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Inner War Delirium Arusa Qureshi , September 21st, 2023 08:52

French producer harnesses field recordings and sounds of clanging metal for a gothic take on experimental hip hop, finds Arusa Qureshi

Parisian producer Jonathan Katsav has gone by many monikers over the course of his musical career, including Lieu Noir, Sniper Bait and Soul Collector – each responsible for splicing varying genres and textures to great effect. But as Crave, the DIY master has found an interesting avenue within the Southern rap sphere, which he reshapes, dismantles and coalesces with industrial soundscapes and abrasive, horror-inducing noise, allowing his music to fall somewhere between eerie soundtrack and synth-soaked sketch.

Inner War Delirium, the latest in the producer’s experiments as Crave, is hard to define for its unearthly merging of hip-hop and grindcore but at its kernel, it feels like a cinematic epic. Each track is approached like a scene from a film, with different voices, sounds and emotions contributing to an atmosphere of chaos and gutsy, mutated sonics.

Opening track ‘Phyllis' sets the mood of the album with its mix of field recordings, doom instrumentals and booming vocals, the circling synths gradually picking up pace as Katsav's words break through the tumultuous noise. Instead of building to a climax though, the track fades away unnervingly to nothing as if to say, just wait – this is only where we begin. And as the album moves to the heavily distorted ‘Backdraft’, leaning more clearly into Crave’s Southern rap influences, and then the slow and steady drawl of ‘Cut Short’, there’s an understanding that each track sits alone as an episode or a vignette, with the flow of the whole album and its balance between light and dark made purposely idiosyncratic.

Tracks like the ambient ‘Donna Deadeye’ and the album’s title track make use of futuristic electronics that swirl and build effectively around ricocheting rhythms and beats. The latter in particular feels like it belongs in a science-fiction film, Katsav’s obscured vocals adding an extraterrestrial quality as they come in and out accompanied by distinct metal clanging. The album’s finale ‘Skirt the Grove’, meanwhile, is awash with recordings, trap beats and evocative synths that go in unexpected directions. Notably, Katsav recorded the track from the trunk of his car, so we hear rain hitting the car’s metal work at the end, as voices chillingly continue to cry out in the background.

On tracks like ‘Drift’ and ‘Ropes’, there is an identifiable link to the rap and trap instrumentals and motifs that Crave experiments within, a kind of gothic approach to hip-hop that makes everything darker and more volatile. Throughout Inner War Delirium though, Crave pushes this as much as possible, melding extreme noise, atmospheric instrumentation and warped arrangements to draw out the hardcore elements which make Crave’s style so much more thrilling and enticingly raucous.