Thin, rough-hewn, and repetitive hip-hop production can often be overlooked when used as a bed from which an extra layer of vocals leaps. In fact, that sort of lo-fi aesthetic continues to grow in popularity in certain parts of the rap world. On its own, though, the unsightly seams stand out, with the endless loops of samples standing in the spotlight rather than controlling where it points. On 3:33′s In The Middle of Infinity, the simple structures attempt largely unsuccessfully to distract you from the unpolished, simple layers with moody drama.
The tracks, each named with an acronym of the album’s title followed by its sequencing number (plus the closing track, “White Room”), do little to differentiate themselves from the pack. High-pitched synths, whispered squiggles, and droning percussive samples are par for the course, each song dropping these three elements in and out of their places. The off-kilter “Lost” whispers and peeling bell synths of “ITMOI 3” amass as much mysticism as they can, but the sparse, in-the-red drum sample is too short to repeat this often without altering at all.
The most egregious sample, though, might be the whole cloth uprooting of the iconic drum and bass pattern of Tortoise’s “Seneca” in “ITMOI 4”. Sure, they’ve added some tinkling percussion and high-end synth warble, but there, at the center of the track, is Tortoise’s infectious, off-kilter rhythm, entirely untouched. If it were labeled a remix, perhaps it wouldn’t seem as wrong, but as is, it feels like a bastardization of an already strong track. This gets at the core of In The Middle of Infinity: the samples often seem appropriated rather than artistically manipulated.
Essential Tracks: “ITMOI 3”