If there’s such a thing as an in-house production style over at anticon, it usually contains the prefix “avant,” as though it’s both inaccessible to casual listeners and removed from their beatmaking peers. But after more than a decade with the collective he helped assemble, Alias has narrowed the gulf between oddity and catchiness until the two are practically inseparable. Fever Dream is off-kilter enough for people who prefer their beats lysergic, and its sun-bleached mutations of 808-derived drum patterns are appealingly jarring – whether they flash back to ’84 NYC, 2000Memphis or contemporaryLos Angeles.
The screw-warped “Revl Is Divad” and the Neptunes-via-John Carpenter “Lady Lambin’” are far-out enough to justify Alias’s reputation for advanced weirdness, but the bulk of the album – the underwater pop-lock of opener “Goinswimmin,” the boom-clap bounce of “Wanna Let It Go,” the surreal-yet-sincere R&B move “Talk in Technicolor” – offers a woozily psychedelic, dreamlike analog to the conventions of synth-driven midstream hip-hop. It’s more conversational than combative, though a taste for chromed-out bass, choppy snares and ghostly vocal hooks reverbed into compelling abstraction sure doesn’t hurt. It’s still avant – just more like avant-pop.