Black Milk links up with illustrator Upendo “Pen” Taylor for “the music-meets-visual instrumental/art series Fuzz, Freqs & Colors (FFC).” The first release of this multi-part series of art and sounds is the “Synth or Soul” project. “Synth or Soul” is an eclectic mix of synth heavy compositions and chopped soul beats all done up in classic Black Milk style and further dressed up in Pen’s retro-digi-fresh artwork. According to Compute Ugly “The process for each volume starts with Black and Pen trading beats and sketches and refining their works along the way. Throughout that exchange, the music is shaped by the visual art and the visual art is shaped by the music.”

“Synth or Soul” is scheduled for digital release on Tuesday April 23rd. A quick stop by revealed a sold out status for the wax. However, the wax dropped aptly on April 20th otherwise known as Record Shop Day and is likely a tough find although I believe some cats were ranting about a few they across when i was in Phoenix at Revolver Records.

As I listen to the “Computer Ugly” soundcloud page I find it interesting that the project may have a rather polarizing effect on different folks. The name and the premise of the project, Synth or Soul, sort of lends itself to the forces of opposing polarity. In beat-making, you rarely find a producer that is fly enough to pull off both, Synth or Soul, as well as Black Milk. Of course, there was/is Dilla and Madlib. They seemed to lock down both sides of the force equally well. Chopped samples or compositions of synth regale, these dudes are like ninjas with either style. Milk is no exception.

Even still, as I listen to this “Computer Ugly Ugly” joint its apparent that it’s striking. Depending on your tastes, it may strike you as horrible or it may strike you as incredibly dope because it’s just a different groove. Me myself, I kind of dig the sort of arpeggiated nag of the synth part as it bounces nicely off the drums. The “Ugly, Ugly, Ugly, Ugly” vocal sample and the droned bass is a dope touch. Play it loud a few times and you just might get it. This is “low-end theory” music. Not in the sense of sounding like the ATCQ album but in the sense of the theory itself. TURN IT UP! You’ll get it.

Further into the project we find Black Milk digging deeper into the synth production flavors that meet somewhere between Dilla’s Trans-Europe Express phase and Milk’s own “Tronic” project. Good place to land if you ask me. Just listen to

Then there is the characteristically “Black Milk” soulful hip-hop with hard drums and sparse delay laden vocal stabs on joints like “Why Worry”, “10 Love” & “Heaven’s Cry”. These joints bring home the Soul side of the project.

You would think that such a marriage of production styles, even from one producer on one project, might result in a rather disjointed or unfocused album. Well, actually it’s quite the opposite. Synth or Soul is a really cohesive project. Cohesive in part due to the vintage documentary style interludes explaining various concepts of synthesis, computer technology and robotics. Oh and, of course the blaxploitation-esque interlude snippets combine with the aforementioned to act as a sort of glue for the entire project. I’d say it’s very well done.

As for the new label Computer Ugly… the word is “FFC is the first project launched by the new creative house Computer Ugly.” Who?! Computer Ugly?! I don’t know. I think the guy, girl and/or collective behind the label has planned to keep things a bit mysterious while dropping these really fresh projects from Black Milk and Pen. I’d even venture to say that the label could be a joint venture between Milk and Pen for the express purpose of releasing their collaborative musings. Makes no diff to me. I’m enjoying the sights and sounds.

Pre-ordered and streaming as you read this. Take a listen.

Cop this on Tuesday, April 23rd on iTunes

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