Penumbra//Antumbra (12” Single)
(Rap Will Eat Itself Records)
If history has taught us anything about Karol “Garbageface” Orzechowsky, it has taught us that the artist takes a lot of joy in turning expectations that fans may have of him on their collective head – and the emcee’s newest 12” single, Penumbra//Antumbra, upholds that practice with focused intensity. The single effortlessly upends expectations; where convention demands a consistent structure through a song – there needs to be a beginning, a middle and an end – Orzechowsky completely ignores how a single is “supposed” to work and presents his work on its own terms. He allows it to begin, demands that it develop (although he doesn’t rush it), lets it reach a peak and just then lets it taper off. Of course, because of the way it develops, there must have been some editing done to ensure that audio tracks remained confined to a single side, it’s edited so well that nothing feels abbreviated; it’s smooth and feels carefully composed in a way that most pop songs simply are not, and doesn’t feel needlessly elongated. As has been known to happen for acts like Pink Floyd and Green Day, who both have moments which drag but prove impossible to shorten due to the structure already built for the song in question, nothing on this single feels like it could be shortened because the sound is so solid.
“Penumbra” wastes no time opening the A-side of the single as, with huge bass tones and an understatedly surly vocal tone, Garbageface builds tension with lines like, “Defined by our flaws/ e abide by the laws/ And counterarguments/ In the sense/ That we bend not break and we file down our claws.” Whether they want to be or not, listeners will be enveloped by the emcee and find themselves curious to see where he does. As he does move, he pulls and tugs at syllables which will keep listeners engaged and, before long, they’ll be sunk in so deeply that they may not notice when the song begins to gently re-structure itself and emerges with a different tone and form at 3:15 without having broken the movement with a hard stop. At that point, a sturdier beat contains a more sinewy instrumental track, and the production Garbageface’s performance offers the cut a little more room to breathe. There, syllables suddenly have the ability to punch through the mix and punctuate lines like, “Notation/ And under the pavement is fear of the other/ And after the math is the birth of the suburbs/ And under the skin of the sidewalk/ Is a hard rock full of tough talk/ And I’m gone…” without actually leaving space for a breath, somehow. The song endures and soldiers on ceaselessly as a series of scratching effects combine with a concussive bass line which pushes the side along to a (kind of) break with echoey, sampled voices before cuing up a muddy, trance-y sound.
The trance-y movement is the greatest lull on the side but, when it finally closes, Garbageface returns renewed with a much more poppy-sounding vibe (find the “Can’t stop” form around the eleven-minute mark) which runs strong but quickly into something which sounds much more like Chemical Brothers in form before before mutating again into something akin to musique concrete before collapsing/collecting back into a sound which borrows equally from electronic forms and that of Rage Against The Machine. At this stage, the running is far more frayed (around the sixteen-minute mark) and far shorter (because such energy isn’t sustainable, in this context), and the sound has begun to whine noticeably because of the exertion as it thins out again, and finally fades to a close.
As the needle lifts from the side, listeners may be startled to discover just how hooked by the A-side of Penumbra//Antumbra they’ve become and may find themselves rushing to flip the record over in hopes of finding something comparable to it on the B-. As soon as it begins though, that the B-side of the record is very, very different from its counterpart is patently self-evident.
As soon as stylus touches down on the B-side of Penumbra//Antumbra, listeners will quickly begin to understand that, while the B-side bears several similarities to its counterpart, it’s undeniably different too. Without vocals, for example [the B-side of Penumbra//Antumbra is instrumental –ed] manifests as very subdued, compared to its counterpart. While those listeners who were captivated by the power of Penumbra//Antumbra‘s A-side will find the B- very different from its predecessor, the delicacy and artifice of the B-side is very expressive and can even be evocative, on occasion; while not warm enough to really be considered romantic, there is a gentility about the B-side of Penumbra//Antumbra that is very attractive, and listeners may find makes it superior to the A-side, on the right day.
Taking Penumbra//Antumbra as a whole, those who run front-to-back with the set may discover to their surprise that neither side surpasses the other because they tap into different emotional states. Some critics may struggle to understand how the B-side might might translate to a nightclub setting (and that’s fair) but there’s no doubt that the B-side could play very well at home. It’s strange, but Penumbra//Antumbra is definitely a welcome addition to Garbageface’s catalogue – here’s hoping that Orzechowsky will be inclined to make a second pressing of it, now that the first pressing is sold out out. [Bill Adams]
The first pressing of Penumbra//Antumbra is sold out. Buy a digital copy of it here.