I laughed out loud when music writer Amanda Petrusich first explained to my class that whenever she felt genuinely and uncontrollably sad, she would blare the fuck out of Yeezy and Jigga’s Watch The Throne and feel better. I was silly for laughing. It’s stupid difficult to curate an adequate aural opposition to certain festering depression, but for some reason Watch The Throne worked for her, unfailingly. When you find something–a piece of art, an extended selection of organized sound–to remedy the pain, the feeling is absolutely victorious and nothing less. Concept Vague is my unequivocal remedy.
I was unaware of Ottawa-based rapper Night Lovell‘s irksome and icy, antagonistic sad-boy antics before today. His first expansive release, the fifteen-track mixtape Concept Vague, is heady and trepidatious but seems to reject any notions of self-seriousness (see track four, “Sometimes Not Serious”). Night Lovell‘s gravely, ghoulish flow is meticulously tailored to all the sparse, monochrome beatwork throughout, which makes sense because he contributes production on standout tracks like “Live Television,” “Off Air,” “Trees of the Valley” and mixtape closer “Dark Light.” Elsewhere, Bine, Falco, Kid Indigo, Oshi and Fifty Grand offer up off-kilter amalgamations of trap, trip-hop and grime to beef up this impressive debut.
Based on Concept Vague, I imagine Night Lovell to have an excellent pokerface. His expressions are flat and steely but cool and contained, thick and consistent like molasses, and their delivery is especially well pronounced on abrasive bass-heavy bangers “Beneath” and “Forget About Me.” This mixtape leaves me spellbound, a word I can’t help but recycle from the strange and seemingly irrelevant “James Cameron Took My Bitch (Interlude).” The penultimate track “Deira City Centre” samples the acoustic guitar intro from The Mamas And The Papas’ “California Dreamin'” in an endless loop of tantric turns and plodding superbass rhythms.
I thoroughly appreciate Night Lovell‘s blatant honesty in titling this project Concept Vague, rather than forcing a half-assed thematic narrative. It work’s to inspire a certain kind of listening, one that attempts to break the tradition of full-length albums, as all truly great mixtapes do. Night Lovell‘s lyrics might be unexceptional but his brazen delivery more than makes up for it, and collectively Concept Vague materializes as something not quite so vague–it’s leery and adventurous and fresh, apt to infiltrate and occupy your head for the 45 minutes of its duration and let you look past all the other nonsense. Stream Concept Vague below.