Image from denmarkvessey.bandcamp.com
The venerable pastor and beloved children’s show icon, Fred Rogers, would emphasize, in some of his interviews, about the importance of quiet moments. He exclaimed that his childhood experiences and sensations would allow a lot of time for him to venture into the quiet moments. These moments would offer periods of reflection and wonder. Stagnant periods where the mind inhibits the external thoughts and allow it’s ability to ruminate and think.
Every generation has seen musicians create their art from hushed periods. Brian Wilson’s essential Pet Sounds album with The Beach Boys from 1966 proved to be an auspicious but introverted album. Joy Division’s legendary 1979 album, Unkown Pleasures, manifested from the introspective minds of Ian Curtis and his band. It seems that in each stage of music’s evolution, there’s the one outcast who finds quietness worthy enough to be expressed in art.
Before Denmark Vessey released this album back in April of this year, I had no idea who he was. I discovered about him when strolling through Facebook, and seeing that the savant L.A. rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, has finally come back in the scene to release some new material. Earl was still in his mode for producing while still crafting his lyricism, which was fine with me. The single, Trustfall, was teased around a week or so before the album’s release. By the day the single was released, it became the only song I was listening to throughout the night.
Trustfall has an eerie and spacey aesthetic which pulled me into its world. Although, what really allowed me to listen to it multiple times was trying to decipher Vessey’s lyrics. Vessey doesn’t really get a message across but seems to deconstruct a vague type of lifestyle. With ambiguous poetry along with an isolated-like theme playing in the background, it felt like a new experience, even though I could have sworn I heard music like this before.
The album itself is fifteen tracks. The production side of the project is handled by only two producers, but two of the more qualified producers out there. One of them is Earl Sweatshirt, who produced the majority of his last nefarious album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. The other half of the album is produced by the beat-martyr and the sample-obsessed, Knxwledge. With these two prodigies handling the vibrations of the project, it’s up to Vessey to handle the poetry.
Vessey’s poetry, for the most part, is ambiguous, and at times, haunting. His style of writing consists of some form of free writing, and at other times, blends in a portrait or scenario into a decipherable prose. In the song Sellout, I’m guessing that Vessey would be rapping about the perspective of the American Black person viewing his nation with his own eyes through the glass of glamorous and dramatic media, but I could be completely wrong.
Vessey could have also taken some insight from Earl Sweatshirt’s writing. The writing style is cryptic enough where a single bar would make sense when studied thoroughly. One bar would picture a simple scenario, as the next bar would progress the scenario, creating a whole movement. From the song Sellout, here are four bars that connect together to paint a portrait:
Yo, I hit the loud so hard should I call her?
Spit strawberry so hard, feel like a physical,
I drag a slab of stone so long, should I cut the el out?
I hit the peak so hard, gold rings fell out
These four bars when reading together in prose speak about the sensation of getting high. It merges the dialect of ebonics, rhyme-scheming, and metaphors all into a couple of lines, so that it distorts a hazy process that unravels slowly into something so clear. Although Vessey’s lyrical incantations make up the first five tracks of the album, they already make up half the album.
The remaining ten tracks are minute-long instrumental segments that accentuate the elevated serenity of the project. Once Vessey’s thoughts silence themselves and allow the vibrations to take control, the whole experience takes off from there. The Bandcamp description doesn’t state which of the two producers crafted the remaining beats, but Knxwledge’s touch definitely held some light into them.
These beats are by no way bubbly or gregarious. They mostly consist of eccentric vibrations that gravitate more towards sedation or melancholy than merriment. A good example would be the track Rush Hour. It handles a hard sample with pelting snares. The heaviness of the beat resonates well under a dim lamp light or the glow of the laptop or television screen under pitch darkness.
The whole project from beginning to end needs to be heard mostly in isolation. Vessey’s lyrics allows the mind to comprehend and study, looking into the hazy pictures or distorted imagery of his vision.
After the proses, the Soul-influenced beats allow you to doze off into rumination, allowing you to appreciate the isolated moments. These projects are typically rare, which is a shame. In times of distress and turbulence, it seems that quiet reflections are what we need the most.