Geometrik :: Upon a Midnight Stone ::
as reviewed by Tom Doggett

At times, reviewing a record can be surprisingly easy. Any number of albums I have discussed are one-dimensional to the point that any text beyond a paragraph or two is verbose. Many of our collective favorites are fairly basic, they are just crafted in such a manner to sound fresh, or at least better than imitators. Though the onslaught of such simplistic music is occasionally frustrating, my job is made easier because it is sometimes easy to grasp a record the first time through. When something more complicated comes along, it is a blessing because I become a true critic, one who must make sense of and evaluate a work without attacking it because I do not understand it at first.

Geometrik thankfully falls into no categories, which makes his music sufficiently complex to spend extra minutes on in search of meaning. Most of this complexity arises in his rhymes, which are sometimes muddled but always intriguing. He is clearly a talented individual, because fifteen tracks fly by and the listener should never be bored. He possesses depth in his vocal inflection, which provides even more replay value than his rhymes alone suggest. He focuses consistently on the personal therapeutic values that rhyming has, and the ultimate feeling is that of a person, not a rapper, talking to the consumer in rhyme form. The words are so dense that he is not terribly accessible in a setting such as a car or background music, but careful attention can be rewarding.

The art of storytelling has been mastered by very few in hip-hop, even in a fragmented form. This is where Geometrik struggles, because he is constantly spouting self-examining lyrics without providing the listener with tangible situations that he has learned from or examined. At times, "Upon a Midnight Stone" resembles a stream of consciousness gone wrong because he is not able to place his words within the context of his life as we can relate. During these abundant moments, the music feels like something that is infinitely more valuable to him than to anyone else, and I do not doubt the truth of such a statement. He streamlines his thoughts into rhyme form, and the assaulting nature of such intense analysis is difficult to handle.

Track two, a whirlwind of horns called "Lesson #1," introduces Geometrik's focus, as he claims to "possess the skill to strangle, maim, stab, or kill, but I would rather use my creativity to build." Here, his own production does him well, and his voice escalates with the crescendos in the music. This is one of his most focused efforts lyrically, because he is clear and precise with every word. The following song "The Heathen Vagabond" is an indication of his more typical style of rhyming, and he peppers the song with lines such as "it's midnight and my ancestors are buried beneath the snow." On the same song, he discusses his tendency to embellish stories, which is a more insightful indicator of his character's honesty than the abstract imagery he uses throughout. There is not always a method to his abstraction, and depending on one's point of view, he is either a misunderstood genius or an artist who tends towards pretension. To me, his words fall somewhere in between. He is a genuine person speaking through the mic, but his poetics are bizarre and mostly amount to nothing other than strange images piled upon each other. When this inaccessible style is focused into political complaint, as on "White the Blueprints," the common goal of each line brings each verse together, making it far easier to explore freely. For too much of the album, though, we are left on our own to piece together the meanings, and the ultimate outcome is unsatisfying. There are plenty of examples of competent and coherent writing that balances with his tendency to pack words tightly next to each other, so I am confident he is capable of a clearer effort.

The self-produced music is the polar opposite of Geometrik's rhymes. He produces an entire disc of bass guitars, horns, and other time-tested hip-hop staples, and each track is technically proficient and faintly jazzy. Because of the distinctive quality of his rhymes, some tracks work more than others in fitting with his disjointed imagery and sometimes equally disjointed flow. The voice he was born with is slightly abrasive, and since he sometimes articulates too much, the rhymes come flying out of the speakers ahead of the music, which is content to coast along in the background. Because of this, the production is adequate but nothing else. Despite Geometrik's significant flaws as an emcee, his delivery requires something equally gripping to truly do justice. Laid under another rapper's voice, the music would likely mesh far better with the vocals, which is odd considering that the entire project was undertaken by the same person.

A few scattered songs capture Geometrik's potential with ease. "Bellicose" is an example of his introspection, but he executes it in a far more abrupt and confrontational way and the result is much more relevant and descriptive than the rest of the material. "In the Name of Self Discovery" speeds up the pace drastically, and his pure affinity for wordplay is alone and on display. With the rhymes traveling so fast, it would be difficult to understand anyone, so the fact that the meaning of his words is hidden is far less important. Here, he is seen stripped to his verbal talents, and they are plentiful. For much of the record, though he crafts thought-provoking rhymes in stretches, he appears to be relying on a gimmick, or at least a narrow vision of what he is capable of. The consistency is comforting, but a willingness to try new things with his voice and words should pay off.

"Upon a Midnight Stone" is in a difficult place because it very inaccessible. The majority of people who read this review would not appreciate the record, and since it is quite flawed, those who might appreciate it will likely struggle through some of the material. Geometrik is not a veteran, so inconsistencies are more easily forgiven. Much of what comes out of his mouth can easily be mistaken for nonsense, and although there is surely a coherent point to it all in his mind, we do not have access to this elevated interpretation of the music. Only the most dedicated listener could wade through it, and since his flow is not the most pleasing to the ears, there is little incentive. His talent as an artist cannot be denied, but it also cannot be fully recognized yet. Until next time, this is a perplexing but tempting record from a very capable emcee.

Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: June 14, 2005