Vinyl Vlog 497

Vinyl Vlog 497

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Sunday, 25 April 2021
COLUMN

Aesop Rock
Spirit World Field Guide

I remember the moment that the world of Hip Hop was opened to me. Years ago, I was interviewing Dillinger Four at the Trocadero in Philadelphia, talking to their bass player about music. He said something along the lines of mainstream rap being in a deplorable state; to the effect that standards and quality control didn’t exist anymore — in his opinion. Lucky for me, I had a rap aficionado friend who immediately approved of this sentiment. I told him one of the reasons I shied away from rap music was how uninteresting I found the musical content and how tiresome I found this whole bravado thing. Not to worry, he told me, and burnt me my first rap CD: Aesop Rock’s Float.

After that, nothing was the same.

Aesop Rock proved to me that not only was (is) mainstream rap laughable compared to the independent stuff, that independent stuff was what actually mattered — but those on the inside of the scene already knew that.

The best way to talk about Aesop Rock’s reputation is to reference that popular “research” article which looked at how many unique words rappers use in the music they write. Aesop Rock wasn’t just at the top, he was off the scale. The scales had to be re-adjusted to accommodate him. This should speak volumes on his artistic merit.

More importantly, Aesop Rock has continued with a steady output of stellar music over the years and his latest, Spirit World Field Guide, is no different. Withdrawing to the woods in Washington and looking inward, the contents of Spirit World Field Guide function as a guide to the unknown, leaving it up to the listener as to whether this unknown is imaginary. The interpretation of the unknown has never been uncommon for Aesop Rock, and it’s perfectly evident that his throne as the wordiest rapper is well earned. These songs read like poetry and, layered over his beats which are a little more haunting and much more guitar-driven than his previous work, we’re left with an album which is unique, familiar and interesting. Spirit World Field Guide was an outstanding highlight in year already filled with great music, and one of our favorite records of 2020.

But let’s talk about the vinyl release now, which is oh-so beautiful. Rhymesayers has outdone itself this time; Spirit World Field Guide comes on a double-LP pressing on ultraclear vinyl (meaning there are no labels printed in the center), on a die-cut sleeve and packing a large sixteen-page foldout poster highlighting the cool artwork Aesop Rock likes to associate with. There’s also a download card and sticker sheet which I personally am too much in love with to ever use. Regardless, it is simply a gorgeous record that proves music is still worth owning.

It’s shocking that an artist that’s been at it as long as Aesop Rock can still be so on top of his game. Spirit World Field Guide is a unique entry into his catalog and, compared to most other albums which call themselves “rap,” simply blows them out of the water.

Get it from Rhymesayers.

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