There are certainly times where you might find yourself wishing he'd dial it back a bit, as with the narrative "Easy Angel of Spruce St.," infused with classical-guitar clips from producer Graymatter, where there's a clearly a story, but it can be hard to tease out the details: "He's been told that he's hard to love, but, uh, he's not sure what that means."
Not sure what that means? That's the easiest thing to understand in the song. I want to know more about "keeping a vulture vigil" and why "my separate peace has gone missing." There are so many delicious phrases here, "maybe he just requires a prescription."
I don't think Brzowski's seeking spiritual absolution. Between that carpenter crack and "Covenant," it's fairly clear where his views on organized religion rest. Here he pairs a choral singing clip with a staccato bass line of his own making, then introduces Awol One for a verse, huskier and less aggressive: "Come back to me sunlight/Rescue this sinner/It's been a long dark winter."
The guest turns are well chosen here. Perhaps the best use of supporting actors is the expansive "I'm the Atlantic," which opens with a dramatic reading of The Grays, by Whitley Strieber, then features just the right cold and sweeping beats from Mike Clouds. As Ashley Sterling delivers a dramatic vocal hook Brzowski gives more personality and emotion than on any other track: "I'm the lighthouse keeper/The wind whips/The future is now."
No doubt, he's in his prime and there's no doubt the name Brzowski is being spoken more and more in the underground hip-hop scene globally, but don't expect him to slow down. As he notes on "Friendly Fire," "you can't eat, drink, smoke, spend, or fuck respect — I've tried."
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A FITFUL SLEEP | Released by Brzowski on Milled Pavement Records | with Prayers for Atheists + Dollfight! + HW + Ill by Instinct | at SPACE, in Portland | June 18 | milledpavement.com/brzowski.html