October 20th 2010

Review: Atmosphere’s To All My Friends EP

Once you’ve been around for roughly seventeen years, it’s probably a good thing when you try to re-invent your style. That’s exactly what Atmosphere did – not for the first time either. When Life Gives You Lemons… had an appropriate title. Instead of candid stories from his past Slug started working on original stories of his own, exploring other people’s lives and doling out general advice.

It was met with mixed responses like most releases that divert from an artist’s original style. However, there were gems to be found on it, like most Atmosphere releases, and To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EPs is no different.

Don’t get me wrong, if you never liked Atmosphere’s style of angst rap, you probably won’t enjoy a majority of To All My Friends. That’s not to say it’s as emo as it used to be. The duo of Slug (MC) and Ant’s (DJ) last release was generally more upbeat with a bigger depth of lyrical exploration backed up with lighter production and delivery. Tracks like “The Best Day” and “Freefallin” are about looking on the brighter side of life and this new upbeat Atmosphere is becoming a personal love of mine. Ant’s slow piano production plays away in the background as Slug tries to put you in a better mood – they have their awkward lines but are generally a welcome to change to the past.

Freefallin’ when you shook from the pack / Keep walkin’, let the foot leave a track / We often gotta look for the path / These problems, are the good ones to have

Occasionally Slug will divulge in a little battle-rap – who doesn’t these days? – but for the most part the EPs are high in their conceptual songs. Tracks about himself, other-people, nations and you, mean that even when they’re cringe-worthy, they’re better than most. While most of the pure anger of earlier Atmosphere appears to be missing on the surface, lyrically and thematically Slug still has his moments. Again, the result is mixed with tracks like “Commodities” and “Americareful” having good motives and ideas but ultimately feeling awkward.

Whether this release is two EPs put together or an actual album doesn’t really matter all that much. What’s in store is more experimentation from some talented artists. While To All My Friends might not be that truly flawless Atmosphere release you’re waiting for, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a mixed bag but this stuff normally is, you have to take the good with the bad, then you have the facts of life – and that’s Atmosphere’s MO.

Atmosphere’s To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EPs was released on 6th September and is available on iTunes.