Archive for June, 2013

IMG_0334

Somewhere within the heart of this writer, without a doubt, dwells a mostly dormant obsessive compulsive disorder. In moments of personal trauma or existential despair, however, refuge is first taken in the organisation of his record collection.

It is likely this very proclivity that holds responsibility for the genuine sense of horror and moral outrage provoked by this article, in which journalist Sophie Heawood confesses to the cardinal sin of having thrown away her entire music collection.

That a human being might actually possess the capacity for idiocy required to commit such an atrocity genuinely tests the boundaries of belief.

Now, this feature is by no means a refutation of the Buddhist-leaning idea that freedom is to be found in the relinquishing of possessions. No one ever really looks through their photo albums and a Kindle full of digital copies of books is undeniably superior to a heaving bookcase playing host to squads of dust mites beasting their way through the musty, yellowing pages of books long since neglected in university.

Such wise logic, however, has to have one exception.

Even to the mind of a relatively spritely – at least in terms of devotees to the physical manifestation of works of musical art – 26 year old, one’s record collection serves as nothing short of a window to the soul and the ongoing piecing together of the soundtrack to one’s life amounts to a spiritual quest.

Every significant moment, and every extended period of insignificant moments, in one’s life doubtless has a piece of music attached, or at least loosely linked, to it and the retention of tangible evidence of those pieces of music is as close as it is possible to get to retaining the times themselves.

A true record collection should be such that any outsider – whether casual browser or intrepid and discerning explorer – ought to be able, merely through the observation of this one compilation of recorded media, to trace the genesis of the proprietor’s very character. Just as the parental advisory stickers should symbolise turbulent teenage years of adolescent angst and the demos of long-defunct local acts of dubious talent should evoke memories of rashly enthusiastic purchases guided by youthful exuberance, the retrospective box sets and imitation vinyl singles collections should allude to more recent moments of unflinchingly reckless nostalgia.

The more discerning eye should be able to pick out, and question, albums bearing the tell-tale cracks and abrasions of a year spent being passed around from schoolbag to schoolbag, by way of a dozen CD re-writers. Awkward conversations should arise regarding naively scrawled declarations of affection on the interiors of booklets. Nods of appreciative respect should be granted upon the discovery of multiple copies of the same release, distinguished only by the addition of bonus tracks or limited edition artwork.

Ageing men should totter on the precipice of episodes of violent rage when their offspring’s unskilled and reckless pawing of their records sees faded concert tickets spilling out of album sleeves.

Such libraries of cheerfully misspent existences should also, of course, be complete in the truest sense, never exuding the sort of pared-down appearance resultant of that other distinctly odious music-related misdeed, the removal of the “embarrassing” artefacts. Granting someone access to that most personal of accumulations can only register as the gesture of trust it deserves to if it comes with the proverbial warts ‘n’ all.

Never trust a music fan with a seemingly perfect collection; chances are the bastard has a B*witched single stashed in the confines of a Neil Young anthology.

In a world of supposed instant gratification, increasingly throwaway encounters and cheapened joy, the record collection stands as testament to one of the few remaining sincere and pure pursuits – a genuine labour of love. Holding onto a collection of memories that serves to illustrate the development of the self is a sure gesture of faith in the worth of the future.

Throwing away her whole record collection…

Jesus Christ, hen!

972156_10152116601064657_1450276369_n

As soon as the beat of the nineteen-track behemoth’s opener The Lazarus Project reaches its operating velocity – by way of a poignant Jacques Fresco sample from the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist: Addendum – Loki sets out his steadfastly uncompromising stall, hurling forth bar after bar of intelligent, witty and distinctly passionate lyricism. As the elapsed track time approaches two and a half minutes, inevitably marking at least the third instance of the listener gasping for respite from the weight of the verbal onslaught, the narrator imparts:

“I retain a fresh autonomy, a skeptic obviously,

Developing an odyssey of relevant, effectual intellectual property,

That walks the plank the day I die,

When Darren says goodbye and breaks the barricades of life.”

This declaration, a manifesto delivered in ten seconds and exhibiting a grasp of language and internal rhyme that would proudly top the pedestal of a lesser artist’s track, makes up just one of the opening salvo’s numerous cues for sharp inhalations of breath.

Next up, the listener is granted a brief respite as a string section leads into what is undoubtedly the most radio-friendly (which is to say that the hook – provided by Becca Starr – is off the scale in terms of catchiness, rather than that the material is even close to being tame enough to be entertained by the mainstream) number on Edging God Out, sporting the title Sinister and thereby doing a fine job of encapsulating the overarching feeling conjured up by the album.

As impressively proficient as the lyrics, flow and production of the album are, one could be forgiven for entertaining the concern that Edging God Out may rely too heavily on the showcasing of wit and braggadocio and not enough on the conveyance of genuine feeling. Forgiven, that is, until they reached the gritty but ultimately motivational Jump which wraps complex verses laden with confessions of an unhappy childhood around a simple refrain of ‘It’s no’ me against the world, it’s us.”

Elsewhere, Arlington Road sees a genuine storyteller in his element, as the listener is pulled along through a night of drunken paranoia, and The Wall – kicking off with a Charlie Kaufman quote that perfectly foreshadows the song’s content – exposes a captivating inner monologue that seems to seep out of the speakers and surround the listener, leaving the air pregnant with the malevolent threat of imminent suffocation, especially as the narrative comes to a close and the track fades out to the sound of distressed breathing accompanied only by fading echoes of the beat.

Interesting headphone listening…

Now, to go any further without addressing what is a truly mesmerising force behind this album would be wrong and, as such, a minute must be taken to talk about just how furiously angry some of this material sounds. This sense of barely restrained rage permeates the release to the extent that, on certain tracks, the moments when Loki isn’t rapping seem to pulse with the impression that he is having to consciously hold himself back in a concerted effort to channel his rage enough, just to stay on beat. Of course, the speed at which the rhymes peel out between the beats only serves to enhance this. Don’t Gee Me That Patter sees the needle on the anger scale hovering somewhere around the “fuckin’ ragin’” mark – perfectly complimented by an truly filthy sounding bassline – but, as he seethes through album highlight Loki’s the Name, the delivery takes a turn towards the positively venomous.

A large segment of Edging God Out evidently serves as catharsis for its purveyor and this is as clear on the album’s more reflective tracks – a la Smile at the Sky and Focus – as it is during the moments of unshackled verbal chaos, such as during the passages on title track Edging God Out where betrayals past are laid bare and What Time is it in Melbourne which stands as a compellingly transparent exorcism of personal demons.

As such, there aren’t a great deal of relevant negatives to be dealt with here. Sure, there are some tracks that may not stand up to the test of repeated listening but these are few and far between and such an outcome is an inevitable consequence of releasing an album nineteen tracks long.

One could then, of course, argue that prudence should have dictated a need for a more ruthless editing process but a fair amount of the original mix has already been dropped (available here) and, as mentioned before, the work as a whole gives the impression of serving as a release for emotions bottled up for too long and to cut it down any further would perhaps be to lose some of what is so captivating in the first place.

Being brutally realistic, Scottish hip hop is still very much a niche market and, like any work of genuine passion disseminated throughout a small scene, it would be easy for the cynical to dismiss the level of effort poured into this release as a misuse of energy that might yield greater rewards elsewhere. In addition, the deliberately provocative nature of lines such as “I’m not sexist but reserve the right to call you a cow” coupled with the prolific bandying about of the word ‘cunt’ also serve to keep the risk of Loki’s output achieving mass appeal fairly slight.

For the already initiated and those with their finger anywhere near the pulse, however, this is well worth a listen or twelve. The pages of Sixteen Sixteen Six have made no effort to hide a wealth of admiration for Scots rap duo Hector Bizerk and any fans of theirs who aren’t already familiar with Loki are guilty of a tremendous disservice to themselves. If Hector embody the swagger and flash of the Scottish hip hop scene, Loki embodies the heartfelt passion and painfully gritty realism.

Overall, with Edging God Out, Loki shows himself to be a hugely gifted storyteller with a staggering ability to channel a genuinely charismatic rage. The work feels honest and the sheer volume of material comprising this project is admirable in itself.

And who gives a fuck about the haters anyway, eh?

Edging God Out is released on Saturday 15th June and you can catch the album launch show on Friday 14th June in Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy.

Loki on Facebook

Lokis’ the Name music video