Alibi V.29 No.5 • Jan 30-Feb 5, 2020 

Sonic Reducer

Illuminati Congo InnerSpace (Self-released)

This sort of def hip-hop effort is made even more majestic by the use of original melodic backgrounds and melodious follow-alongs, lending the whole work a sense of authenticity that draws upon the techniques of masters of the form. The opening track “Enter The Center” begins with a keyboard track that sounds like it comes from a Mellotron, conjuring a spooky sense of the past with its languorous tone and spiky counterpoint. The flow that follows invokes greater worlds and displays a sort of guarded wonder that even Sun Ra might have found compelling. Throughout this record, intense and intently composed pieces like “Live From The Heart” and “Innerspace” seek—and generally find due to the artists’ plangent presentation—a spiritual path that will guide and sustain. The final track, “I Give Thanks,” brings that journey full circle, slyly engaging a physical world that is both heavy and illusory.

Crystal Whip nineteen (Sonozaki Recordings)

Like a seeping fog that arises from the rocked-out depths of a remembered party or encounter with light in the midst of something very dark, this record functions best at the subconscious level. Press play, have someone tie you up, turn out the lights and just listen. Here are visions of the bottom end, expressed metaphorically and in real time by a relentless, bothering beat. And that’s just the first track, “Low.” Darker depths follow. Notably the glitchy under-the-skin world explored on “Endorphins,” the sharp distraction of submission examined as a series of glitched-out moments on “Oubliette” and the romantic strutting and terror of “Fake.” This record can’t do its magic while you’re asleep so it’s the perfect soundtrack for insomnia. Now I remember what 19 was really like.

Mercury Renegades Letters from the Brink (Self-released)

Here’s another amazing local hip-hop record that’s sorta disguised as horrorcore. But it’s much more than that. There are some fantastically complex flows here that deserve readers’ attention. How about this, from the first track, “XX”: “Your listening is filtered through a chance to interject, to intercept, to correct/ Campaigning, waging Cold Wars in damp places ...” This is deep and it works because the rapper’s eloquence is more than matched by a confident presentation style backed by production standards that are sublime yet cooly provocative. Heavy bass beats and persistent drums help drive those eloquent words into the brain like holy crystal nails seeking disruption or permanent change. Every track on this record deserves repeated play. My favorite on this latest haunting scientific discovery is titled “La Llorona.” She’s creeping toward you, according to Mercury Renegades, and so is this record.