Hector Bizerk – Nobody Seen Nothing
The first thing to note about Hector Bizerk's second album is the serious step up in terms of production technique – recorded and engineered by drummer and band co-founder Audrey Tait with assistance from Paul Devlin, it's clearer, more dynamic, and gets much closer to their live sound than their debut Drums, Rap, Yes. Louie's voice is front and center, augmented by crisp, complex drum hits.
The band, having been expanded by full-time members Fraser Sneddon, whose lithe playing really ties their sound together, and Jennifer Muir on synths, have a stripped, feral intensity – augmented by passages of rich funk, slinky dub and stunning polyrhythmic playing that recalls everyone from Rage Against The Machine and Fugazi to The Herbaliser. While Drums, Rap, Yes had elements beyond the stripped drums-and-vocals setup of early Hector, they were somewhat disparate – here they are anchored by the presence Sneddon and Muir.
Lyrically, Nobody Seen Nothing sees Louie bringing some of his more political, rabble-rousing banter (explored to great effect on his solo album Lost On Hope Street) to the table. From the opening bars of Orchestrate, his lyrics address social concerns, urban decay, and the inspiration to be drawn from practice, practice and more practice in an effort to escape poverty, violence and ignorance. Hip-hop, it seems, saved Louie's life – and he is keen to share the secrets of his success, as well as the trials and tribulations. The stop-start structure of Welcome To Nowhere is a perfect complement to his highly technical, compressed spurts of wordplay, breaking into a horn-assisted chorus and day-dreaming lyrics ("an answer for cancer..."). The raucous, KRS-One-sampling Party at A&E, a live highlight, showcases his abilities as a storyteller, and remains a standout track, as it is live.
Louie is quick to point the finger and lay blame, and he does it with an unerring accuracy and deeply-felt passion, whether addressing homelessness and apathy on Police St8. or social disorder, racism and hooliganism on My Little Bigots. He does all of this without ever compromising his tightly-written, restlessly time-signature-flipping raps. This, in a nutshell, is what makes Hector Bizerk one of the repositories of hope for the notoriously slept-on Scottish hip-hop scene – a phenomenal writer, Louie is backed with an accomplished, tight band, rendering any complaints about lack of nationwide or even international appeal for the artform increasingly churlish.
Scottish hip-hop, currently undergoing something of a renaissance with fantastic releases from the likes of Loki, Gasp, Stanley Odd and others, has long been full of talented writers, producers and bands. Hector Bizerk are perhaps the first to make a breakout into the wider, mainstream consciousness tangibly possible, while compromising nothing. Nobody Seen Nothing is the sound of their early promise being fulfilled, in spades.