Nothing fits quite as nicely as hip-hop and jazz. The two genres may not be a typical mashup, but the Chicago duo Bonelang definitely makes it work it on their newest EP Venn Diagrams (Pt. 1). With careful layering of emotional vocals over smooth instrumentals, Bonelang has put together a truly unique piece of art. The music stands out on its own, but it’s not what makes Matt Bones and Sammy Language artists. They’ve collaborated on a complete body of work which includes 12 tracks split between two releases, a four-volume short film series entitled Venn Diaries, two music videos, multiple 3-dimensional installations, an art book and a photo series. Each piece is being released in its own time, creating a true experience for fans as they explore the minds of Bonelang.
The EP opens with Bonelang’s first single “Mushroom Moon”; a creatively arranged piece pairing jazzy instrumentals with heavy beats and poetic lyrics. From the first downbeat, the vocals are strong building with emotion until the lines “I like my city dirty and I like my thoughts deep/I like the sky scrapped and I like the concrete,” are belted out. These lyrics repeat throughout the song, always the same and always different. They become a bit of a mantra as a round breaks out with “I know you wish that someone could be on your side but I’m hopelessly addicted to my own brain child oh/What am I to do if I can’t have you?” There’s a great deal of buildup as the music fills with static and distortion before abruptly coming to an end; like the white noise on like a television before suddenly being turned off to a silent room.
The unsettledness is saved by psychedelic instrumentals opening to “Faraday”. What keeps this piece intriguing is the effortless flow between vocal styling. It ranges from the raspy staccato of rap to laid back vocals that spill out the words “I don’t even ask myself why it is I’ve been sleeping here/it only keeps me up at night feeling the blood rush through my ears.”
Things become a bit more electronic with “Michelada”. The instrumentals are dark and the vocals are spacy, dragging out the phrase “it’s gone”. A second round of identical lyrics come in, but with more aggression, again attracting the ear to a layering of vocal stylings. Even though the instrumentals are pretty repetitive, they remain intriguing as they die out to a pinging which grows to the line “middle figure to the demons” and a verse of rhymes. Eventually, the chorus is brought back before burning out to a sound resembling clinging change.
For “Super Extra Deluxe”, Bonelang pairs up with Amanda Huff and Vegaz Taelor for a bit of funky R&B. It’s a quick passing tune, but the line “not everything good in life comes with a bar code” sticks out. The vocals presented by Vegaz Taelor are a beautiful touch to the track, adding a richness to fill out the scattered beats.
Bonelang has dedicated the saying “let us focus more on what we have in common than what we do not,” to their EP. Their song “Gardening Interlude” showcases this theme most. Blending genres is by no means a new tactic in music, but the juxtaposition between the instrumentals and vocals in this tune, starting with hip-hop tactics and ending with funk and jazz, are well executed. When examined on a closer level, it becomes quite obvious how similar the genres are and how well they fit together, even when, on the surface, hip-hop, funk and jazz may not be the most obvious of pairing. It makes sense when you focus on what the sounds have in common, not what makes them different.
The album closes out with a round of creative instrumentals, rhythms and sounds in “Everybody’s Synesthetic”. The guitar lines between the lyrics “I love this place that I always say I hate” are light, beautiful and sound like they’ve been lifted from a classical Spanish ballad. It’s a smart move to end with such a well-crafted song, probably the best of the bunch. With another release in the near future, it gives audiences a reason to tune back in.
Bonelang’s album release show will be during Dunn Dunn Fest on February 16 at Schubas. The night will also include performances by Deep Fayed and illphonics.