The work of Japanese emcee Kaigen has passed through the sardless offices several times in recent history. There was his standout performances on frequent collaborators Curse Ov Dialect's excellent 2009 effort Crisis Tales (8.0/10). Then there was the collaborative project Kaigen21Meiso with Honolulu-based Japanese emcee Meiso that yielded Root Is The New Leaf (7.0/10), as well as a couple of singles, 'Don't Try To Stop It' and 'Rust Belt Fellows' we reviewed. All of these efforts have been good, so we figured Re: bloomer, the latest LP from Kaigen, was worth a look.
What is particularly jarring about Kaigen's work is that he raps totally in Japanese at 10,000 miles an hour and makes extensive use of an array of well regarded international acts such as Awol One, Myka 9, 2Mex, Sole, and Ceschi, all of whom perform in English. This back and forth of Japanese and English lyricism lends a fairly cacophonous ring to the album that teeters on the edge of instability, yet somehow works. Helpfully, there are translations of all the Japanese lyrics on Kaigen's bandcamp page. However, once you begin to read the lyrics you begin realise that even with the translations, this shit is deeply complex.
For example, behind the jaunty beat of the opening track 'Counterplan B' there is a curious chorus that goes along the lines of
From the outside of the dark night shining on water, and beyond the inviolable collusion, The object of your objection is in question. On 'Dont Try To Ruin It' there is talk of islands of butter in a sea of corn syrup, which sounds bad-assed and is probably an allegory for something well over this reviewers head, and Kaigen in his visceral style raps on fragile luxuries, dependence on modern conveniences and technological double-edged swords. 'Immune War' opens with the mind-boggling verse
Traces of artificiality remain working after hours, Intracranial environmental shift. Kaigen, which is apparently a Japanese term meaning "to open the eye" associated with Buddhist concepts of enlightenment, himself admits that the lyrics are complex even for Japanese speakers, so some of the intensity of the subject matter will possibly lost in translation. If it was done in English, it is possible some would struggle to take it seriously, and topic-wise it is all a bit dark, but musically it all sounds very interesting and works.
Past collaborators Curse Ov Dialect sadly only feature on Re: bloomer in a production role, producing tracks 'Fiddling While The Industry Burns??' and 'Don't Try To Ruin It', the latter of which appears to be a re-treatment of Sole and Kaigen's previously sardless reviewed track Don't Try To Stop It. Luckily, these tracks are amongst the finest on the album, and where in the past Curse's presence has tended to dominate (see Curse Ov The Kaigen for example), Re: bloomer allows Kaigen to expand a bit and bring in some of the above mentioned guests. However, with Curse producer/deejay/genius Pasobionic also having production credits on 'In The Clutch (ft. Myka 9)', there is a decent chunk of Curse's distinctive peppermint post-hip-hop hip hop sound on Re: bloomer, which is always a welcome thing. Additional production from the likes of Jel, Thavius Beck and Ras G too contributes to the distinctive sound of Re: bloomer, which hovers somewhere between heavily dark and straight-up abstract hip hop.
Kaigen, as he did on Root Is The New Leaf, contributes a couple of instrumental tracks–which are in this reviewer's opinion amongst the album's standouts. On 'Eye Opener' there is some mixing up of traditional sounding instrumentation with some audio of an old bro yelling, switching back and forth with a sweet pan flute-sounding riff. The other instrumental, 'Rebloom,' begins a bit more gentle and sentimental before lurching into some nice strings and robot computer beats. It is all very pleasant and contrasts nicely with the darker elements of Re: bloomer.
Overall, Re: bloomer is a solid effort. For the unfamiliar, it works well as an introduction to non-US hip-hop, at the same time as featuring a bunch of renown international artists. Additionally, sonically Re: bloomer leans toward non-derivative indie hip-hop, and the combination of this with the Japanese lyricism means it sounds unlike most other releases you will hear this year. If you are extra interested in the sound, Kaigen has also released the instrumentals for Re: Bloomer (Instrumental), which is a nice touch. Bonus points for the sinister cover art on both records.
- Fiddling While The Industry Burns??
- Eye Opener
- Counterplan B
- Counterplan B
- Fiddling While The Industry Burns?? (feat. AWOL ONE)
- Gold Lining (feat. CESCHI)
- Don’t Try To Ruin It (feat. SOLE)
- Eye Opener
- Immune War
- Primitive Planet (feat. ORKO ELOHEIM)
- Rust Belt Fellows (feat. SOLE)
- In The Clutch (feat. MYKA 9)
- Whistle In The Tailwind (feat. 2MEX)
- Spear & Shield