We’ve hit a weird point of singularity where the sounds from the past that new artists are referencing are as relevant again as they originally were; aka these past few years everyone has been obsessed with the 90’s again. But as the dust is finally settling on this 90’s revival trend we are starting to recognize the music that shines through for the new aspects it brings out of a familiar sound. Galaxy Cloak’s debut definitely falls into the trappings of nostalgia worship, but on the whole their narrative and sonic originality comes to the forefront more often than not.
From the start, Galaxy Cloak establish a bombastic sound with tasteful, if at times borderline comical, narratives which take us into a sort of a sci-fi, fantastical universe. The obvious strengths are how hooky the drums and bass are on their own; classics like The Chronic and 36 Chambers will immediately come to mind. However on tracks like “Tha North Wind”, “Shadow Walk”, and “No More Galaxies” these influences act as more of a vocabulary than a crutch, allowing the listener a frame of reference without being over-burdened by them. “Shadow Walk” may be the musical stand out on this 15 tracks journey, with a recurring off-kilter bass sample, boom-bap double kick sample, and references to “coughing syrup slush” and “cigarettes dipped in piss”.. Yes, MF Doom and Wu-Tang are going come to mind immediately when you hear Menes Pharaoh’s delivery, but don’t let it distract you, there is more than meets the eye with each repeat listen. It’s the wide gambit of subject matter that he covers that helps set him apart, not just the grotesque and subversive, but the powerful and fantastic on tracks like “6 Cent Suppressor” and “Death Witch”. Each intro narrative acts as the introspective balance to communicate what Galaxy Cloak are setting out to achieve. When it gets too dark these narratives help show the balance between the light, and even at times fun loving place these tracks come from. Just look at tracks “The North Wind”, “The Crawling Chaos”, “Tha Dirty”, “Nobody”, these intros act as a counter to the almost self-depreciating references towards their name, their image, their demeanor, to show that they are serious about their craft first and foremost. Everything else is subjective.
The biggest strengths of this album are the most important for a debut; the arrangements are often impeccable. Layered bass lines, piano, synth, horns, strings meld seamlessly, sharing the mix with a good sense of space that usually doesn’t exist with modern artists using classic hip hop as their formula. Can’t praise the samples enough, the variety will keep multiple listens exciting with new discoveries on a 4th and 5th listen. There are lyrical Easter eggs throughout, but again it’s the universe that they create along the way that is more interesting in itself than the actual lyrical content. It’s not that Galaxy Cloak don’t have enough to say, it’s just that 15 tracks is a bold amount of ground to cover for a debut. Its a long journey and it does get meandering at points, but then again it works for what it is, and vibes for vibes sake it will keep your interest for the most part. Maybe that is the biggest criticism; that Galaxy Cloak relies on a these trappings of a “90’s vibe” to push along their unique narrative, one that is at times more unique than the artists they reference. There is a lot to digest, but for a debut LP, this is a solid starting point from a duo who is on their way to use a familiar vocabulary to tell some fantastical stories we’ve yet to hear (3 out of 5 stars)