romancin'" with "Ted Danson," he's still making some of the most original pop music of his time.

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