The Skull Eclipses homecoming at Johnny Brenda’s is a win for cross-continental hip-hop

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The Skull Eclipses | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Philadelphia rap auteur Lushlife (Raj Haldar) continues on a hot streak of album partnerships, this time with beat connoisseur Botany (Spencer Stephenson) to form The Skull Eclipses.  Together, they specialize in a sort of lo-fi, kind of psych infused, and refreshingly nostalgic experimental hip-hop.  Analog synthesis, twisted beats, and rapid fire boom-bap are the name of the game here, and a three-year journey spanning cross country collaborations paid off, and Lushlife brought it home to celebrate.

Johhny Brendas was again host to a release party featuring Mr. Haldar.  Last time he came armed to the teeth with producers/band CSLSX, but The Skull Eclipses release was suitably low key.  A sparsely populated stage show meant a deeper focus on the sounds Botany and LushVida have crafted.  Never overtly aggressive, often hypnotic, within the noise there is melody, which is often soaked in layers of reverb.  Lushlife’s lyrics remain playfully esoteric one moment and down to earth the next, sometimes just lending another layer of noise for the drums to tap to.  Another win for cross continental collaborations, but also for indie Philly hip-hop, which has maintained the same upward trajectory as it’s rock brethren.

Dalek | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Opener Dälek is just another one of those acts I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time for. Their particular brand of noise rap found a healthy home opening for metal bands more often than other hip-hop acts. They bring the noise, in contrast to the ambience of the main event, loud, proud, and downright deconstructive. High point of the evening (for me) was finally getting to hear the crushing “Ever Somber” live, and the whole night closed out as destructive sonically as I would have hoped.

The first opener HPrizm (High Priest) is also no stranger to experimental hip-hop, having spent the large portion of his career with Anti Pop Constortium.  Setting out solo for the show, he played a too-brief set of instrumental sounds cultivated in his time outside of his group projects.

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