Death to the ‘Y’! With a new sense of refinement, Sulfur is reborn on his new album Re:Birth.
This might read a little weird, but here goes. The thing I’ve often found a little distracting about Sulfur‘s vocal delivery is his penchant for over enunciating a ‘Y‘ sound that shouldn’t really exist in the words being pronounced. It’s a hard thing to describe, but he tends to merge syllables in a way that, in my opinion, detracts from the overall flow of the vocals. I could never put my finger on if it was unique to his regional accent or a style choice. Upon hearing the first single, a track titled High Score, from his new album Re:Birth this element seemed to be missing almost completely, the resulting effect is a freer flowing sound that hits the ears a little easier and I had reason to have high hopes for this new fifteen track release.
Following a rousing spoken introduction, the first track Ain’t Stopping seems to speak directly to my aforementioned gripe. “I ain’t styuoppin‘”, “This is one of a kyind“. Ok, wait. Stop. Let’s get some perspective. I don’t dislike Sulfur‘s delivery, really I don’t. From a personal perspective I heard High Score, and I liked what I heard, there was a new sense of refinement that pleased me immensely. And now I realise that I’ve written almost two paragraphs about something that isn’t particularly relevant to the rest of the album. From Layman’s Genius, the second actual song on Re:Birth, there’s a distinct maturity in vocal style. The ‘Y‘ is still in effect on one or two tracks, but mostly Sulfur finds a far more natural sounding flow and a new turn of pace to his delivery on Forward and Never Stop Learning in particular. I couldn’t identify a singular theme to the release, instead the general message seems to be one of positivity and the promoting of embetterment. Without being in-your-face there are a healthy smattering of nerdy references but never for the sake of it.
It would be very unusual for a Sulfur release not to feature vocals and production from Mikal kHill, so there’s a guest spot on Nerd is Bond from Mikal kHill, and the other Thought Criminal provides production for five tracks. Other producers include C64 of Dual Core, Ill-Use, Nem and cecilnick. Other guest vocals come from Mega Ran, Dane Abernathy, Tribe One, Nem, KidDead, Keyza Soulsay and Mo. The album flows well as a body of work considering the number of beatsmiths in attendance, and although there is an identifiable difference in style, the tracklisting is well arranged to balance this out.
Re:Birth is true to its word then. This really is a new era for Sulfur, an artist who has excelled as one half of the Thought Criminals, but arguably hasn’t stepped up in the same way though his solo work, until now, perhaps? Big beats and some interesting twists and turns in the music. A strong supporting cast of guest vocalists and a confident, more natural sounding vocalist at the fore. This isn’t the best Sulfur album you’ll hear. The next one is. Until then this is well worthy of a listen.
Standout track: Yesterdaze
Re:Birth is available to download now via bandcamp for $10 which includes a digital comic book written by Sulfur. $15 dollars acquires a physical copy of both the album and comic.