This ambient hip-hop album opens with the soft textures of "Miasma." Featuring I Am That I Am and containing a speech rarely does much; it sounds similar to an elongated version of the introduction to "Kill All Hippies" by Primal Scream. The musician then addresses the listener about this album and the dedication needed on the light rap of "Open Your F*@!ing Eyes." Coming just to the brim but never overflowing in terms of urgency, the song is more experimentation à la the Avalanches. A rampant drum'n'bass groove blends nicely, though, with subtle piano and keyboards on the slow building but strong "What Lurks in the Darkness...." Containing German and other dialogue within, the music supercedes any effects. The rote-like speech in "To Make Manifest" is another asset, as Beck weaves heavier percussion beats in and out of a number that is similar to Moby in some respects. When an industrial arrangement is offered up, as is the case with "In Memoriam" and especially "The Inevitable... Is," the result is a miss and hit, respectively. Perhaps the first true highlight is "June Gloom," a melding of all these styles, with Subtitle giving a very good if monotonous rap from start to finish. However, tracks like "(Music Will Be) The Death of Us All" seems to name-drop all of the rock acts from the '80s, from Hall & Oates and Sheena Easton to Kenny Loggins and Olivia Newton-John, for no apparent reason and with very little musical imagination. A better effort on "On the Axis of Misunderstanding" has enough substance to carry it through, including an industrial-cum-ambient cinematic aura. It resembles a Nine Inch Nails outtake. This album has a few good ideas, but many if not more don't come close to fruition.
by Jason MacNeil