Although I didn’t enjoy 2008’s Life Is Expensive all that much, news of Time Machine’s mixtape Vicious Experiments created much anticipation. The description read “…a welcome return for a cult favourite” – did it deliver?
The mixtape beings with Sean Paul on hype-man intro detail. This may seem a little odd (there could well be completely plausible personal ties to explain this), however I saw an interview with the reggae-star some years ago in which he revealed his all-time favourite film to be Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, so I haven’t a bad word to say about the man or his presence here.
Vicious Experiments thoroughly lives up to its title from the Kaiju-esque artwork gracing the cover to the eccentric array of tracks chosen for emcee’s Jaysonic and Comel to rhyme over. The pairings are on point and, most importantly, feel organic for the most part.
“Nothing To Worry About” uses the Peter Bjorn and John song of the same name, which just so happens to contain all the elements of a great Time Machine track; a care-free melody, a pounding beat, and a quirky chorus. The lyrical side of things follow suit with Jaysonic going straight for the political jugular, whilst Comel goes into a Percee P inspired syllable-onslaught in the second half, albeit in a less explosive manner given his laidback flow. “Truth (Tokyo Noir)” appropriately conjures up a Seijun Suzuki directed scene at first with it’s solemn guitar and drum combo accented by some melancholic whistling, before blossoming into a much grander emotive piece.
Time Machine – Winter Gear (ft. Apathy)
This gives way to “Winter” which sits on a five-star Dilla beat and features Apathy. This track in particular is a strong reminder of why I’m a fan of Time Machine. They take the seemingly infertile concept of keeping warm and deliver it with an almost caricature grittiness: “A down feathered double bubble-goose and shearling/ Thermal underwear, don’t feel that cold wind sting/ Hat is wool, double-knit and fresh like double-mint/ Think about the thickest sweater you got, now double it, Y’eard me!?”, but it’s ultimately rendered benign by it’s very content leaving us with a purposefully laughable verse. To top it off the 80’s kids are given additional chuckles with lines like “Got the coldest lessons on lock like Master Splinter”.
This anti-aggrandising tone is carried over into “Alone In New York” as Jaysonic engagingly narrates an uneventful trip to the Big Apple. Whilst on the point of good lyricism, Vicious Experiments gets additional props for continuing Time Machine’s strong suit of featured guests. I’ve always enjoyed them on past albums, and things are no different here as we have verses by the likes of Damu The Fudgemunk on the stand-out track “Tomorrow’s Oldies”, and Raw Poetic who steals the show on “The Art Of Tease” – need I say more?
Time Machine – The Art of Tease (ft. Raw Poetic)
However, the mixtape didn’t always maintain my enjoyment. Tracks such as “Feel The Beat” and “Edibles” weren’t really songs I could personally dig musically. “Cocktails” (video, left) was a disappointment lyrically for me too. It’s undeniable that Time Machine sound good over funky reggae tones (check “Mind In A Spin”) and so this was made all the more bitter as the choice of “Jam#1” by Winston Wright and The Upsetters seemed like an ideal choice on paper.
Ultimately though this is a free mixtape, and you can take or leave as you please without much quibble. When it’s good, it’s really good; quintessential Time Machine. Interestingly a pattern emerged where many of my favourite tracks were the ones with original production by DJ Mekalek, which serves to encapsulate my underlining impression after listening to Vicious Experiments – which is, of course as a fan, that I’d really like a new album. I wouldn’t even be at all mad if they threw in half the good tracks from this!
Vicious Experiments is out now as a free digital download, unlock below…