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Brockhampton’s major label debut – and first since removing Ameer Vann – is their most experimental and fully-realised album yet.
Group leader Kevin Abstract claimed on twitter days before the release of Iridescence that “fourth albums are always the most interesting”; citing Radiohead’s Kid A as inspiration. Musicians always make exaggerated claims about which unexpected albums inspired them, but Kevin wasn’t lying.
J’ouvert is the strangest and best song on the album, the menacing basslines and electronic sounds display the Radiohead influence. Joba’s aggressive verse doesn’t even sound like he’s rapping, it’s a primal scream of pure rage; but somehow it works.
After building up a passionate fanbase and signing to a major label, Brockhampton made the bold decision to make their most experimental and least accessible album. Iridescence is a dark industrial hip hop album, lacking the catchy hooks and playful beats which launched them to prominence on their Saturation album trilogy last year.
Aside from a showstopping personal verse on Weight, Kevin takes a backseat for many of the songs; often contributing vocals so distorted to the point of being unrecognisable. This allows the other members to all have their moment to shine. Brockhampton used to sound out of sync with one another but they have continued to gel and grow as a group over the past year.
Brockhampton’s process is unusual; they announced the album before they had even began making it, and then recorded it in Abbey Road in just ten days. This process creates a sense of manic energy throughout the album, as if they are expressing how they feel in real time. However, the rushed schedule also leads to inconsistencies both in the quality and sound of the album; just as it did on their previous albums.
The albums rap-heavy approach is interesting considering it’s Brockhampton’s first album since they removed Ameer Vann, the group’s strongest rapper. Thankfully, on Iridescence the other members make up for Ameer’s omission to the point where you nearly forget about him. Dom takes Ameer’s place as the best straightforward rapper in the group with his rapid flows and naked emotion.
Brockhampton gained popularity due to their relatability as a group of outsiders, which is what makes Loophole – the only skit on the album – so jarring. It samples a clip of Cam’ron complaining about not being able to afford as many cars as he’d like to due to his label contract. The obligatory moaning about newfound success is cliché and makes them less relatable.
Groups containing so many members can lead to the sound of an album being pulled in multiple directions, this has often been an issue for Brockhampton; hard-hitting rap songs being followed by acoustic ballads. Iridescence almost avoids this issue by sticking to its darker industrial vibe, but then it loses confidence and reverts to sappy ballads for the final few songs.
San Marcos contains a choir and string section which makes it sound like an unused Band Aid song; it exemplifies how having a larger budget doesn’t necessarily lead to better music. Tonya takes the raw emotion displayed on many of their songs too far, Matt Champion repeatedly yelling “I don’t matter!” boarders on self-parody.
Iridescence is a necessary progression and change of pace for Brockhampton. It irons out some of their biggest flaws while highlighting others. If they continue to experiment and grow at this rate, maybe their next album will be their defining statement.
By Peter Comiskey