Knives From Heaven
It might be best to consider Knives From Heaven’s self-titled release as a sound collage. Thirsty Ear touts it as a follow-up to Matthew Shipp vs. Antipop Consortium, the 2003 meeting of the inventive pianist and the equally inventive hip-hop group. But with Shipp and bassist William Parker joining forces with emcees Beans and HPrizm (also known as High Priest), the rhymes only flow on a quarter of the album and the live piano and bass aren’t on prominent display. Check the expectations at the door, though, and you’re in for a wild ride.
A total of 20 tracks (one unlisted) fly by in 43 minutes, so many of them only last long enough to break the mood of the previous cut or serve as an interlude. Beans and HPrizm (the latter also credited with electronics) are cerebral rappers, spewing rapid lines that never get bogged down in clichés or waves of expletives. Their stop-start rhythms on “Rockers Hifi” and their skill at working behind and around the beat on “The Arabic Cowboy John Clint Ameer” indicate why jazzmen and emcees have some common ground.
The set kicks off with a sample of solo Shipp, but he and Parker only pop up intermittently as things proceed. Much of the music leans on programmed loops. Toward the end of the album, samples of both players form the basis of the tracks, but it would’ve been more exciting to hear them play over these backgrounds rather than be reduced to another aspect of the texture.