Spencer Stephenson of Botony and Raj Haldar of Lushlife were a natural fit. As individual artists, they’ve already explored the fusion of underground hip-hop and psych – though these two have explored pretty much everything. Stephenson is a true tinkerer, combining hip-hop, eastern music, trip-hop, and most things in between to mine exciting new textures. Halder is a serial collaborator, fluidly riding beats by indie rock bands and classic beatmakers. With ‘The Skull Eclipses’, they find new focus. Their debut as a duo is a dark, mood-oriented collaboration that hides depth beneath a woozy layer of reverb.
The production is thick but full of purpose. ‘All Fall’ is a sturdy introduction. Booming drums, resonant bass and slick hand claps make for a strong backbone for Halder to rhyme over. The thick effects could swallow up a lesser MC, but his dexterous verses use internal rhymes and staccato quips to stand out. On ‘Encyclopaedia’, a coiling chorus cuts through a sour, whirring beat. It’s exciting to hear a duo bold enough to include dissonant elements with confidence that the songs will shine through the murk.
The project is a celebration of art-rap charisma. Open Mike Eagle pops up for a typically quotable verse on ‘Gone’ (“…wonder which republicans know what a republic is”) while the less vocal Shabazz Palaces member, Baba Maraire, delivers a joyous sung vocal on ‘Pillars’.
Given how much the project pulls from 2011’s ‘Black-Up’ it’s not the freshest collection, but the potential and cohesion will excite many underground rap fans.