Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Custodian of Records, Lost and Found

You may remember me writing about my disappoint in Domination Recordings for not pressing up any physical copies of The Custodian of Record's surprisingly impressive 2009 debut, Burton Music, in Hip-Hop Connection. After that, they did eventually press up a handful of CD copies (which I thus like to take credit for), but those were promo only. It was basically just relegated to being an mp3-only release, which is a shame, because this was really the sort of music created to exist as a real, tangible object. I mean, even the cover art was designed to look like a 12" record label.  Plus, of course, all mp3-only releases are just shames in general, but that goes without saying. Anyway, years later, that musical injustice has finally been righted, as Burton Music is now finally available to own... on cassette.

It's been put out by Lost Records, one of the most slept on of the limited releases, though they might've briefly pinged on your radar when they dropped J-Force's unreleased 12". And, oh shit! Looking at their site now I see they're putting out Z-Man and White Mic's awesome Vegetable and the Ferret EP on green vinyl! Why didn't I know about that? Whew, anyway. They've also made a limited run - 100 copies - of The Custodian's debut album on red cassette, at a normal, non-limited price.

Fun fact, Burton Music is actually an expansion of an earlier, self-released CD by The Custodian, simply titled The EP. That EP featured 11 tracks, plus three bonus beats. All of those songs wound up on Burton (some titles changed; but the music's all unchanged), except the bonus beats, which remain exclusive. Good luck finding that, though - I only got one because Custodian sent me one directly, which is actually how I first heard of him years ago. But it's really a hardcore collector's item only, because not only does Burton feature all the full songs from the EP, but it adds a whole bunch more, for a total of 20 tracks, making it the definitively desirable version.

You probably won't recognize many of the featured artists on here. I'm from Jersey and look out for NJ hip-hop, and even I hadn't heard of most of the MCs on here. The only names you'll probably know are Shawn Lov who has a song called "Man We So High" and an appearance by Thirstin Howl III, appearing alongside a guy named Murdoc. But the important thing to know here is that they all deliver the styles and ethos that The Custodian is shooting for on this project. This isn't a variety album. Custodian does make a point of showcasing that he can make music that doesn't all sound the same. But unlike most producer-based albums where every song is by a different artist, it doesn't feel like a scatter-shot collection of songs going off in all directions with no through-line of tone. Perhaps because he's not working with a lot of quasi-celebrity egos, he's able to wrangle everyone together for one cohesive vision. In other words, where most of these type records wind up being a compilation packs that just happen to be entirely produced by one guy, this is decidedly The Custodian's album.

This winds up meaning that there are no weak spots. Over the course of twenty songs and a loaded roster of MCs and groups, that's surprising. But the production ranges only from terrific to very good, despite its length, there's nothing here to skip.  ...Well, that's maybe not entirely true. There's one instrumental bit near the end that sounds like he's just letting the soundtrack to an old Emanuelle movie play through. Seriously, what's up with that? But it's not bad per se, just a weirdly random moment. And it's short, so it barely registers.

Don't let the fact that most of the names are unfamiliar put you off. I really recommend you check this one out. Sure, you can look at a Wu-Fam group album and recognize all those names; but they'll be sloppy messes with only intermittent points genuinely worth having in your collection. Not here, the whole album is tight, and nobody comes off as a cornball. I'd like to see Dreddy Kruger pull that off.

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