The limited progression of beat-music over the last couple of years has really put its creators in an awkward state, and even though it’s not only the practitioners of Live and SP-404s who’ve faced this dilemma, the pre-existing template-like nature of the genre on the whole tends to bind those involved in it to a select palette of psychedelic hip-hop informed by fusion, bent tropicalia, and of course kush. Melbourne’s naps definitely fits into the more abstract region of this domain, but for his debut “long-player” Hydrate, he’s descended even further into the idiosyncrasies of his previous releases to delirious ends.
While earthsea demonstrated a keen ear for picking out New Age gems of meditation/relaxation and pushing them to an uncomfortable level of intensity, and a self-titled 7-inch bent those sounds into a hazy concoction of sampled beats, hiss, and aqueous delights, Hydrate takes both routes and delivers something much weirder, denser, and headier.
The opening three tracks are so saturated and distorted that it’s hard to tell what constitutes them apart from bizarre stutters of drums, hand percussion, and keyboards. It’s not until the fourth track “Guava” when naps delivers a more familiar naps(-ische?) groove those familiar with previous releases will recognize. It’s a territory he shares with fellow beatmakers Electric Sea Spider and Ahnnu, a zone repeated on tracks like “Coaster” and “Green Growth.”
However it’s the more bizarre, hallucinatory tracks on “Hydrate” that set apart its creator from the stagnant confines of instrumental hip-hop. The obvious “Get Hi” perhaps lacks the subtlety of naps’ other dank-cosmos explorations, but in the scheme of the album, it makes for a suitable reprieve from the distorted shuffling of “Lemonade” and the monotonous swinging of “Kickflip,” not to mention the gorgeous drones of “Word Shapes” and “Exposure.” With the workable devices of his compositions condensed and limited, naps turns to coloration of the tropical and psychedelic to reform his miniatures from rough and banal percussive messes into twisted technicolor beauties. naps takes the premise of beats and, through harsher psychedelic material, transforms it into an experience of artistic clarity.