Aesop Rock, one of underground hip-hop’s most enduring and illuminating talents, has just released his new album Spirit World Field Guide via Rhymesayers Entertainment. The collection is arguably the most expansive and ambitious work in the verbose MC/producer’s storied career: a concept album of sorts, presented as a guide to an uncanny world parallel to our own.
Comprised of 21 insightful chapters of firsthand knowledge of the terrain, wildlife, and social customs of the album’s titular territory, bringing it to vivid life via hallucinatory images of killer eels, magic spells, and people on the run, peppered among anecdotes, recipes, survival tips, warnings, maps, drawings, and more.
“If you are among the countless individuals who find themselves feeling both dead and alive at the same time, the information contained within may serve as an invaluable asset to your journey,” states Aesop. “Godspeed and good luck.” Aesop has provided a track-by-track breakdown to the album at FLOOD.
The album’s titular world has been brought to life over the course of the past months via an ongoing series of music videos by Aesop’s longtime collaborator Rob Shaw, the third chapter of which, “Coveralls” has been released today. The clip follows previous installments “The Gates” and “Pizza Alley,” weaving together a cautionary narrative about a group of kids that discover a being that has crossed over from the spirit world and subsequently learn the dangers of not following the protocol of the Spirit World Field Guide.
“This newest video is the third installment of our Spirit World Field Guide arc, this time focusing on Maggie, the girl who filmed the glowing rabbits in the first video,” states Shaw. “We wanted to create a sort of ‘Spirit World TV channel’ that broadcasts strange programs to all the screens in Maggie’s room.
Interwoven with a glitched out Aesop performance there’s a slew of different shows including a skate video, puppet cooking show and animated political ad. It was really fun to play in all these different mediums with different looks and styles. This one is probably the most free form of the Spirit World Field Guide videos so far, but it still ties into the story set up in the other two. When I first heard the album, it felt like the soundtrack to a crazy movie and with each installment we get to make a little more of that movie.”
Aesop Rock has been on a creative tear lately that’s brought his lyrical and production skills to wholly unexplored territory. Last year he and Black Moth Super Rainbow mastermind Tobacco released a full-length collaboration under the name Malibu Ken that raised the bar on hip-hop synthesizer psychedelia to dizzying new heights.
This year alone he’s released the tightly wound standalone single “Rogue Wave” and Freedom Finger (Music From The Game), a 10-song EP recorded to accompany his friend, artist Travis Millard’s new video game. Aesop’s not just exploring new sounds, he’s also making more expressive music.
The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land permeates the album down to its sonic foundation. The beats are aggressive but appropriately haunted, with a touch of the otherworldly. This is seance radio, doomsday funk, high-anxiety head-nod shit. This is a master craftsman hitting a wild new stride. – Mike LeSuer
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ARTICLE: FLOOD/M. LeSuer/ Steaming Kettle
IMAGE: Aesop Rock