BROCKHAMPTON Releases New Experimental Album 'Iridescence'
BY ISABELLE BEAUCHAMP
The revolutionary boy band returns with a new, experimental album and it's not going to be defined by one genre.
BROCKHAMPTON has been in the news quite a bit over the past year. Afte blowing up following the release of the SATURATION trilogy in 2017, the group was engaged in controversy following sexual misconduct allegations against former member Ameer Vann.
BROCKHAMPTON made the polarizing decision to remove Vann from the group causing confusion about their next release. The band changed the title of their highly anticipated project "PUPPY" to "The Best Days of Our Lives," which then turned into silence. The confusion, however, was cleared up in September when BROCKHAMPTON finally made some noise about their next project, announcing the album name Iridescence, tours, merch, and a release date. Something that was made clear during the promotion for this project was that this wasn't going to be SATURATION 4. On Twitter, BROCKHAMPTON member Kevin Abstract stated:
OUR ALBUM DOESNT SOUND LIKE SATURATION SO YOU CAN STOP HOPING FOR THAT LOVE ALL THE SUPPORT THOUGH MY PHONE ON 1%— kevin abstract (@kevinabstract) September 6, 2018
And, well, it definitely wasn't SATURATION 4.
Iridescence ventures to new ground that BROCKHAMPTON has never been to before. The album is much more experimental than the SATURATION trilogy, with a fuller, more intentional sound and mature lyrics. Iridescence straddles a variety of genres, and influences like Radiohead (who's Kid A was a "blueprint" for the group) and Kanye West are clear. The diversity in style comes off as jumbled and indecisive on select tracks, but overall, creates an album full of variety.
The album kicks off with the energetic "NEW ORLEANS," a smooth transition from the end of SATURATION 3. The bass is punchy, the lyrics are fun, and it teeters on the edge of experimental without throwing the listener into anything too daunting for the beginning. The next tracks switch up the pace: with a gentle piano and Bearface airily singing on "THUG LIFE," named after 2Pac, and the delicate "SOMETHING ABOUT HIM," Kevin Abstract's love letter to his long-time boyfriend.
From there, Iridescence plays with different sounds, styles, and production. Tracks like "WHERE THE CASH AT" and "J’OUVERT" are jolting and electric, with thick synths and heavy bass that sometimes overpower the vocals and try to be too many things at once. Songs like "SAN MARCOS" strips the bumping sound, reflecting on the band's beginnings and ending with a powerful refrain from the London Community Choir: "I want more out of life than this." "WEIGHT" is another gem, with each member vulnerably detailing their individual struggles with depression, drugs, and alcohol, and a mighty chorus which breaks down into a whirlwind of a switch-up. With all of its variety, Iridescence stays consistent with its rawness.
Success is a common theme on this record. Songs like the gritty "DISTRICT" and the tender "TONYA" express the group's grapples with it as Kevin raps how he "hated songs about fame 'cause that stuff meant nothing / Until them headlines came, then first flight I'm stuck in." It's easy to see where this inspiration stemmed from with their quick rise to stardom and the controversy surrounding the group in the past year.
While each one of the members have their moments (i.e. Kevin on "WEIGHT," Dom on "HONEY"), there are a few that stand out:
Merlyn wins with his unmatched energy. On the majority of the tracks, he does what Merlyn does best, which is yelling and rapping over an aggressive beat ("WHERE THE CASH AT," "NEW ORLEANS"). However, Iridescence also shows us a more tender side of Merlyn, proving his versatility. On "TONYA," he raps about his parent's lack of faith in his music career and on "HONEY," his distorted verse is sickeningly catchy, contrasting against the darker tone of the instrumental. While his lyrics have always been complex, his stripped down voice helps to highlight his writing abilities without ever losing his signature Merlyn energy.
Joba's versatility also stands out. Out of all the members, his voice best matches the group's new sound experimentation. The diversity in his voice ranges everywhere from a steady rap on "TAPE," to a gentle falsetto on "TONYA," to borderline sadistic screaming on "J’OUVERT." Joba's flexibility in his voice shows his strength as a BROCKHAMPTON member.
Ah, and Bearface. Blessed with rare tidbits of his captivating voice on SATURATION 1-3, Iridescence makes up for his silence on the prior trilogy. He breathes life into the rap-heavy songs and shines through on tracks like "TONYA." Also showing his rap skills on "NEW ORLEANS," Bearface's consistent appearance brings a new dynamic to the BROCKHAMPTON sound.
Dom McLennan and Kevin Abstract are impressive as well and play with vocal distortion and delivery. Matt Champion is surprisingly more subtle than the other members in his contribution to the project, but still delivers emotional, alluring verses on songs like "SAN MARCOS" and "VIVID."
Iridescence is about transition: in fame, friendships, and music. BROCKHAMPTON is daring on their new project and while sometimes jumbled, this new sound is intriguing and something to look forward to. In an era of change, Iridescence fits right in.
Lead Image Credit: Kevin Abstract / Instagram