Lately underground hip-hop has been all about variation: bringing hypothetically disparate, or at least dissimilar, artists together to create a new sound. The people at Quannum Records have been particularly successful at this amalgamation, much in part due to producer Chief Xcel, who works on most Quannum releases. But for ApSci's debut record, Thanks for Asking, Xcel held back and let producer/MC Ra LaMotta (former bassist/singer for the indie rock group Vitapup) do the work instead. What results is an interesting combination of thoughtful rhymes, near-operatic vocals, and dark electronica beats, plus those computer-trying-to-sound-human interludes that appear so often on hip-hop albums, giving instruction and introduction, and acting perhaps as the vocal manifestation of the Big Brother who is watching your every move. Not that Thanks for Asking is overtly politically -- or conspiracy theory -- oriented: that's too confining. While "See That," featuring Mr. Lif, does criticize modern American government/media/society, Ra's lyrics are sometimes so cryptic -- fed by internal rhyme rather than actual significance -- that it's hard to figure out exactly what he's saying at all (what exactly does "Info supremacist, the nympho's a chemist/The bimbos that blemish, rescind those replenished/I'm an active pursuant that's passively fluent, the axis congruent" mean, for example?) and what is understood falls into normal hip-hop categories: MC skills and sex, most of the tracks focusing on the former. What distinguishes ApSci from similar-sounding groups like Atmosphere or Non-Prophets are Ra's beats. They're dark and messily syncopated, but they're melodic and quick enough that they don't weigh the listener down, instead providing a kind of urban-landscape backdrop to the figures of Ra and classically trained vocalist Dana Diaz-Tutaan. Both Ra's and Diaz-Tutaan's lyrics are unique and sharply introspective, and her voice is great, switching from trip-hop to soul to opera cleanly and sounding good in each. Apsci is certainly confident of their sound, this mishmash of styles, and it hardly varies throughout the duration of the album. This provides a nice consistency, but it also gets a bit repetitive. Diaz-Tutaan often alludes to, even copies, the melodies she introduced in the opening tracks throughout the rest of the album, and the production doesn't ever shift much from where it started. This doesn't make the album boring or predictable; it sometimes just gets hard to distinguish one song from another. ApSci has found something that works, and execute it well, but it wouldn't hurt them to expand musically. Coming from such a varied background, it almost seems cheating not to.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
feat: Pigeon John
feat: Mr. Lif