While producers making skewed, quirky hip-hop are a dime a dozen these days, Mexicans With Guns doesn't make exaggerated blasts of compressed speaker-rattling midrange funk. The two things that make Ceremony such an interesting listen are its elegant subtlety and accomplished synth work. The album's consistent framework is built from a grumbling bass synth and bright, perky arpeggios, referencing the best of Just Blaze and DJ Toomp as much as like-minded dubstep producers. Ceremony is reverent and careful rather than caricature in its merging of the two: the mix of sugary melodic elements and menacing doom manifests itself in unclassifiable tracks like "Fields" and "Deities," where the white-hot melodic elements burn holes in the gurgling low-end.
The fusion aspect culminates in the mid-album peak of "Highway to Hell," a vocal track featuring the MCing talents of Freddie Gibbs and stunning Dirty South bombast, its icy organ tones beefed up with Gonzales' percussive skill. If nothing else, it hints at a potentially-strong future in hip-hop for Gonzales, and I'm not the only one who thinks so: the pre-album run-up saw a vinyl single with an added verse from UGK legend Bun B.
The album has two moments in particular, however, that paint Gonzales as seasoned composer first and and hip-hop producer second, and they're also the most intriguing. The baroque "Corazon" unleashes wave after wave of sputtering synth. Later, all those strands finally come together for the five-minute climax that is "Death and Rebirth," a percussive freakout attacked by malfunctioning synths that has Gonzales exploiting every one of his strengths at once. Again with the contrasts: it's abrasive, it's nasty, it's gorgeous and it's rousing.Ceremony in a nutshell.
Tue / 17 May 2011
01. Opening Incantation
03. Restart feat. Sasha Perera
06. Highway to Hell feat. Freddie Gibbs
08. Me Gusto feat. Chico Mann
09. Corazon feat. Zacky Force Funk
10. El Sol y La Luna
11. Got Me F_cked Up feat. Nocando
12. Dame Lo
13. Death and Rebirth
14. El Moreno feat. Helado Negro