fbcfabric & reindeer It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Whom You Know

[Buttercuts; 2005]

Styles: message rap, post-rock, shoegaze, and a dash of doom metal
Others: cLOUDDEAD, Boards of Canada, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Meta-Santa was kind to me this Christmas: my stocking was stuffed with a stuffed stocking, dark as a lump of coal, sharp and pretty as a diamond. It's Not Who You Know, It's Whom You Know came clothed in a little black fabric pocket with the liner notes stitched into a tee-shirt tag, but the unique packaging and the grammarian title did not have me at all prepared for the funereal listening experience that was to come. Fourteen songs are compiled in four supertracks, each more melancholy and disturbing than the last.

The first movement, entitled "Ethics, Morals, Principles, Standards, Convictions," fits more easily than the others into the hip-hop mold. Snare-and-cymbal programming and shoegaze atmospherics surround the MC's sneering, cynical flow of leftist diatribes. "Awkward Walker," by contrast, is a deep breath of chloroform introducing the wicked, nighttime operations of the last two movements. The quiet interludes in this section are made up of chattering tickertape, spinning bike wheels, and rumbling subway trains — samples of quotidian motion which lose their innocence in the somber reflections of the MC and the oppressive finale they anticipate. In the last 15 minutes, the group smashes crackling samples and puddling electronic melodies with roving guitar lines, militant drums, brawny strings, and alienated/alienating vocals they split and scatter across the mix. The rest of the disc has been rendered a murky memory by the end of this beautiful three-track monster.

fbcfabric & reindeer play with hip hop conventions in an intriguing way, letting orchestration and words take turns and then collaborate in conveying their message and evoking a consistently elegiac mood. The rhymes and samples join the baleful arrangements to call into question the innocuousness of the everyday. They try to (under)score a suppressed insanity — the expression of a more sure and frightening grasp of reality. This is demanding territory to tread. I think the music meets the challenge.

"Ethics, Morals, Principles, Standards, Convictions"
1. The Lighting of the Lamps
2. Soulsuck
3. Down the Sides
4. Passenger
5. Rub the Calm One
"Awkward Walker"
6. Sit and Wait
7. Extended Placement
8. Fall Asleep and Dream of Our Childhoods
"Patience and Three Trains"
9. Mask of Sanity
10. All I See
11. The Only Dance I Can Do
"Pout and Clutch Mediocrity"
12. Shake the Hand of An Unsuspecting Victim
13. Please Call Stella
14. And Then John Peel Died