Aesop Rock’s New Album, Guide to the Spirit World, is a Trip You’ll Want to Take
“I have been assembling my notes for some time now. My intent is to create a guide for anyone whose path may lead them to this unwavering otherness. There are days I fear my work will only serve to create more confusion about what I’ve found / but I felt it nеcessary to stay the course in hopеs that these insights may be illuminating for some.”Aesop Rock Guide to the Spirit World
The introduction to Aesop Rock’s 2020 Spirit World Field Guide is loud, direct, and hides nothing. From this small excerpt alone one understands Aesop’s mindset. After roughly 4 years without a proper album, the rapper and emcee returns with a fleshed out, cohesive project that invites you into his world- or more specifically, the spirit world. With acute attention to detail in both production and writing, the handcrafted project emanates the painstaking care it must have required. Following up various EP’s and even a videogame soundtrack, the newest installment in his discography is a testament to his skill and dedication to his craft.
Building His World
Aesop Rock has plugged many years into the game, and has seen a transformation along his path. This is his eighth solo record, and despite his veteran status, he is far from a decline. In fact, quite the opposite. As the years have passed, Aesop began to involve himself more and more deeply in the production of his projects. Evident in the tight but playful psychedelic flourishes throughout the album, it’s clear that the rapper invested himself fully into engineering an intricate soundscape for each song. Every track is distinct in it’s creation, from the lush synths to the beautiful keyboard and guitar melodies. Managing to compose an hour long creation that ebbs and flows while maintaining diversity is a feat by itself, and Aesop locks it down, laying the groundwork for the lyricism that he is known for.
Never Wasting a Word
Earlier in his career, critics of Aesop Rock often pointed to his incredibly dense wordplay. It was easy to become lost mid verse when such a wide range of subjects and rhyme schemes is packed so tightly and wound up to the extreme. Although that was characteristic of the scene his trajectory was launched from, it’s clear that his way with words has been honed to new heights. Despite bringing staggering amounts of memories, morals, and comparisons in each line of the project, it is delivered with breathier flows and more conscious timing. While I will admit that there is absolutely no way that I caught every reference and point made by Aesop in my playbacks, it’s important to acknowledge that the writing composition is significantly more digestible than on previous releases.
As for subject matter, one could write pages about the topics covered throughout the 21-track guide. It suffices to say that Aesop investigates and uncovers in detail both his own personal experiences and those of the world. While the album is meant to be a guide for those wanting to explore the spirit world, listening feels as though you are on a ride through it with him. Interspersing humorous imagery with seriously introspective bars, it’s this mashup of thought provoking writing that propels you into his world, with all the paranoia or healing that comes with it.
I would normally say something like “say about half as many words and I’ll understand twice as much of what you’re trying to get across,” but frankly I had the feeling all along that this is an album where you get out of it what you put in. Listen closely and pick apart every meaningful line, or nod your head and be lifted along the trippy, boom bap ride. Regardless, you’ll be carried away to the Spirit World, but rest assured, you’ll find yourself deposited on the other side knowing that Aesop knew exactly what he was doing. Have a good trip!