Nine:Fifteen enter their experimental phase having over the years carved away at the boom-bap underground coalface, but after giving notice with the recent Plastic Wrapped Couch. Blake9 continues to develop his funk sourcing that he has served with distinction as The Acorns and Yesterday’s Truth, noticeably with a bit more of an Edan-style plunge into swinging psychedelics. Pretty colours radiate from Guarded Things, taken hold off by a muddle of bespectacled yelper, bad karaoke rebel and groin-grabbing pop lizard, denoting emcee Comel_15 fully embracing NF’s step to the left.
Along with the involvement of Giant Panda’s Newman, the mic is treated to a shambolic wail leading acoustic improv that celebrates the near-mythical electric blanket, like it’s a comfort device/world-righting weapon, being pursued by a shapeless singing voice coming off as grief-stricken slash highly strung geek with the natural potential to annoy very quickly. Comel’s maverick mic gip breeds self-belief that he’s really making an artistic difference, assuming that the song-writing and tenor are in line for an Ivor Novello.
When back on the grind of strictly beats and rhymes, the results are sharp (the title track screams Humble Magnificent; the rickety guitar shunts pushing the hardened Rugged). The kooky throwback chords churning like clockwork on Around Again are worthy of Paul Barman poops and giggles, and more retro profiling accounts for the excitable drawling of Beautiful. As a well-intending paramour, Comel could easily have women walking in the opposite direction, as much as the off-centred may find it unconventionally alluring. With ’80s sleeves rolled to the elbow and a Mocky-inflated attitude on the synthesized Plan B, Nasty Boy, with a sleazily suggestive chorus intercepted by whining, has Blake9 whirling chords from a Pandora’s Box of heady ecstasy that Comel seems overwhelmed and overexcited by, as if it’s the first female contact he’s come across.
The mechanics of 9-15’s double act are now most apparent, Blake slaving away over the MPC as the straight man while Comel is a near-schizophrenic mess of excitement and fear, living on a tripwire trigger as prescribed on Best On and Dr Johnson. Condensing that feeling between nicely tipsy and drunk beyond belief – the room just ever so slightly beginning to spin with the likes of Beautiful Toofiltering from speaker to speaker unsteadily – the music never fails, reaching outside the lines without fumbling what it strives for and succeeding with both detail and direction. It’s unsurprising that the grogginess of the vocal – sometimes fitting the beats, other times hindering them self-indulgently – is the clincher between Electric Blanket being charged to your credit card and staying on the shelf.