Given that the pair of Shabazz Palaces LPs that dropped in 2017 really stank out the place, it’s probably a good thing that Ishmael Butler has found a new project to focus on. Here he teams up with Erik Blood - who, among other things, was engineer for SP’s Lese Majesty - for a new record as Knife Knights. 1 Time Mirage is much better from Butler. Blood’s electro-hop production focusses the George Clinton-esque musings that sounded so aimless on the Quazarz records.
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Unlike our description writer Fred, who apparently took to this record’s description box to cathartically complain about the state of things, I actually liked those last two Shabazz Palaces records. They seemed to take all the gravity that existed in the brilliant ‘Lese Majesty’ and collapse it into a strange, meandering collage with a beguiling anti-flow. This collaboration between Shabazz’s dangerously busy Ishamel Butler and old collaborator Erik Blood feels like a deep dive into those aesthetic decisions: the sound of Knife Knights is ultimately murkier and harder to pinpoint than anything Butler has ever put his hand to.
‘Time Mirage’ presents the kind of singular, collapsed structures Butler makes so uniquely, but proves that his futurist decisions cannot exist without the present pallette of rap production. Producer and composer Blood offers a modern styling on “Give You Game”, which segues from a gorgeous auto-tuned melody into a verse and chorus that moves from earthy sparsity to futurebound synthesis. Like the recent Shabazz records, Butler and Blood make grandiose pivots contained to the songs themselves, colliding gorgeously soulful melodies with abstract rhythms, noisy distortion and total upheaval on brilliant tunes like “Light Up Ahead”.
I think it’s safe to say this thing will take a few listens to fully get, if you’re into getting things. Me, I’m happy with this being the bumpy ride it is, manoeuvring its blunt force into passages of ethereal bliss. With its hints of dream pop, its duvet-soft synths and its repetitive vocal mantras echoing down an endless chamber passage, “Low Key” feels like a mission statement for everything he wants music to be: a mystery actualized by euphoria.
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