Injury Reserve

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )

Injury Reserve (2019), 7/10
By the Time I Get to Phoenix (2021), 7/10

Arizona's Injury Reserve, a hip-hop trio formed by rappers Stepa (Jordan Groggs), Ritchie with a T (Nathaniel Ritchie) and producer Parker Corey, debuted with mixtapes like Live from the Dentist Office (2015), sprinkled with jazzy overtones, and Floss (2016), that contains Oh Shit.

They refined their formula on the seven-song EP Drive It Like It's Stolen (2017), notably in Colors, Boom (X3) and North Pole.

Their first album, Injury Reserve (2019), sticks abrasive and glitchy jazz-rap arrangements to powerful and often depressed rants, especially the exuberant Three Man Weave. But there is more than just a bit of jazz in their aural explorations. First of all, there is the power of their composite narratives, notably in the distorted, stoned Best Spot in the House, where Ritchie and Stepa mourn dead friends alternating between rapping and singing. Freddie Gibbs' detached feature steals the show in the cool, slow-motion Wax On, floating in a sparse neurotic soundscape. There is also a tribal feeling, as if they harked back to a primordial state, as in Koruna & Lime, which sounds more like a meeting of Native American shamans than a performance by rappers, and in Jawbreaker (a duet with Maria-Cecilia "Rico Nasty" Kelly), which feels like an exorcism in the jungle. The lightweight dimension is well represented by the Caribbean-tinged singalong Gravy N Biscuits. At the other end of the spectrum, there are two explosive songs: Jailbreak the Tesla, erupting within a noisy, syncopated, disjointed, industrial soundscape, and What a Year it's Been, with its cacophonous crescendo. Their labyrinthine and glitchy productions mixes rap, rock, soul, techno, industrial.

By the Time I Get to Phoenix (2021), whose title comes from Jimmy Webb's By the Time I Get to Phoenix (remixed by them as the catchy while dystopian Superman That), is generally a more sinister work. An oppressive "noir" atmosphere hovers on the nocturnal, swinging, bluesy SS San Francisco and the convulsed, gasping, breathless Footwork In A Forest Fire, and Wild Wild West is nightmarish while the reverb-swept Postpartum feels "stoned" (over one of the most creative and chaotic soundscapes). Smoke Don't Clear feels like a shamanic ritual over the slimmest of beats. They reimagine the soul ballad as a psychotic lament in Knees. The album closes with the endless repetition (in Bye Storm) of a loud distortion taken from a Brian Eno song, possibly a metaphor echoing the line "It rains, it pours, but, damn, nigga, it's really pourin'".

Unfortunately, Jordan Groggs died in 2020, at the peak of the group's creativity.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )