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While U Wait EP Bryan Brussee , June 9th, 2015 10:39

Cloud rap has moved on to greener pastures. Lord Flacko's picked up new extracurriculars (LSD, Danger Mouse and Rod Stewart), sadboy Yung Lean's dynasty of PS1 imports, Arizona Iced Tea and tears has collapsed into the Baltic Sea after 2014's clusterfuck of the highest order Unknown Memory, and bloggers have instead latched onto PC Music as the newest novelty to which to chin-stroke. FRIENDZONE, the Californian duo known individually as James Laurence and Dylan Reznick, have at long last returned to a grim scene.

It's fitting that they're still here, though. They, alongside Clams Casino, sparked the genre's last sea change, rescuing the Cloud from SpaceGhostPurrp's nebulous ghettos and cLOUDDEAD's socially conscious backpacks, in the process breeding a new strain grown on soft samples, skittering trap beats, ghostly vocals and a fetish for all things kawaii. Their latest offering, a seven-tracker titled While U Wait, arrives on the eve of 808s and Dark Grapes III, a long-in-the-works set they've produced alongside San Francisco MCs Main Attrakionz.

Though this reviewer has spent more time than he should digging through Bandcamps and trying to convince himself that Sensei Setsa is a profound artist, sometimes it all comes across as smoke and mirrors. These MCs don't deal so much in profoundly thoughtful lyrics as those that give the sense of profound thought, and the beats aren't so much beautiful as they are reliant on pretty textures. More so, there's a fragile dichotomy at play; in the absence of an MC who can bellow a bar so daft or slur a lyric so terrible as to be brilliant when the mood strikes them, these instrumental tapes often fail to leave any impression, wafting by and proving just as hazy and immaterial as the genre's name.

While U Wait seeks to cut out the MC entirely but can't quite succeed on its own merits. While opener 'GRAY ICE' is undeniably gorgeous, it's low-end synth pulses and plucked MIDI strings skating alongside warped voices, any impressions fade along with the track's piano outro. Elsewhere, '5,318mi' grooves through an increasingly agitated trap beat into a gliding, monolithic synth line but 'WISHES', an exercise in ambience bringing to mind the worst of the genre, too short to sink in to and too static to leave any kind of impression, fails to keep the bowl cherried. Closer 'MAGIC' delivers a rush of sugary staccato vocal samples that bring to mind a chopped not slopped version of an anime theme with a proggy guitar solo appended to the final few minutes. It almost pushes past the couch lock.

Will any of these tracks resurface on the long-delayed 808s And Dark Grapes III? It's an intriguing proposition. These are good compositions, they just feel incomplete and a little too ordinary, directionless in the absence of an oddball MC. It's a little disappointing, too, considering the duo's excellent debut album, 2013's DX, managed to keep itself afloat for 55 minutes, and here they fail to establish even 30 minutes, and that's after a 2 year gap. So for now it looks like we'll have to make do with a merely respectable collection of seven tracks that, if not necessarily the most forward thinking or engaging set of songs, at least staves off the munchies a little longer, before Dark Grapes III either validates FRIENDZONE and Attrakionz as bossalinis or dooms them as one hitter fooliyones.

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