' debut album Dos City
is a remarkably efficient record. In only 34 minutes, the Japanese experimental hip-hop trio fully realize an alien world with dark production and relentlessly off-kilter performances. Producer and rapper Zo Zhit fills Dos City
's instrumentals with jazz samples, jarring vocal snippets and hard-hitting percussion, perfectly riding the line between old school hip-hop and bizarre experimentation. Zhit and fellow MCs Taitan Man and Botsu effortlessly complement the album's chaotic instrumentals with their charismatic verses.
"In 20XX" begins with a saxophone sample from Thelonious Monk
's "Brilliant Corners," then piles on a blend of brittle pianos, boom bap drums, cartoonish hoots and spastic onamonapia. All three rappers trade bars, switching between unique tones and flows before Botsu's unhinged wails double the Thelonious Monk sample on the track's hook.
"EPH (wo wo)" easily has Dos City
's most wacky beat, incorporating warped saxophones, animalistic howling, video game sound effects and dialogue from Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." The three rappers deliver distinct, drawn out verses, adding to the track's surreal soundscape. Botsu's passionate emphasis and heavy flow perfectly match the discordant, unnerving beat, while Taitan Man coasts over it with breezy intonation and speedy rhythm.
While Dos Monos' songs establish Dos City
's apocalyptic atmosphere, the album would not be complete without the trio's lyrics, which clarify its tone with surprising allusions and metaphors. "Clean Ya Nerves (Cleopatra)" stands out as Dos Monos' lyrical masterpiece. Over a dizzying mix of horns, clunky drums and warped piano, Zo Zhit raps a dark, cryptic verse, referencing everything from abstract painter Jackson Pollock to the Greek tragedy "Oedipus Rex." Taitan Man fleshes out the song's confusion and despair by declaring, "The world with no rule has come," while Botsu's manic verse alludes to Egyptian gods, Soviet political figures and Shakespeare characters.
The soft flutes, wavy guitars and warm bass of "Agharta" provide a refreshing cooldown which Zo Zhit uses to deliver his most personal verse. Zhit raps about wanting to escape an "institutional Shangri-La," breaking free from being a cog in a machine to "roll like a fool." Zhit explains that producing beats helps him cope with depression, which recontextualizes the album's sound. Knowing that each strange detail and disturbing sample comes from a need to process real darkness makes Dos City
a little less surreal and much more meaningful.
Dos Monos' debut album masterfully blends nostalgic samples with forward-thinking production and outlandish performances. If you enjoy experimental music, do not let a language barrier keep you from listening to one of the year's weirdest albums.