The world at large is not ready for Era of Diversion. It’s a work of acidic darkness at once fiercely political, supremely intricate, and highly danceable, which runs the gamut from IDM and jungle to rap and metal. The long-awaited debut album from Atlanta’s Evol Intent shows an act unwilling to go with the lackluster flow. Coming down at a time where the majority of bar star drum and bass and banal hip-hop tracks are liberally praised for recycling samples and presets while lyrically glorifying violence, materialism, drugs, objectification of women, and total political ignorance stemming from an unfounded fear of intelligence, this is the fuel insurrections are built on.
Featuring well-traveled emcee J. Messinian, “The Forward” gets the Bolshevik ball rolling with a long sample of the horrifically relevant Howard Beale tirade from 1976’s Network, culminating with the righteous newscaster declaring “I’m a human being, Gawd dammit! My life has value!” By then, a disembodied female chorus has built to a swell, joined by traces of synthetic percussion. Everything fades ever so briefly, then the nastiest bassline kicks in, which warps in tune with the voices over a boom-bap beat harder than four Lil’ Wayne mixtapes put together. Messinian’s rhymes in the second half outline the manifesto of the album, one that should be obvious from the title. Name-checking our greasy FEMA and Halliburton overlords, he spits in precise detail why today is the era of diversion. It’s an age where CNN spends a week covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith, yet Wolf Blitzer never thinks to question exactly why the US is in Iraq.
From there, the pacing is quite erratic, but there is a twisted kind of logic to it. See, Evol Intent is not the work of a lone stoned ranger in a secret bunker, but three such maverick geniuses. Knick, Gigantor, and The Enemy often produce all by their lonesome, then pass the tracks between each other till they’re Evol enough for joint approval. This process, when carried out over the course of a full-length, results in a most remarkable variety not only of genres but also within genres.
The record’s title track is a classic drum and bass number, using the same tech beat that has defined the style since the late ‘90s. Political commentary is provided by a sampling of King Bush II’s infamous “they hate our freedoms” speech, while the tweaking acid sounds make it revolutionary. The track begs to be mixed into DJ? Acucrack’s “Damage Report” in a high test Dieselboy mix. Conversely, “South London” utilizes the age-old squeaky drum and bass sound with a Rex loop accompaniment, but seems content to stay on ethereal keyboards, chopped up female speech, serrated synths, and a hip-hop beat. About half way through, momentum starts to become unsettling and hints of a breakcore rager start stabbing in. When the track finally lets go, you can hear heads exploding across dancefloors everywhere under the pressure of its massive bassline and industrial gunfire squelches. It’s the longest three-minute track I’ve ever experienced.
Outdoing both of those, “I’m Happy Your Grave is Next to Mine” starts off in Aphex Twin IDM territory with Boards of Canada ambiance, post-rock guitar, skittering production, and a lagging beat. Eventually, the beat begins to catch up, launching into manic trancestep territory, while amazingly retaining its peaceful desire. “Mutiny” stands out with its extended Taxi Driver sample, peaking after its conclusion on a DJ Hidden-style stuttering hardstep beat and bad acid trip subbase with a horror film piano score overlay. The end of the track elevates to include a raunchy 303 line the likes of which would make Luke Vibert fall into a flashback. In the four aforementioned jungle variations, you have four inspiring levels of intelligence, all for different kinds of parties, and that’s just the jungle.
For their slower production, “Gunpowder Plot” is a dubstep stomper more menacing than anything off Distance’s debut for Planet Mu. “The Curtain Falls” is a remarkably balanced work of post-apocalyptic glitch downtempo. It begins in static, but quickly progresses to a warm bassline and otherworldly vocal effects while the computers turn against us. Showcasing their uncanny ability to contrast style, “Death, Lies, And Videotape” takes an early ‘90s hip-hop beat and throws a little extra stutter and distortion in its samples while Cypher Linguistics revisit the album’s theme as previously outlined by Messinian, only more confrontational. They are not fooled by the Republican’s marketing strategy as borrowed from Goebbels. Play that back-to-back with the shocking “Smoke and Mirrors” and you may wonder if Era of Diversion is a mere mixtape. That track revisits The Enemy’s old hardcore days with Aaron Benard of BANE hammering home the diversion insight once more over mean metal guitars given the room to breathe and punchy drums.
There’s something here for everyone, and that is no vain ambition. Though a couple of the drum and bass tracks are a little on the predictable side to withstand the test of time, the brutal honestly of Evol Intent is the album’s great uniter. Where your average DnB album is a DJ oriented collection of singles, this is practically a concept album with many movements, segues, valleys, peaks, and a fantastic range of human emotion. The level of talent and influence pooled here is utterly radical, while their messages are undeniably crucial for today’s half-truth society. Fellow jungle trio Pendulum is unfit to carry their record bags. World, ready or not, you just got served.
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// Notes from the Road
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