Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Album Review: Dark Time Sunshine - ANX

Album Rating: A
“Sounds better when taking mushrooms and smoking a bit of stash, but staying sober and listening close is when it sounds best.”

It’s damned near impossible for Dark Time Sunshine fans to view ANX without the retrospective lens that, inevitably enough, compares the album to Onry Ozzborn and Zavala’s groundbreaking debut, Vessel. This was evident enough within the first few days ANX was released; fans all over the Internet picked their favorite full-length without delay, oftentimes hastily choosing after a single listen of the new material.

It’s understandable why so many people would want to compare ANX to Vessel, because despite subtle differences the two albums are quite similar (and this isn’t even considering the identical introductions, mind you). Each of DTS’s full-lengths aims for shaking up the modern hip-hop scene by being different, offering characteristics that many assumed wouldn’t be possible to fuse together so effortlessly. Vessel introduced us music-critics to an act capable of so much versatility, strung together in a surprisingly effortless manner. Sure, it probably wasn’t necessary for there to be so many types of tracks on Vessel - “Sleestack Payback” was too faux-sombre to align with the jovial “All Aboard,” for instance - but while there were minor bones to pick the album featured something for everyone. This emphasis on experimentation is present in ANX but in a more tasteful manner, and despite the albums’ similarities this is the most obvious distinction.

The duo’s sophomore album is much more aware of its identity, and adheres to a particular formula from one track to the next. The album’s soothing atmospheres are reminiscent of the keen sense of melody possessed on Vessel’s “Now They Know,” fleshed out in as thorough a manner as possible. What’s more is that ANX possesses many near-perfect tracks, many more highlights than the duo’s previous outings. Possibly the album’s strongest track, “I’ll be Damned” features a sorrowful hook colored vividly by Poeina Suddarth’s contributions to the choruses. The most memorable song, though, is “Look at What the Cat Did” at the heart of ANX, pulsing in Technicolor. It’s the most accurate representation of what the album is as a whole, a definite highlight from the get-go.

Another aspect of DTS’s second full-length that’s similar to Vessel is the utilization of featured musicians. It seems that ANX works best in a collaboration setting, and evidence of this lies in the stellar “Take My Hand.” Ozzborn hands off the mic to guest emcee Swamburger, who kills it with his fantastically syncopated verse; ultimately, Aesop Rock may be the show-stealer though. Zavala’s lush production seems to have been tailored for Bavitz’s peculiar rapping style, to nudge the track to fully flourish. P.O.S. also delivers a predictably perceptive verse in “Overlordian,” playing off Ozzborn’s intelligent lyrics in the most positive way. This is no surprise, though – ANX even one-ups its predecessor in terms of insightful lyrics, calling the world and its ways into question. For instance, whether you’re a man of science or of faith you’ll be interested to hear Ozzborn’s interpretation of it all. “Cultclass” notes:

“Believe in everything, because there’s nothing to believe / scientifical fate is now a big conceit. Let’s go to Heaven on a rocket-ship, mate / it’s already been paid for by the church’s collection play.”

On another note, “I’ll Be Damned” recalls the reason that Dark Time Sunshine make music in the first place. This moment’s pivotal to this record as a whole, because it gives credence to the stories that Ozzborn intricately weaves.

“The art of story-telling isn’t art at all; it’s the captivating moment when you find you have the gall / to throw your guts upon the wall and tell the truth about your fall / and now you plan to travel back to where you came from it all.”

See, that concept of perseverance is what ANX is all about at the end of the day. Whether our problems happen to be financial woes or anxiety attacks, there are undesirable circumstances sprinkled all throughout our lives; some of us have to deal with the problems earlier than others, but regardless they’re inevitable. But there’s a way to get through it, to completely lose your shit in whatever it is that you love doing. For Dark Time Sunshine that happens to be imaginative hip-hop, but getting caught up in specifics only distracts us from the chief purpose of ANX. This is an album meant to remind us that life’s fragile but also worth trudging through, capable of being broken, sure, but worth it all in the end. And if my annoying sappiness regarding this album isn’t an indication of how worth your time it is, then consider me a failed businessman. After all, how do you sell something that practically sells itself?

Listen to ANX here
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

1. Hosanna in the Highest
2. Can't Wait
3. Cultclass (feat. Rochester A.P.)
4. Valiant (feat. Child Actor)
5. Rock Off
6. Overlordian (feat. P.O.S.)
7. Prairie Dog Day
8. I'll Be Damned (feat. Poeina Suddarth)
9. Look at What the Cat Did (feat. Busdriver)
10. Never Cry Wolf (feat. Reva DeVito)
11. Take My Hand (feat. Swamburger & Aesop Rock)
12. Forget Me Not (feat. Child Actor)
13. Look Forward
14. ANX (feat. Mendee Ichikawa)

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