Beans – End It All (Anticon)

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Ever zeroed in on his own breathless flow, it often feels like Beans is rapping entirely to himself, unaware the rest of us are out there eavesdropping. His work on his own since Anti-Pop Consortium has been strong, and in the wake of Anti-Pop’s reunion he has crafted a thrilling, yet not exactly accessible fourth solo LP. Working with all outside producers for the first time ever, he brings his dense, babble-like barrages to minimal, jagged backdrops that defy the limits of hip-hop just as much as he does.

Claustrophobic and relentless, End It All isn’t an album to offer much respite, though there are some nifty hooks and a few daring stretches without a lick of vocals. We start with “Superstar Destroyer”, which exaggerates and blows out the standard hip-hop brag track over Ade Firth’s monochromatic glitz. DJ Nobody’s blurted work sets the mood for “Deathsweater”, teeming with fleeting self-references and images alike. Its got a great falsetto hook, and Beans eventually rattles off the labels of his wardrobe, imagining it as a literally murderous ensemble. Other highlights include In Flagranti’s two tracks “Mellow You Out”, with swooning guest vocals from TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, and the fiercely political anomaly “Air is Free.”

What else? Four Tet mans two brief cuts, the spooky “Glue Traps” and the even more intricate and unnerving “Anvil Falling”. Tortoise’s drum section accelerates its diffuse percussion on “Electric Eliminator”, while Interpol’s Sam Fog also toys with tempo on the darkly askew “Electric Bitch”. Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tobacco brings his soggy and fuzzy synths to the nutty imagery of “Glass Coffins.” That Kid Prolific’s “Forever Living Fresh” is deadly catchy despite its brevity, and Fred Bigot’s standout “Hardliner” applies echo to Beans’ voice while bending the mind in every way. Son Lux makes “Blue Movie” one of the busiest tracks, whereas Clark’s short “Hunter” is a burping, lurching ride that comes to a sudden stop…and with it the album.

Beans takes stylistic cues from these distinct producers, but he only ever shifts his approach so much. Mostly he’s a rhythmic, senses-overloading instrument that moves so quickly you have to close your eyes and concentrate to truly follow along. His only weakness may be hip-hop’s requisite braggadocio and endless pop-culture similes, but even those elements feel uniquely his own. What’s best about him, on the other hand, is his weird combination of intensity and levity. It’s insane what Beans can do, but it’s also the stuff of ticklish, brainy, irreverent fun.

Doug Wallen

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