Foscil: Foscil

Begun by Ryan Trudell and Adam and Tyler Swan as a rock band in 1991, Foscil (formerly named Scape) gradually developed into the electronic instrumental hip-hop quartet it is today (the originating trio now joined by Anthony Moore). But judging by the sixteen tracks (one hidden) on its hour-long self-titled debut, the band's sound is still growing, with a heavy post-rock dimension also infusing its sound. While many songs are hip-hop (the sundrenched “Massive Moves” featuring Specs One's laconic MC turn, “Grab Dollars,” and the lurching “Coming to You Live”) and others post-rock (“Pole Vaulting Missoula” showcases an intricate, multi-layered horn and woodwinds arrangement while the second half of “Office Pal” resembles a looser and livelier Tortoise, complete with a Jeff Parker guitar sound), “Please Hold” conflates the two styles by layering soloing trumpets over a trippy hip-hop base. Extending the stylistic base further, “Glitter Gulch” flirts with jazz and “Maverick” scatters acid techno over snappy post-rock.

Highlights abound: the inventive commingling of twanging guitar shudder, vibes, and woodwinds in the dramatic, horn-laden “Coelacanth,” the exotic snake-charmer trumpet (reminiscent of Nils Petter Molvær) in the head-nodder “Reme Bangor,” the horn chorale spotlight at the center of “Glitter Gulch,” and the Middle Eastern hip-hop ambiance of “G,” for starters. Foscil also inventively intertwines flute and bass clarinet over curdling hip-hop in the hypnotic head-nodder “Lull.” With many songs soaked in vinyl crackle, Foscil's sound is instrumentally rich and its command of genres wide. Best of all, though programming is a key part of the production process, the group's playing never loses its spontaneous, live feel, all of which helps to make Foscil a remarkably accomplished foray into post-rock hip-hop.

August 2005