VinLa’Infinite – Mortal – Album Review
It was back at the end of good ol’ 2015 when we last heard VinLa’Infinite doin’ his thang on his Heroes Don’t Exist EP – always good to hear a homie is still out there and still on the grind. Stoked to hear where he’s headed to next in his latest release, a full album called Mortal, let’s see what’s up.
As you listen to this record, you can certainly tell this emcee is going for his own defined sound on Mortal. “Precalculation” starts up the album with giant sounds, eventually parting way into an eerie blend of background elements, effects, and a bizarre but oddly captivating rhythm & flow. “Precalculation” introduces you to the battle of the emcee versus the atmosphere that takes place throughout the record – VinLa’Infinite stabs at an identifiable sound, but at the same time will relentlessly take chances with the effects on the vocals threatening to sink his words into the mix entirely. You can certainly acknowledge the attention to detail in how different lines have different layers & different effects applied at Vin’s sheer will throughout these cuts…”Precalculation” sets the standard for the approach to much of Mortal, which is to keep those verses somewhat clear…and then really burying the hooks into the music for the chorus. That’s gonna confuse a few ears out there, but it does get you prepared for what’s to come. The eerie, haunting, & dark way that this record begins catches the attention and the roll Vin goes in the verse on past the first minute completely works.
“Square (One)” gets VinLa’Infinite moving into a bit more light…not too much, but half-n-half at the very least; he’s not shedding the shroud of darkness that covers his sound on Mortal & began on the opening track “Precalculation,” but there is undeniably more for the listener to work with and get their ears around on this second cut. “Square (One)” isn’t entirely without hooks, he’s just not attempting to make anything typical. As a result, many elements of this cut stand-out along the way, just don’t expect to be singing along – that’s not what VinLa’Infinite is going for here. He ain’t afraid to get weird in search of something new…I think that works both for & against him in spots throughout Mortal; “Square (One)” is a lot to take in and it can be tough to separate each individual word in the mix, but you can hear the art of the wordsmith on display through the consistent rhythm & flow. The more you listen to “Square (One),” the more you’ll catch in his lyricism…I dig the wildness here and the intensity he’s spittin’ with. I loved the massive electro burst around the 2:20-ish mark…that sounded huge and makes a bold impact in this cut that makes for a standout moment towards the end.
There is something I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to the production on these first three cuts…most noticeably rearing its head early on “Credit Check.” Dude uses a lot of atmospheric sounds in his mix…which on one hand creates a distinguishable vibe that you can certainly identify as Vin’s…but by that same token, it threatens to envelop a lot of what he’s doing on the mic. VinLa’Infinite is far from mumble-rap…problem being, that swirl of sound in the mix can often claim his words or the attention of our ears. I could be getting old, but I kept finding myself wishing that the vocals had just a bit more volume to break through that when it comes to the beginning to the end of a track…because this guy can seriously rap when it comes right down to it – that deserves to be noticed. “Credit Check” absolutely has some of the best bars in the verses of Mortal…as to whether or not that approach to the main hooks is going to work out, I honestly couldn’t tell ya. I really do like the way he’ll bring in one line of a verse to a whole new level with smart effects added in or an extra layer that’ll set it all off. In a lot of these tunes, the stand-out moments and what becomes most memorable is the flow & sound of the verses…and likely, VinLa’Infinite might need to examine these tunes from an objective point of view and decide if that’s the effect he’s ultimately going for. All I’m arguing is that these words should be heard, that’s it, that’s all – I think the effort he consistently puts in deserves it. That being said, as if on cue in response, he lights up the hooks on the following cut “Pro (Ph) Fits (Interlude)” and makes the most memorable moments fit into the space where your ears would expect to find them.
The music on “Addiction” is without question an early highlight. I gotta admit, the choice in adding the ambient atmosphere pumping an air-like rotary-speaker/phaser sound into the mix all throughout this record is an interesting idea…time is going to tell if that’s the right direction or whether the people will respond to it. I do think the air-factor is costing the clarity…I’ve made that much clear by now – but I do think that the versatile & lively rhythm that Vin’s got on the mic stands-out enough here to be noticed, and combined with the highly inventive and innovative way the music on “Addiction” is put together, that this cut is likely to be a memorable moment on the record for many out there. All-in-all, “Addiction” is satisfying on several levels; it works to provide something new through the extremely innovative & impressive beat and really becomes an artistic expression you’ll remember on Mortal – but for those looking for rhythm & flow, no worries, VinLa’Infinite will bring it to ya in that department too.
“How Much” has that clarity he deserves in the verse…or at least at the beginning of the bars it sure does. You can hear the music and atmosphere fill in around him, but it sounded like VinLa’Infinite was able to hold his own here and push past all that to remain the star of this cut. He definitely knows his way around the dictionary – dude hauls out a ton of words in a furious flow that runs deep on “How Much.” Just as I was about to say that I wanted the ending of “How Much” to be featured as a breakdown or something along the way on this cut, he takes it straight into the next track seamlessly. “Scoreboard” goes further into that swirl of the mix more than any other track so far as it begins. The character and charisma of VinLa’Infinite breaks through the music in spots where it counts…most of the time you catch the words with the most emphasis and punch in the delivery; that being said, rhythm & flow play a role here, so do the effects and layers. I mean let’s face facts – you can think of 1000 songs off the top of your dome where you don’t know every single word and you still get right into it. That’s the effect here too…but also part of the magic when it comes right down to it. I hardly have a clue of every word or every meaning behind them – but I know what I can put on to test the volume on my speakers & turn right the fuck up regardless – this is the kind of rhythm that’ll encourage me to do just that. “Scoreboard” is the kind of cut that helps you appreciate that this emcee isn’t going the easy route here – he might rhyme about some pretty hard stuff when it comes to his perspective & thoughts spit into the mic, but clearly based on the production & writing of this record, he’s an artist at heart.
When it comes right down to it, Mortal is quite the trip to listen to. If you weren’t high before, you’ll feel like you are by the time VinLa’Infinite is done with ya. “Catch (Twenty) 2” puts real distance in the vocals with big reverb playing a role in the chorus hooks contrasting really well with the clarity of the verses on this cut…which works out really well here. Definitely one of the more socially-conscious cuts on the record…he brings up some solid observations on “Catch (Twenty) 2” and keeps the flow intense & engaging. Multiple highlight moments throughout this cut…when more space enters the music and the pace spreads out, Vin gives you the full-dose of his verbal skills through this innovative flow rolling through “Catch (Twenty) 2” – I would suspect this track might not be the first one the people notice on those initial spins through Mortal, but I think that it’s definitely one of the cuts that’ll keep’em coming back to listen. That snare sound in the beat is so twisted-up & rad to listen to that it almost sounds like a fist connecting on an old game of Super Punch-Out on the original Nintendo. Good chance that’s somewhat the intentions here…when you listen to the words of “Catch (Twenty) 2” you’ll hear that it’s not like he’s looking for problems – but he definitely makes it clear who’ll be the last emcee standing if that ends up being the case. Versatile & vibrant sound, clever imagery in the words…solid track for sure.
Dat bass-beat tho! Loved the way that “Countdown” began…those thumps that begin the cut are huge. Vin does his stylistic thang on the mic…if effects are your thing, you’re in luck – he’s absolutely explored them to the max on Mortal. Personally, again, I think he’d benefit from more clarity, or rather – I think he’d potentially up his cred by shedding a layer or two and letting those words speak for themselves. The verses and bars of “Countdown” where he’s mainly left on his own sound awesome…you really get to the words and personality. That’s the risk of those effects…it can standardize the sound of what we hear from track to track, but that also helps us notice a bit more when they’re taken away or dialed back. So for me…not massively huge of some of the ideas that are buried nuts-deep in the swirl, but I thought the much of the material in the verses of “Countdown” were able to get some of the best out of VinLa’Infinite on the mic and into our ears. “Countdown” has hooks that become almost like a self-anthem of sorts…I appreciate that musically, he’s tried many different things along the journey of this record…he has vocally as well too of course, but perhaps more varied results there. I’m naturally resistant to songs that are directly about an artist/band generally-speaking…I’m not quite sure this is the cut to break that streak for me personally, but I can appreciate that Vin is right into it. Musically, “Countdown” is pretty crazy cut, loved the edit in the percussion and beats…wasn’t entirely sure of the brighter…hmm…I dunno what those are, pipe-organ sounds perhaps…whatever they were, I still felt myself appreciating the contrast they brought to this track, but it was the complexity of what was happening below the surface of “Countdown” that always remained the most impressive to my ears.
“Expiration” – perfect example of what I’ve been saying all along and how much of a difference it can make when there’s more space added into the music. Paced-out & spaced-out, “Expiration” is completely a highlight cut on Mortal, the way this track moves is deadly and full of seriously rad sounds to form the music. I felt like every moment of this cut came across with the power he was looking for all along…or at least, that he should be seeking out; the confidence-level never wavers no matter what style he takes to the mic on whatever track you listen to – but his performance here is bound to get the credit he deserves due to the additional clarity in the structure, mix & flow of “Expiration.” If we’re talking straight-up hooks and accessibility, the award is still gonna go to “Pro (Ph) Fits (Interlude)” overall – BUT…in my opinion, “Expiration” was arguably the best cut on the record. Exceptional balance all the way through this track, with VinLa’Infinite once again making incredible use of a highly unique & imaginative beat; when he wants to light it right up, he does – check out the bars around the 2:30 mark and LISTEN to the amount of personality, character, & charisma he puts into the words. The main hooks in the chorus still have a ton of appeal to them and are bound to catch the attention of the people out there – they’re much more subtle and chill in sound than the lively “Pro (Ph) Fits (Interlude)” has, but that’s going to make this cut the number-one selection from the record for many people for that reason.
Overall, the album seems to make that shift into more clarity subtly from the beginning to the end, which could very well be the ambition or intention…though that might be a strange choice overall if it was intended. “Codes” seems to have the best balance in the mix between the vocals and music that we’ve heard so far…VinLa’Infinite might go wild’n’out by the very end in the last verse to end the record on a memorable moment, but the bulk of this cut has him sounding like he’s got it all dialed-in now. Lyrically, there’s a great chance that “Codes” was my favorite on the album. Now…that COULD be because we do get to hear more of them on this final track than you can typically filter from many of these tunes on Mortal…but I don’t think it’s just that, I genuinely believe I’m hearing more of VinLa’Infinite’s real message on this last rhyme and bold statement-cut of the record. “Codes” is a fantastic track to end the record on a way that you’ll want to repeat the experience you just had…it’s like it sets the standard all over again, and when you go back to the beginning, you’ll appreciate that next spin in entirely new ways. Mortal is certainly a different approach to rap in general – but I think VinLa’Infinite has definitely created an identifiable sound to his style that you could pick out of a playlist blindfolded and ultimately chosen a direction that’ll get more defined & refined over time. He’s got something unique goin’ on throughout his creativity, music, & rhymes on Mortal…and at the end of the day, listeners appreciate that.
Find more music from VinLa’Infinite at his official page at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lainfinite
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