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Haziness, leisure and organic imprecision are the gifts of the Internet, the R&B band that emerged from the Odd Future collective. In its own deceptively nonchalant way, the group has been defying the hard-edge, quantized norms of digital pop and hip-hop; it prefers insinuation and seduction to brittle transparency. The slow grooves of the songs on its fourth album, Hive Mind, seem to bubble up from quiet, clandestine late-night jam sessions, blurred with dust and smoke while sometimes revealing stray noises, fugitive instruments and little hidden pockets of reverb and distortion.
The Internet started as a duo of producers and songwriters: Sydney Bennett, who was Odd Future’s sound engineer and called herself Syd tha Kid (now simply Syd), and the keyboardist Matthew Martin, who called himself Matt Martians. Their cluttered but exhilarating 2011 debut, Purple Naked Ladies, indulged a multitude of whimsical, psychedelic-soul impulses in the studio. The next two albums, Feel Good and Ego Death, solidified their touring group into a band — with Steve Lacy on guitar, Patrick Paige II on bass and Christopher Smith on drums — and cleared away some of the musical tangents.
The album opens with Come together, a distant 21st-century echo of Marvin Gaye’s What’s going on, with thoughts about divisiveness and uncertainty over a jumpy bass line, wondering “What we gon’ do”; then voices gather out of nowhere to insist, “They gon’ get us to come together.” In Roll (Burbank funk), Lacy urges, “Listen to your heart/What’s it sayin’?,” but what matters just as much is the suavely strutting groove.
In Mood, Syd reveals the tactical thinking during a date: “Right where I want you/I check my posture.” And in Wanna be, she ponders how to move from friendship to romance, as creamy vocal harmonies — part Chi-Lites, part Beach Boys — hint at blissful possibilities. But Syd is no pushover. In Look what u started, a skulking bass line carries withering accusations: “You blame it on your problems but it’s no excuse/You can’t keep playing innocent — I know the truth.” In La di da, she casually brushes off a guy: “Face it, I’m out of your league,” she sings, adding, “Sorry that I’m so blasé.” Saving face, he insists, “I just came to dance, catch a groove,” and the song provides a snappy one, peppered with wah-wah guitar and Latin percussion.
The album is filled with near-subliminal details like those: furtive guitar licks, cymbals tapping quietly against the main beat, squirmy little synthesizer lines. There’s plenty of room for Syd (and occasionally Lacy) to sing their stories, while behind them there’s not a digital vacuum, but the stealthy, vital, unpredictable stuff of life. NYT