Fog (Ninja Tune)

The definition of hip hop has grown roomier than a puffy parka over the years, making space for clean-lined beatboxing, jazzbo noodling, "conscious" polemicizing, thugged-out terrorizing, and a hundred other forms. But perhaps no one has come up with a strain that sounds less like traditional rap music than Fog's Andrew Broder, a Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist who recently released his debut album via the English downtempo label Ninja Tune.

As demonstrated on Fog, Broder's music avoids all of hip hop's standard trappings, turning instead to grainy tape collages, schizo whisperings, and fuzzed-out guitar layers. The influence of Beck's chameleonlike psychedelia hangs like cobwebs in the rafters, from the four-tracking to the vocals, which Broder mumbles, mutters, and rants. Eschewing normal rap cadences, he tumbles forth oblique lyrics such as "Darkness at dawn, I crawled out of an empty dresser" (from "Check Fraud"). On occasion, Broder even croons like altcountry singer Will Oldham. His rural influences also show up in his penchant for acoustic guitar, which he plays in a lackadaisical, back-porch style. Still, the undercurrent of hip hop runs through Fog's music, in muted drum breaks, occasional blasts of cool jazz, and dizzy gusts of scratching (which incorporate unconventional source material such as kazoo solos).

Broder's choice of alias is surprisingly apt. His music, like that of his East Bay buddies in the Anticon collective, is as hazy as the bleakest of views from the Golden Gate -- thick with moisture and resolutely low-visibility. The project reportedly sprang from an extended bout with pneumonia, and it sounds like it. Bedridden, phlegmatic, slightly delirious, it's a document of fatigue and woozy inspiration, a bedroom recording of the addled mind.

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