CYNE: Evolution Fight
During the year-long gestation of Evolution Fight, CYNE's full-length debut on City Centre Offices, the Gainseville, Florida-based quartet issued the two EPs Growing and Running Water, so strong they thoroughly whetted the appetite for the album to come. We already know, then, that the reprised material—“Growing” and “Rousseau” from the first, “Running Water” and “Automaton” from the second—is excellent, but are the other songs equal in calibre? They certainly are, which makes Evolution Fight one superb collection.
Using old-school samples drawn from rock, trip-hop, jazz, and soul and with a heavy emphasis on pianos, bass, drums, synths, and horns, producers David “Enoch” Newell and Michael “Speck” Gersten create head-nodding atmospheres that ooze such enticing flavour they threaten to draw attention away from the smooth flow of MCs Clyde “Cise Star” Graham and Akin Yai. The seductive appeal of CYNE's instrumental dimension comes even more to the fore with the inclusion of instrumental codas; mellow tags of jazz-guitar, Rhodes, and funk beats close “Growing,” “Running Water,” and “Up Above” in gorgeous style.
Lyrically, the group distances itself from its competitors by eschewing cliched topics like material acquisition and self-glorification for thoughtful interrogations of political and social issues like religious hypocrisy, the insanity of war (“red yellow black Caucasian Latin Asian what are we fighting for”), and injustice of various kinds. Struggling to survive in a society corruptedly founded on economics and class is a theme that recurs throughout, evidenced by the lament “I was born free but now I'm like a slave to society” (“Rousseau”) and the title song's “While on a quest for green/I'm trying to pay the rent/Still I'm trying to make a dollar out of what makes sense.” A particularly dehumanized portrait emerges in “Automaton”: “Order love online son with good credit/Don't wanna hear people so leave a text message/...Cell phone glued to my head/Speed dial my brain.” Cise Star isn't afraid to reveal a vulnerable side either, as he touchingly laments his mother's absence in “Up Above” (“I'll wrestle angels just to see your face again/Because you were life my mother and friend/You reside in God's love now in heaven above”). The mood isn't entirely sombre, though, as lyrics from “Growing” attest: “Better days ahead/That's what I hope for/There's beauty in the eyes of the beholder/I told ya.”
Ultimately, though the MCs contribute strongly to Evolution Fight, it's the music that impresses most of all, whether it's the incredible synth-kissed funk that cruises through “Haze,” the dreamy, soul-drenched flow of “Rousseau,” or the Prefuse stutter-funk beats of “Automaton.” In addition, The Mercury Program lays down a lush bass-driven groove of synths, Rhodes, and vibes in “Growing” while “Plight About Now” rolls out with a Latin-tinged percussive push blostered by Mike Maines' soulful horns. Even better, in “Up Above” CYNE loops what suspiciously sounds like the a cappella choral intro to Kenny Loggins 1978 “Whenever I Call You “Friend”” into a heavenly gospel-hip-hop fusion. Best of all, unlike many recordings, Evolution Fight seems to get better and better as it progresses, with one triumphant song after another. And, as an additional treat, the triumphant Evolution Fight includes an imaginative animation-live action video of “Running Water” created by Ingen Frygt.