Searching in vain for the missing link between indie-rock and hip-hop, we rest our heads at an outcropping, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of life; anything pointing to a merging of highly popular — and equally partitioned — genres that couldn’t seem more disparate, despite the progress made thus far in 2006 (the soul-swirl of Gnarls Barkley, etc.). After a short rest, we head into the brush again, starting to think a Loch Ness Monster sighting would be more realistic.
Then we see it, the creature that will render our hunting trip a huge success. It wears a Slanted and Enchanted T-shirt and a skull cap; it seems to be of no specific race; it walks with both a nervous slouch and a knee-swiveling strut; most confusingly, it whinnies and whimpers when we approach it rather than tying words together with rhymes and alliteration. But make no mistake — this is the species we’ve been waiting for. We can finally officially announce a new phylum! We dub it ... indie-hop? YES, indie-hop, for while the tag has been used in the past, it was employed to signify a different style (or to signify the presence of whitey) more than a distinct musical entity.
Scratch that shit when discussing White Flight. Actually, don’t scratch it; you won’t find traditional ‘wica-wica-wica’ turntable antics here. In fact, though genre classifications are vague and oppressive to begin with, trying to brand this record with any standard insignia is a particularly useless endeavor. All 13 tracks take a different tact. You might find a furry acoustic freakshow around one corner, only to double back and find a “Let the man-/ Let the man go through” shout-along chorus lurking behind you like a dark-purple fog. White Flight can get nervier than Tre-8’s “Fright Night,” freakier than a break-beat loft party, and more disjointed/disinterested than Malkmus covering a Malkmus song Malkmus doesn’t like. It all depends on what track you’re examining.
This happens all the time on the fringes of independent music, but White Flight never lose their sense of purpose for a single moment. They tinker, retool, and re-up several times while still smoking from the same incredible bag, passing around tight-stuffed spliffs of dub, hip-hop, indie-rock, mushroom jazz, noise-ambient, trip-hop and IDM/electronic until the entire smoker circle is bone-stoned and enthralled by the possibilities. Rarely do real-time guitar arpeggios mix with processed beats so fluently, nor do impromptu raps (confined almost exclusively to “Deathhands” and its slightly Basement Jaxxx-y feel) fit in so well with such a constantly shifting template of sound. White Flight never sound like they’re trying to approximate an outside influence, they simply are of that influence, to the point where you can predict the make-up of their personal record collections, all the while knowing that they found a few titles you’ve missed over the years. How else can you explain such a roundly original piece of work?
Of course, in lieu of such effortless quality, maybe it’s time to stop trying to explain it. Just know that White Flight are doing something new, with more instruments and more influences than you’re used to. The Gumshoe always dreamed of a day when his generation would ‘cross the streams’ of all genres, proving that today’s music fan is truly eclectic, an improvement over the dramatic boundaries that in the past would find listeners confined to certain tastes and little else outside their comfort zone. White Flight aren’t legends; they haven’t opened the door to unfettered genre experimentation, but they’ve gashed the padlock up good… only time will tell whether they bust it open themselves someday or simply yield to another generation of upstarts.