Remember that episode of the Simpsons when Homer gets obese? Calling to warn of an imminent meltdown, the operator tells him that his fingers are too fat to use the number pad. What if your fingers were too phat to operate a SP404; so fat, in fact, that you could hold the world in an embrace? This is Caveman In Japan. Motëm is a neanderthal among samurai, bear-hugging when people around him are bowing behind paper screens. His hands fly slow like a cruise ship over oceans of blinking lights. Skin dripping patterned nature, he holds ceremonies in the woods lit by a candelabra.
Coming out of Hamilton, Canada, and a much-beloved adopted son of Scandanavia, Motëm packs a slow-handed punch. This is his seventh release since Tales From the Cryptid (2010), his first album as the current incarnation of Motëm. Similar to Lil B and RiFF RAFF (whom he has opened for), Motëm has a flair for the social networking game, releasing tunes mostly under his own hypemachine Gebbz Steelo but with glittering gems also on such notables as Flogsta Danshall, Harmonia, Dodpop, Innocuous, and Poisonous Gases. Moreover, like most rappers who cultivate their fame on the internet, his output is amazingly abundant (considering he’s not just rapping on someone else’s beat tape).
Motëm’s sounds are like lone trumpeters on mountaintops crying out their messages to distant kings. Echoing synths drape themselves over beats like swag curtains in a neon window frame. He samples anything and everything, even though this tape has its tendency towards the koto and blissful synthetic textures. He hasn’t let go of his spartan bass hits, that-first-bite-of-a-dill-pickle-crunch claps, and his echoing rim shots though. He seems to also have settled into a freer flow, mischievous but quiet and smooth with rhymes you don’t mind reaching a little for.
Stream: Motëm – Caveman in Japan
A Thoreau with one foot still in the city, Motëm speaks of nature like a Hudson River School painting. In “Lessons in Nature” there is a sense of being lost in claustrophobic wilderness right before you push back the leaves and see the vista of rolling basslines rippling with the slowness of mountains below you. The whole collection is reminiscent of this beautiful and hopeful Richard Brautigan poem “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace,” a passage of which follows:
I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.
Yet there are interludes of fog machines laying thick translucency over the dance party of our souls. Motëm writes as if he’s watching the cherry blossoms fall in autumnal Japan in a sno-globe that he purchased from a Tokyo gift shop. Peace in a tiny container, or a tiny moment in time. In “Fog” he says, “if I only knew what time it was, I might be in more of a rush.” Like in his track from The Forthcoming Mixtape (2011) “Always Been,” there are moments in places which are out of time and are infinite because of this. Motëm has always searched for those perfect moments, despite his insistence that they are immeasurable experiences. Still, he hopes that someone, maybe even everyone, has their own experience in mind.
Even in his music there are small moments of uncertainty and pleasure from that uncertainty. Motëm’s gentle refusal to keep to prescribed dance structure sometimes result in beats which make you feel like you’re dancing on stilts. But isn’t being self-aware just something we’re used to by now, as Motem points out in “With Emotions;” so why not dance those stilts into little nubs? For now at least, he still keeps his distance: rapping in “Exposed” that “I am not your guy / I am not your guide . . . Lotta people born lost.”
Stream: Motëm – Japan in Autumn
Download the mixtape “Caveman in Japan” here.