Glimmering rows of code continually slide beside each other like the planet’s shifting plates, the tectonics of technology quietly growing more powerful than any earthquake. To many born before the millennial generation, we have entered the future; the present, subject to incessant satellite updates, troves of tweets and glistening pixels, is more automated than many of us acknowledge. Corpus Christi emcee Kevin Abstract as we know him is an Internet Child, a conflicted, complicated offspring of two worlds—one physical, the other online—competing for importance.
The very best albums act as generational statements. Whether discrete or unsubtle, the loosely familiar feelings we all share embed themselves in the finest bodies of music like DNA, like video codes in a WordPress post. Listening to a given song and successfully deciphering or relating to its lyrics is a testament to communication in itself; however, a similar phenomenon found throughout a full length is rather rare. Some pieces of pop culture culminate underlying behavioral trends and subcultures and bring them to the forefront, defining the actions of those it touches (Entourage). Others are largely labors of reflection, painting vivid pictures through an autobiographical lens (good kid, m.A.A.d. city).
MTV1987, Abstract’s free album, picks and chooses from each school of thought, documenting his own dashed dreams and hopes in hope that we do not decline his invitation—to love, to wonder, to scream and then hope some more. Fortresses of internal design fall, crumbling as the teenaged artist attains a meditative place of honesty through catharsis until few walls are left. “Drug Dealer” concludes a 12-track project dripping with depressive melancholy and interspersed aggression; the outro’s superficially tranquil instrumentation never wavers, but clacking keys and filtered vocals curtly interrupt its blissful calm. Though this record might have saved Abstract’s life, a newfound place of peace is not as stable as Romil’s production sometimes suggests. The juxtaposed tension is exhilarating, an overarching nod to the satisfying escape offered by the internet and the uneasiness it leaves behind. It’s not real, after all—or is it?
The rainy road to Abstract’s temporary end is built upon stockpiles of terabyte storage systems and a penchant for the dreary. He grants his listeners access to his personal vaults, unabashedly sharing his struggles: “Dad,” the fittingly titled introductory interlude, hints at a small but straining disconnect with his busy, absent father; “Drugs” narrates the tale of a lover in love with illicit substances, alternating between synth cacophony and smooth, romantic crooning; and “Save,” a previously released single, frighteningly depicts Abstract drowning in familial relations, plagued by suicidal thoughts. “I’ve been dead my whole life,” raps the morose Alive Since Forever founder.
The project is not entirely downbeat, infusing string-led contentment and major chord progressions into the one-two punch of “Tame Cab” and “Degas Park.” Abstract hardly forgoes introspection, though, asking a pair of perfectly synthesized questions most can appreciate: “Is it love that we’re fighting for?/Do I trust you enough with my soul?” The stellar songwriting brings an already cinematic track to new heights, casting the night’s shade over a relationship that had once blossomed.
Abstract never directly engages with others on MTV1987. Though no reclusive mute, he is at his most expressive when the path to his listener is unobstructed. When he is left alone. Three sonic landmarks evenly segment the project’s cohesive soundscape, anchoring his story with a beginning, middle and end. The trio of interludes illustrates Abstract’s vantage point better than any of the other nine songs. His computerized, glitchy voice is high pitched and piercing, as if trapped in a bubble barring normal interaction. These chapter dividers embody entrapment, a devastating claustrophobia that ties so much of Abstract’s aesthetic together. MTV1987 is musically adventurous, an AOTY contender, but its true worth comes from the mostly meticulous execution of a simple idea: no one is alone if we all are.
4.5 out of 5
You can download MTV1987 here and stream it below.