I have to admit to being down on some elements of Scottish hip-hop in the past - sometimes the guttural and clipped Scottish accent distracts rather than flows with the beats - but I felt ashamed after listening to Texture’s ‘Non-Sequitr’, debunking the idea that Scotland and hip-hop as married concepts do not follow. The track kicks off Texture’s new EP ‘Synaesthesia’, available for a donation (or free) on Black Lantern Music, a netlabel offering DRM-free mp3s from independent musicians.
It’s the second part of Texture’s trilogy of EPs, and follows January 2010’s ‘Asphasia’ release which tipped reviewers to declare him a “bookworm emcee” - a title which holds true on the chemical-compound, philosophical quipping ‘Synaesthesia’.
As Texture says: “Synaesthesia is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Synaesthetes may experience smells as colours, or sounds as flavours - they may mistake indie for house music, or rap for dubstep.”
The latter part sounds like a condition which can commonly effect reviewers - after the 30th release of the day beats start morph into other genres and the definitions become so blurred you do start to become hazy about what makes a genre.
Through this haze comes four tracks which have visited Earth in some format or another in previous months; ‘Non-Sequitr’, ‘Silver Age’, ‘Echo Boomers’ and ‘The Dawn View’. If you’re a listener to Vic Galloway’s Radio 1 show, you might have caught ‘Echo Boomers’ when Texture performed it live, and followers of Texture’s previous work may notice that ‘The Dawn View’ is a reincarnation of a track on Texture and Morphamish’s collaborative LP, ‘Future Proof’, released under the Double Helix alias.
But back to the creeping feeling of shame and ‘Non-Sequitr’! The track looks at not so much the ‘plight’ of Scottish hip-hop but of a realistic view that it’s sidelined in some way by the over-hyped US dominance and bling culture - something which very much does not exist in Scotland. He name-checks other Scottish artists who have helped carved the way for Scottish hip-hop, but there is a slightly sombre note to this when considering they have all yet to make breakthroughs on a multi-national scale. Texture’s lyrics make reference to the stark differences in US / Scottish culture; working night-shifts; spitting rhymes in over-crowded basements; being told by people like Kayne to dress in diamonds, “when all we can afford is costume jewellery”; and drinking cheap mind-numbing substances like Buckfast. It’s a slow swagger of hip-hop to a 6/8 beat, decorated by acoustic guitar - composed and produced by Salem Anders and will definitely hold appeal for Scottish hip-hop fans, but will the rest be ready for a rebuke at popular culture hip-hop, bling and all?
Kid Ritalin, co-manager of Glasgow’s Little Rock net-label and artist, joins Texture for ‘Silver Age’, featuring bassy glitch-hop, broken beat and sparks of wonk, and encompasses the ‘bookworm’ title with its digs at TV and ‘cultural’ distractions. The beats help to impose the feeling of urgency in the message, so the track works well in a holistic sense. Long-time Texture collaborator, Morphamish, steps in to do beats and production on this track and the following two.
Previously performed on Radio 1, ‘Echo Boomers (Generation Why)’, is warped electro hip-hop spitting you questions on Generation Y; questioning whether you’re “human or consumer”, just as I try to surreptitiously slide my new android phone under a cushion. The ironies of smoking cigarettes while driving through Bhopal (site of serious chemical disaster); bank balances growing and swelling like tumours; Starbucks authors; romanticised Woodstock; we are all “wikipediphiles”; and living out the carcinogenic inheritance of Baby Boomers - from chemical-laden technologies to surviving on celebrity gossip. This song has the potential to chip away at international boundaries given that it nails issues which stretch into lots of different cultures.
‘Synaesthesia’ closes with the revamped ‘The Dawn View’, taken from ‘Future Proof’, and taking an optimistic view of what I prefer to call ‘the walk of shame’ - that walk home from the club while still bedraggled from the night’s partying on MDMA, just as the milkmen appear. It’s an upbeat fusion of indie and jazzy cumbia tinges with added guitar by Richard Lindsay that would have you dancing home ‘Singing In the Rain’ style rather than the obligatory hood up, eyes down, shuffle quickly routine!
The trilogy will be completed with ‘Parasomnia’ due for release on Black Lantern in January 2011.
If you're stuck for a gift for your nearest and dearest hip-hop-lovin' friends, download the EP here and watch the video (filmed in Edinburgh) for ‘Non-Sequitr’ below: