By Jakob Frazier
Erthling. (fka sLanguage) has long been a prolific member of Birmingham’s thriving underground community. He’s been one half of several groups (The New Ancients with Ultra-Violent, Pen Pals with Fathom, Ancestor with Omari Jazz, and 729 with OZU) and offered his production skills to plenty of Birmingham’s talents— Richard Daniel, Mel. Crozby, K1NG ELJAY, D Gut, K.L.U.B. Monsta, Kennie Blk, Phrasure, and that’s just the short list. Erthling. has been much more selective with his solo work, ensuring that the final product is absolutely perfect before release.
Erthling. made his formal arrival in 2016 with the single “The Manifestation Of…” which was shortly followed by “Lessons After an Era of Errors” (both would receive remixes in 2018). After releasing a collection of instrumentals called Alien Radio Vol. 1 in 2017, Erthling. released his debut EP, Magical Realizm, which is a cornucopia of soundscapes: “Spellcaster” introduces the EP with a relatively minimal beat that fills out with Erth’s introductory verse. “GetDown” is a playful track that hosts a staccato piano sample over bouncy drums; after the brief “Wake Up” interlude, “New Gods” kicks in and samples Birmingham gloom-rock band Null for a monstrous instrumental and incredibly memorable hook. “Qui Vive” boasts a triumphant, almost-regal horn sample and features interjections from OZU before a sudden beat switch where Erth allows OZU to take the lead and foreshadow the 729 run in 2018. Magical Realizm closes with “Spirits in the Flesh” which hits you in the chest with its aggressive sample, knocking drums, and memorable bars such as “See, I don’t treat beats with any human decency/ but that’s because I’m not a human – I’m a deity.”
As a solo artist, Erthling. remained quiet in 2018, mostly staying behind the boards with his aforementioned production credits and controlling live stages in Birmingham and surrounding areas (performing a massive THREE sets in two days at Secret Stages), but after spending much time crafting to perfection, 2019 has finally seen the release of his debut album, Infloresco. While Magical Realizm takes pride in its diversity of sounds and styles, Infloresco revels in the consistency of its soundscape. “Search for Your Self” starts the album with Erth performing spoken word over a chorus of “oohs” before a saxophone transitions into the second half of the song, where Erth lets the listener know up front that Infloresco is an album about reflection, growth, and transformation (“Here I shared words with a hummingbird/ I made peace with the caterpillar, then this butterfly emerged”).
After this confessional, Erthling. takes time to remind us of his lyrical prowess with “Hello, I’m a Mess” and “Visioneering.” The former kicks off with “The same way that love has its own memory/ Well, my tongue has its own imagery” over a thumping drumbeat and elegant pianos, while the latter is what a Pen Pals song would sound like in 2019: head-bobbing drums and cymbal crashes accompanied by bold brass with Erthling. and Fathom trading bars.
The remix of “Lessons After an Era of Errors” appears on the album, sampling Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” for a lush and textured instrumental; Erthling. laments his desperation with lines like “Laugh cause I’m a king, but I get scared of the rain/ So I carry my crown as I carry my shame” baring his soul in a deeply personal way. “Klimt” and “The Second Door” feel like two songs with the same soul: “Klimt” describes Erthling. as the abstract artist he is over a single saxophone, and then “The Second Door” saunters in with a sparse, woozy guitar sample and Erth seemingly at a crossroads with OZU wrapping the song up by stating “Nothing changed until I did,” reinforcing the transformation theme of the album.
“Nights of Noise” stands out from the tracklist sonically, as it’s faster-paced and bouncier than its jazzy, mid-tempo counterparts, and the chaos of the instrumental lends itself to the topic, with Erth saying “Static dancing around me/ My own loudness astounds me” in reference to his thoughts and how they affect his mentality. “Indigo & Gold” directly contrasts this by sporting a beautifully mellow synth melody over rhythmic handclaps as Erth finds peace in solitude; Richard Daniel contributes a gorgeous and infectious hook followed by a humble verse that continues with Erth’s themes and ideas. A haunting vocal sample introduces “Windmills of the Mind” before plowing into a driving beat where Erth ties the album’s themes up beautifully, using lines like “A lot of lessons combined to make the entity of I” to bring closure to the listener.
Erth finishes the album strongly with a group of terribly focused emcees over the grittiest and most aggressive instrumental present on this project. “Ten Wings” has a grimey organ sample and in-your-face drums while Erthling., adj. (of Jacksonville’s Grammar Tree), Shaun Judah, InkLine (of Birmingham’s Nerves Baddington), OZU, and Day Tripper (of Atlanta’s The Difference Machine) trade bars in a all-raps-no-hooks posse cut.
Magical Realizm was intended to show off Erthling.’s diversity; with Infloresco, Erthling. delivers a consistently introspective narrative backed by a sonic landscape that flows elegantly through the tracklist. With a comforting voice, a precise and poignant delivery, and instrumentals that are bold and beautiful, Erthling.’s bud is blooming into a promising career.
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Infloresco can be streamed at rapishard.bandcamp.com and all streaming services.
Jakob Frazier, aka Phrasure, a rapper who sometimes writes words that don’t rhyme. He’s committed to spreading word about some of the best MCs from Birmingham, Ala. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram.