I feel like I need a new Category here at trippin’ the rift, called something like “Kick-ass French beats”. France became the main exporter of dark electronica awesomeness – we covered Screenatorium and Hugo Kant recently, and now it’s time to take a chill pill prescribed by Doctor FLAKE. Yes, French trip-hop for the most part equals abstract hip-hop, and FLAKE UP is not an exception, but even on its most ‘hip-hoppiest’ tracks it carefully preserves that sexy darkness and unsettling mood that puts them right on “My New Trip-Hop Favorites” playlists. The best example is “Une île”, where sharp rocky shores of the hip-hop beat frame the gulf of melancholic strings and poetic soft vocals by Vale Poher (of Mensch). Dark intensity never leaves the album, from the anxious apocalyptic drone of the opening “Hollow People” (featuring yet another exceptional guest – Nawelle Saidi of Screenatorium) all the way to the nope-there-is-no-light-at-the-end-of-this-tunnel love song “Silver”, – making FLAKE UP a cohesive record recommended for consumption in its entirety. The instrumental tracks, which make a somewhat unfortunate minority (not meaning that I wish that there were fewer vocal tracks, I just wouldn’t mind hearing more of them instrumentals) of the record, play a very… erm, instrumental part in maintaining that cohesiveness – check out the smooth-ass transition between delusional paranoia of “Voices” and the desperate rebellion filled “Followers”, or the striking contrast between the clean calmness of “Walk On The White Side” and the abysmal gloom of the “Aorta”. Definitely one of the highlights of the album, “Aorta” hits hard with the dark pounding beat, however, for some reason, the lyrics (or/and maybe their delivery in certain parts by Black Sifichi) seemed borderline silly to me, producing an unwelcome chuckle (unless it was the idea, in which case joke is on me, big time) – I think a non-English speaker would actually benefit from not understanding what the song is actually about. The same goes (although to a much lesser extent) for the tracks featuring another guest – Miscellaneous. His raps are intense and powerful and fit perfectly the record’s ‘the world is shit, whatcha gonna do about it’ (or, to be exact, “Life is real wicked, I’m the pussy the lil’ midget / bullied and pushed around and I’ve just gotta deal with it”) atmosphere, especially “Followers” that seems more personal and not as literal as “Addiction” (which also features an irritating an unneeded attempt at “street-ness” in its hook: “You want it badly don’t ya / You gots to have it ain’t ya? / ‘Cause you’z a junky…” Ugh). “Une île”, on the other hand, is pretty damn perfect in every aspect, including the lyrics (even in the crude Google translation which I had to use). All in all, the pill prescribed by Doctor FLAKE is pretty bitter – it doesn’t provide a temporary escape from the horrors of our everyday life but does the exact opposite – shoves our faces right into them. It’s not a sleeping pill, it’s a wake-up pill, and while the albums intensity hits one hard target after another, it also provides enough quiet meditative moments to reflect and gather strength to keep fighting this never-ending fight. Beautiful music that makes you think – what else could you ask for? A few minor side-effects aside, FLAKE UP is a very effective medication, and you better take it now, before Doctor FLAKE gets his scalpel out.
R.I.Y.L. Alif Tree, Screenatorium, dark time of the day
personal favs: “Une île”, “Hollow People”, “Silver”