John Glacier’s confessional dictaphone raps sound like intimate notes to self, intended for one listener only. She writes to untangle her mind. “Got weed for the low times too/What’s low times two? I dunno/Double negative makes a positive, or so they say/So I’m playing with the words again,” she drawls over the stretched-out guitar of “Green Elephants Freestyle,” a highlight from the woozy final third of her debut album. SHILOH: Lost for Words shines in the moments when Glacier lets her vocals float a little outside of the beat, luxuriating in the tension between her reticent persona and raw lyricism. On “Boozy,” she duets with her own muffled practice takes; on “Some Other Thing,” her stream of consciousness solidifies over an echoing drone.
SHILOH is the East London rapper-producer’s most substantial work to date, following a handful of wispy feature verses for fellow rap esoterics Babyfather, Jeshi, and LYAM; it arrives via scene-shaping producer and Frank Ocean collaborator Vegyn’s PLZ Make It Ruins. Vegyn made contact after coming across Glacier’s SoundCloud page; pay a visit yourself and you’ll find a handful of snippets with functional titles like “Sounds from Friday evening” and “A Child was Sad so I made this infront of her to make her laugh.” As the pair exchanged messages, they realized they’d met multiple times before—trading gripes at the back of parties, each grateful for an understanding ear.
In 2019, Vegyn opened up his studio space to Glacier—she favored the night shifts—prompting a loose back-and-forth of ideas. Two years later, their sketches emerge as these 12 mostly brief tracks. SHILOH has the feel of a mixtape: Works in progress nestle alongside more carefully structured songs (the percussive cascades on “If Anything” are nothing if not meticulous); ad libs are replaced with Glacier’s in-the-moment reactions to her own output (a gargled “ergh” of apparent disgust on “Timing” is comical as it is vulnerable). But Glacier’s productions—completed alongside a tight-knit ensemble of Vegyn, Holly, Psychedelic Ensemble, and Tn_490—coat the record with a cool, understated gloss and keep it from unravelling.
Glacier’s music toes a fine line between noodly bedroom art-rap and something more substantive. She comes out on the right side with reassuring consistency. The smartarse wordplay on “Green Elephants Freestyle” is knowing enough to retain its smirking charm; “Trelawny Waters” pairs the infectious lilt and measure of a nonsense poem with a tribute to Queen Nanny and the Windward Maroons, a guerilla army of former slaves who battled British colonizers in 18th-century Jamaica. For listeners of such intimate music, there’s a similarly fine line between voyeurism and the privilege of being offered a window into another person’s inner monologues, be they banal or profound. Even when it’s obscure, SHILOH is wholly inviting.
Buy: Rough Trade
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