The name "Psyche Origami" strikes me as odd. Is it just a pretentious marriage of smart words, or is it a true signal that they are a level beyond the usual? It's still a little hard to tell. The cover art for "The Standard" is suspiciously avant-garde, a semi-abstract drab portrayal of a road from a car's perspective. I don't know if they are trying to say something meaningful, or if the suggestion is simply that this is a good record for driving. If it is the latter, they are certainly right. For the most part, this is just satisfying, groovy music with pronounced basslines and drums and detached, airy loops that are just the slightest twist on the formula.
You probably haven't heard of them, but you may have heard them regardless. Psyche Origami has provided some instrumental music for the theme songs for Adult Swim, and made some noise in the underground with their "Is Ellipsis" LP. The trio consists of Wyzsztyk (wiz-stick), DJ Dainja, and DJ Synthesis, and they rely on traditional sensibilities and a subdued party sound across their new album, "The Standard."
It is very hard to get into this record because of the relaxed music and Wyzsztyk's contentment to ride that relaxed music. The sound of the album is united under a fluid combination of samples, actual instruments, and the conventional drums and scratching. The concept is outlined more concretely in the track listing, which consistently references cars. It frustrates me greatly when the actual music is united under a pseudo-concept that isn't actually reflected in the music, and this is the case here. Luckily, they do not force this theme too hard at the listener, so each song is allowed to speak for itself.
Because of the harmony of the individual elements that Psyche Origami uses, very few songs stand out above the rest. "Directions" comes deep into the disc, and a wicked bass guitar and bumpy pianos provide a distinctly forward production via Squashy Nice. A memorable hook is the biggest difference here, though, as singing is inserted instead of the usual tired rap hook. All of the production is faintly catchy but always involving, so any true burners are eschewed for the good of continuity. Wyzsztyk doubles as Mr. Wyzard, producing most of the album, which creates a situation reminiscent of Large Professor's Main Source days. Since there are so many artists lending their lungs and guitar picks to the music, however, the project feels like much more of a group collaboration.
Wyzsztyk is not especially tremendous behind the mic. He has an adequate voice and sufficient flow, and seems rather wizened, but he simply treads along with the drums. He is as immersed in the music as I am, and this hurts him because he sounds like an extraneous part of the beat instead of a rapper. There are few witty one-liners, and though he appears to have command over each beat, he doesn't dominate the record like he could. This is probably a blessing, because the music is worth attention. "The Standard" might even stand up better as an instrumental project, because though the production is not stunning, it has the effect of an extended daydream. I can practically feel the sun shining, and although it is not for all moods, it is close to restrained brilliance.
"The Standard" inadvertently brings out an odd predicament. The musical values are such that a truly unique and engaging emcee is needed to enhance the experience of the album. Wyzsztyk is a little more than standard on the mic, so all he does is provide a bit more to listen to. The beats are all easy-going, though, so they don't necessarily require a rapper in order to succeed as soothing background noise. Regardless, the two elements complement each other sufficiently, so that neither rapper nor beat is hindered in the process. "The Standard" is a pleasant, agreeable, low-key party record that will suit most tastes in some manner.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: November 8, 2005