If the ’90s were asked to imagine autumn 2009 in the form of a hip-hop album, the result would undoubtedly be Anti-Pop Consortium’s Fluorescent Black. This time-warp quality is most evident in the video for the group’s single “Volcano.” Grainy and simple in style, it finds the foursome wearing huge shades and rapping with a spandex-clad dancer, set against a PowerPoint-style gradient background. The song itself has an in-your-face quality as the Consortium’s blunt lyrics jump out from between bursts of synthesized sound. As on all of Fluorescent Black, the music behind the rapping in “Volcano” is minimalist and robotic, recalling the futuristic ethos we saw back in the time of the Y2K scare.
Anti-Pop Consortium’s flair for the experimental mostly manifests itself in the group’s tendency toward “glitch,” a subgenre of electronica that strips it to its bare essentials — unidentifiable computer sounds. This concept is exemplified in “New Jack Exterminator,” where electronic beeps provide just enough structure for the Consortium’s typically evocative and forceful lines. Some songs use electric guitar, “Born Electric” starts with a piano solo straight out of an ’80s power ballad and “Timpani” is anchored by its titular instrument. But ultimately, Fluorescent Black is a celebration of technology and the crazy noises it makes.
Despite requiring more listens than the average radio- or mall-friendly hit, Consortium’s music is not quite “anti-pop.” It’s likeable and sometimes even catchy, try as it might to be otherwise (and Consortium certainly does try to sidestep popularity — just listen to the off-the-wall metal guitar riff that opens the album). The group reigns in the odd noises and experimental tangents on Fluorescent Black, and no song exceeds five minutes. Anti-Pop Consortium manages to stay away from the cringe-inducing excess to which experimental groups often fall prey; one wouldn’t balk at hearing “Volcano” on a playlist following LMFAO’s “I’m In Miami Trick.”
In fact, Anti-Pop Consortium could be said to fall under the same “hipster rap” umbrella as LMFAO. Both groups have a bare-bones electrified style, and one can never be certain whether they’re honoring their old-school predecessors or just poking ironic fun. But Anti-Pop Consortium is more intense and more intellectual than its “hipster rap” buddies, especially when it comes to lyrics.
The stream-of-consciousness lyrics are the focal point of Anti-Pop Consortium’s music. The foursome met at a poetry slam, and it shows in their clear understanding of the sheer power of phonetics. Lines often jump between vague references that verge on totally incomprehensible (“Came through the door / A legacy of Moors / Hidden symbolisms blindfolded in the cores”), but the mere percussion in the words captivates and grips. Anti-Pop Consortium uses the vocal track as its main instrument rather than a final flourish — something all rap would be wise to do.
Surprisingly, Anti-Pop Consortium has more in common with post-rock outfits than with other rap groups. Consortium abstains from overproduction in favor of minimalist vamping, and the stripped-down result is darker and somehow more musical than that of their contemporaries. Anti-Pop Consortium goes for a futuristic vibe — maybe it’s time for the present to take note.