Eliot Lipp: The Outside

On The Outside, Eliot Lipp's Mush Records debut and his sequel to last year's fabulous Tacoma Mockingbird, his signature beats-and-synths template remains firmly rooted in place, though Lipp occasionally spices up his analog-infused electro-funk sound with additional instrumentation (piano, guitar) and samples, field recording (crowd noises, traffic sounds) and otherwise (an ululating choir in “7 Mile Tunnel”). Lipp's fanatical dedication to production detail is clearly evident when handclaps punctuate crisp hip-hop-flavoured drum breaks and gleaming analogue synth melodies. He wisely spins endless variations on the template by tackling a range of genre styles over the course of the album: compare, for example, the bleepy, old-school hip-hop of “Baby Tank” to the surging flow of “The Meaning” and the contemplative (and beatless) closer “It's Time to Leave.” The beautifully funky title track sets the mood with multi-layers of synth melodies wailing over a wiry hip-hop pulse, and chicken-scratch guitar syncopations and an elegant piano theme sweetly stir the hot-wired pot in the standout “The Area.” Lipp also builds a delectably slow and tight groove in “Best Friends” from double-time hi-hat patterns and a snaking bass line.

In terms of execution and production, The Outside is certainly Tacoma Mockingbird's equal though, overall, the songwriting may not be quite at the same high level (nothing on The Outside is a match for the earlier set's "Rap Tight" though "The Outside" and "The Area" come close), and there are moments when Lipp pushes the style to too great an extreme: the lead melody in “See What It's About,” for instance, is voiced by a Moog that sounds so cheesy even Keith Emerson might have passed on it. All things considered, though, The Outside is a more than solid complement to its precursor, so much so that one could reasonably regard it as Tacoma Mockingbird II.

February 2008