Blue Sky Black Death A Heap of Broken Images

Producer Blue Sky Black Death has hit upon the winning formula to guarantee the utmost exposure for his down-tempo and hip-hop instrumentals. With this double CD release, Blue Sky Black Death devotes the first disc to his fluid, evolving instrumentals that evoke an atmosphere of dark beauty, often adding a layer of soulful, sampled singing to the mix. Unfortunately, instrumental hip-hop is a hard sell unless you happen to be DJ Shadow, so Blue Sky Black Death wisely includes a second disc of vocal tracks featuring a varied mix of styles. Despite the appearance of well-known and/or interesting artists like Guru, A-Plus and Pep Love (of Hieroglyphics), Rob Sonic and Mike Ladd, Mikah-9, and Awol One, the vocal disc is rarely engaging. The fault lies with the chill production that doesn’t bring out the best in many of the guests. Still, Rob Sonic and Mike Ladd stand-out on "Long Division” with their next level raps and one of the more interesting beats, as does Virtuoso, who drops battle punch lines punctuated with a victory anthem beat on "Brain Cells.” Which means the instrumental disc is the only one I’m likely to return to. (Mush)