Instrumental hip-hop is typically the work of one guy: the DJ. From DJ Shadow to DJ Cam to Prefuse 73 to RJD2, the best works of rap-less hip-hop have always been ego trips by singular artists relying solely on their Akais and 1200s, and the occasional guest contributor. There are some scratch troupes, like X-Cutioners, but their brand of beat mashing isn’t cut from the same cloth, preferring party jams over heady soundscapes. Yet French quartet Depth Affect meet their ends the democratic way, however, as the two central figures, Rémy Charrier and David Bideau, combine their talents with DJ Kalmook and VJ Deesk to create an audiovisual trip into hip-hop abstraction that stands up to the work of any lone crate wolf.
Depth Affect’s debut full-length, Arche-Lymb, is an atypical construction of glitchy effects, ethereal samples and heady melodies, all set (mostly) to hot beats. The album begins, fittingly, with the same track that begun Depth Affect’s recorded output, “Honey Folky.” One can only assume that the name of the track came from the way the song sounds—sweet and folk-inspired, but tweaked all the same. The group gets otherworldly on the celestial “One Micron Bar Head,” while marrying a looped acoustic guitar melody to eerie, ghostly sounds and dirty, electro drum tracks on “Perpendicular B-Boy.” The bouncy “Sarah Carbone” follows nicely with a more straightforward, yet atmospheric style.
Depth Affect is also equally adept at taking things beyond the ghetto blaster. On “Blinzeln Blume” and “Vladgorhythm Suicide” they take away the drums to reveal a melodic, yet more ambient aspect of their technique, one that offers just as much in the way of substance and stun as the more danceable side. Still, Depth Affect offers some more traditional “rap” tracks, rhymes and all, on “One Day or 50,” which features the talents of Cyne, and “Wyoming Highway,” which sees Anticon’s Alias taking the mic. These tracks are both outstanding, though they’re merely added bonuses to an already intriguing collection.
The best hip-hop albums have always been collaborations, though that’s a statement that typically fits rap more than the instrumental side. Still, Depth Affect give evidence that good vocal-free hip-hop can also be the product of a committee, one that crams together four people’s good ideas instead of relying on just one.
Prefuse 73 – Security Screenings
Melodium – La Tete Qui Flotte
DJ Cam – The Beat Assassinated
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.