Stagnation and Woe, PopMatters (US)

soso, the idiosyncratically-capital-letter-averse beatsmith behind Canada’s fiercely independent Clothes Horse Records, makes shimmering, gorgeous, and unbelievably beautiful beats.

His are the perfect piano chords behind the best work of artists from the charismatically-nerdy Epic to, well, soso himself, clear and clean and poetic like the stark black-and-white album art. Recyclone, on the other hand, is a dark whirl of an MC. He spits tumbly verses of flowing apocalyptica, dark visions and pain: “Mechanism of mentality creates car smashing demonology and orgiastic crowbar slavery,” the disc begins, adding later on within the first track, “Homeless kittens tossed to the gutter like bent bobby pins and used Q-tips / …Plastic finger nails, crunched up empty cigarette packages”. How, then, do these two styles work when put together? The answer, surprisingly, is such: entirely perfectly. Recyclone’s nimble abstractions of urban collapse fit soso’s production here to a tee, especially when soso switches up his usual style by mixing in elements of subtly chaotic machinery noise in the background. The percussive sound effects are never enough to quite mar the beauty of the beat, but they add a darker feeling that complements Recyclone’s lyrics well. Together, the two artists build and sustain a pitch-perfect mood of strikingly bleak, utter hopelessness, a mood that would probably wear thin if the album didn’t end after only seven tracks. Album-closer “The Introduction” blazes its way out on a wonderfully different note, Recyclone’s voice shifting and glowing with emotion as soso’s beat explodes with new, ominous energy and MC after dope abstract MC shows up to drop a verse. The aptly-named Stagnation and Woe may be short, but it’s a masterfully-executed, brilliant mood piece of a short album: worth every red-eyed, sleepless cent. [Insound]

— Michael Frauenhofer, PopMatters