Music Reviews

Noah23 Quicksand

(2-nd Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Noah23, born in Natchez Mississippi and raised in Guelph, Ontario, is a truly remarkable MC, whose scattergun synapse-quick rhymes gain a worthy shop-front on this bewildering album. Noah23 has been performing and recording for about ten years now, building up an enthusiastic following on the US and Canadian college and lo-fi circuit, while crafting up a strong portfolio of solo material and guest appearances. His heterogeneous interests, the inspiration for his exquisite corpse-like rhymes, come from astrology and hallucinogens, but what truly inspires Quicksand to this reviewer's mind is a post-modern, anarchist take on the juxtaposition of psychoanalysis and early surrealism, mixed with all the technical potential that truly authentic and innovative hip-hop can offer.

His beats, aided by producers Orphan, Warhol, and Sseleman among others, are wildly original, as are the marvellously spectral samples. Tracks like Saw Palmetto (and his track names are almost all tricky to transcribe) offer intelligent, scientific streams of consciousness at bedazzling speed, with clever and probing live-sounding jazz. More mainstream comparisons would be the Daisy Age soundings of early De La Soul or Q-Tip at his best, but it's hard to strike meaningful comparisons for such a unique and strange lyrical skill. On Volapuk he cites Simon and Garfunkel and the Peel Sessions over a Spanish-guitar track in a fashion that calls to mind the curious feeling one has reading Heidegger - it doesn't make any sense, but it sounds beautiful, and in a strange way the meditative confusion it causes seem to offer a contemplative path to, if not enlightenment, then a realisation of the wonderful mysteries out there.

Musically there's fine variation here too; Learning Curve has a cute flute loop like the Beastie's Sure Shot, while the suggestively titled and possibly political Resistance carries a female vocal and a hard as nails drum and bass line, the most British sounding of all the tracks on the album. Even more mainstream efforts like Banded Hairstreak are still as weird as hell, while Imhotep takes an Elgar cello loop and throws down lines about non-Euclidean geometry, Copernicus and Genghis Kahn. Long closer The Fall cuts a Cuban congas sound with the mad noses of a distorted orchestra.

Gripes? Well, lyrically, unless you're in the mood for a truly mind-expanding trip, this could be completely inaccessible. Musically too, it may upset both avant-garde and hip-hop purists. But maybe a little like George Steiner said about Paul Celan's poetry, you should 'let him enter your life. At risk. Knowing he will change it'.