Album Review: Hermit and the Recluse – Orpheus vs the Sirens (2018 LP)

“Devestation laced in my presentation”

Ka’s delivery of this line from Orpheus, part of a collaboration project with producer Animoss, is one of the best stylistic summations of an album written in recent memory. The duo, operating under the pseudonym Hermit and the Recluse have worked together on a beautifully dark piece of music, heavily inspired by the story of Orpheus from Greek Mythology.

Orpheus is a mythical musician said to be able to silence the Sirens in the Tale of the Golden Fleece – this motif of silencing forms the initial idea of the album and isn’t just some throwaway concept to achieve some vague aesthetic, Ka and Animoss take on this section of mythology, and incorporate it deeply into their writing and sampling.

Ka’s rapping is well respected and established in underground circles – with a dark, idiosyncratic style that foregoes speed and flow for an almost incantation-style of delivery. His voice is restrained and deftly timed, allowing his beautifully tortured and vivid writing to come to the forefront, as he paints these pictures of Brownsville (his home) and his experiences that have shaped him. Devastation is truly laced within the presentation of his music, leaving listeners in turmoil as he explores conflicting perspectives with no real resolution – he simply presents these twisted stories, and then the song ends. The feeling Ka’s music communicates it intangible – only somewhat captured by his music video style, black and white, slow transitions, and long shots that feel so bleak and insular they’re almost difficult to watch – you want to stop watching, but can’t turn away.

His writing for this project is in top form – constructing sophisticated bars that crash like waves over Animoss’ percussion. He interpolates the story of Orpheus seamlessly, also shifting to other philosophical figures like Sisyphus to explore different themes. The usage of source material in constructing the structure of songs reflects an incredible level of creative planning in the construction of the album. Not only does the writing for each song match the title in one way or another, elements of relevance are incorporated in lyrics – making crime-ridden New York feel like Ancient Greece.

Animoss’ production cannot go ignored either. The chemistry with Ka’s writing is second-to-none, there’s no awkwardness or weird flows incorporated to catch the beat, Ka’s voice just slips into the gaps in the instrumentals, gelling beautifully. The cascading violin on “Sirens” is as beautiful as it is apocalyptic, evoking this feeling of a constant downward trajectory as Ka leads the listener there through his writing. “Argo” has a similarly beautiful instrumental, with shill synths alternating between notes forming this beautifully syncopated rhythm despite it’s dizzying quality – ‘the ugly elegant’ Ka says he speaks works in unity with these instrumentals, elegant and refined instrumentation spun and looped in such a way it’s almost jarring. The dismantling of these more classical musical elements adds to the hellscape that is Ka’s world.

Orpheus vs the Sirens is unlike any other rap project released this year. There are so many moving parts to this album, and they all combine to form such a unique listening experience. Ka and Animoss have collaborated perfectly, with such grand showings of skill only accentuating the finer points of the album. It may slip through the cracks commercially, but this album is one to listen to.


FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Orpheus vs the Sirens is out now.

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