The Google-defying Thavius Beck strikes me as something of a mythic figure, based mostly on this impressive Google defiance. A search yields minimal information on the enigmatic Beck — ditto for prior recordings under the moniker Adlib. Unfortunately, a myth isn’t exactly warranted. If you’re looking for high-style hip-hop production with radically progressive rapping, try Antipop Consortium. If you’re into eerie drum ‘n’ bass ‘n’ sampling, DJ Shadow’s your man. And if you’re in the market for semi-interesting use of extended voice samples, unjustifiable repetition, and some ill-fated rapping, stop the search with Thavius Beck.
Like a lot of deejay music, almost all of these songs begin promisingly and hold up for at least a minute or two. But it takes a damn good groove to ride it out for five-plus minutes, and this is Decomposition‘s pitfall. Clearly Beck’s most interesting aspect is his use of extended voice samples, often taken from speeches. “To Make Manifest” lifts the inspirational bravado of a motivational speaker and places it in a confusing and unresolved context. “Think. Action. Now,” the speaker says gravely. Is he inciting us, the populace, or is this the dictum fed to (and fed to us by) the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld axis of idiocy prior to the invasion of Iraq? The irony is obvious either way, since thinking doesn’t seem to be something the U.S. government does with any clarity right now, and it’s also exactly what young people are discouraged from by the big boys on Capitol Hill.
The best speech-based piece is “(Music Will Be) The Death of Us All.” A speaker calls for the “Judgment of the sacred fire of this hour over the throne of almighty God,” and proceeds with an unwieldy list of damnable celebrities and concepts — Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, David Bowie (pronounced as in Bowie, MD), Sheena Easton, fashion, Patti Smith, etc. But, as is the theme of Decomposition, poor editing dilutes an interesting idea and the song drags tediously.
The songs that include rapping more prominently than voice samples are frustrating, since they’re also the ones with the strongest musical production. Beck’s rapping on “Open Your F*@!ing Eyes” sounds wooden and self-consciously self-serious, like he’s just spitting it out without much grace or lyrical acuity. “Exercise Caution” is similarly bungled. It opens with a dirtily badass beat similar to those on A.R.E.Weapons’ self-titled album but is overlaid with inaudibly spacey mumblings that echo cheesily off into the ether.
Decomposition has strengths, they’re just not emphasized or utilized enough. According to Mush, Beck’s “many talents allow him to take a song from idea to completion without ever having to leave his cluttered studio.” Perhaps it’s time for Beck to consider opening his doors to a producer who can whip this potentially excellent raw material into something more worthy of extended listening.