This debut full-length from Los Angeles' Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel, Postal Service) and Allen Avanessian (Mannequin Lung, Plug Research label boss) has been mercilessly bashed by the press. "It leaves you feeling broken, hopeless, and craving more," Stylus whined. "Hip-hop for assholes," Pitchfork bitched. Hmm. Anything provoking so much irritation must be damned interesting. And that Spacesettings certainly is. "But is it good?" you wonder. More often than not, yes.
Headset is tentatively mapping out the hip-hop equivalent of microhouse (see releases by the Perlon, Kompakt, and Logistic labels). Some snags need to be ironed out: Flows by Metalogic and nonGENETIC are weak, and some beats are too rudimentary and spindly for even the most suburban hip-hoppers. But thankfully, ex-Antipop Consortium member Beans and Japanese MC Lady Dragon lift the project verbally, and eccentric studio wizards like Daedelus, John Tejada, and Thomas Fehlmann spice Tamborello and Avanessian's already flavorful productions. On "Outward Sound," Daedelus twirls rococo flute lines around a subdued cool-jazz rhythm carriage; Tejada turns "Dunno" into dope, minimal click-hop that sounds mechanical and soulful, alien and funky; and on "Sound of a Squint," Fehlmann forges an elegant, old-world atmosphere somewhere between Chet Baker, Tricky, and Godfather soundtrack composer Nino Rota. Sure, Spacesettings is flawed, but you can't fault Headset's ambition. I look forward to the duo's next album, pooh-poohing critics be damned.
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