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N.A.S.A. – The Spirit of Apollo review

N.A.S.A. – The Spirit of Apollo
Written by Clayton Woullard
(cwoullar@mscd.edu)

The Metropolitan

2009

Some albums were meant to be the soundtrack for jungle juice, hazy living rooms and the groping of strangers. The Spirit Of Apollo is one of those.

The product of two hip-hop producers — Spike Jonze’s brother Sam Spiegel (aka Squeak E Clean of North America) and pro skater Ze Gonzales (aka DJ Zegon of South America) — Apollo was six years in the making, and it shows, especially in the deftly crafted production. “Money,” the album’s shining star, sees the talents of former Talking Head David Byrne, Z-Trip, Chuck D, Ras Congo and Seu Jorge but, surprisingly enough, is only unusual in its seemingly odd guest list.
“Way Down,” is another highlight that features Barbie Hatch’s ghostly vocals swirling perfectly with a Dan The Automator-esque beat, John Frusciante’s sparse, filtered guitar and RZA’s usual intriguing libretto, which are found elsewhere on the album’s hidden bonus track. My personal favorite, “Electric Flowers” features a sultry Nina Persson of The Cardigans.

On “Strange Enough,” Karen O fits perfectly on a rugged beat among fairly weak verses from the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Fatlip. “Gifted” is a bleep-y hip-hop/French electronic Santogold song featuring Kanye West and Lykke Li that works better than you’d think. “Whatchadoin?,” featuring Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold and Nick Zinner, is easily the most annoying song (it has M.I.A.) with a scrawny jungle beat and poorly-placed guitar riffs. And “Spacious Thoughts” is the most odd of the collaborators with Kool Keith and a husky Tom Waits over a gloomy New York beat that has a hard time figuring itself out.

Even though N.A.S.A. risked spreading themselves too thin with some 40 collaborators, it doesn’t take away from its playability because, overall, this is a laudable venture for the hip-hop lover’s, and the consummate partyer’s ears.

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