Cities Aviv

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Digital Lows (2011), 5/10
Black Pleasure (2012), 5/10
Come To Life (2014), 6/10
Your Discretion Is Trust (2015), 5/10
Raised for a Better View (2018), 6/10
Immortal Flame (2020), 6/10
Gum (2020), 5/10

Memphis rapper Cities Aviv (real name Gavin Mays) debuted with the mixtapes Digital Lows (2011), influnced by the then popular chillwave movement, and Black Pleasure (2012), that instead adopted an almost punk grit.

His first official album, Come To Life (2014), with beats and synth arrangements designed by Aviv himself, contains the vibrant choral singalong URL IRL but that's not representative of the punk spirit that pervades the best songs. Fool grafts rap onto British funk-punk of the 1980s (Gang Of Four and the likes). Head merges the pounding synth-pop of the Pet Shop Boys mixed with the "oi" punk-rock of the Stiff Little Fingers. Don't Ever Look Back winks at and with New Order's gloomy disco. Half of the album is filler, but the rest is a powerful synthesis of two distant worlds.

Your Discretion Is Trust (2015) is an album of real songs, leaving behind both the punk and the rap, but most of them are short and undeveloped. Anticipation exudes the doom and gloom of some new wave (Suicide, Joy Division). Isolation Quarters is the work of a depressed singer-songwriters, perhaps the career he truly aspires to.

The mixtape Raised for a Better View (2018), past the minimalist instrumental Title Piece, continues in that vein of gloomy singer-songwriter through the existential angst of Age, the neurotic rigmarole Weight, and the catatonic Marionette (over tinkling funereal keyboards, a messy beat and a Chinese-inspired bass pattern). The new element is jazz, which imbues Blurred, Jazz Flavored and Series of Exits.

Mays continued to evolve, and to morph, on Immortal Flame (2020), another set of brief experiments that this time includes the slow seven-minute autotuned rap Buy Time, the dilated, whispered, psychedelic 16-minute Stalemate, awash in jazzy keyboards with minimal percussion, and the nine-minute Metal Mask, a nocturnal narration backed by a synth that sounds like an accordion.

Thus Mays arrived at the 45-minute Power Approaches, the juggernaut piece of Gum (2020). It begins as a languid soul ballad, but then implodes in a psychedelic vortex. It reemerges as a relaxed spoken-word piece with backing doo-wop vocals. The music almost ends but then the narration resumes over an organ drone and a saxophone melody before nostalgic samples lead to the quiet ending. It's a complex piece, but not every successful.

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