Aaron Mader, aka Lazerbeak, has taken time off from his guitar duties in the indie band The Plastic Constellations to drop his second solo LP, Lava Bangers. The producer and artist has had recent success with Doomtree’s No Kings album, which is a hip-hop collective of like-minded artists (or really high school friends) who are known for their “blatant disregard for the conventions of their genre.” Mader’s solo project as the super producer known as Lazerbeak consists of hard-hitting beats that feature both a hip-hop flavor and some indie/alternative/rock edge.

Given his hip-hop and indie rock background, I didn’t know what I was in for. And to be honest, opening up Lava Bangers to find 20 tracks was quite intimidating. I like to call myself a music connoisseur, open to new music, but that’s a shitload of tracks to devour by an artist you’re not particularly familiar with.

Noticing each song was no more than two minutes long (with the exception of the last song, “Lift Every Voice” that runs about three minutes), I soon realized that Lazerbeak’s album was purely instrumental. The very first track, “Might Jungle,” pretty much sets the tone with heavy beats spread out under melodic keys, each interchanging into high and low pitches that swarm over each other. You won’t hear any vocals until track four, “LRL,” which are a looped vocal progression that provides a very classic hip-hop feel. Think hip-hop mixtapes from the early-’90s joints. Throughout the track, you’re just waiting for someone to drop a tight verse or lyrical rhyme. “Bully” seamlessly follows in progression, as does “Ay Bay Bee,” so it’s hard to really tell where one song ends and another begins. This goes on throughout the album, which is quite nice and allows you to get lost in the music and its head-nodding beats that are laced with melodies and vibrant percussion.

Each of the tracks are brief but still carry musical clout in their own right. The swift changes in tempos and pitches while each track gets lost in the next—provides for great background music for when you’re at work, deep in thought or having people over and need a foundation for the atmosphere. “Xylophone” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album and is infused with sounds of the orient mixed with up-tempo jazz-like beats with the occasional scratch thrown in just for fun. It’s definitely easy on the ears.

The entire album actually began in Lazerbeak’s basement studio as a collection of 150 beats he created using a MPC2000XL. With the help from his friend Plain Ole Bill (who’s the live DJ for P.O.S. and Brother Ali), those random beats were transformed into the 20 tracks on Lava Bangers. At first listen, I wasn’t feeling any of it. I kept on waiting for the rhymes to drop or some rapper to start busting their flow on all the tracks and when it never came, I immediately became uninterested in the album. It wasn’t until my “Recently Added” folder in iTunes came across Lazerbeak’s songs on accident while finishing up work did I stop and realize that it wasn’t as bad as I had initially thought. The beats were indeed unique and creative, while remaining upbeat and powerful.

Will Lava Bangers be in heavy rotation on my iPod, probably not. But will it serve as easy listening for when I need some background music (preferably when working). But one thing for sure is you can’t knock Lazerbeak’s production talent because it’s something the current hip-hop game is missing.

Words: Kristie Bertucci

Artist: Lazerbeak
Album: Lava Bangers
Label: Doomtree Records
Release Date: January 24, 2012