Aesop Rock / Blockhead


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Garbology Review

by Paul Simpson

Abstract beatmaker Blockhead and verbose wordsmith Aesop Rock have been frequent collaborators since the late '90s, with the producer heavily contributing to the emcee's early recordings, and helping to distribute his first releases before he was signed to a record label. Both artists have continued making appearances on each other's records since then, but somehow 2021's Garbology marks their first full album together. Aesop began writing his rhymes following the loss of a close friend at the beginning of 2020, and during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He needed to find a way back to creativity, and writing seemed easier than producing music or drawing, so he went with it, and contacted Blockhead for beats. Track after track came together, and eventually the basis of an album was formed. Even though Garbology was born out of tragedy and its aftermath, it doesn't feel like a direct response; as its title suggests, it picks through the refuse of society in order to uncover lost or hidden truths. Blockhead's production style has always ignored current hip-hop trends -- the producer frequently mines rock, jazz, and easy listening records to create unlikely hybrid beats that are both playful and melancholy. While Aesop's lyrics are sometimes autobiographical, on this album he gravitates toward depictions of night-dwellers, freaks, weirdos, and rulebreakers. "Legerdemain" describes a life-altering experience in the woods, while the hilarious "Oh Fudge" is a grotesque character study of a man with no bones who sleeps in a tub. Tracks like "More Cycles" and "Flamingo Pink" tap into the more confrontational side of Aesop's personality, while others like "That Is Not a Wizard" craftily describe the supernatural. "The Sea" is a surreal caper with too many amusing turns of phrase to quote ("absosmurfly nothing" and "not to be a dagger through your bagpipes," for two). Garbology isn't nearly as complex or conceptually driven as 2020's Spirit World Field Guide, but it still contains an abundance of memorable lyrics, and demonstrates Aesop's talent for spinning fantastic stories out of nothing.

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