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B L A C K I E is very particular with how he wants his name to be stylized, so much so that the Bandcamp is called “B L A C K I E… All Caps, With Spaces”. The Houston-based project of Michael LaCour always fell under the rap blanket, albeit more on the experimental/punk side of the spectrum (think: clipping. and Death Grips [R.I.P.{?}]).

On previous releases like 2013’s FUCK THE FALSE and 2012’s GEN, unsettling beats (or not) were combined with nihilistic and violent lyrics. Generally, the music was electronic, the lyrics spit with the anger and disillusionment of a rapper, not necessarily of a punk or metalhead. However, a shift was taking place, first seen on the album cover of FUCK THE FALSE: it depicts a man stripped down to his musculature, emerging from the underground. His head is a skull contorted into a frown. In his right hand is a torch; in his left, a bouquet of snakes. Silhouettes of bats create a black tornado in the distance, as what appears to be the ocean makes up the foreground. The image is done in the black and white precision of metal album covers, an interesting choice for a rap project. But if FUCK THE FALSE’s album cover is used as a harbinger of B L A C K I E’s newest album, IMAGINE YOUR SELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD, it accurately predicts the bleakness and hell-like anger replete in this anti-rap maelstrom of a release.

Shedding electronic sounds as a predominate motif, IMAGINE YOUR SELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD makes use of heavily downtuned bass, hammered drums, and absolutely frantic saxophone. Among the album’s three tracks, “Cry, Pig!” is its shortest with a six-and-a-half minute runtime. The Bandcamp page for the album has two of the three songs available for streaming, so those two will be the only two discussed here.

The first, “Forest of Ex-Lovers” sounds like it belongs on The Flenser (the San Francisco dark/heavy music label); the song slowly builds to a heavy climax as minor-chord keyboard dominates the spectrum. It’s a song in black and gray, dappled with bursts of color via unmusical wind instruments and  bursts of screaming. The lyrics reflect this sense of unease: “Talking to a shadow/Until it talks back/Laying/Sweating/Waiting/Like snake.” Grammar is disrupted and displaced, completely disrupts any sense that B L A C K I E is grounded in anything on this song. “Forest of Ex-Lovers” is a song about nothing, about grappling with the concept of nothing. The void is open and B L A C K I E is staring right into it, until the music finally breaks down.

Over crawling bass and guitar, the only lyric in “Cry, Pig!” is “Now it’s time to cry pig!” The line jumps from confident rant to acrid spit to desperate scream. Rhythmic gasps in the background speak to the exhaustion of the track and of the album; by the end, B L A C K I E is done, and between the dissonance and screams, you’ll be done too.

B L A C K I E is also embarking on a short tour of the West Coast. Check out the dates beneath the embed.

IMAGINE YOUR SELF IN A FREE AND NATURAL WORLD is available digitally via B L A C K I E’s Bandcamp and on physical formats (CD, cassette, vinyl) via B L A C K I E’s website.

B L A C K I E west coast tour dates:

06 Rock House Cafe – El Paso
07 The Flycatcher – Tuscon
08 Pehrspace – Los Angeles
09 Granny Fest – Oakland
10 Rancho Yolo – Oakland
12 Palo Verde Lounge – Tempe