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Album Review: Spirit World Field Guide by Aesop Rock

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Ian Matthias Bavitz, or better known by his stage name, Aesop Rock is a rapper and producer from Oregon. Just like the previous album review, Aesop Rock is definitely making a name for himself in the underground hip hop scene rather than the mainstream. Besides the Malibu Ken side project he made with Tobacco last year, it has been four years since a solo project. Check out his eighth studio album, Spirit World Field Guide.

The first track from the album is Hello From The Spirit World. The track opens up with an ascending line that repeats throughout the track. This track serves as an opening to the album, especially since you have Aesop Rock just giving a spoken part through the entirety of the track. He talks about some of the themes and things that will be discussed on the album. He also talks about how people should be able to skip to whatever part of the album they feel like experiencing first.

The second track, and first musical track from the album is The Gates. The track opens up with almost an 8-bit sounding electronic part that is carried throughout the track. You also have some guitar parts that are littered throughout and reverbed heavily. It definitely gives it a futuristic and space-sound vibe to the track. Since the title of the track is titled The Gates, this is the beginning of the journey and where he, or the listener, is going into the spirit world.
 
Button Masher continues with the interesting electronic parts as well as the guitar parts that are sprinkled throughout the track. However, one thing I've noticed is that there are a lot more samples featured on this track. You can hear some more space-like things hidden in here. Towards the end of the track, you have a quick moment of silence with just a piano part, before you are slowly brought back down to reality. The space-like themes come up during his verses and chorus of the track, so it makes sense that there are a lot of space-related noises.
 
Dog At The Door is definitely a fun one for me, especially with the simple beat, and the things he raps about on here. You have a descending bass line, but it just adds so much to the track that you can't help but enjoy it. Regarding the lyrics, this focuses on the topic of paranoia. If you have ever partaken in any psychedelics (I do not condone the use of those substances), you know that paranoia may come up during your experience. There's a list of things he said could be at the door, however, in reality, it's probably nothing to worry about.

Gauze is definitely my favorite from the album, and you may have found that out if you listened to the latest episode of the podcast. Aesop Rock is definitely at his prime on this track, especially with his clever and ever changing flow. According to the artist himself, he talks about the spirit world as like being on a camping adventure. However, on this adventure, it isn't safe and you have to prepare for the unexpected at any moment.

Pizza Alley is the longest track on the album, but it's just a little over four and a half minutes in length. While not as great as Gauze, this is another great track. The track opens up with some eerie strings, but it keeps on building over the course of the first half of the track and sets a solid beat. Halfway through, the beat changes and you are greeted by a bass and some other string instruments. The two different parts of the track talk about the different environments Aesop Rock had visited on this trip to Lima.

Crystal Sword opens up with quite the strange beat. It sounds like a synth with a quiet bass in the background. Over the course of the track, you are greeted by more short electronic notes. It just seems like something new is introduced every so often. This entire track doesn't really have any direction, especially since it is just one long verse with no chorus or anything. This is supposed to just be a journal page with a variety of thoughts. It seems like it's just a variety of things he has experienced so far on his journey through the spirit world.

Boot Soup really defines the eeriness from the album. You have a light piano section in the background, with an old-school drum beat. The instrumentals do change over the course of the track, but it definitely keeps to the eeriness vibe that is described at the beginning. This track runs into the event of seeing other people while you are on your journey. You may be seeing something that might not be happening, and the people around you have no idea what you're talking about.

While Coveralls does have an 8-bit like sounding instrumental, I just can't really get into this track. It seems pretty plain and doesn't mesh well together with his rapping style. He also talks about how this has been around for awhile, but he hasn't had the chance to make it an official beat. Based on the lyrics, it seems like he's trying to avoid what he's been seeing in the spirit world. Whenever he starts to look around, everything seems irregular.

Jumping Coffins brings us back to the high-energy of the album, especially with the short electronic guitar that comes in every now and then. The staccato notes add to the 'jumpiness' of the track since the titled is Jumping Coffins. As always, since you are on a trip in the spirit world, he talks about if something from the outside world is trying to contact you, you should just let it in. Aesop Rock is saying there's not point is pushing it out.

Holy Waterfall is another high-energy track. However, the one static-y noise that comes in after the introduction just isn't clicking for me. I don't exactly know how to describe the noise that well, but it definitely ruins the vibe of the track. On this track, he talks about a lot of the experiences he has had in Cambodia. However, since it's a three to four minute track, there's only so much he can put into the track. It also makes the organization jumpy.

Flies is a quick, less than a minute long track. It's also the shortest track on the album, which is a bit of a bummer since I feel like a lot more could come from this track. You just have a weird synth part in the background with some other instruments that appear here and there. Of course, Aesop Rock is rapping over it, but there isn't anything too special about this track. If anything, it seems like a quick interlude to the album.

Salt brings us back to the normal track length and classic drum kits. One of the first thing I actually noticed from the track is the Beastie Boys sample, "Let me clear my throat" from the track, The New Style. Other than that, it's a pretty solid track and has some other decent guitar loops thrown in. At this point in the album, Aesop Rock talks a lot about being misunderstood which is why some people might want to go to the spirit world.

Sleeper Car definitely has one of the more unique beats from the album. It opens up with an organ like introduction. Once that runs out, you have some more eerie and pronounced synth notes. There's some other experimental parts included in here, but I'll let you guys listen to the track yourself. As like a lot of other tracks on this album, this is some more traveling experiences from Aesop Rock, and this track is about a trip to Thailand.

Unfortunately, 1 to 10 is another short, under a minute track on the album. Just from what I'm hearing, it seems like a low production track from Aesop Rock, but I am digging the piano part in the background since it's something that we haven't heard yet on the album. However, this track is probably something that a lot of people can relate to, back pain. Since I have bad posture, I can relate to Aesop Rock easily.

Attaboy is another video game-like banger track. The track opens up with a quick introduction that talks about the different levels of the spirit world. After her introduction is where the instrumentals start to come in and build up. This is also a point in the album where Aesop Rock throws some of his best bars and just keeps on getting better with every verse. He talks about how things can go wrong with you have an unexpected visitor on your spirit world journey.

Kodokushi opens up with an electric guitar repeating a line of arpeggios. Besides that, I really enjoy the fading in and out of the instrumentation throughout the track. You also have another string instrument there that adds a few more layers to the track. Continuing on in the spirit world, at this part of the album, it talks about the isolation and loneliness inside the spirit world. He talks about how people go there because they don't belong anywhere else.

Fixed and Dilated opens up with some high pitched synth notes. As the track progresses, you also get some out of tune guitar notes. I don't really understand the purpose of the guitar notes, but it really throws off the sound of the track for me. Honestly, the more the song goes on, the more irritating it gets to listen to. However, since the track has to do with pure evil, that guitar/bass line in there that drives me crazy is just pure evil...
 
Side Quest is just a quick minute and a half track from the album. Since the title is side quest, it could have to do with just being a quick interlude for the album. The track starts out with a running bass line with some tid-bits of guitar parts after the running bass line. This is another track where I feel like Aesop Rock is at his prime with all the word play and rhyming he throws in. If this if your first time listening to Aesop Rock, I highly recommend going back and checking out all the lines he throws into his work.
 
Marble Cake starts out with a running high-pitched sound at the beginning that just sets up the perfect place for a banger. After about ten second of the running notes, the track finally adds more instrumentation to add to the energy on this track. It also grows in intensity around the minute mark and changes up some of the instrumentation and throws in a guitar instead of the high notes. Now, onto the lyrics, Aesop Rock talks about how the prize is in the experience of something, rather than the prize or item.

The final track from the album is The Four Winds. It opens up pretty simple. You have your drumbeat as well as the guitar notes that hit on the last beats of the bar. You also have some sound clips that are chopped up later, but there aren't too many of those on here. In an interview, Aesop Rock talks about how Marble Cake is more of an ending rather than The Four Winds, which he views as an epilogue. He wants people to know that they should keep on going and keep things moving.

Overall Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: The Gates, Dog At The Door, Gauze, Pizza Alley, Salt, Attaboy, Marble Cake
 
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