Since the late 1980’s, Kool Keith has been one of hip-hop’s most prolific and bewildering artists. Taking the guise of various characters (Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, to name only a few), inventing sub-genres like horrorcore and pornocore, and collaborating with everyone from Dan the Automator to Mike Patton, Kool Keith has been a constant innovator, for better or worse, throughout his history in the genre. As trends come and go and periods of stagnation have defined hip-hop’s history, Kool Keith remains individual. He’s never “sold out.” In fact, he has mostly been accused of self-sabotage. When one of his 19 solo albums sniffed minor chart success, he would in turn release something completely different, if not completely bizarre and inaccessible.
If you’re familiar with Keith’s history of collaborations, nothing is surprising at this point. With Space Goretex, Keith teams up with Chad L’Plattenier and Dan Emery of powerviolence/hardcore act Thetan. The duo provides the drums, bass, synths, and theremin to compliment Keith’s surreal, horny, and sometime unintelligible rhymes. But, also in the mix are appearances from Gangsta Boo (Three 6 Mafia), Casey Orr (Gwar, X-Cops), Blag Dahlia (Dwarves), Ashley Mae (Lost Dog Street Band), DJ Black Cat Sylvester, and Uncle Tom Bowker (Blowfly).
The album is a little difficult, sometimes tiresome. First, if you’re hoping this leans more towards Thetan’s hardcore side, you’ll be disappointed. The duo basically provides hip-hop-esque loops for Keith to rap over. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. But, if you’re hoping for something more adventurous and weird, you may be unsatisfied. Not to be mistaken, Kool Keith brings plenty of weird to the table, though it’s not really anything we haven’t heard before. What Thetan does bring is tight drum beats, droning bass lines, siren-like synths, and moody theremin work. This combination perfectly suits Keith’s delivery and style and the band certainly knows what to do in the studio. The only problem is that it becomes a bit repetitive after the first listen.
Across the albums 15 tracks, there’s only eight real songs. The remaining time is made up of skits and interludes. Unfortunately, most – if not all – of these moments seem pointless. They’re not entirely unenjoyable, but they don’t elevate the album or help create a higher concept. Perhaps they’re better enjoyed, along with the songs, if you’re self-medicated. All that aside, most of the songs are pretty cool, if a little redundant. Highlights, such as “Hallucinations,” “Let’s Take a Trip,” and “Dedication” fulfill all high expectations with Keith’s rhymes and Thetan’s backing. Tight and focused, these songs, as well as the pornocore of “Complicated Trip” and “In Pursuit of Vagina Lucy” are solid and satisfying tracks. But, the deeper you get into the album the more it all sounds the same.
Upon press release, I was hoping things would get down right nutty and inspired. But, it never reaches these heights. Overall, there’s nothing bad about this album. The real Kool Keith disciples will surely find it entertaining. But, for the casual listener there’s little here that begs to be revisited. Perhaps the marination of time will serve these songs better, not unlike 1997’s Sex Style or or 1999’s Black Elvis/Lost in Space. At this moment, it’s hard to declare this album as ahead of its time. Today, it just seems nonessential.
– J. Kevin Lynch