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High Water
by: Sun-J

My dedicated readers (all three of you) know how I feel of El-P from Previous reviews. I respect the man for his business sense. Though his production becomes tired, and his voice and flow is far too flawed to be flaunting around on tracks, especially tracks catered for the likes of emcee beasts such as Akrobatik, and Mr. Lif. So when I heard about this new album, I do the same thing I do whenever an El-P album comes out, just shrug it off. Then, I caught hold of the (nonsensical) buzz about how El-P's new record is groundbreaking. So I looked into it myself, and found out that Matthew Shipp was involved. Now, if you have checked out Blue Note's 2002 release Antipop (Antipop Consortium the British Hip Hop Group) vs. Shipp you would understand my concern. What the hell is Shipp doing with El-P. Shipp draws comparison to John Gotti, because like Gotti was, Shipp is a genius with "keys." So of course I jumped at the chance to review this album. I figured Shipp would have most of the control production wise as he did on the Antipop Consortium collaboration. Boy was I wrong. El-P had surrounded himself with musical greats. Daniel Carter, Ray Campbell, Steve Swell, William Parker, Guillermo Brown and of course Matthew Shipp, but he still failed to come correct.

High Water opens with "Please Stay," and is awkward from the start. El-P's foundation does nothing but hurt the church like piano from Shipp. "Sunrise over BKLYN" is filled with too much reverb and blatant digital cosmetics. "Get Your Hand Off My Shoulder, Pig," starts to pick things up a bit with its moody bassline, bellowing horns, piano, and quick drum count. "Get Modal" features an odd electric guitar while "Intrigue In the House of India" opens with a wack El-P beat before Shipp's cocktail piano enters to brighten things before the track turns into something decent with the rapid fire, Cuban-drumming of Guillermo Brown. The next track, "Something is Wrong," sums up the whole album, and "When the Moon is Blue" is the absolute low point as Henry Keys comes off as a very poor man's Tom Waits. This may have been the most painful forty-four minutes of my life. Well actually it wasn't that bad I suppose.

Let me throw out an off kilter metaphor that no one will understand despite the fact that I think its genius. Okay, so you know those pants people wear that don't quite make it all the way down. You know, half way between Capri pants and regular pants. Well those were called "High Waters." Now see to me, this album is just that. High Water just doesn't seem to fit the jazz mold. It is too much hip hop driven. El-P should stick to what he does best, producing average beats for his gifted label mates to demolish.



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