In 1796 Edward Jenner discovered the process of vaccination. In 2012 Jneiro Jarel and DOOM are vaccinating us all against wackness…a wacksination, if you will. Vaccines work by introducing a mild form of a disease to your immune system in order to allow it to work out how to defeat the actual disease. Key To The Kuffs works in much the same way.
Upon first listening I found this album to be almost unpleasant in how alien it sounds. At first it sounds unorganised, fiercely complex and incredibly dour. It was only after repeated listenings that my ear became familiar enough with the chaos to recognise the incredible grace and sophistication of this album. It’s almost jazz like in it’s sonic construction. That’s not to say you’re going to mistake it for a Freddie Hubbard album. It’s more that it displays a belief in the ethos of jazz. The sounds here don’t seem to follow any kind of normal organisation. It’s only upon closer inspection that you will understand the patterns and systems of arrangement.
Musically this album is far closer to an electronica album than a crate-diggin’, funk-sampling, head-nodder. Is that such a bad thing though? I have hundreds of albums to turn to when I want to listen to that stuff and most of those were probably released pre-1994. It’s 2012 now. Why not forge a new path? I’m often complaining that artists don’t try and navigate toward their own voice when it comes to production. No such accusation could be hurled at Jneiro Jarel and if you tried to hurl them, they wouldn’t stick.
Despite my initial muddle-headedness about the sound of this album I am now certain that this will, in time, be regarded as a classic. I’m already beginning to fall in love with the sound. ‘GMO’ has a song within a song moment from about 3:00 onwards and it is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve heard in years. It’s all hissing cymbals and muffled classical guitar. Spine tinglingly gorgeous.
The main vibe of the album is intensely complex and choppy percussion, heavy synth textures and ethereal sounds floating around in the ether above all of that. It’s almost like maths-hop. It displays such virtuoso complexity. Not just for complexity’s sake either. It is necessarily complex in order to achieve the soundscape that really makes this album fly.
Should we really have expected anything less? It’s like getting a knighthood and then winning the lottery for the producer that DOOM chooses to make an album with. You get picked to do that and you better overperform or you’ll be widely reviled as the one that messed up a doom collaboration. Luckily for him, as well as us, Jneiro Jarel has elevated his already burgeoning reputation skyward.
It’s testament to the, deservedly, legendary status of DOOM that this album features an appearance by Beth Gibbons, lead singer of (the equally incredible) Portishead. A woman who finds live performance such an ordeal that Portishead live shows are rarer than DOOM’s own live shows. It speaks volumes that she was willing to overcome that to go and record for this album.
Let’s not forget that this album also features an appearance by Damon ‘guest appearance’ Albarn. Not such a big deal as he seems to appear more on other people’s albums than he does on blur albums. The really nice thing about these celebrity endorsements, sorry, apearances is that they are not strident in the mix. They are not signposted. They are merely part of the audio palette. In contradiction to most guest appearances it seems that these are because the artists were desperate to work on this project rather than a tawdry and transparent attempt to shift units.
So, we’ve established that Jneiro Jarel has more than delivered on his half of the workload but what of the mask? If I said that DOOM was any less than his usual outstanding self you’d all think me mad. I’m not, of course, going to say that. DOOM is in typically stellar form. If I was an MC who relied on skill for my living I’d definitely be thinking about learning a trade, like plumbing, every time the mask gets slipped on for a new album. With an effortless grace DOOM surpasses his entire peer group on each and every album that he blesses. This album is no different.
This album seems to have more of an anglophile bent (none of us could have seen DOOM name checking Big Fat Gypsy Wedding coming!) than previous releases. This is, in no small part, due to DOOM’s change in residence over the last two years. Apparently, due to some sort of passport control issue DOOM was refused re-entry to the US a couple of years ago and since then he has been living in South London. I’ve never been happier to live in South London. Finally, I have a decent retort for all those North Londoners who sneer about living south of the river. If it’s good enough for DOOM it’s good enough for all of us. POW!
Lyrically this album is peppered with all of the usual wit and humour that you would expect. I could go into details and give you quotes of the lyrics but you’re all going to listen to this anyway. Half the fun of any DOOM album is trying to work out what the hell he’s mumbling about. To put them on paper seems to rob the words of so much of the charm that DOOM imbues in his delivery. I won’t rob you of that joy. You all know that it’s going to be packed with dense metaphor, complex rhyme patterns and a devilish, mischievous, sense of humour.
If you’re a DOOM fan you’ll have been itching to hear this since you saw DOOM Vs Ghostface at The Camden Roundhouse when they were ably supported by Mr Jneiro Jarel. Unlike so many other things though, this album delivers on all of that expectation and anticipation. Give it a few listens and you’ll realise that this is an album that will become part of your life like…dare I say it…Madvillainy. Get in line and get your booster shot now.