Skyscraper Magazine » Anti-Pop Consortium with Matthew Shipp & William Parker
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Knives from Heaven
Thirsty Ear
Format: CD
Release Date: June 21, 2011
By Dave Cantor June 21, 2011

Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series has, over time, created a space for performers to come together in striking combinations. Ever hear El-P helm a jazz group? You can. Pianist Matthew Shipp, basser William Parker, and Anti-Pop Consortium, however, are the only repeated offenders in the series. Well, not all of Anti-Pop. The earlier entry from 2003, Anti-Pop vs. Matthew Shipp, found each member of the trio (Beans, High Priest, M. Sayyid) presenting and contributing work. For Knives from Heaven, M. Sayyid is noticeably absent. But whittling the Anti-Pop trio down to a duo allows more mic time for both Beans and Priest, who’s actually billed as HPrizm on this release. Almost immediately, the MCs make the arrangement seem like a good choice.

Opening the disc with a digitally augmented Shipp piano track wasn’t a bad idea and provides ample entry into the following effort, “Half Amazed A/B.” Priest takes the first verse only to be overshadowed by Beans’ mastery during the last minute-and-a-half of the song. In any other situation, Priest/Prizm would be the star. It’s just hard to dominate a track following or preceding Mr. One Stripe Red. A bit of odd production work spreads out over the next two tracks, finding all involved adding in instrumentation or programming. It’s not the only instrumental stretch to get through, making portions of Knives from Heaven a bit too left-field for those still bumping Big Pun albums. Instead of working up a narrative or commenting on a specific societal issue, Priest repeats the phrase “This is for my brother, the Wind/Shout Out to Him/Water, Earth, Ether and Fire, my blood kin” for two minutes as a solo feature. The approach might be the rap equivalent to Coltrane reiterating the same melodic progression on “Om,” or any other release from after 1964. Whatever the theoretical backing, Priests’ performance on “This is for My Brother, the Wind” doesn’t seem to have a hip-hop antecedent.

Thirty Ear being so confident as to go in for a second time with these players is pretty easily bared out in 40 minutes and 20 tracks. Anti-Pop was, for a time, one of the most exciting groups in rap, their brief dissolution only solidifying that fact. And regardless of Sayyid returning to the fold for the bummer that was Fluorescent Black (Warp, 2009) while abstaining here, his cohort proves that in pretty much any configuration, there’s enough talent to engorge any track with hooks and intelligence.

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