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Meanest Man Contest
(Plug Research)

Up to this point only existing on 7" and compilation appearences, Merit marks the debut release by the duo of Meanest Man Contest. Comprised of Quarterbar on beats and Eriksolo on vocals, the team not only founded the indie hip hop label of Rocketship and Weapon Shaped Records, but have released music from Anticon, the Shapeshifters, and more. With 14 tracks that burn through in just under 40 minutes, the album is one that keeps things interesting by never lingering on one thing for too long.

The disc has some seriously slick beat programming, and that's evident from the opening track of "Sorry." Rumbling along a fairly standard kick and hi-hat thump, the track also has a soupy gurgle of bass running behind it, and the track fits and starts several times, spitting out snares before loping back into the original thump. Flowing nearly seamlessly into the vocal track of "Science Diet," the tracks actually feel like sort of a two-part hip-hop symphony, with an instrumental warmup before the stream of consciousness vocals by Eriksolo fly.

"Not Sorry" again lays the focus on rhythm as an upright bass twangs along with some more kick-ass beat programming that sounds like it could have easily been a great outtake from DJ Shadow's Entroducing... Primarily an instrumental hip-hop album, with a definite dark and moody edge, the release feels somewhat similar to the recent release Deadringer by RJD2. The primary focus is on kicking out as many huge beats as possible, but they're offset by a minimal amount of mainly effective atmospherics (jazzy horns and keyboards in "Alive In Sweet Bad Times" and bizarre sound samples in "I Have Changed My Plans").

For all the interesting sounds, one of the problems with the album is that it simply feels a bit too fragmented to sink in. Eriksolo only shows up on vocals in a couple tracks (all of which work well), but many of the tracks on the disc feel more like sketches of an idea than a real track. "Don't Die On Christmas" goes from a tinny loop to a downright brutal chunky beat, but the whole thing barely clocks in at over a minute, while "Pirate Style" again throws some upright bass over a slamming beat and some glitchy noise, but fails to really go much of anywhere in 2 minutes. If you're a DJ looking for some excellent background beats and great programming, you'll find much to enjoy here, but those looking for something a little more firm will probably wish for a little more development rather than a short collection of great ideas.

Rating: 6.5