Abstrack Digital Brain

Producer and hip-hop instrumentalist Abstrack opts to showcase his talents using a compilation-style format for Digital Brain, the follow-up to his mostly solo Average Joe album. He acquires assistance from a variety of MCs, with a heavy concentration on Halifax, but includes unknowns to the better known from across Canada, although Moka Only is the relative rap star of this release. For his part, Abstrack's production is primarily throwback (pack) rap with a few curveballs, preventing the uniform sound from becoming too much of the same. Mostly the tempo nudges towards head nods, aside from a dip into rap balladry with "Her" in the middle, and then into total balladry at the end with "Coulda Been My Love." Despite the intent to demonstrate additional styles, the indie soul of the latter is totally unsuitable to this release. On the other hand, Abstrack injects the right amount of reggae into "Nowhere To Be," which combined with iLLvibe's easy flow, results in a great lazy summer song. He follows that with warped synth, angelic voices and the rare air raid siren for a beat that could have been made by the show-stealing guest vocalist himself, Moka Only, but with shades of "Agent Orange" to boot. And later "Something Better" brings banjo and bass together with a few other evolving and changing sounds for a minimal, catchy beat. After a strong first half that includes Poizunuz's vocal scratches on "Intro," an impressive Boyill appearance on album highlight "Lies" and the humorous punch lines of Wordburglar on "So Much Time," the second half features a bit of filler. Still, it also surprises with the fresh faces of RK Parx, who swaggers over the grave of hip-hop on the up-tempo "Eulogy Song," and Nostic & Joseph Koven, with their tight flows the highlight of the minimal, repetitive beat on "Fall Back." While Digital Brain is a pretty good display of Abstrack's production talents, it will be interesting to hear what he turns out for the rap vets that are sure to come calling. And a full album with Moka wouldn't be a bad idea either. (Lowcash)