Album: The Happiest Sad Face
Record Label: Cult Member Music
Carl Kavorkian may not be pushing that many boundaries, but this is experiemental Hip Hop in it's most immediate and often hardest hitting form
Upon first seeing the video for Carl Kavorkian's "Half Empty/ Half Full", the only solitary release from "The Happiest Sad Face", you'd probably be forgiven for sceptically shaking your head and wondering when the Death Grips- hounding noise brigade will ACTUALLY branch out. But Carl Kavorkian, just like "Half Full/ Half Empty", deserves much more than your scepticisim. "The Happiest Sad Face" is his second full- length album, and although it is both experimental and ambitious, it understands its place and crucially values content over any real desire to push the envelope. It's a record that, at its core, isn't remotely interested in fitting in to any kind of scene. It's a beast entirely unto itself.
From the beginning of proceedings producer Lou Cypher proves some expansive and bold production chops that are twinned with Kavorkian's fire- branded vitriol that runs clear in his lyricism throughout the whole album. "#3 Pavlov's Platter" is a spacey, gritty cut that sounds like a psychotically literate song from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's futuristic "Drokk" album of last year. "Laying Hands" sonically revolves around a gnarly, guttural beat as Kavorkian indulges in EL-P- esque character assasination with venomous accuracy, rapping "I think you're used to using, not drugs but humans, hold 'em up and put a torch to 'em."
"The Storm in my Brain" is a brutalising composition of pounding, distortion fuelled futuristic synths and a boom bap beat. It finds him at his most esoterically violent, interspersed with imagery endorsements comparing himself to things like a "wild black stallion running loose by the ocean." The fire gets more and more personal towards the end of the track as he raps: "You can feel her cold breath, the smells of blood on it, she's a fucking man eater and you can bet your unborn son on it."
"Waterlogged Derelict" exposes a promising amount of production ambition as it sits full of resounding synth washes, glacial, faded vocal samples and horns. "Live to Deaf" featuring Megabusive is literary braggadocia over minimal but brain- grabbing bleeps and a robust shuffle.
The album gets even more revealing in its final throes. "Father" is a touching ode to his absent parent and finds him mining the depths of his soul and re- appearing with stark self- ruminations like "the world has no table cup big enough to show me what it is I have to measure up to." "Prelude to a New Life" is a meticulously brutal, grizzly detailing of saying farewell to a loved one in their final moments.
"The Happiest Sad Face" doesn't push ,many boundaries, but that's not its purpose. Carl Kavorkian is making the music he wants to make, and there is plenty of thrilling lyrical ability and production creativity to make this a wholesome, worthwhile listening experience. This is experimental Hip- Hop in its most honest and immediate form.
Key Tracks: Laying Hands, The Storm in my Brain, Prelude to a New Life
For fans of: EL-P, Death Grips, Aesop Rock