Atmosphere – You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having

4 out of 5

Label: Rhymesayers

Produced by: Ant

From the get, it’s been easy to recognize Atmosphere – Slug and Ant – as a breakout duo, and after rounding the bend of Seven’s Travels, things get even tighter: play a select Atmos track for anyone and if they’re open to hip-hop, it’s bound to grab their attention.  ‘You Can’t…’ is a pretty amazing achievement, ten minutes shy of an hour but never losing its listener – something that’s generally difficult for long-playing hip-hop discs.  And this attribute is down to both of our performers: Slug’s confident but calm and clear delivery, hoarse but soothing vocals comboed with Ant’s unbeatable ear for grooves and some really deep production quality.  Ant, having used his seemingly endless knowledge of soulful beats and samples, helped shape Brother Ali’s sound as well, but it’s interesting to note how different his style is when working with Slug: much more playful, and walking a ridiculous tightrope between aggressive and nostalgic.  In-between verses, when scratches or mixes get to shine, re-listens reward you with all the extras Ant’s working into things, whether it’s slight breaks in the beat or snippets of something or other to tie us into the next track.

…Which is the other element that really works here: ‘Fun’ just flows.  From the rave-ups to the narratives, the disc never really stops, but has enough unique beats to not make that exhausting.  There’s still the structural quality that tends to prevent Atmosphere from dropping perfect records, which centers around when the duo wants to tell a story as opposed to battle or let Slug muse: in those instances, it’s narrative first, often at the sacrifice of a successful sense of closure to the track.  Which is a bummer when something with such a killer beat like ‘That Night’ just sort of fizzles out, but we’ve gotta allow inventive lyricists like Sean room to breathe so he can dream up the rest of the awesomeness that’s on display here.