Cappablack: Façades & Skeletons

Having appeared on two Staedtizism comps and But Then Again, Cappablack's distinctive boom-bap and hip-hop will already be familiar to ~scape devotees but familiarity doesn't diminish the impact of the group's sound on Façades & Skeletons (the title alludes to the intricate internal structure beyond a track's outer shell). Comprised of Japanese duo illeven (programming) and Hashim B. (programming and scratching), Cappablack made an auspicious debut in 1998 with the instrumental album The State of the Night, and Pole hepped to the group not long after when its second 12-inch The Economics EP appeared.

The opener “Counterattack Intro” captures the quintessence of Cappablack's sound: slamming B-boy boom-bap with careening voices swizzled and twisted by turntable scratching. Some tracks are mere jams (“Harder To Unravel,” where a chipmunked Billie Holiday joins the funky boom-bap fray, and “5th Dimension (Anti-imperialism Disco),” first heard on 2004's But Then Again) but dope jams nonetheless. The album's enlivened by vocal contrasts: English flow from Awol One (Cappablack hooked up with him when he toured Japan with Daedelus, Busdriver, and Radioinactive) and Japanese from Emirp (“Akarui-Mirai,” “Tokatonton”). The Awol One tracks are among the album's best: in “Slide Around,” his deep voice is a nice complement to the willowy synth line that floats mysteriously through the background, and he guests on the slamming, Eastern-styled hip-hop “Hear No Speak No” too. Emirp's no slouch either, as his deft contribution to the slippery 6/8 tribal groove in “New Tone” proves. First heard on 2002's Staedtizism 3: Instrumentals, “Components & Variables”—already showing the group's signature sound coming into focus—stumbles and lurches clumsily before finding its stutter-funk footing.

The group throws in a few left-field hooks too, like the admittedly too-repetitive electro-dancehall cut “Evil Clap” and the sample-heavy lurch “City of Amnesia ” with its Meredith Monk voices. A different kind of electro-boom-bap is heard in the closing “Suikinkutsu 09.12.2003” which incorporates samples of a small Japanese garden vase that produces a distinctive resonating sound when water is poured inside it. One of ~scape's better releases, Façades & Skeletons impresses as a consistently solid and diverse collection.

January 2007