By Kwase Lane, Contributor
[RCA / Question Everything; 2018]
Key Tracks: “BERLIN”, “WEIGHT”, “SAN MARCOS”
Coming off of a sizzling summer of back-to-back releases and the debut of their Beats 1 Radio show, Things We Lost in the Fire, BROCKHAMPTON can’t be stopped. However, the all-American boyband have had their fair share of struggles this year. These trials are exemplified by a roughly Ameer Vann-shaped hole in the wall that is the group’s sound. This proves not to be a problem, as BROCKHAMPTON have picked up the pieces left by Vann’s ejection from the group and then some. iridescence stands as one of BROCKHAMPTON’s most sonically-ambitious albums, proving that they still got it — even without the face of their last three projects.
“BERLIN” begins with the question, “Baby boy, why you looking grimy as shit?”, one that will be repeated throughout the song. The beat is equally as filthy as the initial query, filling the listener’s ears with an oddly-relaxing cacophony of pounding bass and revving engines. The track starts to clean itself up on the third verse with the introduction of a synth that serves as an auditory through-line. Joba takes full advantage of the newfound smoothness, laying down an amazingly-creamy verse that glides over the instrumentation. “BERLIN” is the aural equivalent of seeing a butterfly make its escape from the cocoon that’s been holding it for so long to take flight for the first time. Its transformation embodies one seen many times in iridescence. More often than not, the album goes from hectic jam to slower, more introspective pieces before repeating the cycle again. This song is just a small taste of the marvelous, rich-hued mess iridescence has to offer.
“WEIGHT” finds iridescence in the second phase of its two-step flow. The tranquil feeling that pervades the piece does not come at the cost of its complexity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The piece begins with an orchestral vibe that morphs into a punchy, dance-inducing beat, eventually settling down into a slower, more bass-heavy groove. The whole thing feels like tubing down a river on a late summer afternoon. You’re with all of your friends and should be having a great time, but you’ve closed yourself off — you know the fun has to come to an end soon. There’s some melancholy in the somber piano stitched through the track, and when you get caught in the current of the percussion, it results in the most hype pity party anyone’s ever had.
Just as your last summer hangout session ends, “SAINT MARCOS” begins to play. Matt Champion’s vocals over the pensive instrumentation epitomize a vague sadness whose source can’t hope to be traced. “Is you dancing all alone? Is you dancing for someone? / There’s a party outside, know the night is young / Is you having fun?” This mood is passed on to his bandmates before their passions give way to the downpour that is the outro. The London Community Gospel Choir lend their voices in a plaintive cry of “I want more out of life than this,” which launches listeners straight into the firmament. “SAINT MARCOS” is an extreme maturation of the ideas and sounds explored on SATURATION in tracks like “MILK” and “FACE”. After a long walk, the group has finally made it to their destination, although they do not know what it has in store for them.
On first examination, iridescence is a mess, feeling more like a collection of singles than one coherent album. However, each reevaluation of this project rewards the listener with more sonic nooks and crannies to tuck themselves into. Normally, some songs on an album get left behind for more-polished contemporaries, but the experimental nature of this project ensures that doesn’t happen. There is some merit to the feeling of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, but unless the listener is patient, this ultimately kneecaps the project. iridescence’s best quality is also its greatest weakness, giving it an amazing amount of staying power, even if it initially lacks a centralized presence.