[16 April 2004]
Celestial Clockwork is the product of an artist who has welcomed change, embraced it, and built an entire album around its very existence. Illogic successfully plumbs the depths of the human psyche on this album, while the articulate, complicated flow for which he is known falters not a minute in its course. The tracks here are constructed mostly around time, and life’s unidentifiable and sometimes uncomfortable constant: change. Illogic accepts change willingly, though, and rightly so, as growth has put him beside emcee/producer/label-head Blueprint yet again, yielding another much-anticipated release.
After honing his skills in Ohio freestyle battles and eventually taking Columbus champion status in 1997, Illogic completed his first studio effort with Blueprint. Following the release of the Unforeseen Shadows debut, Illogic assumed a spoken word artist role as well, and filled half of his follow-up, Got Lyrics?, with his spoken word poetry. The second album also listed Blueprint in the production credits.
As the founder of Dublin, Ohio’s Weightless Recordings, Blueprint’s production work showcases a mastery of thick, profound beatmaking and technical innovation. Additionally, ‘Print has turned heads with his abilities in front of the microphone. His most recent lyrical work stunned onlookers last year with the release of the Soul Position LP, in which the emcee cleverly tackled the rhyme end while crate digger RJD2 dusted off some of his dusty beats for the production half. Celestial Clockwork’s mystifying backdrop is an example of Blueprint’s ability to hold back as a producer when necessary, but is also an expansive assortment of psychedelic beats that naturally complement Illogic’s sly, off-kilter approach.
On “The Only Constant”, Illogic retains his status immediately as one of the most effective emcees to date. As he is embracing and welcoming change here, his intricate rhymes have obviously not changed. This is evident from the get-go: “This image and memory / Brush strokes of symmetry / With masses and alienation / Conquered anonymity”. As quickly as the emcee smears the swirling robot tones and sluggish beats with the comforting “in defense of the passive” notion, Blueprint drops a soulful organ-laced head-nodder for track three. Illogic addresses time again here, and sounding a bit like Diverse or Vast Aire (who coincidentally appears w/ Ace Rock on track five), he recounts his Arthurian birthright and how “before walking” he “pulled the sword from stone”. His Majesty delivers repeatedly, but the most royal decree unfolds in “First Trimester”.
Illogic begins as the people-watching bystander, the narrator of a tale of young lovers now with child. He speaks tenderly of the father’s inner monologue and his impending responsibility. Illogic chases away any of the young man’s tendency to fret over their forthcoming cherub and it’s instead replaced with what seems like affectionate stability: “She wipes the rain from his cloudy eyes / Shaken and scared she takes his hand, smiles, and places it on her belly”. The storyteller shifts then entirely to the expectant mom’s point-of-view while she mulls over her lover’s faithfulness and their future together. Blueprint has decorated this track with a gloomy piano loop over a smooth downtempo beat that drops in and out during Illogic’s unsettling tale. He begins the next verse in a now-positive father’s perspective: “My fate parallel to grace / I know I’m in love every time my eyes touch her face”. Strings follow the breaks between the verses and ‘Print’s ominous choices here highlight Illogic’s incredibly poignant and delicately concluded verse.
While Illogic may be “stuck in an emotional volley with melancholy”, he delivers another helping of his carefully constructed flow on Celestial Clockwork. His constant references to time, birth, and change are vividly brought to the foreground by Blueprint’s ambient and often twisted sonic textures. Well-placed guest vocal spots from Aesop Rock, Vast Aire of Can Ox, Slug (Atmosphere), and the album’s producer break up the LP a bit and contribute to its already rich and compelling tracks.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/illogic-celestial/