IsWhat?! You Figure It Out

If the band’s name and album title don’t give it away, it becomes immediately obvious less than a minute into this record that IsWhat?! don’t care much for boundaries and limitations. Better put, this three-man, multi-instrumental, jazz/hip-hop hybrid is more interested in seeing what three guys from three separate musical backgrounds could come up with were they simply to do what most came naturally to them. The result is a schizophrenic aural assault that eschews the idea of staying in one place for any significant length of time. MC and human beat-box Napoleon Maddox leads the way, commanding both the high-octane rhythm section and endless barrage of insightful lyrics while Matthew Anderson and Jack Walker let a free jazz mindset guide their respective bass and horn/flute contributions. The on-again-off-again attention to traditional structure means that cuts like "Concussion” and "Salty” change direction in the blink of an eye, the former shifting back and forth between a live and studio-recorded beat-box session, the later continuously speeding up and slowing down while the flute and bass parts each take turns at the melody, giving the other time to freestyle some freestyles. "Cold Hand,” meanwhile, has Maddox the MC ripping it up alongside some inspired vibraphone improvisations. In mixing elements of hip hop and jazz, IsWhat?! are able to bring a freshness to both — a statement far more significant than the questions posed by the group’s name. (Hyena)