A little mystery is rarely a bad thing in a musical setting. The musicians most popularly known as the KLF are legendary for their mystique as much for their music, Sia rarely shows her face and famously declines to appear in her videos, and it sometimes feels as though Kanye West is architecting an extended Andy Kaufman bit. These are artists who prefer to keep us guessing at just how much of themselves they are putting into their music. They keep us guessing as to how seriously they are taking their connection to that music, and ideally, the result is that the music gets to be evaluated on its own merits rather than as an association with the artist who created it.
That would appear to be the approach that Hype Williams has taken with their art. They named their project after an influential, prolific, and most importantly famous music video director, the type of move that causes just enough confusion to make you think, just for a bit, that Hype Williams the act might actually be Hype Williams, the director. They are, or were, apparently an act helmed by Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, though that version of Hype Williams seems to have died out around five years ago. There were a couple of EPs that dropped in the last year or so with the Hype Williams name that the press for Rainbow Edition derides as fake. That same press also says that Blunt and Copeland are no longer involved with Rainbow Edition, though it also reads like they’re making a comeback. A pair of other artists, Slaughter and Silvermane, are now responsible for Hype Williams, though it’s not even clear whether Slaughter and Silvermane are simply new pseudonyms or if there is an actual transfer of Hype Williams ownership going on here.
That’s a lot of effort put into misdirection and mystery, and the music on Rainbow Edition is no help in solving any of it.
Unfortunately, this is where everything starts to break down. The music on Rainbow Edition primarily sounds like the product of a Garageband tutorial, a cut ‘n’ paste, paint-by-numbers approach to beats and keys that feels hollow at best, downright amateur at worst. They are mainly ideas of songs more than actual songs, many of them barely a minute long. When you take something like “Baby Blu”, which would be a fine transitional track on a Depeche Mode album, and follow it with “Smokebox”, which would be an adequate transitional track on a Moby album, you start to realize that these are not, in fact, transitional tracks. This is the album you’re listening to, a constant wait for the next thing.
A few “next things” are actually worth waiting for. “#BlackCardsMatter” lasts for a solid four-and-a-half minutes, a slow dirge of a song with a voice pitch-shifted downward commenting on race. It’s just one sentence repeated for the four-plus minutes — “They wouldn’t really like this, you know the interracial thing, but all I’ve gotta say is black cards matter” — but the sheer length of it on an album of snippets hints toward an interminability, a hopelessness, that is actually pretty effective. “Spinderella’s Dream” is downright gargantuan at over six minutes, and again, allowing the ideas to breathe allows them to evoke a particular mood, even if that mood is limited to “vaguely dreamy”. Even some of the shorter tracks are solid, like “Loud Challenge”, which sounds an awful lot like the backing to an ultra-serious B-movie’s crime scene investigation montage.
Still, most of it just feels utterly disposable, a series of tracks put next to each other for no discernable reason, leading nowhere in particular. Listening to the bleeps, bloops, and weirdly-used vocal samples of “Ask Yee” isn’t going to improve anyone’s life. “Situations” is pretty, but also a little sloppy and far too short to remember.
Maybe all of this combined with the extracurricular obfuscation is intentional, some sort of comment or critique on the music industry, or the ephemeral nature of music consumption in 2017. Or, maybe it’s all a piss-take, some garbage they put on tape to see how many words critics would waste trying to figure it all out. Either way, it’s a miss, destined to be forgotten until the next stunt. Mystery’s fine, but if it’s all you’ve got, it’s a gimmick gone to waste.