Say What?

Hip-hop's iconoclastic Antipop Consortium is nothing else if not aptly named. This New York outfit makes challenging, difficult (some might even say pretentious) music highlighted by unorthodox vocal deliveries and sci-fi sonics — the group is sure to have critics scrambling for new metaphors to describe their esoteric work. While they've developed a following drawn from the hip-hop and the underground art worlds, the group blurs the line between the avant-garde and abstruseness, threatening to leave listeners' heads dazed and confused.

To say that the group's three MCs (Beans, Priest and M. Sayyid) push the envelope in terms of lyrical complexity is an understatement of major proportions. Their verbal techniques and wordplay don't always follow conventional meanings, rhyme patterns or recognizable time signatures. Witness this example from "Lift": "Gifted amateur/ Lip-synching precaution in an age of innocence well-rehearsed/ Walls don't exist." Or this bit of "Laundry": "Gun fetish/ Suicide inverse in vitro/ I make the beat go around like parallelogram shaped algorithm." Say what?

Such deliberately complicated lyrics may earn the group some respect, but they won't necessarily attract fans who'll be willing to hang around long enough to decipher the Consortium's cryptic configurations. Given how formulaic so much of hip-hop is, it's no surprise that works that go against the grain are showered with praise just because they break the mold; in Antipop's case, however, the execution doesn't always match the ambition.

That said, the album's tracks often offer more interest than the mind-expanding lyrical fare. Producer E. Blaize plays with futuristic sound effects, distorted noises and beats that seem to have been dragged through the mud. Also, unlike other albums that put a premium on lyrical verbosity, Tragic Epilogue consciously works in instrumentals such as "Here They Come Now" and "Moon Xerox-m". One of the best on the album is "EyeWall," which sounds like a sonic laser battle set to a discordant, stuttering beat. The music here lurches and springs unexpectedly, lumbering like some electro-monster laying in wait to get the drop on you. Much the same could be said of the entire album: It's an often surprising effort — but not always an easy one to enjoy.