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81355 - This Time I’ll Be of Use Music Album Reviews

81355 - This Time I’ll Be of Use Music Album Reviews
The trio’s debut album shifts casually between soulful rap, textured noise, and pensive folk with grace and sometimes too much distance.

Indianapolis rappers Sirius Blvck and Oreo Jones, and producer David Moose Adamson have been orbiting each other for years. Before uniting as 81355 (pronounced “bless”) on Justin Vernon and the Dessner brother’s 37d03d label, the group members were in regular contact through features, shows, and the general closeness of the Naptown music community. Blvck and Jones, in fact, amassed enough recordings to release a joint album, unconcerned., at the tail end of 2020. This shared history is the foundation of This Time I’ll Be of Use, a record that brims with easy fusion and harmony.

The album coheres immediately. 81355 is in constant motion, shifting casually between soulful rap, textured noise, and pensive folk with grace. A single and opening track, “Capstone” builds slowly, accumulating ominous images and airy melodies until the song is an ice sheet of voices and sounds. The group’s arrangements prioritize configuration, avoiding sharp pivots and dissonance in service of steady accretion. Compared to other alt-rap acts like Injury Reserve and Young Fathers, they have no interest in provocation or spectacle, a composure that gives their medleys a quiet sense of confidence but also makes the record feel anonymous and distant.

The trio recorded the album during the pandemic, a backdrop they unsuccessfully try to turn into surtext in their music. There are constant mentions of revolt, dread, and remorse, but they often value mood over perspective. “I never sleep a wink because I think about decades that happened long ago,” Jones says on “The Void,” one of many clumsy lines that nod to the past without engaging with it. (Can one think about a decade?) Throughout the record, Jones makes land acknowledgments, declaring solidarity with the Cherokee, the Potowatomi, and Palestinians, but the shoutouts feel ritualistic, rooted in habit rather than resolve. 

Blvck, whose writing is often diaristic, makes frequent mention of fire and hauntings, but he also feels removed from his muses. His best line comes early in the record, on “Capstones.” “Generational curses I still can’t undo/Just taught my little girl to tie her shoes/Now she running to,” he raps, turning a coming-of-age moment into a tragic loss of innocence. Otherwise, his verses are drained of sensation, coming across as sights instead of scenes. Elsewhere, Blvck and Jones are agile, compelling rappers, bursting with energy and specificity; but here, they’re lethargic, weighed down by the magnitude of the concepts they’re trying to wrap their heads around.

81355’s soul-searching works best when the group embraces its view from nowhere, refining their collective dread into a cosmic quest. “Where I go it all depends/I would like to call you friend/Lean you back into my eyes/Maybe I could see you then,” Adamson sings on “Through the Portal,” a shapeshifting track that turns restlessness into shared drive. Though it appears only in flashes on This Time I’ll Be of Use, that sense of dissolution as a new beginning rather than climax or defeat is the group’s clearest strength. They don’t yet have a combined vision, but in their mutual commitment to ego-death, there are signs of life.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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81355 - This Time I’ll Be of Use Music Album Reviews 81355 - This Time I’ll Be of Use Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, June 11, 2021 Rating: 5

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