- Chance McNiff, Baby9ir1
(Self-released, digital download)
On Chance McNiff's previous albums, the Brattleboro artist has shown himself to be a man of few words. With 2013's Sequoiahedron and 2017's thoughts count and Seasons ¢hange, McNiff has taken listeners on aural journeys through experimental electronic soundscapes free of lyrics. He flip-flops on his most recent LP, Baby9irl, which he describes on Instagram as his "sensitive new-age hip-hop album."
McNiff is also a farmer, and his social media is populated by a mix of nature photos and hip-hop appreciation videos. This compelling combination of interests carries through the 11-song collection, released on March 17. Lyrics mix hip-hop tropes with pastoral vocabulary: "Centipede look at me when I walk / Rest in peace if my foot makes you stop / Firefly you light up the dark / Little one you a work of art," he warbles on "Little One."
McNiff's voice sounds highly processed throughout the album as he raps and sings his original lyrics. The result is a hazy, intoxicated vibe in the vein of SoundCloud artists such as Diveliner and Teddy.
The beats, culled from nearly a dozen different producers from around the country, provide a light-trap backdrop for McNiff's musings on Moby-Dick, his girlfriend and the natural world. Denver producer XANNY DEVITO's beat on "I flex Bob Ross" stands out for its acoustic guitar lick looped over a trap rhythm, reminiscent of work by Goth Boi Clique's Horse Head.
McNiff has displayed his production skills on previous efforts, so it would have been interesting to hear his own take on hip-hop beats. Regardless, the collection he curated feels interesting and of the moment.
Aside from the parade of producers, the only feature is by McNiff's mother, who is heard delivering an expletive-filled tirade in a thick Bronx accent at the end of "Sophia."
Rhythmic delivery isn't McNiff's strongest suit on this album. Neither are snappy metaphors. However, the lyrics are weird enough to leave an impression (e.g., "Yeah she really rare / But not like meat"). Listening to McNiff's words might leave you scratching your head, but odd is better than ordinary.
In a 2017 blog post for Seven Days, Amelia Devoid wrote that with McNiff's third offering, Seasons ¢hange, "genre dies, convention is ended and the stiff grid world ceases to exist." With Baby9irl, McNiff continues to push boundaries and provoke thought while exploring a new genre.
Baby9ir1 is available at chancemcniff.bandcamp.com.