Flower City Architect Audio Games is back with another highlight EP, a mini-showcase of beats with a revolving door of rappers that for the most part keeps the production center stage. Saint Upid has the feel of an artist in transition, as Games’ signature sound remains intact with a slight fraying around the edges. Perhaps a recent relocation from Rochester to Queens is behind the new vibe; while he has always been more Kanye than Queensbridge, a cold hardness has begun to creep into his beats.
Fortunately for Games, that steel has a nice ring to it. The EP’s highlights showcases the new direction. “Rambo” bangs like nothing he has made before; one expects to hear Ghostface go in instead of Kidd Steve. For his part, the Sacramento emcee does a good job of getting out on top and corralling the beat. Driven by bigger drums, stronger bass and pounding horns and strings, “Rambo” is a glimpse at an exciting direction for the future. “Fried Keys” has a similar sense of urgency, this time decidedly synthetic sounding. Frequent collaborator 2 Dash Tone answers the bell with increased aggression of his own; like tectonic plates crashing together, Games and Tone seem to push each other violently upward whenever their paths cross.
“Fantastic” is the antidote to the tape’s hard side, a light and breezy beat joined by kGb’s organic and conversational flow. He meanders on the beat like a blunt walk on a spring day the morning after a heavy night, before adding a guitar lick at the end that emphasizes without overriding. The Buzz Lightyear sampling “Infinity” is vintage Audio Games, soul-powered head nodding music. A veiled shot at The Industry courtesy of Tim Allen’s iconic spaceman (“… there seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere”) is a unique spin on a common target.
In what is fast becoming an Audio Games trademark, the EP is bookended by instrumentals. Opener “Insomnia” starts pretty before taking a disconcerting, discordant turn reminiscent of For Beat’s Sake, striking a chord between the production style favored by the Vanilla Underground and the art side indulgence of groups like The Avalanches. “Kevin Finnerty” is the other side of the coin, a more straightforward composition without the challenge of the opener.
It is difficult to put out projects with a purposeful unbalance; a musical paint chip filled with different shades. Audio Games thrives in this complicated structure by providing balance and picking rappers who complement, not conquer, his tracks. Sain Upid finds its best moments when Games gets heavy, selling some of its soul for concrete but breaking more than even on the trade.
Download: Saint Upid here.
Prime Cuts: “Rambo”, “Fantastic”, “Fried Keys”
Saint Upid receives a PARL
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