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If you ever find yourself wondering why it’s taking trip-hop legends Portishead so long to record a new album, here’s your answer. As well as running the Invada label and lending his production services to the likes of Anika and the Horrors, Geoff Barrow has spent the past few years moonlighting with three other groups: Krautrock outfit Beak, sci-fi synth project Drokk and hip hop crew Quakers, whose monstrous 41-track debut LP is out next week on Stones Throw. Centered around the three-man production team of Barrow, Invada co-founder Ashley Anderson and Portishead engineer Stuart Matthews (working under the pseudonyms Fuzzface, Katalyst and 7-Stu-7) the project also features a staggering 32 MCs, including established names like Dead Prez, Prince Po, Aloe Blacc, Guilty Simpson, MED and Diverse as well as a host of lesser-known talent discovered via word of mouth and various social networking sites. Particularly impressive among these are Tone Tank, whose punch-drunk flow on the horn-led “What Chew Want” falls somewhere between Slick Rick and the late ODB, the gravelly Dave Dub, Bristol boy Deed, lone female voice Lyric Jones and Coin Locker Kid, who appears on three tracks and is currently working with Barrow on his own album. Surprisingly, though, it’s the production rather than any of the rappers that steals the show. Mining similar source material (obscure soul, heavy psych, world music) as crate-diggers like Stones Throw staple Madlib and the late J. Dilla, these short songs (most of the vocal tracks hover around the two minute mark) and instrumental interludes make up a vibrant patchwork full of memorable hooks and hefty, head-knocking rhythms; even more impressively, considering that beats were finished first and then sent out to MCs at random, each track suits its vocalist perfectly, giving each equal opportunity to shine. Barrow has said Quakers was intended as an homage to hip hop, an album that today’s kids could treasure like his generation treasured Public Enemy and Run DMC; it might not shock and amaze like those seminal acts, but with impeccable production and all the right lyrical boxes (sex, swagger, politics, humour) ticked, this epic release will certainly help a lot of people fall in love with rap music all over again. Listen: “Fitta, Happier” ft. Guilty Simpson & MED

Quakers is out March 26 on Stones Throw


About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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