Show LA R&B group The Internet a trend and they’ll buck it. Give them a recipe for making pop records and the group’s founders Odd Future cohorts Syd Tha Kid and Matt Martians will most likely toss in a bunch of sriracha sauce and nitroglycerin just to see what happens. So when it came to topping their Grammy nominated third album ‘Ego Death’, they were always going to give us something a little irregular.
New album ‘Hive Mind’ is that irregular effort, an album which – as the name suggests – is a towering demonstration of the collective intelligence of five artists approaching their zenith.
Every member of The Internet recently released solo projects, making this a sort-of end-of-term group project for all members involved. Where academic group projects often go awry due clashing egos or someone doing too much of the heavy lifting, though, ‘Hive Mind’ invites us to enjoy the same noteworthy ethereal beats and off-kilter sounds fans have come to know and love from The Internet, but with the experience enlivened by a group that’s returned from their personal voyages and have something extra to say.
Fifth track “Stay the Night” is a standout example of the new approach, as Steve Lacey’s subtle guitar work take us to a summer 3AM morning while Syd tries to convince a lover not to get an Uber home. ‘Hive Mind’ is the gourmet version of those Youtube playlists of ‘lo-fi beats to chill and study to’, an album of stolen summer kisses, bleary-eyed smiles and slow hip movements.
Syd recently explained: “After making a few songs,we realized that we really want to use this album to live by example and promote camaraderie amongst young black people.” She was referring to a particular three-track run (from ninth song “It Gets Better” to “Wanna Be”) that really showcases Syd’s continuing strength as a vocalist and the group’s progress towards truly realising their powers. “Everyone comes to ‘Hive Mind’ more assured”, she added. Vocal duties are shared, production draws from a wider sample base and baselines come more angular.
It takes a confident group to pack a song chorus with a bunch of “La la la” chants in the discerning streaming age, but when Steve and Syd combine on fourth track “La di da”, it feels like a band having a play around the park before asking you to join in. Melding Motown melodies and pop chords for heartbreak and house party listeners alike, ‘Hive Mind’ is a triumph.