Rob Sonic: Telicatessen

Rob Sonic
Definitive Jux

Listen: Rob Sonic has become unstuck in rhyme. Imbibe five minutes of his supernautical doom-goth sludgefunk whatnot, and you'll come away with two impressions: one, that he can put together a 16-bit retro-futuroid Zulu Tubeway Army beat like whoa, and two, that he diagrams his verses by flinging refrigerator poetry magnets at express subway trains. I don't need to tell you what label this cat's on; what else would you expect from the people who brought you diabolical nu-beatnick albums by El-P and Aesop Rock?

Imagine an MC that makes those guys sound like Kid 'n' Play. Skim the surface of Telicatessen and you fall in over your head, way beyond the level of Kool Keith's offspring and into some in the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey non sequiturs. Lead track "Strange Hammer" strings together lines like "compost fast food centipede" and "wormhole on hiatus, bait a hook" as if those phrases were familiar idioms. From then on, the tracks just get more fever-dreamy: "My head is 23 tons and my hands an inch" (from "Behemoth"). "Red flag jet lag hooligan chemical" (from "Shoplift"). "Barstool promenade winter wool sheep shirt" (from "New Car Smell"). Sonic issues claustrophobic wall-clawing laments about "too many people in one place," references Ninja Gaiden and Felix Unger, and expresses his longing to sit around watching the air move. His rhymes are a disconcerting simulation of what the English language sounds like to someone who tries to learn it by watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 after five shots of vodka.

Still, as an album borne of our current dread-ducking zeitgeist, Telicatessen is hardly incoherent. Triple-inverted metaphors unfold into jabs at armed-and-scared rhetoric; on one track, Sonic carves "I was not here" on the undersides of desks during duck-and-cover drills. Even with his carefully measured, straightforward flow, the onslaught of words spatters ears with an endless stream of fleeting ideas--two-second moments of total clarity bunched together and pouring out like a slot machine jackpot payoff. The title track posits modern America as a deli where you can get whatever you need cut however you want--replete with an ATM adjacent to the shooting range--and Telicatessen's barrage of verse eventually coalesces. The presence of all those words in such little space comes across as a reflexive counter-overload, pushing back against the suffocation of random-text spambot speaking points and half-second jump-cut media. Time to start diagramming some sentences.

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