Whilst we might not have completely swerved the cliché yet, Onoe Caponoe’s new Chemo produced album, Voices From The Planet Catelle ably defies the sort of snap judgement, ‘UK hip hop’ classification that’s doggedly still levelled at a lot of British rappers. After making cyberspace ripples with ‘Milkyway 1311’, the bizarrely slanted, horn led cut from his Central Control LP that had the West London rapper lifted, bowling around darkened city streets swigging a hyper coloured liquor in the accompanying video, his broad and unforgiving lyrical delivery evidently caught the ear of Chemo, a producer who’s crafted beats for an actual bevvy of incredible rappers over his career. And its Chemo’s knowing touch that’s steered Caponoe in a more measured direction. That’s not to say that this record isn’t a representation of the vocalist’s vision – it’s likely the polar opposite considering that both the mood of the music and the scope of the subject matter on Voices… are reminiscent of what he was crafting with his earlier warning shots – but the partnership with a seasoned ear like Chemo seems to have birthed a new maturity as well a much embellished sonic vision.
In all honesty, I’ve been actively skirting around using the word psychedelic in relation to the project because of how much Caponoe uses it as a hook on the record (repeat “on my ‘delic shit” ad infinitum), but the overriding concept of Voices… definitely resides in some psychoactive space altogether. Though he spins realist tales about getting on the bus and having no money on his oyster card, he also stumbles through bars about birthing planets, describing a vision of the space jungles he sees as he does it. He uses these multiple plains beautifully, to illustrate his different trains of thought and his different levels of clarity, openly reflecting the difference in his thinking when stoned and when sober. Caponoe also uses a multitude of pitched shifted voices to insinuate his characters, their conflicting story arcs and their calls and responses, but as much as that might sound like a bite on Madlib’s globally revered Quasimoto project, it’s actually not. On record the Caponoe does appear just as playful and just as blunted, sure, but it’s more as if he wants to do explore the multiple pitches completely for the shit of it, exploiting the layers and textural differences they offer him and turning them into an instrument of his own design.
The Jehst guest verse on ‘Goth Bitches’ is [understandably] a sure fire highlight – noteworthy not only for its guest star but also for how the veteran emcee’s bars seem to draw the beast out of Caponoe who follows him with what’s undoubtedly his best verse on the whole record. It’s the first time you hear Caponoe come out of the blocks properly swinging for the syllables and it reveals a more focused, aggressive and hungry side of the vocalist who up until that point of the record had been really been happy and productive sloshing about in the weirdness, slow drums and sideways slope of his vision.
And like Caponoe’s flow, Chemo’s music feels just as considered and, in fact, it draws a further parallel with another Madlib project, that bonafide classic Stones Throw transmission, Madvillainy. It’s not only the one vocalist, one producer partnership that throws up a similarity – though in reality that comparison feels like an arbitrary afterthought – but it’s also the balmy, unexpected total switch ups of direction and Chemo’s short stream of consciousness, mixtape like arrangements which often work to glue completely different beat ideas together into one weird, shape shifting whole (see the 3 or 4 phases of ‘Disappearing Jakob’) that reek of those mythologized sessions in the Bomb Shelter. Crisp and crackled in the top end, all plump and rounded in the lower middle register with these pugnacious and jagged 36 Chambers era drums driving them, Chemo’s beats project a very unique, compressed-without-being-squashed-into-a-resin sort of timbre. Undoubtedly a conscious product of the pair’s close working relationship it’s another genius of the record that stems from the singular hivemind that was apparently intent on creating something fantastically different that would go on to translate on multiple levels.
Voices From Planet Catelle is out now.
Buy at High Focus store.