Hector Bizerk - Nobody Seen Nothing (4 stars)

Second album from fleshed-out hip hop duo is rish in humour, existentialism and self-deprecation

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Hector Bizerk - Nobody Seen Nothing

(hectorbizerk.com)

There was much to love about Hector Bizerk’s thrilling 2012 debut, Drums. Rap. Yes. There was that brilliant title for starters: a manifesto, call-to-arms, and razor-sharp description of the Glasgow hip hop duo’s experimental art. And there was their upending of rap stereotypes (favouring local dialect, self-awareness and kitchen-sink verse over guns and bling) and gender norms (MC Louie sings to the beat of Audrey Tait’s drum). Their striking, minimalist aesthetic served Hector Bizerk well, and made them equally popular at big-league hip-hop shows (supporting Jurassic 5) and subterranean-pop happenings like Music Language (with Remember Remember and Sacred Paws).

This similarly striking follow-up sees the duo augmented by Jen Muir on synths / vocals and Fraser Sneddon on bass, which gives fascinating colour and range to Louie’s socially astute, self-censuring narratives and Tait’s critical rhythms. It’s a forceful collection of astute street poetry and inventive party anthems that explores (and critiques) the ways in which we only see what we choose to see in the world around us.

Variously invoking The Roots, The Police, Pharoahe Monch, Mos Def and Gil Scott-Heron – Glasgow-style – Nobody Seen Nothing embraces reggae, blues, funk and punk, not to mention fanfare-bending tropical-pop (on the glorious, quickening ‘Welcome to Nowhere’) and the boozy, depth-charged grooves of ‘Seldom a Word We Don’t Say Too Often’, whose kamikaze chorus reels in macho denigration (‘All men are arseholes, and I’m no different / It’s not my fault I’m just a man’).

Despite the fortified line-up, Hector Bizerk’s fundamental ethos remains: an economy of music, words and arrangements that afford space and time, for the music and words to hit home. And this statement of intent is made forensically clear upfront, thanks to the minimalist raps and beats of ‘Fingerprints on the Drumkit’ (‘So apathetic, I find it grotesque, a man’s function is to process; to protest’). It’s one of many highlights on an LP fuelled by humour, existentialism, self-deprecation, Beethoven, Buckfast and regret. Yes.

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