Sixtoo
Chewing On Glass & Other Miracle Cures
Ninja Tune
2004
C+



leaving aside for a moment whether it’s proper to assign music to genres, Sixtoo’s new album is particularly hard to assign to just one. “Old Days Architecture” opens with what sounds like a bit of Radiohead’s “Hunting Bears” before lurching into rolling, filmic quasi-funk of nondescript origin. “Boxcutter Emporium Part 2” is little more than a repeated fuzz tone, a one-note bass and cyclical drums for nearly five minutes (although its minimal construction doesn’t prevent it from being viciously effective). “Funny Sticks Reprise” and “Horse Drawn Carriage” feature the man himself sounding like Slug from Atmosphere (although more spoken word than rap proper), and the much talked-about Damo Suzuki collaboration “Storm Clouds & Silver Linings” lives up to the rocky grooves of Suzuki’s normal home. Meanwhile, the spooky “Snake Bite” practically begs for an Anticon alumnus to come along and give it (more) teeth, and the “Chewing On Glass”/”Sidewinders”/”Karmic Retribution” section (a mere five minutes total) sounds like the beginning of some ambitious post-rock band’s album.

So what is Sixtoo up to exactly? Known for his work with Buck 65, Sage Francis and others, this isn’t his first solo album. But it is his first, as he tells you in the exhaustive liner notes, doing more than “just sampling and sequencing sounds”. Sixtoo and a bunch of friends (including a couple from the GY!BE collective) played or created everything here, and then Sixtoo went to work. The result is a 55-minute patchwork complete with two sets of themed tracks (“Boxcutter” and “Chainsaw”) that veer all over the place stylistically, but keep the same mood. Everything here is in service of nailing a certain nighttime aesthetic, haunted and menacing in turn. Which is to say: if you go strolling down city streets after dark, Chewing On Glass & Other Miracle Cures is about the last album you want in your Discman.

Although many of the shorter tracks blend together when you’re not ear-deep in them, there are highlights that get stuck in your head; the vocal tracks, yes, but also “Old Days Architecture”, the eerie “Snake Bite”, “Boxcutter Emporium Part 2” and “The Honesty Of Constant Human Error” (maybe the closest track here to post-rock). The normal caveats for this type of instrumental, often-centreless music apply: A finer editing hand would have made this truly classic, as most of the longer songs are too loose and the short ones could have been thrown into proper focus. But that’s the sort of error that separates the truly epochal classics from the merely great albums that abound—it’s far from a mortal flaw.

Every time you think you’ve got Sixtoo pegged, another sound comes along to prove you’re wrong. There are other people doing vaguely the same sort of thing, with this resting roughly halfway between Blockhead and Fog on the axis between unformed rap instrumentals and more fully fledged song-based offerings. Sixtoo may not actually open his mouth too often here, but he’s definitely got his own voice, and it’s a compelling one.



Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-06-21
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