Album: A Train Of Events
Label: Omnipresent Records
Rating: 6.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
“Request: Please, at least once, lie on your back, headphones on, and listen to this recording in its entirety.”
So goes the blurb on the back of this cd. Couple this with the fact that every album purchased directly from the Omnipresent website will also be accompanied by a very comprehensive lyric booklet, and it quickly becomes apparent that San Francisco’s 8.bliss is a man who is very serious about his words, and how they are transmitted to others.
As you listen to the cd, it’ll quickly strike you that this AIN’T your normal Hiphop album – this is more a mix of spoken word, slam poetry with a Hiphop twist. In fact, it should be stated that many of y’all will appreciate this more for the fantastic selection of beats on display than for the intense wordplay from 8.bliss. Yeah, I know how a lot of y’all feel about “coffee house rap.” (Hi Necro.)
After kicking off with the short intro track ‘Inbound’, which drops a quick tempo beatbox over the background noise of SF trams, things begin proper with the spoken word track ‘Poetic Shorts’. And this is CRAZY deep. Now I’m normally not a great fan of spoken word stuff, but there’s something about this that just clicks – its mainly due to the fact that the gorgeous string laden beat meshes perfectly with the choiral hook which in turn supports 8’s thoughts on the meaning of life.
Deep. Its a description that’s gonna be used a lot throughout the course of this review. Deep – ‘Face To Face’ – a vividly descriptive piece about 8’s meeting with a homeless man, told over more DJ Exacto strings. Deep – ‘Shape Shift’ – where Exacto brings the boom bap with a stuttery horn sample laid over a sprinkling of jazzy keys, and Bliss goes off on one, but somehow still maintains the track’s appeal despite the hippy-esque rantings. Deep – ‘Like Father Like Son’ – where the breakdown in the relationship between Bliss and his father is covered in painfully explicit detail.
Elsewhere, the work of DJ Exacto and DJ Denizen on the boards is as impressive as 8’s penchant for writing. Exacto in particular shines, with his production on cuts like ‘Comming Home’, ‘Exhale’, and ‘The Divine Predicament’ worth a special mention due to its superb use of samples layered over samples layered over samples.
Its not all sweetness and light though – there are a few cuts where things just don’t seem to work out as planned. Neither ‘Sub Lounge Love’, nor ‘Hiphop Therapy’, where Bliss breaks down his love for the music and culture and explains what its taught him really work as intended. With the former, DJ Denizen’s shuffly blip-hop break doesn’t quite support 8’s “trapped in a tin can” styled words, while despite the admirable praise for the music he loves on ‘Therapy’, things don’t really click, with a major fault being the ummmmm… boring unchanging beat.
There’s a lot of influences on display here. El-P. J-Live. Paul Barman. I can hear elements of all three throughout this album, as well as a few other cats. Its undeniable that 8.bliss is supremely skilled with his writing – in many cases his descriptions of certain situations, people, and places, almost make you feel that you’re a part of the story. However its also undeniable that a lot of people aren’t gonna feel this because of the major “slam poetry” influence running throughout the album. At times, 8’s delivery is almost deliberately stuttery, hesitant, stunted, simply because THIS is how a lot of these slam cats get down. Its definitely an acquired taste, but one that is perhaps made a little easier to swallow because of the beats. Approach this with an open mind, a quiet hour, and a good set of headphones, and you may well be pleasantly surprised.