ICYMI: Deeq – Obsidian Review

Did you know, a study by Microsoft found that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years. Blame it on the 24/7 news cycle, social media, video games. It doesn’t matter. 

What does matter is what it does to our perception of art. Today, people talk about the need for art (and specifically music) to be accessible. That’s fine when it means jettisoning the highfalutin pretension of yesteryear. But it increasingly seems to mean pandering to the lowest common denominator.

That’s why it’s so refreshing hearing a release from the Gold on the Mixer crew. The rappers and producers have been pushing hip hop into strange, new frontiers for a long time, and Obsidian – the latest album from Deeq – is no exception.

It doesn’t come pre-packaged for radio consumption. In fact, it sticks two fingers to the entire idea of easily-consumed junk-rap. No, this hip hop requires time, patience and a willingness to sift through near-impenetrable bars for meaning.

Although similar in style to Seraphim & Apollyon, Deeq’s split with labelmate FlowTecsObsidian feels less angry but no less cynical. The ten tracks weave a claustrophobic soundscape, a world where quasi-religious iconography and kitchen sink social drama sit side by side.

Opener ‘Virtue’ bristles with barely contained rage, and that theme carries through the album. At times Obsidian feels like a Cormac McCarthy novel – and that’s not just because it’s unremittingly grim. Just as McCarthy explores universal stories through micro-narratives, Deeq uses opaque imagery and obscure allusions to explore questions about humanity, technology and spirituality.

‘Oxblood Sweater’ exemplifies the approach. Deeq blends mythical symbolism with contemporary pop culture references like a Tolkein crossed with an Instagram algorithm.

Zatoichi’s Ears is on hand again with the beats; a coarse mix of desolate piano loops and looming synth-strings. The lack of percussion (bar ‘Oxblood Sweater’) softens the tone but does nothing to subdue the urgency imbued by Deeq’s delivery. Instead, Obsidian’s production mirrors the bleak future painted in Deeq’s soundscape; a Blade Runner future with the moral ambiguity turned up to 11.

Closer ‘Ark of the Testimony’ brims with a defiant optimism; not in the idea that nothing bad will happen, but that you’ll be able to weather whatever comes. It’s not the happy ending you’d get from a Hollywood movie. But if you’re willing to dedicate your attention to the world Deeq paints, you’ll be rewarded with something far deeper than any YouTube algorithm could ever serve up.

Obsidian is out now on Gold on the Mixer.

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Author: Ben Graham