This is another write-up I had planned on running earlier in the month, but life, as it does, got in the way. Why I elected to run the Earl Sweatshirt review when I had a much shorter one in my back pocket I don't know, but I have a feeling this one won't get quite the same response anyway. Still, my blog, blah blah blah, whatever, go eat your turkey and shut up.
Blessed with the backing of a label (Steve Aoki's Dim Mak) that actually appears to understand and/or give a shit about him, Kenna Zemedkun released the second chapter in his Imitation Is Suicide series (officially titled Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 2) in October. This marks the first sequel Kenna has promised his fans that has actually been released on time. This is a huge moment for Kenna, as he finally had enough support to attempt to see a project through to completion. (The third and final chapter is scheduled for release in December.)
Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 2 includes another three tracks, although instead of relying on production from the less-chatty half of The Neptunes (Chad Hugo), Kenna instead opted for the soundscapes of 9 Of Hearts. The final chapter is supposed to feature underground stalwart RJD2 behind the boards, which will probably interest more readers of this blog than anything else our host has done to date, but let's not start jumping ahead here.
1. LONG GONE
If I'm not mistaken, Kenna actually released “Long Gone” as a single shortly after 2011's still-underrated “Chains” as promotion for the now-aborted original second entry in the Land 2 Air Chronicles series. Which makes this hardly a new track, but that doesn't matter, as it still holds up today. Coming across as a lower-energy response to the sound of Tim William's “Trippin'” (itself another underrated song), Kenna uses the simple, moody beat to tease a potential lover on the prospect of a wild night before threatening to leave for good (to be “Long Gone”, as it were). Our host adopts a semi-aggressive route (to a point: he's still Kenna, after all, and that isn't meant as an attack), taking matters into his own hands and not giving much of a shit if things don't go his way here, since there are plenty of other fish in the sea anyway. This was pretty good, and it receives a bonus star for allowing Kenna to portray someone who isn't in love with love, which is the role he usually runs with. The 9 Of Hearts production was also appropriately affecting.
Although it isn't as though “Long Gone” was performed by a live orchestra in a meadow or anything, “Heaviness” amps up the electronic component of 9 Of Hearts's music, as Kenna attempts to locate the soul within the machinery. The instrumental builds subtly: it's a while before you even realize that they snuck a fucking piano in there. This is because it's so easy to get lost in Kenna's longing (which, yeah, he's back to again), even when he hilariously (in my mind, because I'm both a nerd and a dick) describes a relationship as a “Möbius strip”, which is still a pretty good concept, one worthy of a Charlie Kaufman script (or I guess I could try to write it myself, if I could just get through these goddamn reviews I've been slacking off on...). This was pleasant and quieter than what Chad Hugo came up with during the first chapter, but don't let that discourage you from giving it a shot.
3. LOVE IS STILL ALIVE
The final track on Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide -Chapter 2 is more optimistic and upbeat, but still deals with a subject that most would find depressing as fuck: the aftermath of a breakup. In song form, because duh, this is a song, Kenna realizes that his capacity for loving someone still exists even though the person he loves may not feel the same way anymore, but fuck it, he's still putting himself out there, because that's what love does and that's what love means and shit. The instrumental is peppy without seeming to be overly poppy, which is too bad, since “Love Is Still Alive” might have had a shot at regular radio rotation had the universe not somehow conspired to prevent Kenna from becoming even remotely popular. I'm pretty sure even those folks who first heard of our host in that Malcolm Gladwell article haven't bothered to actually follow up on the man's career. But I liked all three tracks on this EP. Good show, man.
THE LAST WORD: Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 2 is actually much more consistent than its predecessor, a strange feat when you consider that one of the three tracks on here was actually released two years ago. 9 Of Hearts turns in a more subtle approach to Kenna's tales of love, longing, and such, allowing the beats presented to be mere vehicles for the vocals to carry the listener away in. Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide -Chapter 2 works more as a cohesive project than the first chapter, but that isn't a knock on Chad Hugo: Kenna's first and, to me, finest collaborator allows our host to bounce around over harder-hitting percussion, an outlet that he absolutely requires at times. But it's also good to occasionally calm down. Kenna fans should buy this anyway, obviously, but the rest of you may want to check out a couple of tracks on YouTube.
B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “RELATIONS (AN ODE TO ME AND YOU) (REMIX)” (FEAT. CHILDISH GAMBINO)
When Kenna shot the video for “Relations”, a track from this EP's predecessor, he called upon rapper Childish Gambino, also known as actor-slash-writer-slash-stand-up comedian Donald Glover, a dude who I wish all the best, as I like the guy, but am still pissed off at because of his decision to leave Community, a sitcom that may be long past its sell-by date (six seasons and a movie? Does anyone think it'll make it that far without spinning its wheels?) but is still both watchable and hilarious, to spit a complementary verse. Chad “Shimmy Hoffa” Hugo's beat is exactly the same as before, as are Kenna's goofy-as-shit ramblings, with his hook now reminding me more and more of a sung version of the Butabi Brothers come-on from A Night At The Roxbury. Glover's verse meshes well with the proceedings, as his lyrical idiosyncratic-slash-nerdy vibe matches Kenna's intensity. Although I still find the overall track to be a bit lacking (“Wild, Wild Life” was definitely the winner from the first chapter), this is a much better take on the same material, I think.