Review: Food for Animals, “Belly”

Food for Animals
Hoss Records

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

You could say that D.C. crew Food for Animals are part of the current hip-hop zeitgeist. Like any progressive B-boy lustfully idolizing the indie-dance scene, the quartet plays with Baltimore club beats, and their tracks have a certain frission reminiscent of Justice. But FFA are too intellectual and clever for the hipsters. Producer Ricky Rabbit eschews easy 4/4 bass patterns for stop-start drum percussion, layers on harsh cascades of post-punk noise, and slices up vocals and samples into little daggers that stab up the track.

The group’s debut, Belly, updates the soundclash imperative celebrated by everyone from the Pop Group and Crass to Techno Animal and DJ Spooky. Its are best absorbed as song-stews instead of traditional songs. The group’s few attempts at traditional verse/chorus lyrics, such as “Shhhy” and “Mutumbo,” make a bigger impact with its panoply of sounds, including Vulture V and Hy’s raps, than the choruses. The music is intense, but it also lacks emotion and drama. Unlike Dalek, another group that mixes experimental aesthetics with hip-hop flows, Food for Animals like to make romps, not psychodramas. A little more conceptual direction and better songwriting, however, would make Belly more than an acid-tinged collection of industrial-stength B-more bangers.

Some of the best cuts on Belly include “Belly Kids,” which opens with 45 RPM chants of “Take drugs” and “Trapped in the Belly” and devolves into a soliloquy, with birds chirping in the background and machines whirling out of control. Vulture V paints a picture of societal decay, rapping, “I see paychecks rust/Taxicabs dust/And your wings in the belly get crushed/Acid turns feathers into skeletons/Water full of flies because the power trip’s irrelevant.”

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