Eschewing the usual funk and soul samples so common to underground releases, Psychokinetics give Sensory Descent a futurist spin by bringing elements of electronica into the mix. That's not to say the album isn't firmly rooted in hip hop: "Sexy Dress" features a loping, piano-driven groove underneath "party-and-bullshit" storytelling rhymes, while "Easy as It Looks?" addresses the time-honored subject of how difficult it is to stay true to yourself in the rap game. In the end, however, it's the songs that take a broader sonic approach -- such as "Eye Contact," which frames the MCs' dueling rhymes with a hectic, scratch-heavy beat similar to a techno remix -- that make the collection a varied and enjoyable listen. Sharing production duties with Champagne Fadey (Vérité and Living Legends beat maestro Slurface Tone also helm individual songs), Ill Media moves comfortably from straight-ahead hip hop thump to dense, hypersyncopated jungle flavor, sometimes within the space of the same song.
Over the course of the record Spidey and Celsius 7 show off a versatility that matches their producers. Both rappers nod to the melodic, sometimes tongue-twisting delivery of cerebral forebears Freestyle Fellowship and Organized Konfusion, but the duo avoids the overflowing syllable-gymnastics that often plague the backpacker set by studiously staying on beat. Spiritual concerns, artistic and personal self-doubts, and the idea of hip hop as a positive sustaining force take center stage with "Justalittlebit" and "Grey." The latter features soulful vocals courtesy of Celsius 7's sister, Kristin Battersby, and a chorus that betrays a vulnerability rarely heard from MCs: "I done lost my friends, lost my girl/ Lost my mind, but then I found this world." Sensory Descent balances roughneck mike-rocking with chill-out grooves and earnest sensitivity, as Psychokinetics push the boundaries of what one expects from underground hip hop.