Integrated Tech Solutions
ABOVE THE CURRENT
Aesop Rock’s new album Integrated Tech Solutions begins with a synth-pop advertisement for a fictional firm that focuses on the sort of strategies hinted at in the album’s title. Buzz phrases like “Building a bridge to a better tomorrow” are uttered, as are equally vacuous statements like “Resources, networking, applications, solutions” (my personal favorite references “on-site scrum sessions”). It’s meant to sound like a generic start-up’s pitch deck, but what the veteran emcee is pointing out is that this hollow gibberish sounds more like Brennan and Dale’s Prestige Worldwide pitch in Step Brothers than the future of technological innovation.
This throughline runs through the record, allowing Aes to not only showcase his world-class rapping, but offer a parodical look into the corporate mealy-mouthed hollowness that has enveloped so much of our culture. He organizes the mostly self-produced album as a cautionary fable of sorts, kicking off the second track “Mindful Solutionism” with a time-traveling story that spans the human history: “2.5 million years ago, a friend of mine / Made a tool from a stone and defended his tribe / It’s technology, sorry for the technical term.” Who knows how the hell we got here, but it ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
He keeps the crew tight on the album, inviting frequent collaborator Rob Sonic for “Forward Compatibility Engine,” pop-soul vocalist Nikki Jean on album closer “Black Snow,” Armand Hammer emcee billy woods on “Living Curfew,” and guitarist/producer Hanni El Khatib on “Kyanite Toothpick.” But it’s on the Lealani-featuring “Bermuda” that Aes fuses the old-school rapidfire wordplay of his early days with the grimy, thizz-face inducing beat selection he employs throughout Integrated Tech Solutions. This is a lullaby for the apocalypse we’ve prematurely invited thanks to technological dependency and willful denial of climate catastrophe.
The art-pop guest vocalist turns in an absolutely haunted chorus on the track, sounding like Billie Eilish raised on Black Moth Super Rainbow (many of the stylistic touchstones here recall Aes’ work with BMSR’s Tobacco under the Malibu Ken moniker). On the cut, Rock raps, “If human nature versus nature nature is brewing, my goodness / Guns and roses turn to roses and roses / Country roads is overgrown with begonias / Come press your nose to the lotus.” This is a battle we’re not going to win. The unrelenting plundering of our natural resources may wipe out our planet, but alongside its extinction comes our own, too.
Integrated Tech Solutions is above all a reminder that Aesop Rock has always had the uncanny ability to make horrifying shit sound fun—or, at the very least, entertaining—from his early decrees on the ethics of labor to the roles of gatekeeping in our culture. Now, as technology threatens to not only destroy our planet but have us scrolling and clicking while people around us die in preventable, anger-inducing ways, he highlights the absurdity of this tragedy. This isn’t a fun story to tell, but who better to take on that burden than rap’s great wary seer?