The independent news organization of Duke University

Cerebral Experimentation

There can only be one reason why no one is screaming about how many Grammys the group Restiform Bodies will be raking in next year--no one really knows what genre to place them in. Granted, this album sits tucked away in the hip-hop section of the record store, since it was released on the subterranean--a.k.a. way, way underground--hip hop label 6Months Distribution, but that's probably only because the guy at the record store didn't have any extra dividers to make a new section labeled "Other."

6Months serves as a distributor and parent label for the smaller Anticon label, which many credit with breathing new life into underground hip-hop, previously on the verge of stagnation. On their self-titled CD, these art-house b-boys--with names like Passage, the Bomarr Monk, Telephone Jim Jesus and Agent Six--take everything you thought you knew about hip hop, turn it on its head, flip it inside out and allow you only to look at it in a mirror. These cats have done something that is all too rare in music today--they've taken a real chance, not to mention a lot of drugs. All you need to do to see that this is not your big brother's rap is check the song titles. Ludacris doesn't have the balls to name a track "our old cheesy rap anthem that goes ry cooder duh nuh nuh nuh."

If the esoteric cover art and seemingly nonsensical song names don't scare you off and you actually spin this disc, you are sure to stop and scratch your head upon first listen. You probably won't be sure if you like it, but that's only because you haven't heard anything like it before. The first track, "principles of easy listening (parts a + b)," starts with an ambient electronic soundscape that quickly morphs into a dark sci-fi train-like beat, complete with horn and laced with rapid-fire vocals from an undeniably white, overly articulate MC. If you're trying to imagine what that might sound like, give it up. The only way to get near this music is to listen to it. Then listen to it again and again. After track one, things only get stranger--meaning better.

These postmodern fans of John Cage stick their sonic fingers into every genre, from the stripped-down old school Beasties-esque hip-hop of "funny squirty" to the O80s synth-pop of "teleprompter," all the while tweaking, twisting and mixing them into something fresh.

Miles Davis did it, Little Richard did it and damn if the Restiform Bodies haven't done it. Music is being pushed in a whole new direction, but most of us are blind to it because underground, progressive labels like 6Months have no marketing budget. Forget Miss Cleo--Restiform Bodies are really showing us the future.

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