An intimate account of suffering, personal relationships and uncertainty about sexuality; a glimpse into a frantic mind where incoherent thoughts fly in every direction; a criticism of the music industry; a childhood memory; a desperate confession of responsibility and coping: All are achieved by BROCKHAMPTON’s latest album “iridescence.” While these heavy concepts are nothing new for the band, “iridescence” presents them in the context of BROCKHAMPTON’s newfound popularity and stardom. 

With the opening track, “NEW ORLEANS,” it is immediately apparent that BROCKHAMPTON is also departing from their previously consistent sound. Seconds into the song,  the listener is engulfed in a beat that seems to be comprised of the distilled sounds of a race car engine, a drill from the dentist’s office and an alarming adlib that resembles a bird call. This symphony of unlikely instruments is paired with vocal deliveries that rival (and maybe surpass) the intensity of the the group’s previous aggressive tracks, alerting listeners that “iridescence” is the beginning of a new sound, direction and style for the band.

Formed in 2015, BROCKHAMPTON is a 14-member, self-proclaimed “boy band” whose work generally falls under the genres of hip-hop and pop. The group now considered as one of the music industry’s more unique acts owes its origins to Kanye West — the first members of the band met on the popular online hip-hop forum “KanyeToThe.” Initially located in San Marcos, Texas, the band has since relocated to Los Angeles.

Released Friday, “iridescence” follows three full-length albums released independently in 2017 titled “SATURATION I,” “SATURATION II” and “SATURATION III,” otherwise known as the “SATURATION” trilogy. While each album had its own nuances, the three projects remained relatively consistent in theme and sound. After the release of “SATURATION III” the group experienced several significant events, leaving fans wondering if BROCKHAMPTON would collapse or bounce back — ”iridescence” is confirmation of the latter. 

The first indication of change occured in March 2018, when the boy band announced that they had signed record deal with RCA. BROCKHAMPTON’s lack of allegiance to a record label was a significant part of their identity, resulting in uncertainty around the quality of their first major-label project. Two months later, in May, Ameer Vann, one of the group’s lead vocalists, was released from the group following allegations of sexual misconduct. The sonic void created in the wake of his departure combined with the band’s personal and intimate nature further worried fans about the band’s future. 

Despite substantial change and adversity, BROCKHAMPTON continues their streak of stimulating and brilliant releases. The group seized the opportunity to construct a new sound, and it worked. “Iridescence” represents many firsts for the band. Jaden Smith, Ryan Beatty, serpentwithfeet and Jazmine Sullivan are the group’s first features; Joba and Bearface deviate from their traditional delivery styles with lower pitched rapping; the group recorded the album at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios; and the album will become the first project in a new trilogy. Furthermore, “iridescence” seems to be BROCKHAMPTON’s entrance into the industrial and experimental rap scene. Featuring volatile tempos, frequent distortion, freaky adlibs and unorthodox instruments, the group taps into a much less popular sound than their previous hip-hop and pop crossover.

BROCKHAMPTON’s trademark themes, styles and sounds aren’t the only drivers of this album. “iridescence” also boasts a diverse set of influences. On “LOOPHOLE,” the band samples an interview between DJ Whoo Kid and Cam’ron to supplement the project’s discussion of fame and money. The abrasive and distorted bass line on “BERLIN” sharply recalls SOPHIE’s production on this year’s “Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides,” and the track “STEP” samples the drum arrangement from Radiohead’s song “Videotape.” Adlibs on the track “DISTRICT” seem to draw their inspiration from artists N.E.R.D. and JPEGMAFIA. 

Intentional or not, the release of “iridescence” was a turning point for BROCKHAMPTON. Amid increased popularity, management changes and controversy, the boy band has emerged with a fresh and enticing direction — something few artists are able to pull off.