Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap
DIY folk singer/self-help guru Kimya Dawson and word-heavy rapper/surrealist Aesop Rock might seem like unlikely partners, but it makes a certain kind of sense. In their respective careers both have served as voices for the underheard – the abused, bullied, dead. Both are eccentrics, with their own unusual vocal delivery. Both are OK with rough edges in their music – with joke songs, with songs that have an aura of work-in-progress.
The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing “Kryptonite,” opening track of The Uncluded’s inaugural album Hokey Fright, is that perhaps you’re listening to two songs at once. At first it’s all Kimya Dawson’s guitar strumming and sweetly melancholy singing, but a few moments in, as Aesop Rock’s baritone talks over and along with her, discordant and out of place, it sounds for all the world like he’s singing along and maybe the lyrics have been changed without anyone telling him. It’s unnerving at first, but also kind of addictive, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
When quirky indie rock acquired taste Kimya Dawson meets enigmatic hip-hop acquired taste Aesop Rock for a project, it sounds like an idea to just roll around the head or maybe an announcement to light up the blog, but it hardly seems like something that would stick to the bones. Jump to the 38-second stomper "Superheroes" included here, where the Uncluded members trade off some of their favorite snacks (Aesop: "Fluffer nutter!"; Dawson: "Shwarma!"), and Hokey Fright is a moldy peach to forget about, but it's only an interlude, and any old curmudgeon who clues into the album's hook might very well find it vital and charming. Hokey Fright explores unexpected interactions and reactions as an "Earthquake" shakes Dawson out of her home, just because the damn power is out.
Having already tested the water with collaborations on each other's recent solo albums, rapper/producer Aesop Rock and anti-folk singer Kimya Dawson (the Moldy Peaches) have decided to take their musical experiment further as a duo. Aside from the drums on debut single "Delicate Cycle," which were handled by Yo La Tengo's James McNew, Aesop and Kimya wrote, performed and recorded the entire album in a variety of locations, and it shows. A few songs sound professional studio quality, but many have a lo-fi, bedroom studio feel that suits the Uncluded's ego-free combination of Kimya's quirky singing and simple lyrics, Aesop's dense raps, their strange instrumentation and their melancholy lyrics about loss, from the story of a child grieving the death of its mother on folksy "Earthquake" to the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the shore of Halifax, NS on the funky "TV on 10.
The Uncluded’s debut album, Hokey Fright, is an oddly delicious mix from two odd performers. Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock share off-center delivery and lyricism. Their mix of irreverent folk rock and eloquent rap isn’t a likely pairing, but thankfully Dawson and Ace are just that good. Hokey Fright was born from talking about “mortality” and wanting to explore questions that have no answers.