Curta :: Replica :: Curta Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Replica] "Nothing's new, free, or believable
that on the flavor palate has become, unretrievable
And we thought that the future would be babies born in beakers and light up sneakers
Instead it's iPhones and TV shows about tweakers
There's no sane zone, put your head between the speakers
There's no sane zone so put your head between the speakers..."
- "Maximize"

Curta's packet of info and associated website compare the Denver based band to several acts. How helpful those descriptions and comparisons are depends on your frame of reference. I just barely remember Aphex Twin from my college days and wasn't really a fan, so that one's not a helpful place to start, and I'm not sure I've ever given Coil a single thought. I am intrigued by the fact the latter recorded the original soundtrack for Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" though and (depending on whose point of view is taken) either had it rejected by the movie studio or withdrew it from release of their own accord. I might have to check it out.

One thing both of those artists have in common though is that their music is described as "experimental," which was also a word that Curta's own submission used to describe their raps. Surprisingly they also admitted in said same submission that it might be "difficult to cover" as a result - perhaps intentionally challenging me to review it in the process. I've never had a problem with reviewing "experimental" rap, although I'm also not afraid to say when I feel the results of the experiment don't work. Hip-Hop definitely needs artists willing to push the boundaries of what the arts of emceeing, deejaying and beatboxing are capable of, just as it needs graffiti artists who will try new styles of painting and on new canvases, as it needs b-boys and b-girls willing to create the next new dance to do. Even the failures push the culture forward to higher levels of success.

My, rice, pad-dy heart, losing-wa-ter-but-dressed
- "Bouncy House"

"Experimental" was definitely not an exaggeration. The hyphenation above is very much intentional, and I explicitly encourage readers to click on the embedded video and see why. Rapper Jake Danna is purposefully deconstructing and then reconstructing what you consider a "flow" in terms of rap lyrics over Brent Larsen's beats. He delivers the majority of words for "Bouncy House" in bro-ken syl-la-bles, and it COULD be annoying if it weren't for an airy minamilstic instrumental backdrop that cranks up some fairly crunk bass for the chorus of "This is my bouncy houuuuuse - please take your shoeeees off!" It's odd - and not in a bad way.

Another way that Curta's music was described to me before I hit play was "battle rap against the genre of rap." This is where I find the "experiment" to be somewhat less successful, because it's already a cliche of indie/underground rap to complain about how every commercially successful rapper sucks and the whole artform has gone to hell. There are some anti-rap rappers who can get away with it, but that's usually because they're coming with incredible punchlines or a supremely charismatic delivery - preferably both. I can't say that Jake lacks in charisma, but tracks like "Maximize" (ironically) don't take advantage of it. They come off like "poor me, I can't succeed in the world where Future and Fetty Wap are the rap kings, now listen to me complain about how I'd get more attention if I waved a f#%$ing gun around." No offense Jake - just calling it how I see it.

If there's one thing I don't need more of in my rap music it's rappers who bitch and moan about the breaks they don't get, whether it's "experimental" or not. I'm not saying all of Curta's music falls into this category, but there's a definite feeling of elitism pervasive to the presentation, challenging the listener to get on their level and sneering at anyone who can't. When it's not laced with an excess of self-pity it's definitely interesting, veering at times toward being more like spoken word poetry, with a tendency toward the verbosity and complexity of El-P, spitting "Suicide Artifacts" where Jake encourages the audience to think of his work as "the rap game's Jesse Pinkman."

"Curta is so future thinking that we're already dead" is an +Entry+ that was apparently slipped into their "Long Form Suggestion Box." I get it, and at times I even dig it, but it's a tough sell to a larger audience by their own admission and I have to agree. "A-B-C-D rhyme schemes won't save me" quips Jake, but neither will unreprentantly egotistical statements like "hey your concepts are dated/hey your concepts are ill-fated." Hip-Hop music does generally require a healthy ego, especially if you're competing with artists who are very protective of their spot, no matter how big or small that spot might be. You've got to be prepared to fight, to even get dissed, and to be willing to serve it right back. I'm convinced Jake and Brent are willing to suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune to get their point across - but it's just slightly too insular and self-absorbed to carve a niche with the masses - and purposefully so. I can't argue with the artistic choice to make art just to please yourself, but I have to consider the listener too and say "Replica" definitely isn't for everyone.

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

Originally posted: August 25, 2015