Baxter’s wordplay and the imagery he articulates show that the music he’s making is increasingly getting darker as he matures and at the same time more engaging for the listener; he’s clearly a rhymesmith that is on an upwards trajectory in terms of his ability.
High Focus Records continues with its steady stream of releases in 2014 with the release of Jam Baxter‘s …So We Ate Them Whole, a project fully produced by Telemachus (also known as Chemo). The single producer format is one that seems to work well for the label following on from Fliptrix‘s Molotov-produced superb Polyhymnia. Baxter’s fourteen-track album was recorded over a period that included him living in a squat house, snapping his arm at Outlook Festival and the following recovery period in north London. Taking into consideration past form, we were expecting …So We Ate Them Whole [SWATW] to be a solid demonstration of his ability regardless, however upon receiving our copy we were very impressed from the very first listen. Some albums are ‘growers’ and take several listens to appreciate the quality of the art but not with this project.
Before we get to the music, we have to mention the artwork. Whoever at the High Focus camp is in charge of scouting artists for their projects needs a pay rise. The label has harnessed quite a reputation for their high quality artwork on their single and album releases as well as the physical copies of their releases and SWATW is no exception.
…So We Ate Them Whole follows up the very well-received Fresh Flesh EP that he released in the summer alongside Jon Phonics however the sound you’ll find on this, although in some respects present similarities , is completely different. Baxter’s wordplay and the imagery he articulates show that the music he’s making is increasingly getting darker as he matures and at the same time more engaging for the listener; he’s clearly a rhymesmith that is on an upwards trajectory in terms of his ability.
Our first taste of SWATW came from the video for the lead single, Leash, about a month ago. From a musical perspective, Baxter’s flow over Telemachus’ invigorating bassy beat is rather upbeat and demonstrates that he can adapt over any instrumental. Chemo is no amateur, he’s been mastering his craft for years and we can imagine it would be rather intimidating for some rappers to hop on one of his beats but JB demonstrates he can more than hold his own. A great first single and probably our favourite track on the album for its ability to get our heads moving so aggressively. From a visual perspective, the video is beautifully disgusting and dark (see for yourself above) and features Baxter pulling out flies from his ear canal… call us squeamish or paranoid but as far as we’re concerned it’s the stuff of nightmares. That aside, beautifully directed and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album.
Back to the project as a whole, it kicks off with a song with a title that many of us have heard when we’ve attempted to buy some grease-dripping fast food at a ridiculous hour after an alcohol-fuelled night out. Wings Cost Extra is an atmospheric expedition into the minds of Chemo and Baxter. The instrumental is a layered with soft keys, mellow drums and seasoned with twinkles of what sounds like a xylophone; perfect Sunday evening listening. Baxter paints a grim picture of London as he describes his own experiences in this world but in what seems a dark nightmare; can’t help but imagine his view of London as a cross between Blade Runner, Mad Max and Water World.
“The smell of crack wafts from the brothel beside the chicken shop, above a sewer teaming with giant beetles and killer wasps, opposite the corner are kids gorging on forbidden slop” – Jam Baxter on Wings Cost Extra.
Caravan features a much busier instrumental and ups the tempo. By the time you get to track two, the maturity we mentioned above is abundantly clear. Baxter clearly feels no pressure to put out a certain type of hip hop and is willing to explore his own mind and paint some beautiful picture with his words. The fact that we very much see Chemo in the same light is most probably the reason that this partnership has facilitated Baxter putting together a body of work that is unlike his previous material.
Another one of our favourite tracks is 28 Staples. With an instrumental that is reminiscent of the best 80s arcade game soundtracks with the addition of a rather intricate low-frequency bassline. We’re going to go out on a whim and say that the title refers to the damage that Baxter inflicted on himself at Outlook Festival when he injured his arm. The track examines in detail life on a hospital ward as he tried to recover from his nasty accident. An interesting track entrenched in metaphors with references to Bacardi Breezers, front-left speaker meeting points, taking partying to extremes and the titanium in his arm. Husk is a rather strange affair, begins with a rather eerie intro that leads into steel pans but yet keeps its dark character.
Everything is “a song about a girl number 467” as Jam Baxter puts it. The abstract, static infused instrumental lies under a beautiful chorus that sounds like a siren on the high seas in the way that it pulls you in. As you take your musical journey through …So We Ate Them Whole, you’re constantly reminded of the versatility of Jam Baxter and how well the partnership with Telemachus has worked out. Menu features High Focus label mates Dirty Dike and DJ Sammy B-Sides. Baxter and Dike tell tales of their shenanigans as they tour the world while Sammy cuts up some great vocal samples over a beat that is probably the closest you’ll get to a conventional hip hop beat.
…So We Ate Them Whole represents Jam Baxter at his most experimental. His partnership with Chemo and the immense talent he also brings to the table come together to create a thoroughly enjoyable through the minds of both them. All things considered, this is a project that clearly has no filler tracks and created with a vision in mind; as far as we can see the pair have done themselves proud and in the process given us some amazing music to enjoy.
The album is out on Monday 1st December on High Focus and you can purchase it from iTunes, Amazon or directly from the High Focus store if you want the physical copy with some amazing artwork, both CD and vinyl are available. To celebrate the release of SWATW, the HF gang have also got an incredible line up for the album launch party details of which you can get below – not a night to miss so grab your tickets here.