What makes Synth or Soul worthwhile is the fact that Curtis Cross – the 29 year old Detroit native behind Black Milk – isn’t forcing you to make a choice. This intriguing concept album consists of one side featuring Moog-driven electronic music heavy in melody and another featuring soul and R&B samples heavy in meta. But the album doesn’t set out to provide an ultimatum for the listener, instead Cross sets out to prove that the two – synth and soul – are not mutually exclusive.

It’s rhymeless without being devoid of such things. There’s plenty of lyrical hooks on the “Soul” side of the EP to keep you interested. On the “Synth” side “When The Sky Falls” will keep you gripped with a melancholy litany of analog oscillation, “Higgs Boson” is the BBC Workshop if they were into Sour Diesel more than lab coats, and 600 plays like the song Newcleus never made a b-side of. All this before “Why Worry” takes you into more familiar, syncopated territory. “Deep Breath Deep Bass” drowns hip hop in a tub, “Heavens Cry” is new wave to the latter’s punk, “Wish A N’gga Would” is a sublime and groove-laden intermission and closer “Drunk Tweets” just doesn’t give a fuck, rhythmically speaking.

Synth or Soul encapsulates the two hemispheres of modern hip hop in a way both beautiful and rustic, explicating the dichotomy between tinny snare hits and synth lines and MPC-manipulated samples without pitting the two against each other. It shows how the two can be done properly and without irony, in particular the former. While the title implies that there is an inherent dichotomy in the album itself, the two sides are far from segregated and bleed seamlessly into each other. “Bleed”—how human. 

(Computer Ugly Records)

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