*Sound of Scavengers being slipped into a CD player*
"Holy crap! What am I listening to?"
"Is this Vast Aire fronting Wolf Eyes?"
"Is this the sound of my imminent doom via an aural assault so intense my face is about to explode?"
"Holy crap! What am I listening to?"
All valiant guesses, friend of friends, but let me give you the real scoop.
Scavengers is the debut release from DC-area duo Food For Animals. Comprised of MC Vulture Voltaire and beat maestro Ricky Rabbit. Food For Animals deliver a fascinating sound not unlike the descriptions cited above, but with much more bubbling beneath the surface than one might expect at first listen. The most easily derived comparison for Food For Animals would be New Jersey-based DÃÂ¡lek, but where DÃÂ¡lek's intentions seem to lay in blurring the line between experimental noise and hip-hop, FFA seem to be more concerned with having their noise make you boogie at the block party rather than lulling you into a trance.
Of the 10 tracks that comprise Scavengers, only five are actual songs. Although it might seem like the remaining five are filler used to cushion the real meat of the operation, these ambient (for lack of a better term) tracks add considerable mood and tension to the EP, giving listeners the impression that the recordings took place in an abandoned enclosure deep under sea and the songs that made it up to the surface are akin to the sole survivors of a shipwreck...except the songs on Scavengers have absolutely nothing to do with shipwrecks, undersea adventures, or even water for that matter (well, unless you count the line about Vulture Voltaire's "6'5" frame that protects [him] from the rain").
Instead, Double V's lyrics concern themselves mostly with the gregarious exploits of materialistic rappers ("Look at your hundred dollar clothes/Where ya get those?/Is that the total for your shit or your zip code?"), general disgust with a certain president ("When I say "fuck you" I really mean "fuck George Bush"), or miscellaneous, existential wordplay ("Life guards my bones just like a greedy bitch/And keeps me up against the wall just like graffiti is/But my spine's like vines that separate bricks/Rising high into a mine that's as gone as it gets"). Which brings me to the record's sole flaw: although Voltaire has no shortage of memorable lines and his delivery is frequently captivating, many of his lyrics end up falling flat. Lines like the aforementioned "Fuck George Bush" quote, as well as tidbits like "My style's crazy loud like a Garfunkel hairdo- BIATCH!" and "I'm killing more tracks than war kills peace" come across as heavy-handed and cringe-worthy. The lyrics don't detract too much from the overall feel of the record, since Voltaire's flow is decent, but his lyrics often prevent Scavengers from reaching truly awesome heights.
Ultimately, Voltaire is at his most compelling when he leaves the more light-hearted or politically charged lyrics at the door and focuses on more abstract banter (check out the title cut for a great example of Voltaire's ability to weave intricate metaphors and vivid imagery into his rhymes). Voltaire has enough of his own flow packed down, though it does bear more than a passing resemblance to El-P and Vast Aire, that time will smoothen out the rough edges in the lyrics he pens.
The production end of the game is where Scavengers truly shines. Ricky Rabbit proves himself as the star of this show, demonstrating throughout the 10 tracks his uncanny ability to turn massive piles of fuzz and amplifier feedback into thoughtfully composed nuggets encompassing the worlds of noise, pop, electronic music, and hip-hop in a truly astonishing mix. Check out the juxtaposition of the infectious playground sample that peppers the chorus of "Brand New" against the tense, percolating violin and the washes of white noise, for one. It's a beat you could blast in a club or at No Fun Fest and it would get great reception either way. Or take a listen to the sluggish synth and stuttering background noise that run through one another on the title track (my personal favorite), as well as the insane percussion and vocals break that reminds me of what might happen if the Def Jux crew got together with the Boredoms.
I could go on and on about all the things I like about Scavengers, but the bottom line is these guys are doing something unique and they've managed to take their unique sound and meld into something that could appeal to a wide array of listeners without alienating any of them in the process. Don't be surprised if you see Food For Animals taking over a Clear Channel station near you in the not-so-distant future.