Cities Aviv's 'The Crashing Sound of How It Goes' Is Too Rough Around the Edges

BY Jonathan St. MichaelPublished Apr 20, 2021

There comes a certain kind of creative freedom when hip-hop artists are able to bridge the divide between the roles of rapper and producer. Many of the most successful acts in hip-hop were at the hands of rappers who could not only provide verses and vocals for their tracks, but who also had complete creative control in creating and producing their works.

With rapper-producer Cities Aviv, his musical output has always emphasized this creative freedom; with avant-garde production style and distorted vocals, his projects are often expansive and experimental. On his latest album, The Crashing Sound of How It Goes, Cities Aviv explores his distinct sound with an ever-growing collection of sample-heavy and ambient melodies.

Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Cities Aviv (a.k.a. Gavin Mays) has already dabbled with a multitude of musical styles. With influences spanning from Memphis-based hip-hop outfit Three 6 Mafia to shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Cities Aviv's music can be seen as fairly unorthodox. Although rooted in hip-hop, The Crashing Sound of How It Goes is tinged with elements of soul, jazz, dub, and punk. And while previous albums such as Come to Life showcased Cities Aviv's punk influence in full display, recent releases have mellowed out considerably, capturing his ability for crafting jarring and melodic mixes.

The Crashing Sound of How It Goes is an exploration of Cities Aviv's production abilities; ducking and weaving through ambient interludes and doses of heavily reverbed vocals, the album veers into elements of jazz and soul, as Aviv crafts an immense soundscape through layered soul samples and atmospheric verses. With just over an hour of runtime, the album features some of the artist's most textured and layered instrumentals to date. However, while the songs themselves do capture moments of pensive reflection, the style seldom varies, with many tracks so drenched in loops and delay that they can hardly be differentiated from one another.

The vocal delivery is sparse, with many muffled verses inevitably getting lost amidst the existing mix. However, the tracks which do feature more cohesive vocals, like "Love. Fool. Revue." and "My World Is Full," are examples of how Cities Aviv can use vocals to ground a song without relying too heavily on them. Some instrumental tracks such as "Face Pressed Against Glass" and "How We Began" are blissful and melodic, with the latter using distorted vocals as means to add texture and richness to the arrangement.

In its entirety, The Crashing Sound of How It Goes is an intriguing foray into experimental hip-hop production, but often ends up sounding muddled and disoriented. While many of the album's eccentricities are undeniably fresh, The Crashing Sound of How It Goes feels too rough around the edges to fully capture its best features.

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