With the fate of jazz hanging in a delicate balance, Antipop Consortium and Matthew Shipp imagine a new experimental future that is at once a return to jazz's rich traditions and a radical departure into untrodden sonic terrain. Drawing notions of rhythm, tonality and structure akin to the work of avant-garde greats Roscoe Mitchell, Sun Ra and Kool Keith, Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp is an inventive, spaced-out fusion of classical free jazz and futuristic electro hip-hop. Alternating between chaos and order, the music takes the form of a collage, building to hypnotic heights of creativity. In this calculated disorder, the players freely move in and out of the listener's ear and their respective idioms. Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp succeeds in not only challenging the listener's preconceptions, but also suggesting a direction for others to follow.
Opening with the aptly titled "Places I've Never Been," Shipp draws the listener into a musical wilderness through a series of classical keystrokes. Joined several bars later by Antipop's polyrhythmic programming, the two quickly abandon jazz's main path and venture down an experimental side-road, driven by percussive piano comps and angular electro beats. Recalling the spatial free-jazz arrangements pioneered in the 1960s by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Shipp and Antipop maintain an open form throughout A.V.M.S., allowing instrumental outgrowths to bridge the rhythmic gaps. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's second cut, "Staph." Opening with a similarly classical piano progression, the track's steady rhythmic momentum is quickly disrupted and then reconfigured by a string of lethal poetics. Delivered in such a way as to emulate the flow of dueling horn solos, Antipop's stream-of-consciousness rhymes push and pull the beat along at variant speeds. "Desire is lighter than air, which violates laws of gravity with determination to rise/ But a desire never hits the market and nothing more than a souvenir/ Malfunction."
Other notable cuts include the mesmeric "SVP," in which Antipop and Shipp take a spectral piano riff and gradually build it into a towering bastion of sound. Also impressive is the primal "Monstro City," in which darting piano comps and organic programming effects snap and crackle around a steady lyrical heartbeat. "Few and far between/ The pain leaks from the drips in the ceiling/ Filling the buckets overflowing with self-pity/ What was I to ponder why/ Reasons are led hand in hand by the smoke of her cigarette/ Imparting ways like strokes in her hair/ Gentle against her cheek."
However, the album's high point is the riotous "Free Hop." Here, Shipp is joined by a skilled troupe of free jazz specialists (William Parker, bass; Guillermo E. Brown, drums; Khan Jamal, vibes; and Daniel Carter, trumpet) who cooperatively push one another well beyond any traditional threshold. Erupting into a cacophonous torrent of sound, "Free Hop" is an instrumental tour de force, proving that inspired free jazz is alive and well today.
Arriving at a time when jazz is in desperate need of any new creative direction, Antipop vs. Matthew Shipp is not only a welcomed arrival, but also a formative piece in the consistently evolving jazz-rap genre.