Review : Lushlife - Plateau Vision
PopmattersRegardless of all of the arguments, prevarications and confusions surrounding the term “cloud rap” (and even Lushlife himself has written a think piece on the topic), one thing I really appreciate about many of the producers traditionally lumped in with the grouping is their evident appreciation for the beauty of raw, gorgeous, good sounds—at a high bit rate on really good speakers or headphones their beats sparkle and shimmer, wisp and waft, with little of the dullness or muddiness rap fans have often had to put up. Even with an aesthetic outlier like Spaceghostpurrp, the muffled cloudiness he brings feels intentional, like just another carefully placed ingredient in the sonic stew. When your audience is a bunch of stoned people, hey, stoned people get really into music, they have pretty sensitve hearing. Audio quality is important to them. And Lushlife, in that same think piece, may have referred to this album as “increasingly low-fi”, but I’m just saying: this record sounds really, really good, in that same way. Play “Magnolia” to a stoned person on some cheap Sennheisers and I’m willing to bet you’ll probably see a face light up. The quiet but deep and swinging bass, the percussion spaced out around the mix, and those gorgeously enunciated background arpeggios—it just feels really, really nice, like a massage for your ears.
And, opting as they do for classily buzzing synths, pretty chopped loops, and solidly syncopated drum patterns, these songs all sound really nice. Lushlife is a perfectly fine if inobtrusive rapper; I’m totally down with listening to him go do his thing for an album, but his guests are great too, pulling in big new indie-rap names like Heems and Cities Aviv alongside standby Styles P.
Oddly, though, the end result is a record that hasn’t really made any huge or particularly-memorable impression on me at all, though I still think it’s really, really good. Many songs are even pretty great. Perhaps most importantly of all, even: I don’t think there’s a single song I don’t like here. Every one of these songs, when I put it on, I go, “oh yeah, that song! I like that song. That’s cool, yeah.” Every groove is pleasing and expertly-constructed, there aren’t any lines or flows that jump out as weak, and a lot of these songs make great cherry-picking playlist fodder. By those standards, this album is a rare consistent treat. Any time one of these songs has come up on a playlist I’ve thrown it into I’ve smiled and thought, “oh yeah, that song!”...full text
BlogPhilly rapper and producer Lushlife (Rajesh Haldar) may be the best kept secret of independent hip hop. His debut mixtape No More Golden Days (you can grab it for free right here) was one of the best hip hop releases of 2011, featuring guest spots by Heems, Cities Aviv, and others. Lushlife came out of the woodwork with a style entirely unto himself, with samples ranging from Flying Lotus to Katy Perry. His blend of psychedelic texture and 90s drums and beats makes for a chilled-out but contemplative experience. Name dropping Joy Division, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Zola Jesus among others, Haldar established his Lushlife stage presence as a distinct character, drawing from different influences for his production and melodies. With his debut LP, Plateau Vision, Lushlife builds on the strengths started on No More Golden Days to make a unique but accessible hip hop record that you could listen to all day.
More than anything else, Plateau Vision shows off Lushlife’s eclectic love for different sounds and beats. Album opener “Magnolia” starts with a gorgeous harp sample and dips into early 2000s electronic jazz. “Still I Hear The Word Progress” has a heavy chiptune synth lead and the skittering march drum in the background is somewhat reminiscent of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”. With “The Romance of the Telescope”, Lushlife could start a chillwave career alongside Washed Out and Toro Y Moi (and yes, the title is an OMD reference). Then, album single “Big Sur” has a live jazz band sample that bounces back and forth with a string section. And all that’s only four tracks in! Musically, Haldar loves his textures, but each track is entirely unique to his own style, and the flow from one track to the next is unbeatable.
Lyrically, several themes and styles echo across Plateau Vision. As this is a debut LP, Haldar is evidently trying to establish himself as a distinct voice. Naturally, as is typical with many first hip hop albums, Lushlife is creating a foundation for himself. He’s getting you used to his vibe and he’s introducing his own motifs. The strongest of these motifs is Haldar’s uniquely positive view of the world and of mankind. Through ethereal psychedelic imagery and metaphors, Haldar raps about living and loving life, working through the difficult times, and looking forward to being with the ones you love and listening to the records that make everything better. Lushlife is a relatable character, and Haldar doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. But that may be another one of the things that makes Lushlife so easy to dig....full text
HiphopdxIn Hip Hop, it's always been refreshing when certain artists project a modern approach to an older era. Albums such as Edan's Beauty & The Beat and Jurassic 5's Power In Numbers were deeply-inspired by the emcee deliveries of the late '80s, however both transposed them with different soundscapes - Psychedelia and L.A. Rare Groove respectively. Philadelphia DXnext alum Lushlife has done similarly this year. Overtly influenced by the early '90s albums of Nas, Smoothe Da Hustler and AZ, Lush tinges his anarchistic lyrics of Plateau Vision with hard synths, distorted vocal samples and an overall production approach that's as much Jamie xx as it is Zev Love X.
"Still I Hear the Word Progress" is Plateau Vision at its strongest. As a producer, Lushlife thrives with his ability to blend two distinct worlds in a way that solicits both emotion and head nodding. As an emcee, help is welcome as Styles P takes one of the bigger leaps of his career and hops on the track that sounds rugged vocally for its vulnerability musically. Lush complements S.P.'s verse with his own fast-paced flow, rapping about his own aspirations and roadblocks. "Big Sur" is another standout, as Lush pays tribute to the "Broken Language" rhyme scheme with a masterfully-produced blend of samples and original drum programming. Like Black Milk or Nottz, Lush's rhymes accent his strongest attribute - signature production, that in his case, has really refined itself since 2009's Cassette City. But emceeing definitely makes Plateau Vision what it is - largely from guests. Canada's Shad delivers a piercing apocalyptic verse as Lush appears to pay tribute to Erik Satie's late-1800s Classical masterpiece in a way that feels fresh and unpretentious.
Lushlife has created a world that sounds great, and holds the listener with a willing suspension of disbelief. His vernacular, deliver and subject matter pulls completely from the golden-era. At times Ad-Rock and others Prodigy, Lush frequently catches himself such as "Pulled the hammer on 'em / That's if I had a hammer, Black," on "Hale-Bopp Was The Beduoins." The artist knows he might not fit into the musical worlds that influenced him, but he pays homage to them without sacrificing much of his own dignity. Plateau Vision is such a gestalt that nothing is more important than its sound and execution - two areas of strength. Although the pop-cultures references can be Dennis Miller-dense, the lyrics prove to be at play as much as the music....full text
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