Like well-tuned clockwork Slug Wife continues to shoot out releases faster than we can tire of listening to them. This time around they're presenting a markedly different platter than their mainstay meals. The Whack Lack series could hardly be more opposed to the usual vicious and braggadocios neuro-hop shenanigans. Strip away the high-fidelity mastering, high-octane bass lines, and frankenstein sound design and what you are left with is pure, unadulterated beats and melodies. As they describe it, Whack Lack is "focusing on the right hook with the right beat and nothing more." Whack Lack Vol. 1 was curated by Slug Wife label head Seppa, and revealed a musically playful side of the producer not often explored. For Whack Lack Vol. 2, the gastropods tapped once more into the creative font of the d-n-b titan Reso, who branded himself as Maru for the sake of differentiating the projects.
Maru cracks right into the spirit of lo-fi hiphop with the ease of someone who's been slicing samples and cutting beats for a lifetime. The collection of tracks features all manner of soundscapes, moods, and atmospheres that are as droning as they are hypnotic. All the potential fanfare is left behind in favor of a pleasured palette of smooth synth hymns and dashes of liquid tonal modulation.
"Easy Now" is the first true track on the album. It absolutely lives up to its namesake with a particular flair for the melancholy. The melody rides softly on a bedrock of more than a few choice drum hits. A small serving of horns break the steady trance of the track midway only to fade off, overpowered once more by that familiar, muffled lead line. "Single Malt" raises the medium to a modest head high, like the first hit of a well-crafted joint sending one straight to their happy place. There's a sense of weightlessness generated by the fluttering key samples. Note conversations fold over one another like melodies rolled into a torus, and therein lies the source of such a stratospheric aural space.
"After Eight" sputters and shuffles like a delinquent kicking up dust on their way to a late-night rendezvous. Moody chords keep the gaze low and locked on the road ahead, while casual instrument samples preclude any sense of monotony. Keep your ears wide open and you might even catch a few tasty fills that rock the rhythm harder than a New York City pothole rocks a taxi. Closing out the album is "Twilight", and there couldn't be a more appropriate fit. The first touch of those creamy tones bring forth the familiar experience of waving goodbye to a dear friend. It's the kind of atmosphere that leaves the tongue tasting more sweet than bitter, but with just enough longing that you might have to start the whole record over again.
Pushing unfamiliar content through channels established for particular soundscapes can be a questionable bet, but the gamble paid off in full for Slug Wife and Maru. The curation of these "battlewax" collections are a fresh interpretation of a deeply rooted musical underground, and fans of the typical Slug Wife offering are sure to find a delicious reprieve from the norm inside Whack Lack Vol. 2. Considering how tasteful this assortment of lithe beats is, one hopes Maru will stick around a bit and continue to cook up crisp servings of lo-fi goodness.