The latest drop from the mild, mild west’s Ruztik label is the very tastefully packaged No Artificial Flavours from Bristol’s Konfectionists crew comprising Rola of the legendary Numskullz plus rappers Gee Swift and Project Cee. Running with an extended sweeties-based metaphor for both band name and LP title enabled the boys to throw all kinds of gags into the press release but it’s a double-edged sword akin to journo-catnip and, as such, I can only apologise in advance for the cheap wordplay and lazy imagery while I give you the 411 on whether the chocolates rival the box.
The blackcurrant fruit pastilles and the orange smarties on this are definitely the beats, cuts and production which are largely due to Rola himself. Musically the album varies from the good to the really quite beautiful with a lot of tracks having a sweeping, cinematic boom-bap feel. Some of the better tracks also feature cuts from Mr Fantastic like the edgy Seek Out The Weak (distinctive strings loop – a mandolin or something) and Dr Krome on Jazz Hands (big band brass) or clear standout (Mr Fantastic again) – How You Gonna Grow?. The album highpoint for several reasons, this has: a fat beat, a classy piano loop and it’s one of the few times Rola steps up to the mic.
Unfortunately, the liquorice Mojo in all this sugar-fied shenanigans is the rapping. I should make it clear that we’re not talking heinous rhyme crime here – Gee n Cee can rap on a beat and it’s not like their lyrics are laughable or anything – but somehow they just didn’t flip the script for me either. There’s nothing I’d classify under the heading ‘killer rhymes’ and they seem to have gone to quite some lengths to avoid memorable vocal hooks. I’m not quite sure what the problem is – maybe it’s just that there but there doesn’t seem to be a real sense of chemistry between these two nor even that much of a distinction between their voices. What this means is that on the few occasions when Rola picks up the mic the difference is noticeable – his hoarse style immediately providing some of the charisma that’s missing.
Though the bpms don’t vary that much here, there’s a classy production vibe from opener and title track No Artificial Flavours all the way to haunting final track No One Knows and though I wasn’t really feeling the rapping I would reiterate that it was a failure to dazzle that was the issue rather than a failure of competence. In any case, some people like liquorice Mojos.
Released 8 June on Ruztik Records.