Doomtree. Astronautalis. Kristoff Krane. Ecid. The twin cities indie hip-hop scene is exploding right now and Werewolf Hologram is the most recent piece of its intricate puzzle. Of all of those mentioned, his style is closest to Astronautalis’s despite being more sample heavy. Their similarities don’t stop at strictly musical style though, the vocal resemblance is uncanny and his flow charts a very similar pattern as well. Where they differ is in lyrical approach. Ecid, as is made very clear throughout Werewolf Hologram, favors wordplay, witticisms, and turns of phrases instead of narrative. While Astronautalis is the more frequently brilliant of the pair, Ecid seems determined to catch up to him on his own terms. Werewolf Hologram is a very good start.
Werewolf Hologram begins with its brilliant title track and though the rest of the record can’t match that single song, it doesn’t suffer because of it. On “Werewolf Hologram” Ecid lays the groundwork that he’ll ravage throughout Werewolf Hologram‘s 16-track hour long run-time. When Ecid raps “hold tight to the bright lights, oh how enlightening” over the tracks laid-back whistle-heavy musical accompaniment, Werewolf Hologram seems like its setting itself up for huge. Then it hits its first stumbling block when it hits the chorus which sounds like its intended to be anthemic but just comes across as cluttered and forced. When Ecid is tearing into the verses and letting loose, Werewolf Hologram is riveting but there’s just not the same sense of joy in the choruses.
The next two tracks, “Men Kill Men” and “I Heart Gravity”, reveal an over-sampling tendency that only detracts from the songs. “The Pursuit of Everything In Between” sets things back on track and shows that when Ecid exercises musical restraint, he’s as fascinating as an emcee as you could hope for. “The Pursuit of Everything In Between” only really falters on the chorus which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t suit the song. Really, most of Werewolf Hologram‘s verses sound like they should be guest verses on Astronautalis records and most of the choruses sound ghost-written by El-P—another artist Ecid shares a lot of similarities with.
After “Boo Hoo” and “Incredible” only ignite in spurts, “Oh Well” really takes off. Ultimately it’s one of the most complete songs on Werewolf Hologram and, with the exception of “Werewolf Hologram”, most accurately showcases Ecid’s raw talent, capabilities, and potential. “Marching On” and “Woolf” combine with “Oh Well” to form an impressive run, though all of them still have the incredible verse/mediocre chorus problem. That the verses more than make up for the choruses is a testament to Ecid’s ability as an emcee. Around the time “So Damn Einstein” hit, I was hoping for it to be the last track and was beginning to feel the length of the record. “So Damn Einstein” itself is another great song that’s slightly hindered by slight over-sampling but boasts a fairly decent chorus, which temporarily made me forget about the length.
The next pair of tracks “The Future is Free” and “Rock Stars Don’t Apologize” have a combined 5 featured guests: David Mars, Leif Kout, Awol One, Kristoff Krane, and Eyedea. “The Future is Free” is mostly forgettable and insignificant apart from the guest spots. However, “Rock Stars Don’t Apologize”, the record’s longest track, is one of the most fascinating and memorable. There’s a strange foreboding under-current running through it while the guests (Eyedea and Krane in particular) pull it along to its conclusion with Ecid showing up at the end for the home stretch and committing to one of his most brilliant verses. It’s a weird and enthralling listen that hints at a potential new future direction for Ecid.
That dark under-current is kept for “Back From Japan” which, unquestionably, features Werewolf Hologram‘s best chorus. “Back From Japan” ultimately ends up being the only track that rivals “Werewolf Hologram” as the records best. They’re each strangely accessible despite being injected with Ecid’s oddball personality. Really, Werewolf Hologram should have ended there to be book-ended by those two and leaving people wanting more. Unfortunately “Surprise Yourself”, despite being a very strong track, ends up feeling wasted as the first of the last two tracks. “So Much Fire” ends Werewolf Hologram on a slightly disappointing note as one of the records weakest tracks. It’s clear that Werewolf Hologram would’ve benefited from a harsher editor but assessing the final product, it’s also clear that Ecid is someone worth getting excited over. He may have a masterpiece in him.