Cheaper than Nikes: APC docks with Shipp

The collaboration of Anti-Pop Consortium and Matthew Shipp has easily twin-peaked their respective careers. Hip-hop, modern classical, free jazz, and glitch (music centered on unpredictable, scrambled blips) have been fused into innovation on this recent release (aptly named Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp).

Listening to the album, I finally understand the influences of New York, their communal environment. Of course the avenues are crammed. Of course the pigeons flock. Of course it's easier to travel faster and further underground. For the past five years, unbeknownst to most of us, the Anti-Pop Consortium has refused to stop at the end of the line, instead choosing to expand the routes of individual expression.

Here in the States, their rapid-fire thoughts and beats have made them more word-of-mouth pioneers than MTV mugs. APC is a far cry from the dull zombiefied rhymes of commercial competition, an entity they seem to exist in spite of, not in reaction to. Nelly may want two pairs of those Air Force Ones, but the APC wants nothing from the establishment. You'll never catch them swilling in the brainwash– they've got too much to think about.

Group members High Priest, Beans, and M. Sayyid first banded together in the late nineties. Producer E. Blaize helped them transit from the traditional breakbeats of the genre to edgier, electronic-based rhythms. Often referred to as the Sun Ra of Rap, APC have ushered the norms of musical structure out the door; one of their previous songs delivered the lines over a dropped ping pong ball. Far-out.

Their lyrics are both clever and surreal, often rapped in a sing-song stream-of-consciousness rhetoric that knots the mind. Warp Records, a respected British label specializing in electronica music, recently added APC to their roster, a big step that has propelled the group toward an international audience.

Matthew Shipp came to prominence in the last decade thanks to the strength of his compositions, which lace jazz and classical piano into largely unclassifiable, angular forms. A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, and the curator for Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, Shipp often plays live dates with legendary avant-garde upright bassist William Parker, who backs him here on the album.

On the CD, APC handles the vocals, synthesizers and programming. Shipp and Parker, in addition to Guillermo Brown on drums, Khan Jamal on vibes, and Daniel Carter on trumpet, fill out the rest.

In the first track, "Places I've Never Been," Shipp hammers the ivories in bold staccato strikes. "Staph" plays with a flip-flop stereo separation in a Del tha Funkee Homosapien-sounding rhyme. Throughout the tracks, one hears noises reminiscent of ATARI sound effects; other electronic chirrs and whizzes are spliced in for good measure. Other highlights include "Monstro City" and "Free Hop," both which show off Parker's skill at molding base lines from of atonal forms.

Overall, it's a brilliant album, the unfortunate type that receives critical acclaim in industry magazines but total lack of airplay on mainstream American radio.

Just remember it's cheaper than a pair of Nikes.