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The press release for the new Beans record had me salivating at first glance – his first set to be made up of entirely guest productions, featuring the likes of Four Tet, Clark, Tobacco, Tortoise and Son Lux. I wondered how this would translate into a coherent whole, and shortly after decided that the words should stitch it all together nicely.
Beans' stuttering staccato flow has always been a defining feature of his 'alternative' take on hip hop, admittedly allowing him to pack a lot of words in, firing them out at a speed that makes them nearly incomprehensible on first listen. His style blends new and old school methodology to curious effect, but in this instance works against the ebb and curve of the album, marking him out as a rapper with something to prove from the first to the last bar, a desperation echoed in the LP's title.
Instead of endearing the listener to his plight, the all-or-nothing rapping approach adopted on End It All lends it a sense of misplaced self-confidence, as though Beans has been reassured that he still has it, and can go it alone, but isn't so sure himself. Take opener 'Superstar Destroyer' as an example; the hook emphasises that he's "still the champion", before descending into a miasma of rhymes which he apparently hopes will illustrate this fact to all the haters out there. Likewise, 'Air is Free' starts as a rant about US foreign policy, but closes as an exercise in self-adulation and ego tickling.
The funky, abrasive 'Glass Coffins' is more or less what you might expect from Tobacco's production suite – big synths dominate the mix with fuzzy intensity, melody carried by arpeggiated analogue wobble. Son Lux's 'Blue Movie' features sweeps of orchestral strings counteracted by a swaggering beat with layers and layers of distortion. 'Deathsweater' (prod. Nobody) is just about the only track that seems to have its tongue in its cheek, but even so feels lacking in substance and too reliant on its chorus.
'Anvil Falling' has to be the oddest creation Four Tet has put his name to, clocking in at under one minute and surfing on an acidic synth that strays wildly out of control over a junkyard breakbeat. Clark's 'Hunter' closes the LP and is more preditable, squeezing elements of techno into a hip hop template to sound akin to a Turning Dragon-era prototype. Once again, Beans' lines settle uneasily on the backing beat and are over before you have chance to focus your attention properly.
I am not for a second questioning the raw technical prowess of Beans' rapping, because this is one of the first things that jumps out at you. But 13 breakneck tracks in just over half an hour is frankly too much for the brain to properly absorb, and that's coming from someone who considers themselves a big fan of the genre. The same can be said for the 90-mile-an-hour, Anticon-released Tobacco LP Maniac Meat. And while all the productions presented on End It All show real depth and attention to detail – like most releases associated with Anti-Pop Consortium – the words leave a bitter taste and the faint suggestion that Beans is way better with APC than without.