Sensational & Spectre: Acid & Bass
There's nobody in Baltimore making hip-hop like this. Somehow, the music that Spectre produces is both insular and wide-eared: brittle electronics, gothy rock, electro, free jazz, and even some actual traditional hip-hop. This is all crammed onto the same DNA strand while, remarkably, firmly maintaining the Wordsound label boss and all-around beatmaking insurgent's imprint. Common threads are stoned, almost ambient tempos--don't say "illbient"--unflagging and unwobbling bass, and the rapper Sensational, a fellow outsider-by-design with an unmelodic, biting flow that feels to exist in its own dimension.
Spectre's last record, 2008's Internal Dynasty, was at least in part so good because it had a variety of MCs on it: however many styles he puts into a record, the downtempo brooding by its lonesome and in large doses will still sound somewhat monochromatic. Old compatriot Black Chameleon makes a few appearances, but otherwise it's Sensational. And Sensational is an interesting rapper, sort of: idiosyncratic in delivery, but lacking in what exactly he's delivering. Which is a great deal of boasting--like, even on "Danger," when Black Chameleon's getting into politics and feeling let down by our new president, Sensational enters in the last minute, back on the same aggrandizement trip. That's fine, but he's also not terribly clever about it, either: "like art, up the value" goes a line on the otherwise brilliant "Rip Like This" with its rolling, freeform percussion and searing guitar refrains (courtesy of Arbouretum's Dave Heumann). Most of the upping here is coming from Spectre.