Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines

Album Review by Stephen Butchard | 10 Jul 2017
  • Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
Album title: Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
Artist: Shabazz Palaces
Label: Sub Pop
Release date: 14 Jul

Shabazz Palaces have fully fallen for space travel on these sister albums starring Quazarz, Ishmael Butler’s new persona, who invites us into his realm; a gorgeous, bleak reflection of rap, of race, of gender, of humanity.

...vs the Jealous Machines is more political than sister album Born on a Gangster Star, an allegory of technology and disconnection. On Gorgeous Sleeper Cell, phones are a ‘glowing phantom limb’ on which ‘passwords pile up’. On Self-Made Follownaire, we’re ‘self-loathed narcissists’ and ‘selfie stick samurais’ who ‘kneel to the plastic gods’. It’s played straight. The band get away with the preaching for their complete commitment to the concept.

The album is like a fifties sci-fi, creaking with hammy dialogue about how the machines are going to kill us. The difference here is that Shabazz Palaces’ special effects are stunning enough to make you believe their machines really could. “Reality, just a thing on TV”, Quazarz shrugs on SS Quintessence, the eerie, synthetic beat soaking up the unsettling tension in his delivery.

Both of these albums are meticulously crafted. The narrative is obscure, but the vivid arrangements beckon you to unravel it. There are riddles still unsolved, like the artists behind the mysterious pseudonym features (The Shogun Shot sounds eerily like fellow oddball cult hero Busdriver). This uncompromising obscurity will turn off some, and understandably so. Beneath that, the band are writing songs that make floating into oblivion sound appealing.

Listen to: Effeminence, 30 Clip Extension