Arts

High Fidelity Review: ‘iridescence’

M.Callahan/The Phillipian

We’re Cameron Freeman and Quinn Robinson, and we listen to a lot of music. This column is here to share only the truth about which albums and EPs are worth your time. Each week, we pick one that’s caught our eye — regardless of genre or popularity — and run through our thoughts.

Brockhampton is a musical collective and “boy band” formed partially through the online forum “KanyeToThe” and currently based in California. Led by Kevin Abstract, the group is comprised of four vocalists — Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Dom McLennon — vocalists/producers Joba and Bearface, and a collection of producers, photographers, and graphic/web designers.

With the expulsion of longtime member Ameer Vann following allegations of assault, Brockhampton needed a new sound to replace the gritty and hard-hitting tinge Vann brought to the self-proclaimed “boyband”-slash-rap collective. On “iridescence,” their fourth full-length album, they choose to make that shift by allocating more time to members Joba and Bearface and adopting an atonal and grinding production style.

Recorded and produced at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios, the album is littered with constant beat switches and distorted samples like those at the end of “BERLIN.” These collide with washed out autotune and filtered guitar riffs on slower ballads like “SAN MARCOS” and “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM.”

“Iridescence” breaks further from Brockhampton’s “Saturation” trilogy in its inclusion of features. MIA, serpentwithfeet, Jazmine Thompson, and Jaden Smith appear on the record, lending some much-needed external influence to the group’s dynamic. Still, Brockhampton’s lyrical content remains at times tediously similar to previous albums. Though a significant portion of the record’s bars — especially introspective ones from Kevin Abstract and Merlyn Wood — explore the group’s newfound fame and Ameer’s absence, many members keep their same roles. Joba and Dom McLennon rap about their mental struggles; lyrics about being an underdog or an outsider abound.

The group’s creative director, Kevin Abstract, and MC Matt Champion are both relegated to back seat roles on “iridescence.” This only highlights an obvious shortcoming of the album — a lack of clear and catchy hooks, previously one of Brockhampton’s greatest selling points. Often jumping from verse to verse with abrasive production, the group’s sonic synergy feels weaker compared to the Saturation trilogy. The best moments on the album are where these jumps are less apparent. The consistent progressions on “WEIGHT” and “VIVID” and the head-bobbing intro to “DISTRICT” and end of “J’OUVERT” are standout sections.

Overall, Brockhampton veers into new territory in both production and song organization with some clear successes. Though at times held back by a lack of cohesion and innovation, “iridescence” seems to prove Brockhampton’s viability and continued promise after Ameer’s dramatic exit put the future of the group into question.

SCORE: 7/10

Best Tracks:

  • WEIGHT, VIVID, HONEY, TONYA,
  • BERLIN, the beginning of DISTRICT

Worst Tracks:

  • SOMETHING ABOUT HIM,
  • the end of BERLIN, the rest of DISTRICT
Oct 5, 2018