Mainstay – Offwhyte

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The cover art for Offwhyte’s new LP features, in part, an old time-y ship floating in the background, sails drawn up, flags flying in an imaginary breeze. In some ways it’s an appropriate image for this ghost ship of an album: foggy, haunting beats — sometimes even hauntingly beautiful — and Captain Offwhyte at the wheel, steering in and out of the low lying clouds, apparently sure of the way forward.

To a certain extent, Offwhyte succeeds here by maintaining a cohesive aesthetic on an album cobbled together by at least five different producers. The album mostly sounds murky — in a good way — and Offwhyte weaves and bounces his way through the haze, flowing up, over and around the beat on the album’s better tracks: the reggae-like shamble of “Bargain for Fame”, the crunchy/wispy “Front Porch Blues”. Best of all is “Promise”, where a druggy vocal loop runs through the whole track, sliding down like rain on a windshield.

Eventually, however, this singular mood gets boring. The album’s energy level never gets much above sleepwalk (and sometimes dips below that point), dragging the captain down with the ship. Which is not to say that Offwhyte is blameless in this ultimate collapse. There are moments of off-kilter lyrical wit (he mentions that he’s “suffered like a sandpapered panda” at one point) but for the most part, it sort of sounds like this MC is just taking his considerable vocabulary out for a somewhat aimless jaunt. For instance, “They overlap like dragon scales / and the heat that breeds beneath feeds on turpentine”. Rhyming about dragons and dropping words like “turpentine” and “coniferous” (in an earlier bit), Offwhyte seems to be forgetting the maxim about “kicking something that means something”.

In the final analysis, Mainstay gives the listener a few moments to savor, not much to hold on to and probably only one track (“Promise”) to return for. Like that ghost ship, it’s barely there.