Crisis Tales

by: Curse Ov Dialect

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, this five-man crew seems to have taken full advantage of its great distance from the centers of hip-hop orthodoxy. You can tell they've done the required reading, but their sound is -- for better or for worse -- utterly unique. Mostly for better: "00" combines cartoon-soundtrack spookiness with samples of what sounds like 1930s cabaret singing, among other ingredients, and the multilayered allusiveness combines with genuinely inventive rapping to create a richly weird and slightly humorous final product. Elsewhere things get even weirder, with the deeply off-kilter rhythm and ambience of "Aegean Ghosts" and the taut, almost stiff, but grimly energetic flow of "Identity." One of the things that sets this band apart from its peers is its combination of sharp humor and fierce political engagement, two qualities that too rarely come together in hip-hop or any other pop music genre, for that matter. Unfortunately, another thing that distinguishes them is a tendency towards awkward, blocky beats -- such as the Tom Tom Club stagger of "Paradigm" and the even clumsier "Connections." But then they hit you from behind with something like "Media Moguls," which juxtaposes a slow, dark groove with startlingly rapid-fire rapping, to brilliant effect, or the purely delightful "85 Percent." Crisis Tales may be an uneven achievement, but it's a genuine one. ~ Rick Anderson

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