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Infinity Knives x Brian Ennals - King Cobra

Infinity Knives x Brian Ennals - King Cobra

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Baltimore hip-hop experimentalists Infinity Knives and Brian Ennals return with vital new album King Cobra, a mighty, omnivorous record that pushes the duo to unstoppable creative heights.

nfinity Knives and Brian Ennals’ inexhaustible creativity has already gifted us 2020’s Dear, Sudan - a kaleidoscopic, unpredictable joyride of late night channel-hopping - and 2021’s brutal post-George Floyd manifesto Rhino XXL, but King Cobra is a new experience still. It is a masterfully executed expression of both ferocity and joy. ”Not a checklist of all the ills in the world,” says the band, “but it feels like darkness”. An expansively ambitious record, full of fire, and a thrilling new step from artists on a crucial mission.

An opening of moody, operatic lamentation for guitar and voice steeped in VHS warble intensifies the record that follows. “Coke Jaw” barrels out like a swinging fighter, matching nimble Tron synthesis with lines that “fuck the Clintons and the Kennedys” and proclaim “we the post-apocalytpic Run-DMC”. Lead single “Death Of A Constable” maintains the visceral energy, Ennals honouring Black life and culture in one line and biting hard on injustice and inequality in the next. He’s “saving up for a new guillotine” to deal with PTSD giving him “killer dreams”. Centrepiece “A Melancholy Boogie” ups the funk without softening any collision impact. A Prince-esque bassline and Funkadelic backing vocals are punctuated with orchestral stabs and Ennals’ penetrating, fleet-footed dissections of innercity hardship. Throw in themes of learned Afrofuturism and Tanzania-born Infinity Knives’ instinctive East African licks, and the track is capable of towering over its peers.

The duo offering Ice Cube and KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions as influences reveals an admiration for time-revered classic hip-hop, but digging deeper uncovers references (both overt and subtle) to Pink Floyd, Stars Of The Lid, William Basinski, Sade, Outkast and Aretha Franklin among a vibrantly coloured palette. “Sonically it’s jagged, it’s incongruent, it’s supposed to make you feel a little uncomfortable,” the duo explained.

More than a pure hip-hop producer, Infinity Knives (aka NPR composer-in-residence Tariq Ravelomanana) demonstrates his oft-discussed love of contemporary classicists such as Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson throughout. Hidden deftly amongst the hard-hitting beats and Ennals’ lyrical dexterity are moments of blissful orchestration that betray an abundance of musical talent and a precise control over the cleverly formed layers of melody and harmony. Key track “Don’t Let The Smooth Taste Fool You” is in the rare and notoriously complex 10/4 time signature, but in Ravelomanana’s hands it prowls sleek and powerful as a lion. More than a pure hip-hop record, King Cobra provides a relentlessly inventive backdrop for Brian Ennals’ righteous poetry of vitriol, rage, philosophy, humour and myth-making. “This isn’t an album meant for you to smile to,” Ennals writes, “except when I say something funny.”

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