Polarisphere – Polarisphere (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Hip-Hop started life as a pioneering new form of musical manipulation. Young sonic adventurers rebuilt record decks and spliced electronics to create new technologies, ones that enabled them to not just play records but to mould them into new forms, cutting pieces of one track into another, scratching music to create exciting new sounds, in a way creating a form of sampling before the digital sampling existed.

As hip-hop gave way to more commercial forms, particularly rap, it was the lyrics that became the focal point, with music taking a more perfunctory role, merely a delivery system for the vocals.

What Polarisphere does is makes it all about the music again, it reminds us how important the musical base behind both rap and the hip-hop which spawned it actually was, and indeed still is. Without any vocal component to the songs, the music is laid bare, showing its component parts – beat rhythm, melody and hook – without any distractions.

After a short, spoken word introduction that hints at the metaphysical inspirations that are an important element of the album, our journey begins. Quantum Physics kicks off with a busy, shuffling beat, slowly cocooning itself with slightly psychedelic sonics and sharp synth hooks, a dance record in the purest sense of the word with no lyrical gimmicks to cloud the sonic vision.

There are darker, more brooding and cinematic pieces such as John Abbadon, a blend of energetic highs and ambient lulls and also the strange, bustling bursts of beat and beauty, grace and groove which dance across a futuristic, late-night dance floor on Serengeti. Lolik is spikey and staccato, glitchy and unusual, like dance music signals being picked up emanating from a future time or a distant world and Haka is a tsunami of fractured sounds and cascading sonics, reflective lows and epic highs, shimmering sounds sitting on an often brutalist backdrop.

And finally, LaLa seems almost whimsical and shattered compare with the depth of what has gone before, an anagram of a song slowly putting itself back together before the outro neatly bookends the album.

Instrumental music is often seen as being akin to film scores or cinematic texture but Polarisphere is more than that. Much more. It reminds us of the power of the song rather than the hook and popularity of the lyric. I would say that 90% of people who get hooked on a song, do so because of the words and because that is the bit that they can join in on and directly relate to. This is an album which sets the record straight.

Polarisphere is as immediate and accessible as any hip-hop, R&B, electronic dance or rap album doing the rounds today, it is just that it does away with the often transient and secondary lyrical component and reminds us of the potency of dance and hip-hop grooves.

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