Friday, 14 January 2011

The Bastard Sunz - Le Discotheque Martyrdom (review)

The debut album from Bristol representatives B-Tol, Milestone, Rola & DJ Rogue, aka The Bastard Sunz, dropped late last year, but due to January (understandably) being such a quiet month for releases, marks the first review of 2011. The press release describes it as being "dark and sureal", and album's title and artwork certainly try to live up to this claim. Does the music? And if so, does it achieve this whilst maintaining the quality and avoiding the trap of becoming over the top, pretentious or self-indulgent, like the output of many artists who look to go down the 'horrorcore' route?...

The short answer is, for the most part, yes. Whilst this album is far from perfect, there is enough potential shown here that this shouldn't be written off, whether or not you think that the mood and subject matter will be to your taste. The thing that this album does suffer from is inconsistency. It's high points can rank up with some of the better artists in this country, but the standard is not maintained throughout. The first 4 tracks exemplify this perfectly. The moody piano-loop driven beats of 'Liver and Onions' and the Eva Lazarus featuring 'Lament', set up tracks that seem to capture exactly the mood that was intended for this project. Namely, a kind of dank, claustrophobic vibe in which the MCs seem entirely at home. However, these tracks are followed by 'Top Rank' and 'Murder Factory' respectively, which fail to maintain the momentum. 'Top Rank' especially, as it has a hook that really starts to grate once you've listened through the album a few times.

The album's two highlights are the ones that lyrically stand out above the pack. At track number 5, the storytelling effort 'The Shades' comes as a welcome switch up conceptually. B-Tol's tales are layed over what is probably the most interesting track of the album musically, as an electric guitar riff prevents this 5 minute track from dragging. Crescendo is the one really personal effort here, although Milestone's description of paranoia and mental health problems is comfortably in keeping with the overall feel of the project. Once again, the music complements the lyrics, with a passionate chorus from Eva Lazarus matching the intense strings and keys of Flipz's excellent production. It's a shame that there aren't a couple more concept driven tracks onboard, as the album suffers when the lyrics aren't as focussed. A case in point is 'Scabcore Generals', when an otherwise decent track is dragged down by some sloppy lyrics from guest Turroe, whose verse is unfortunately up first. ("I'm a rap addict/And you're crap at it/You're a crack addict/With a smack habit/Ha. I laugh at it")

Both MCs, B-Tol in particular, have a confident, fairly polished delivery. This is demonstrated throughout the album, but particularly when they try their hand a double-time 'Bastard Spillz'. Sadly this is one occasion where the production standards really slip, as they are given a beat that sounds like it sampled a Game-Boy, circa 1993. Another potentially good track spoiled is the closer, the South West-North East collabo with Chattabox, 'White Spots'. As was the case with 'Top Rank', the chorus becomes pretty iritating, and doesn't stand up to repeated listening.

So, whilst this is a rather patchy effort, the good outweighs the bad, which is always a promising sign for a debut release. If some of the moments where there is a dip in quality (be it production, hook or lyrics) can be ironed out, then there could be some excellent work in the future from The Bastard Sunz, as B-Tol and Milestone show themselves to be two entertaining MCs, with confident delivery, who seem comfortable over a range of different beats. For me, this debut effort wouldhave to be placed in a pile marked 'promising, but not quite there'…


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