LISTENING TO EDIFICE, the debut full-length from Hives Inquiry Squad, is a lesson in the multitudes contained within the current Portland hiphop community. The duo of recent Midwest transplants Lucas Dix and Gavin Soens spits dystopian diatribes over multi-layered soundscapes courtesy of Soens (whose production work is credited to his alter ego Gavin Theory). The lyrical style is acrobatic and joyfully disjointed—think Aesop Rock meets Busta Rhymes—while the subject matter owes far more to the post-apocalyptic claustrophobia found on Funcrusher Plus than to the more ubiquitous ride-or-die ethos of The Chronic. In cinematic terms, it eschews the tragic braggadocio of Scarface for a universe that is decidedly Blade Runner in its subterranean futurism.
In addition, the Squad reaches out to other local acts, including some welcome comic relief courtesy of shamelessly underrated emcee Abadawn on the track "Neuro," as well as a soulful vocal hook on "Enough" from Mimi Naja of local folk act Fruition—that track being produced by Portland electro-wunderkind the Great Mundane.
Edifice is also a testament to judicious patience and restraint. While Dix and Soens have been collaborating for almost a decade now—since their days together in the high school hallways of Kenosha, Wisconsin—it's only now that their tireless dedication to their craft has come to fruition. As Soens recently explained in an interview on KBOO, "If we're gonna put out an album, I'm gonna put a lot of work into it. I'm gonna put a lot of thought into the rhymes. I'm not gonna sit down and write a rhyme in a day and then just spew it out to people. So, it takes a lot of time to really get a good collection of songs together, to have real cohesive depth inside the work and the production, where you can really listen to it over and over again and keep catching new things. So that's what the aim is." If that's the aim, then the subsequent kaleidoscopic shot of Edifice hits the bull's eye point blank.