Sole & The Skyrider Band: Plastique

Plastique utilizes scathing hip hop to bring to light the despondent affairs of America through the use of dark constructs, an irony you can be assured isn’t lost on Sole & the Skyrider Band.

Sole & The Skyrider Band


Label: Fake Four
US Release Date: 2009-10-13
UK Release Date: 2009-10-23

An accident in Mexico City and a providential return from Barcelona seem like very different unrelated events, sharing the Spanish language as their only commonality. But they both became congruent in the dusty altitudes of Flagstaff, Arizona when Tim Holland and Bud Berning combined their respective musical forces to form Sole & the Skyrider Band. For Sole it was the natural culmination of an unconventional hip hop career, which started as a battle rapper in Maine before co-founding Anticon Records and espousing a non-rhyming brand of abrasive poetics that drew the ire and disdain of many purists. With the Skyrider Band he continues to defy the traditional approach to hip hop, eschewing production and using a live band to create the sonic backdrop for his scathing lyrics.

Their self-titled first release was saturated in erudite editorials that critiqued culture, empire, apathy, and political topics. As insightful as it was satirical, as lyrical as it was sarcastic, it marked a darkened and dyspeptic transition for Sole. Their second release, and first on Fake Four records, Plastique continues in the same vein of dystopian observation and bitter cynicism, though it must be said that this quality is obvious but never overwhelming. Thank God (or an atheist jihad), because no one wants to listen to a sonic exegesis on hopelessness for forty minutes. The tone is instead marked by solemn realization, dissecting the many facets of pop culture and familiar Americana with the precision of a razor.

As the title suggests, the album is also an exploration of synthetic existence, as exemplified by the tongue-in-cheek technology observations of “Children of Privilege”. The anti-materialism sentiments of “Nothing Pt. 2”, which states that “nothing’s going to love you back / and nothing’s going to pay your rent”, are similarly biting twists on hip hop’s "keeping it real" credo. “Battlefields” is something of a class warrior anthem, though it also touches on feelings of disillusionment regarding success and sacrifice, explained over an urgent rhythm and brooding bassline.

On that note, the Skyrider Band, now minus Berning, play their part well in crafting the bleak musical backdrop for Sole. The instrumentation is typically sparse and fluctuates between subdued, as on the critique of accumulative possession “More”, and frenzied, like with the crashing insistence of album closer “Black”. As much as Sole’s lyrics, the band effortlessly creates the texture and tone of Plastique, their arrangements sounding at once desolate and brimming with the fullness of discontent. The structures are distinctly hip hop, but they are also carefully constructed against the grain of repetitive sampling and crunked-out keyboards, a quality becoming increasingly rare, even amongst independent artists.

Plastique, then, is the result of equally scornful counterparts that unite to attack, disparage, and deride mainstream conventions. There is also a kind of nihilism enveloping the record, one that can be found in the empty pockets and empty souls the world over, regardless, or perhaps because, of status, healthcare, creed, and states of consciousness. This isn’t something for the Pollyanas and Dick Cheneys out there, that much is certain, and it must be said that this kind of unrelenting cultural irreverence is essential to the welfare of music, and society at large. Plastique utilizes scathing hip hop to bring to light the despondent affairs of America through the use of dark constructs, an irony you can be assured isn’t lost on Sole & the Skyrider Band.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.