Yesterday I didn’t know “Tetragammoth” existed. Today I do. There’s an over 99% chance you (yes you) reading this right now are thinking the exact same thing. In fact I’d be willing to say the odds of someone coming to RR for our weekly update has less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of having heard it before. No matter how deep your love of obscure, underground, DIY indie rap albums is, you don’t own a copy of “Tetragammoth.” I sure as hell don’t. I don’t think Planet Language Records had the muscle to promote this album in 2002. In fact I’m not even sure that imprint exists today. They don’t have a website, only a Twitter profile, and as far as I can tell it’s run by the founder Noah23.
It’s not a coincidence that Noah is the featured guest on several tracks. If the only reason your album exists is one man and his imprint, you’d damn sure better find a way to feature him on it. So what’s going on here anyway? Why am I devoting this much ink to such an obscure album like “Tetragammoth” anyway? I’ll give you two good reasons. The first is that it’s FUN. Discovering a rapper I had only heard on two compilations had his own label and released albums by other people through it is fun. Maybe that’s only the kind of fun you can have by sifting dirt in a pan in looking for a tiny spec of metal, but it’s an adrenaline rush when that glint turns out to NOT be fools gold.
The second reason is that “Tetragammoth” is pleasantly bizarre — the kind of bizarre you’d expect from an album where the cover art shows someone with a gaping maw where their hair should be. I sit here every day poring over boring rappers that sound alike, talk about the same things, and offer no new experiences whatsoever. The polite might call this alternative rap. I’d call it challenging. Tracks like “Snap” are a trip. The BPM is ridiculous. The Darth Vader samples are ominous. The music almost isn’t music. It’s a wall of sounds that crashes over your head and just barely provides a context for the raps, and the raps disintegrate into chaos before video game lasers shoot the final sounds you hear. You might get the impression I’m shitting on “Snap” but the truth is that it’s hella entertaining. It’s like El-P took a couple of tabs of acid and decided to make even more indie shit than he was already known for. If he was from Guelph he’d sound like this.
The producer for a large percentage of this album is Orphan (Kingston Maguire), who would go on to greater recognition post-Planet Language as one half of Blue Sky Black Death. For me that would be reason enough to recommend “Tetragammoth,” but I must confront the reality that this album is definitely not for everyone. Even the person who uploaded the music to YouTube (probably not legally, but Noah23 never did, so at least someone stepped up) didn’t organize it into any kind of playlist… so I did. Songs like “The Pattern That Lies Beneath Us” are purposefully trying to challenge your idea of what a rap song is. That’s just not for everyone.
At times though you can sense an element of traditional crate digger sampling and flows on a song like “Rain Bucket,” even if the vocals wind up distorted and the snares sound like they want to jump out of their skin. “On this mental comet wear a helmet.” That’s sound advice. I don’t know who did the scratching on this one but give that turntablist the props they deserve.
Far too often the interludes between songs on rap albums are unimportant throwaway moments, but here they are brief audio experiments like “Unpardonable Sins” that are dope enough to have been full fledged songs. I guess Orphan just felt like showing off, and who can blame him? Anyway I’ve rambled on long enough. I don’t know how many if any of you I’ve convinced to give “Tetragammoth” a chance, but I can tell you that I’m glad I did. It could have been pyrite, it could have been a wasted effort, but it turned out to be worth the lengths I went to just to review it for all of you. This is the sound of rappers and producers who went so far away from the mainstream they almost relegated themselves to total obscurity by accident. Thankfully this work survived. Heads on the internet made sure of it.