The Shining Path
The Shining Path
Damn hard to tell you what this is all about – it’s a concept record, it’s a new type o’ experimental hip-hop unafraid to muddy the gene pool with rock and funk galore, it’s a helluva twisted read. The record tells the story of a man whose father, a Vietnam vet, killed himself years before. The man grows up, fucked up and tormented by the demons passed on by his father; the record veers in perspective from the son, to his dead father, and from gritty street tales of a crooked world, to harrowing nightmares and flashbacks.
Musically, The Shining Path incorporate everything from trip-hop to straight-up rock in their urbanized assault. The record opens (and closes) with a sweet breakbeat-infused sample of Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For the Heart of the Sun,” before the sound of an approaching helicopter heralds “Erase The Pain” (one of many tracks featuring bass work from Bad Brain Daryl Jenifer, a seal of approval if there ever was one) in all its funk-drenched, live-instrument glory – think Dub War with a truer sense of funk, or a more rock-steeped Roots. From there, we hit hard rock (“Forever And a Day”), opaque and swirling dub like Portishead on Xanax (“Special Forces” and “The End”), and unclassifiable tunes bound together by a huge groove and a sinister vibe that builds as the story unfolds. “Once” is a pinnacle of spine-tingling drama; our hero is drugged out at a club, an argument turns ugly and shots start to ring out, but he’s in the middle of a flashback, the battling clubgoers turning into fanged beasts before his eyes, the floor turning into deep grass and bamboo. By the end of the song, he’s totally immersed in the hallucination – “a single flare overhead let me see around me / further on down the trench / the illest [sight] yet, it brought me to tears / my pops with a smile, hackin’ off souvenirs.” During the chorus of “once upon a time in my mind,” a harried voice keeps repeating “I’m not cra-zy… I’m not cra-zy… ” until the hair on the back of your neck stands up. This record can creep you out, especially by yourself at night.
On “In The Realm of Vishnu” the father appears to his son, trying to help his son make sense of what happened. At the end of the album, the utterly out-there “Inherited,” there’s no happy ending, just a reckoning, a reconciliation and apology – “I give you my heart, but it’s dirty,” the father tells the son. This is a heavy record in the mental sense, a deep listening experience maybe not suited for bumpin’ in your car on the way to the club, but refreshingly real in an age of Puffed up hip-hop with all the depth and feeling of an erasure. The Shining Path is one of those albums that requires an open mind, but rewards the adventurous listener with new trips each time, fresh textures created from the unapologetic mixing of styles from song to song. Even the packaging kills, with some Robert Williams-style collage action on the cover and disturbing Ralph Steadman-type art on the inside.
The Shining Path have kickstarted the cultural mindfuck begun by the Bad Brains and abandoned by the shortsighted ones who came after. This record won’t hit everyone, but for those who can dive in, it’ll be an absolute. The Shining Path approach their music the way all pioneers have done – mix it all up, tell your story, and fuck all. Very New York, very now, very necessary. Pick it up. Which? Records, P.O. Box 659, Village Station, New York, NY 10014