Back in October, I entered a months-long depressive cycle that is finally just waning now. This meant I missed a stacked Sunday bill at Columbus laundromat-venue Dirty Dungarees in November, a setlist that included alternative rappers Kali Dreamer (who was covered in a previous review) and Aloe Vera. The latter of those two was hosting a release for their record Opaque, which came out in the beginning of November. Not long after pressing play on the LP, I was flushed with FOMO over missing live performances of an assortment of these 11 tracks.
It’s obscure ear candy. Sweet yet punishing beats that have a wide palette of oddities looped in throughout (creepy carnival noises on “Demarcus Kain,” spooky sounds on “Krillmonger pt1,” pensive pop punk chords on “Blue Ogre”). While I struggled to nail down one cohesive sound throughout, Aloe Vera says it best on their own record: “post-nothing.” It serves as commentary on the continued nothingness of genre labels over the past decade. Throw in for good measure clever name-drop puns on almost every track (“Roscoe’s Wet Dream,” “Father John Misty-eyed,” “Caged the Elephant”), and the wide array of contemporary puns is reflective of how modern-day artists are influenced. Ones that stray more toward individual musicians than genres or movements.
What I love most about this alternative rap record is that Aloe Vera’s voice is both extremely clear and forward. In my recent new music discovery, I’ve found mostly every musician is opting to distort their voice in some off-shoot of auto-tune. With this record, it’s refreshing to hear such confidence in the delivery for dishing out some vulnerable thoughts. A track where I found Aloe Vera to be their most introspective is “Estradiol Taste Like A Phoenix Down.” Ruminations like, “What if I make art and no one cares,” come at you over a slowed-down synth vibe, making it all the more cutting. While these tracks carry the same weight of Kali’s condensed lyrics, it’s not the amount of words that caught my attention but more so the syllables.
Due to the abrasive and emotionally vulnerable nature of this record, I asked Aloe Vera what they thought about the personal content discussed on this album compared to past releases:
“I’m a pretty open book, for better or worse. I like to play with my cards face up at the table, no alarms and no surprises-type beat. If anything, it was a lot easier cause I’m more secure in who I am and what I’m doing.”
The final stretch of Opaque reminded me all that I missed at the November show. The most distinct beat is on the title track — jazzy bass line and saxophone and disoriented hyena laughs. It is also the one that comes with the album’s statement moment: “Become see-through or live long enough to become opaque.” The culmination of these thoughts comes on the closer “pt. 3: A Crab Named Linda.” The first two times we’re bombarded with the hook, it’s hard to entirely make out. It’s clear before the third and final delivery, though: “I am begging at the bottom of the bucket/There’s a hole at the bottom of the bucket.”
A thought on “pt. 3” that best sums up the lyrical experience one encounters on this LP: “Today I continued the irrational act of loving myself/It feels unrequited.”
Grab the album on bandcamp.