Album Reviews

Beans – End It All

(Anticon) UK release date: 28 February 2011

Regardless of appeal, it’s easy to appreciate Beans for his inimitable take on rap. Essentially one of the originals of experimentalist texture in hip-hop, he’s knifed out an exclusive hovel – partially thanks to his time in the enigmatic Antipop Consortium, but also thanks to his barbed, almost rudimentary design. His beats are jagged; industrious and unmelodic, his voice sharp, subscribing to a near-atonal pentameter – there’s simply not a lot like him, and those there or thereabouts generally land on the far side of his antipop roots.

End it All is his latest, and potentially most streamlined work to date. It clocks in at a brisk 32 minutes and wastes not a second of content. Beans starts rapping within the first five seconds of opener Superstar Destroyer, and he doesn’t really stop until the running time is over; his tempered flow turning over constant oddball references and elliptic narratives. Superstar Destroyer is also the slickest song on the album, a psychedelic swirl underneath Beans’ constant pulse – owing a fair amount to the everpresent J Dilla – but that gives way to the gritty plunk Deathsweater and then the beat-poetic Gluetraps; essentially End it All is a slow slide into Beans’ rougher explorative qualities. And given that the album enlists mind-bending producers like Four Tet and Tobacco, that’s probably what he was going for.

That’s not to say End it All doesn’t have fun, for Beans is a graciously barbaric rapper, and his no-holds-barred verse-attack has a viscerally enchanting quality. You won’t find too many choruses here, mainly because the beefiness of his rhyming manages all the heavy-lifting beautifully. The primary example is the punk-rap blast Blue Movie which has the rapper flowing with a near-P.O.S. level of ferocity. But Beans’ proficiency is limited to his quick-fire spit, and that makes End it All a production-centric record. His beat selection is impossibly dense with hard-boiled instrumentals and disparate evolutions. Anvil Falling compacts a single’s worth of elements in a 53 second jump, Electric Bitch sounds like if Wire started making hip-hop, Forever Living Flesh incorporates quasi-motorik electro pulses, and Electric Eliminator is brushed with acid-jazz smoothness; most of these songs are consolidated in sub-three minute chunks, but their constant eclecticism keeps the listener on their toes throughout.

It’s hard to say who End it All is for, just as how it’s hard to tell what audience a personality like Beans satisfies. It’s not quite abstract enough to satisfy anyone looking for a hardcore experimental listen, and his rapping sort of takes a back seat to the rhythms and pulses of the eccentric beat-making. But it’s still unquestionably Beans’ album, his feet planted squarely in the centre of the unconventional storm around him. Twenty years in he certainly knows what he’s about, if nothing else.

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