Record Review - 1 November 06 2003

It's insanely difficult to appraise a record where, 40 seconds in, the artist suddenly announces: "Oh my God, journalists across the globe are officially critiquing my first eight bars."

Ever since he released the flawless Labor Days early last year, New York rap artist Aesop Rock has received mounds of attention. After all, it was Rock who put upstart indie rap label Def Jux on the map, and he's the one that critics will look to when assessing its continued viability.

All concerned parties should pray their audience has endless patience, because the first time through, Bazooka Tooth is kind of a mess. It's dense and swampy and foreboding, a feverish rush of ideas without any air pockets or rest stops. The record goes off like a shaken soda bottle, popping off the restraints and spraying out snake-charmer synths, firecracker rhythms and epileptic Love Supreme saxophones. It's a maddening hodgepodge of jazz and industrial — too many ideas let loose without any ceiling or control.

But persistence is rewarded, and each harrowing journey into Bazooka Tooth reveals a record that is meticulously — almost psychotically — crafted. All of the adulation and attention has made Aesop paranoid, and one of the most jaw-dropping bonus features of Bazooka Tooth is getting to watch him lose his mind.

The sweaty, nauseous rhythms are the sound of his neurons frantically firing, and with each sputtered rhyme and palpitating beat, perfect symbiosis is achieved. It's a bit much to take in one sitting, but judged by sheer nerve and invention, Bazooka Tooth is the perfect nervous breakdown.

Aesop Rock plays the Echo Lounge Thurs., Nov. 13. $12.