The Experienced Listener Presents: The Red File by Something CompleX…
I’ve come across some interesting people in my limited existence on this Earth. Long, long ago, while I was a dedicated member of perhaps the greatest website ever created— an OutKast fansite that existed way before The Kool Kids Table was a twinkle in any of our eyes— I met Drew Scott and Josh Emmitt. It wasn’t long after that I was offered a chance to experience Something CompleX— the Fort Myers, FL based duo with a sound all their own. I learned that Something CompleX is a both a performance and a production team, doing their own lyrics, instrumentals, and videos— LIMITLESS creativity. Since then, Something Complex has become one of my “ones to watch”; I’ve even had the pleasure and privilege to be featured on two of their projects myself.
…Or was it three?
Anyway, recently, Something CompleX has stepped their game up and released The Red File to Amazon and iTunes. I’m thankful for the opportunity to review their album and help you, the readers, step forth into the unknown.
First of all, let me remind you that I met this group on an OutKast fansite; true to form, this group is not your average… anything. Like myself, they don’t believe in confining themselves to a genre; in their sound, you hear elements of hip hop, electronica, rock, rap, metal, alternative, and probably some styles that haven’t even been created yet. (Well… let’s not say ‘created’; let’s say ‘labeled’.) If you can imagine, it’s like listening to melancholia, blended with despair, smothered over phat, southern-fried bass, dashed with lyricism that could meet the standard of any listener with an attention span.
Speaking of spans, The Red File is an 8-track project. However, before we say it’s short, let me say this: it’s complete. MCs release mixtapes with over 20 tracks regularly nowadays, but it’s rare that those 20+ tracks are well done. This album is 8 tracks of ‘well done’.
The first track, Into the Red, introduces Something CompleX as they spit rhymes against mindless conformity; lyricism will prove be a persistent theme throughout this album, these guys are no slouches with a pen. As a rap/hip hop listener, the snare in the backdrop of this beat really caught my ear. Not long into the first verse, a rapid hi-hat comes in and adds a southern bounce to what otherwise would be considered a techno or rock instrumental. In short, the nonconformity they speak of is expressed in the development of the instrumental. That’s art.
Trying Not to Grow Up, introduces a very Linkin Park-type sound, but with a dub-bass accompaniment. The topic of the song is maintaining the freedom of childhood as one gets older. The best part of the track is near the ending: the beat breaks and the listener hears what sounds like a child’s music box. It is soon joined by a brief beat-box, bringing the hip hop element back to what, again, might otherwise be considered alternative rock.
Flicker and Fade really spotlights the lyrical delivery of Something CompleX. These guys have a talent for expressing emotion through subtle voice variations. You expect them to scream at any moment and go “full rock”, but it never happens. And this is good, because the point is to not be typical or live up to the expectation.
…Well, until you get to the next track. On Rearview, the instrumental for the song really sounds like a drive in progress. Very simple, very repetitive. But it’s only to lead you into a false sense of security because, just after that, comes Wake up (Boom). Remember how I told you I love 808 bass the last time we talked? Well, there’s plenty of that here! If he didn’t know what he was listening to, the average hip hop listener might throw his hands up and start bouncing like some local, unsigned, uneducated southern tick-and-bump MC was about to brag on himself and toss money. But one electric guitar wail, and the song takes a very different direction— different, but not bad. Not bad at all. …As a matter of fact, I’d say throwing ya hands up would still be appropriate. “BOOM!”
The listener should really take advantage of the energy from this track, because when you get to track #6, it’s going to get really… really… really dark. Dim Glimmer begins with a monologue. It goes something like this:
“It’s hard to imagine a world of light without the cold grip of the dark. Living in here is like being shoved into a trash bag that’s tied to a rock, pulling you underwater. You know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help but squirm. Knowing it’ll only sink you faster and use up your air…”
See what I mean? Personally my favorite line is, “The malnourished parts of your skull…”; the way dude said the word “skull”, it was like he spelled it with two k’s. After the monologue, you get a few minutes of rhyme, but the track is over before you know it. And, dark though it may have been, ya kinda miss it :-\
Living Dead is one of those tracks that could easily be a movie motif. It’s about the Living Dead, and it sounds like it. It’s got a marching rhythm to it. It’s got organs playing. Harpsichords. Distorted voices. It almost makes me angry because it’s so… fitting. DEVIATE A LITTLE FELLAS!!!
The final track, Gallows, is that rock track you’re expecting to hear the entire time. From the drum pattern to the gritty vocals to the rolling electric guitar, it’s rock to def. Midway through the track, however, there is a rap break that sounds like something I could imagine on an SMKA collaborative project.
And then… silence. For almost an entire minute, there’s total silence. Then, out of nowhere, a new beat appears. A grungy beat with rap accompaniment. But then, this grungy beat goes… Shakira? It takes on this hardcore-electronic dance sound; ‘doesn’t sound bad, it’s just hella surprising, as you can imagine.
So, my overall impression of The Red File? To me, The Red File proves that Something CompleX is a derivative of the Beastie Boys. And I’m not saying that because these guys are White or because they’re loud (which, overall, they’re not); I’m saying it because they’re fearless. The way that the Beastie Boys ‘rock’ rap— grabbing microphones and belting out verses as if the mics went out— Something Complex grabs the entire hip hop/rap genre and makes the music as if the streets never defined it. I will admit, the sound is an acquired taste in an industry where it’s all about club bangers and otherwise maintaining the norm. But The Red File is deliberately poised to challenge that standard; it’s fearless. Whatever you’re used to, don’t expect to get used to it here— any familiarity you encounter on this album is for a limited time only.