Electro-funk producer Lipp churns out a messy collection bogged down by too many missteps and too few highlights.
The label-hopping Eliot Lipp had himself a rather productive and fantastic 2008, attracting attention with last year's fantastic The Outside, as it offered a steady supply of videogame-esque soundscapes, crunchy hip-hop drums and overall fun-loving vibe. All that made up for its lack of variety, which became easy to overlook. For Lipp, that album came at the perfect time. While instrumental genre-bending records have always had its place, these records seemingly have grown in popularity over the past few years. That goes double for artists who incorporate bangin' drums and solid grooves, which Lipp has done since his record debut in 2004.
Perhaps appropriately, he got his break via one of glitch-hop's kingpins, Prefuse 73, who signed the young Lipp to Eastern Developments. But unlike his labelhead, this New York City-by-way-of-L.A. producer's focus appeared more honed, more defined. While tracings of glitched drums and samples permeate throughout his music, Lipp aims to get asses shaking and heads bobbing. And after a steady release of full-lengths and remixes on labels like Mush and Hefty, he now brings us his first Old Tacoma release, Peace Love Weed 3D.
Right off the bat, ample credit goes to Lipp both for the cover design and staying true to his apparent love for Mary Jane. The cover blends the peace sign, cannabis leaf and heart into one picture. Although it sounds kind of corny, it's actually anything but that. As for wearing his heart (or love for weed) on his sleeve, each track weighs in at four minutes and 20 seconds. Again, it's somewhat foolish and somewhat interesting. But the music on here is what is up for debate, not the album title, art or specifics.
The most instantly gripping feature: Lipp invited guitarists into his studio sessions for the very first time. Unfortunately, their riffs and licks provide little but extra wavy ambiance to tracks already chock full of synthesizers making nearly the same noises. The sole exceptions to that rule come during "So Stoked", a collection of glitched samples and drums and album-opener "Yeah". For "So Stoked", the guitar adds another layer of richness as it stands above spazzy hi-hats and snare while the guitar on "Yeah" sticks out for adding a certain California flavor and sun. It's also one of the more conventional tracks on here, though Lipp's signature off-kilter style remains.
Outside of those two cuts and a pair of others, though, the album loses much of its steam. The problem is nothing in the way of progression. Although Lipp apparently re-worked loose musical sketches from his drum machines and synths, this all sounds very much akin to his past efforts. The only difference is the occasional guitar riff or lick that adds another layer, but it rarely takes centerstage. This doesn't come across as a move to capitalize on the success of The Outside, but it could be construed as simply an unfortunately lazy effort.
While he strikes gold here and there, Lipp allows too many of these tracks to wander into insipid territory and never get out. For every "Laser Cave", which is above and beyond this album's best cut, several bland tracks like "P.L.W. 3-D" exist to offset. Also, for example, you have three tracks driven by vocal samples in "Beamrider", "Calling Me" and "Yeah". Of that trio, only "Beamrider" truly makes and leaves a mark. "Yeah" bangs, sure, but it falls short of being an actual 'banger' like "Beamrider", which sounds just like you would expect from its title. "Calling Me", on the other hand, is just a sloppy mess.
Lipp can certainly get away with dropping an average album. In other words, his failing grade on an exam would be boosted to passing one (let's say a C), thanks to the grading curve he has set. His lazy work still betters the work of most others. But should he get away with it? No, especially when he has proved capable of releasing fantastic efforts such as The Outside and Tacoma Mockingbird. So let's take a step back here, Mr. Lipp, to re-think the direction you are headed. Your fans will thank you.