Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gel Roc: Beautiful Tragedy

     Well then, before I get on with this review, I'd just like to point out that I love this album art! Just look at it. Brilliant. 'Beautiful Tragedy' was sent to the blog by Gel Roc, a Los Angeles based Californian whose work with fellow artists in EX2 landed him within the folds of four records, collaborating on many many more. As far as his solo work goes, from what I can gather this is his second output after the 2006 release 'Laws and Flaws'. This record is one focused on Gel's career as a whole, incorporating ideas from his past work. Released on the label Abolano Records, there are several contributions here from prolific underground rappers, with the most notable for me being Open Mike Eagle, with his album 'Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes' an enjoyable hip hop release from last month.
     The sound here is very fresh, an element made all the more fantastic through Gel Roc's lyricism and the excellent scratching and overall production. There is a slight 80's edge to some of the sounds here, an old-school hip hop sensibility ruined in my opinion by most modern rappers. This sixteen track album gets back to the streets, gritty at times and experimental at others. It's a solid effort based in the very roots of hip hop, relevant and yet strangely nostalgic if you've listened to a lot of the 90's rap output. Outstanding!
     Gel kicks things off with 'Trust To Dust', a hard beat supported from below by a low, humming bass line. The lyrics recollect his daily activities, and the walls he has to break through in order to succeed. This leads into the second track, which I've very fond of. 'Autodidactic' is filled with very subtle scratching and an atmosphere amplified by the female backing track. These echo down a long, cold pipe, almost creepy in their execution. The sampled voice that runs throughout in combination with this makes for a very nice and engaging sound, and Roc's lyricism highlights, like the title suggests, a struggle in learning the hard-way, and creating your own opportunities in a difficult world.
     'Buzzin Cousins' rumbles along, recalling memories in a drugged-up, smoked-up room, light seeping through the musty old shutters. It feels dizzy and blurred, the dark melody creeping through in the background while the lyrics are repeated and overlaid on each other. It's a trip, but a perfectly enjoyable one. The next song, 'Night Alone' is introduced through the soulful humming of a sincere woman. It's a gloomy, home alone in the rain kind of track, but this comes as a great contrast to the previous tracks, even relaxing in it's relative peacefulness. 'Inside Out' has more natural sounds, with it's wind instruments and tinny drums, all compiled in a way lit up by Roc's lyrics regarding love and passion. The last of the 'relaxed' tracks is 'Empty Hellows', a song laced through with the occasional saxophone, coaxing forth a warm and mellow infusion of hip hop and jazz.
     The harder tracks fill up the remainder of the record. 'Epilepsy' is an electronic ghost-train, with a hysterical scream even thrown in for good measure. The contributing artist here adds variety to the record with his vocals, though the track is pretty unique already in it's electrified make-up. 'Corporate Indecline' is brilliant. That's it. Brilliant. No, but it really is. With a short sampled fight scene and the first few lines spat by the guest vocalist, this track is denched in blood and shivering with it's stinging bloodied knuckles.
     The album ends with a remix much harder than the original song, but the real grand finisher for me is 'Tragic Poetry'. This nine minute monster has no less than thirteen contributors, which makes for an astounding track filled with the ever-changing vocals expected. The structure and instrumentation isn't anything special, but the influences of all these different people make it stand-out enough as an accomplished coup de grâce. This record is for the most part an adrenaline fueled hunt, broken by the occassional hiding space and ended with the deathblow that is track sixteen. Heart-pumping however, you can't wait to respawn, and start the hunt again... If you don't know Gel Roc, get to.