(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Robosoul (2017), 6.5/10
To Cite Psych (2017), 6/10
To Cite Fright (2017), 6.5/10
Portrait of a Harlot (2018), 7/10
Tying Up Loose Friends (2018), 5.5/10
Weevil in Disguise (2020), 5/10
Paper Cut From the Obit (2023), 6.5/10

Los Angeles' producer Joseph "Celestaphone" Murphy debuted with brief instrumental EPs of one-minute pieces: Glorifying (2014), Trust (31-60) (2015), Menu (01-30) (2015), and Minappi's Last Wondrous Escapade (2016).

His three sample-based instrumental albums of 2017 are amusement parks where just about anything can contaminate hip-hop music. Robosoul (2017) contains 30 brief robot-inspired hip-hop instrumentals, mostly under two minutes long that raid the repertory of funk, reggae, soul, blues and jazz. Weatherproof is the highlight 9a dizzying sinister blues rhythm), followed by the hypnotic Parade and the romantic Pyramid

To Cite Psych (2017) delves into psychedelic rock and soul of the 1960s and 1970s psych-rock, painstakingly assembling caricatures of that era. Most pieces lack an identity because they rapidly mutate into something else (and this benefits only a few, like Copernicus), and the spoken-word elements ruin many of them. For a zany surreal vignettes like Glacier Reflectance and an effervescent Tunic there are too many songs that drag on lifeless.

The much more ambitious To Cite Fright (2017) went for longer compositions. This time the changes within a song are multiple, and sometimes discordant. This also increases the similarities with Frank Zappa's prog-rock in collages like the eight-minute Pigeon Pizza and the nine-minute Radish Itch. His passion for spoken sections is hard to understand: it kills the momentum of the collage.

The melancholy Portrait of a Harlot (2018) opened a new phase in his career. Nickels Penny Broomstick is a more austere Weatherproof. Phallic Instrument, a sort of slow-motion Captain Beefheart. Demon Dance is anemic and hypnotic. The pulsating and anthemic Imagination sounds like a Talking Heads remix. And then there are elegant creatures like Sly Stroke and One Paid Service. This is his most accomplished album. Maybe not as creative as To Cite Fright, but more cohesive and emotional.

Tying Up Loose Friends (2018), his first vocal album, excels in catchy cartoonish ditties like Pop, but also has the very Frank Zappa-esque satirical skit Draft, the booming hypnotic Cave and two clever rap routines, Tin Foil Hat Rap and Never Ending Gig. Unfortunately too many of the songs work neither as jokes nor as music.

The more conventional 20-song Weevil in Disguise (2020) has the effervescent, jumping, rap Rewinders (a duet with rapper Paul Barman) and the psychedelic litany Atlantis, but probably 10 songs too many.

Far from being just jazz-rap, Paper Cut From the Obit (2023) veers all over the map. The best songs are carefully and densely orchestrated stylistic hybrids: Erfurt Latrine juggles soul and jazz with amazing cohesion; Jettatura cooks up feverish boogie piano and syncopated drumming sounding like Rip Rig & Panic for the age of jazz-hop, and Small World is a goofy Zappa-esque ditty that samples a dozen genres in two minutes (1950s dancehall atmosphere, ska, Tamla soul, blues, etc). It's hard to match the quality of the first songs. After Day, a parody of vintage disco-funk, Celestaphone gets bogged into verbose songs that employ more mundane music. NEET Daughter is another comic sketch that Frank Zappa would have loved, but, other than the instrumental Nay, a groovy take on jazz-rock, the last few songs disappoint. Luckily, the album ends with the rocking and anthemic 16 Babies.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )