Escape Artists Plot Against Theme

The Escape Artists are for those who wish that the Shapeshifters were a lot smoother, calmer and maybe not so "out there." Like the Shapeshifters, the five members of the Escape Artists put the same stress on flipping fresh flows with intelligent wordplay. But Xczircles, Aamir, Trex, Amnesia and Ahmuse stick to more introspective lyrics over lazy strings and pianos, about two thirds of which are Xczircles' creations, with some assists from the rest of the group and a few guest producers. His three productions with Ahmuse - "Such and Such," "Full Moon, Empty Head" and "Hampster Dance" - are among the album's best tracks. In fact, newest member Ahmuse impresses the most throughout Plot Against Theme. Although only on five of the album's 16 tracks, she has the ability to make a possibly unlistenable song worthwhile. That's not to slight the others, who all have great moments, but it is perhaps due in part to Ahmuse's softer voice working better with the music. The Escape Artists also enlist the talent of a few great guests, with 2Mex, Awol One and Tommy V all lending vocals to the album. Yet those tracks are not even the best moments. With "Attics," "Hampster Dance" and "Caesar's Ghost," the tempo is increased, which seems to bring out the best in the lyrics and flow. Then there's "Without I Thought Mind," a free association experiment that places Xczircles over a drum loop, guitar licks and the wind, and Amnesia over a morphing drum track and bass progression. At times, Plot Against Theme could do with a bit more energy, but mostly it makes you forget any flaws even exist. (Independent)