Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Frankenstein Unbound

In the 90s, Frankenstein came out of Nowhere, Canada to win the hearts of the underground. He was that guy who get rave reviews in Rap Sheet, Vinyl Exchange and the emo Anticon forums all in the same month. He crossed all these borders and then kind of quietly faded away; and you could just tell as a fan that he'd never really unleashed the full fury of his catalog on us. He just hit us off with a few little tastes of what he was capable of, and then left us wondering.

But thankfully Ill Adrenaline Records have unburied his lost creations and are bringing them back to life. This right here is The Ill Laboratory EP, by Frankenstein and AZ, together known as Delphi Oracle. No, not the Nas's famous compatriot from Queens, and not the AZ from Mobstyle either. This is the AZ that, well, pretty much only appeared on Frankenstein's earliest singles. See, because Frankenstein rose up so unexpectedly on the scene, most heads missed out on the first 12" or two, and most people weren't fully up to speed until "Frankenstein's Pain" or "the Pain Remixxx," and just sort of hearing that there had been past bangers like "Peace and Quiet." Consequently, many may still not be aware that his first release was actually as part of the duo Delphi Oracle, where AZ was his partner both on the mic and in production credit.

So this EP - which, at 9 full-length tracks, they could've gotten away with labeling an LP - collects all of the Delphi Oracle material... both tracks off the debut 12", the remix that was the B-side to Frankenstein's first solo 12", and most excitingly, six never before heard unreleased tracks from '93-'94. And it's interesting to note that while they Frankenstein and AZ constantly share the mic and writing credits, only Frankenstein has production credit here, even for the previously released songs. So I guess Frankenstein was always the sole producer, and he was just generous in sharing the credit originally as Delphi Oracle? That's what we're left to assume, and anyway it makes sense as Frankenstein went on to produce on his own making instrumentals similar in style (albeit with a usually darker tone) and quality to what we hear here.

Anyway, the thing to know here is that the unreleased material sounds great. Not only is the sound quality top notch (a thing to check for in the case of unearthed demos like these), but the music is every bit as good as the ones we all know. Like I said, the tone is a bit lighter than his later stuff, but otherwise the production sound and the vocal stylings are right alongside their best work. It's a bit more light-hearted, and Frankenstein trading verses back and forth with AZ only enhances that more fun aspect, compared to Frankenstein's later stuff. Admittedly, lyrically it's not much to write home about; but they're all about just making their verses sound good and fun to listen to, and that they pull off without a hitch. There's even a song ("Sympozium") with a sampled hook as catchy and engaging as "Peace and Quiet."

This is a great release at a great price, and if you copped one of the first 100 copies, you got it pressed on opaque violet vinyl. And it's just the beginning. Ill Adrenaline has also released a CD called The Science of Sound, which compiles all of the material from Frankenstein's various 12" singles over the years, including two of the unreleased tracks from this EP. Handy if you don't already have his past singles, but otherwise Ill Laboratories is the one to pick up between the two. But even that's not all, Ill Adrenaline has also announced plans to release Agony To Ecstasy, Frankenstein's shelved album from the mid 90s. So 2014's shaping up to be a banner year for Frankenstein fans; but even if you only pick up one of his this year, this should probably be it.

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