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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Review: The Internet keep the funk buzzing with Hive Mind 

LA collective drop triumphant fourth album

Hive Mind (The Internet album). Courtesy Columbia Records
Hive Mind (The Internet album). Courtesy Columbia Records

When I was asked to review The Internet, I must admit I was somewhat apprehensive at the scale of the task ahead. Fortunately, The Internet in question was the five-man, LA-based offshoot from the Odd Future hip-hop ­collective, who released their fourth studio album, Hive Mind, last month.

The Internet were ­initially founded by Odd Future members Syd Tha Kid and Matt Martians back in 2011, and the pair have added Steve Lacy, Christopher Smith and Patrick Paige II to the line-up in the years since, offering both their production skills (Lacy in particular is hot property currently, having produced work for Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator and J Cole recently) and a full live band option for touring too.

The band achieved their greatest success to date with 2015’s critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated Ego Death. So naturally, on the back of that triumphant album, rather than build on the momentum, they announced that they were going to take some time off to pursue five individual solo projects before they released another Internet album.

It was an unconventional decision, but this is an unconventional outfit, skirting around easy genre identification with their mix of experimental funk, hip-hop beats and loops, freeform jazz, loungecore and even, on penultimate track Beat Goes On, veering from a kind of semi-operatic funk pop into a wobbly drum’n’bass refrain to keep us guessing.

Band members setting off on solo projects can often be a sign of relationships within the group disintegrating. However, in The Internet’s case, they seem to have come back with a renewed sense of unity and, if anything, an increased ability to not only bring their own ideas to the music, but also tie them successfully together into a coherent whole, as hinted at by the album’s title.

Whereas the bass noodling and freestyle jamming feel that underpins tracks like opener Come Together could easily ­descend into a self-indulgent nu-jazz mess, the tight production reins everything in and delivers a succession of polished pop songs, mostly underpinned by Syd’s soulful, rasping vocals and occasional singing or rapping interventions from her male colleagues.

Both Syd and fellow Odd Future cohort Matt Martians have noted in the past that they felt like relative misfits in the Odd Future Collective, comparing themselves to “the weird kid at school”. If this is the result of that weirdo status, then let’s hope they keep it up.

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