Bonelang – Nervous Oracle

Bonelang has been a TUNED UP favorite for years now. I myself discovered the Chicago-based duo due to TU head Ryan G’s inadvertent recommendation sometime before the rollout of their debut LP Sunny, Sonny., which he reviewed in 2019, in addition to their sophomore full-length, SAINTMAKER, the following year. I wrote up one of the twelve singles they released in 2021, and two more ended up in my top 20 tracks of the year back in December, so I thought that now was as good a time as ever for me to take on their newest release, Nervous Oracle, which just released on Friday.

In spite of its abbreviated runtime (just over 13 minutes between 4 songs), Nervous Oracle still finds a way to cover quite a bit of ground. The entire EP, spawned out of a poem penned by main lyricist Samy Language, captures a refreshing honesty that many artists nowadays try to stray away from. Bonelang have never been about doing what is “cool” or “trendy” though. No, the reason why Samy and multi-instrumentalist Matt Bones are constantly creating is for themselves, which I think is the only way to do it sometimes.

The level of sincerity throughout Nervous Oracle is felt immediately thanks to an assist from The Game (yes, that The Game) on “Gluten-Free Gluttony.” The famed Compton emcee’s bars are both profound and convicting, asking things like “why we always got to go to war for the things we believe in” and how “we kill each other for no reason.” Elsewhere, Samy’s own lyrics also boast this power to them, not unlike how he’s done it with the rest of Bonelang’s catalogue. Take, for instance, his clever wordplay on the chorus of “There’s No I in Meme,” from which the song derives its title, or the thought-provoking closer “Sleepy Lion,” where what “they call… déjà vu” he calls “divine proof of the nature of truth.” Or consider the metaphoric banger featuring fellow Chicago native Kweku Collins, the aptly-titled “Dog Cannibal” where rhythmic barks mimic those of a dog. It all feels wholly genuine, even at the EP’s most unique and inventive moments.

This is true not just of Samy’s contributions, but of Bones’ as well. What Bones achieves instrumentally, however, is often done in the most subtle of ways. Sure, Nervous Oracle has its times of overtness, like with the blazing trap beat of “Gluten-Free Gluttony” or the roaring synths of “There’s No I in Meme.” The EP shines the most though at its less obvious points, such as the strings near the beginning of “Gluten-Free Gluttony,” the reggae vibe to the intro and train-like effects throughout “There’s No I in Meme,” and even the sleek electronics near the end of “Sleepy Lion.” Many of these sounds are starkly different in nature and don’t seem like they would go together, but Bones just finds a way to make it all happen.

Nervous Oracle continues to find Bonelang doing exactly as they please, completely aware of where they are at this point in their career. After all, as Samy himself has said, “you have to be aware of where you are before you can chart a course to where you want to be,” and something tells me that this aspirational pair has no plans of easing their foot off the gas until they get there.

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