Lazerbeak: Lava Bangers Review (Three Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are Three reactions, Three impressions, Three Takes on Lava Bangers by Doomtree producer Lazerbeak.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
I was initially a bit skeptical to hear that Doomtree producer Lazerbeak was putting out a solo instrumental record so close on the heels of both No Kings as well as crew-mate Sims’ Bad Time Zoo. Both of those records featured some terrific beats from the young producer, and conventional wisdom would imply that Beak’s “best” was tapped for those two projects, that whatever was leftover could only be the stuff that didn’t make the cut. Surprisingly, though, Lava Bangers is far from a collection of also-rans.
Listening to the record, it seems likely that none of this stuff was produced with the end goal of retrofitting for a Doomtree rap joint. Somewhat like RJD2’s Deadringer (with which Lava Bangers shares a few similarities), the album’s twenty tracks play more like a maestro’s orchestra rather than a collection of discarded rap beats. The overarching aesthetic seems to be one of epic bombast—track after track pounds the senses with high volume beats and distorted samples. While there are a few moments of respite, the record heavily loaded with “bangers,” as the record’s name clearly states.
Where Lazerbeak’s production skills really show are in the intricately molded dynamics within each individual track. They may come together to form a bludgeoning stomper, but each element belies the mark of a delicate hand. Asiatic flutes, for example, might not have a great deal of business in a club banger on their own. In Lazerbeak’s hands, though, they are expertly folded into the mix. He’s a micro-musician working on a macro scale, and the results are often spectacular.
Josh Keller (Reviler)
Following up his 2010 solo LP, Legend Recognize Legend, Lazerbeak is back with a new instrumental LP. Fans of Beak, and the Doomtree collective in general, know that he hasn’t been sitting around drinking mojitos on the beach during the break, as he was all over the Sims breakthrough Bad Time Zoo and the recently released crew LP No Kings. Somehow he still found time to collect the 20 songs on his latest offering to the world, Lava Bangers (out now on Doomtree Records).
With so much new material, I wondered going into Lava Bangers if the release would feel a bit like a retread and not stand shoulder to shoulder with his recent (very good) work. Unfortunately, it seems this is the case. Is this saying that Lava Bangers isn’t good and doesn’t contain some downright jams? No. But is it the album I would send someone new to Lazerbeak? Again, no. There are definite highlights—including the confident, horn-laden strut from “LRL” into “Bully” and the buzzing “Smash Hit”—but many of the songs feel like shells building towards the final steps of completion. I said last week when reviewing the new Silky Johnson beat tape that I appreciate beat tapes that are standalone documents, not skeleton tracks lumped together, either waiting for or stripped of vocals. There some great beats collected on Lava Bangers’ 20 tracks, showing without a doubt that Lazerbeak is incredibly talented and has an ear for hard-hitting jams. I would just argue that they would be better served delivered in a different fashion.
On “Legend Recognize Legend,” we got to see the remnants of Beak’s pop-memories mixed with a hip-hop sensibility. It’s safe to say things are different, that his production is a mainstay in the local scene. After delivering the production on Sims’s Bad Time Zoo, we get Lava Bangers, which is largely a collection of Beak’s finest beats that for some reason or another never saw the light of day. Lava Bangers stays true to his moniker for his beats. We get those same bomb-squad influenced drums mixed with different instrumental textures that keep the pop influence evident. Lava Bangers plays a lot like Madlib’s “Beat Konducta” series, in the sense that the blends are seamless and straight-forward—a body of work to be taken as a whole rather than in small doses.