Lazerbeak strives to find balance on ‘Lava Bangers’


Lava Bangers


Release Date: Jan 24, 12

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Lazerbeak has often come across as the black sheep of the Doomtree collective. Where his kinsmen (P.O.S., Dessa et al) have delivered some thoroughly defiant Twin Cities hip-hop in recent years, LB has instead devoted himself to beatcraft, as well as some fine pop songwriting on last year’s Legend Recognize Legend. Largely characterized by a penchant for propulsive snare and a fair deal of hand-clap cadences, his production frequently stands out on Doomtree releases.

Now there’s Lava Bangers, an all-instrumental collection edited together to form one ostensibly cohesive mix. Trafficking heavily in his signatures, Lazerbeak’s DJ mix is equal parts chilled-out and frantic, which forms something of a conflicted whole. Things start off well enough with “Mighty Jungle” and its ominous-cool piano melody. Much like Lava Bangers as a whole though, things don’t remain in that sonic territory (or any specific one) for any significant period of time. By “Like That,” he’s already moved on to a smoother, more slow jam-esque feel, even dabbling in vocal samples. There’s a handful of those throughout Bangers, but few leave a lasting impression.

The first half of the record is interesting stuff, even if for all Lazerbeak’s best-made plans to genre-hop it all starts to bleed together after a while. “Sweat Set” features a house bassline underneath all the endless drum loops, and “Had Enough” recalls the production work of Ant from Atmosphere; LB starts off with a pure early-90s throwback, synth squeal and all, before moving into the larger territory that Atmo has perfected over the years. The front half has an energy to it that makes Bangers an agreeable DJ mix, fast-paced and yet mellow in a way that makes it good background music. And that’s not an insult.

The back half, however, gets a bit too laid back. Reliant mostly on more hand clap and some laconic melodies, LB allows the party to get too mellow for too long. Briefly he comes back to life with “Skronked Up,” a much-needed burst of breakbeat that cuts into the B-side tedium. After that, though, it’s right back to “Cloud Crawl,” yet another slow jam. Though it sounds like this review’s aim is to denigrate the fine art of sexytime music, this is grossly untrue. It simply feels tonally unsound with the perpetual live-drum sound LB is exploring here. Lava Bangers isn’t exactly a must-have mix, but it’s solid enough that any Doomtree fan should probably add this one to their discography.