A fantastic and fatalistic descent into a noirish hip-hop netherworld, rapper U.G.’s Portals explores an uncanny, sometimes uncomfortable dimension of mystic rhyme and sound. The one-half of the bizarro hip-hop duo Cella Dwellas doesn’t so much craft and build his material with the corporeal hands of a studio producer as he seemingly brings it into form through an arcane means of will. Lyricism here is pointed and charmed, delivered through a mastery of dark spell, and U.G. ensures his telesthetic rhymes are grounded in the loping swings of granite-heavy beats.
An almost churlish manner of sampling is at work here. While nothing sounds crudely out of the ordinary in the way of sonic overlapping, the snippets of melody are fashioned together with a shameless economy; it works brilliantly and, even in its somewhat brusque distribution, provides an often lush backdrop to the hard-driving grooves.
The gothic-laced “The Mystic” is particularly exemplary of a number with a choice sample ingeniously implemented into a boxed-in groove. Elsewhere, “Broken Vessel”, a druggy, morphine drip of hard beats and soured atmospheres, circles endlessly in a loop of lyrical paranoia. On the Hammer Films horror of “Mind Right”, a synth of frayed nerves induces terror, creeping just behind U.G.’s invocations of hip-hop’s dead souls. The clap-and-stomp rhythms and skewed Dixieland horns of “Megatron” (arguably the best piece on the album) refer to everything that is 1984—from glitchy, outmoded arcade machines to the apocalyptic presentiments of Orwellian panic.
Admittedly, the first half of Portals is the stronger section of the album; however, it’s the triumphant half of an entirely potent and astonishing work. There may be little chance U.G will ever become a household name, but his seductively necromantic grooves and curious sense of melody will surely pull a good many deep into the darkness of his underworld.
"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…READ the article