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Psyche Origami

The Standard

(Arc the Finger; US: 20 Sep 2005; UK: Available as import)

The second album by Atlanta’s Psyche Origami confirms the promise of their first full-length, 2003’s Is Ellipsis. The album’s contents are arranged around a theme of the old-style, full-service “filling stations” that were once as much a staple of Southern life as sweet tea and sour mash. “The Standard”, as elucidated here, is such a place, with a red-and-white sunburst logo that references BP’s yellow-and green artwork, but with the group’s logo—an origami bird—in the center.

All gimmicks aside, this is very much a strong and focused product that reflects well on the depth of talent brought into play. Psyche Origami consists of two DJs, Dainja and Synthesis, and one MC, Mr. Wyzard—an interesting inversion of the more orthodox team of two MCs and one DJ. What this allows for is a density of sound that brings out the best in the lyrics. This fact rings true over and over on the album. The MCs are all good, but they sound much better in this context than they might otherwise.

Mr. Wyzard, whose flow has been described as “two parts Native Tongue / one part Carl Sagan”, all but calls their shot on “Fool Service”: “We steal the show and burned off the fingerprints / using alcohol and Smirnoff and won’t even flinch.” They head out from there, laying down an estimable instrumental mix that functions like a bed of greens under the main course: rhymes, served hot and fresh.

Besides the trio itself, The Standard features the contributions of about 20 other musicians across its 50-plus minutes. This includes the lyrics of multiple MCs: Bambu and Jmil of Collective Efforts; Jax, Flux, and Killa Kalm of Binkis on “Self-Serv-Us” and “Get Gassed-Up”; Swamburger on “Commercial Property”, which also boasts toasts from the dynamic X:144, who produced that track and mixed the entire album.

All told, The Standard does set a new standard for the caliber of output coming from below the Mason-Dixon line. To characterize this as “southern music”, though, is to take geographic liberties with a group whose “head-change” sound is American at heart, in all the best ways: smart, hybridized, the product of collective effort and individual excellence. If the group can continue to progress as they have musically, then achieving broader exposure should be no problem at all.

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