One of the most surprising and explosive debut records of 2016 came in the form of Body War, the first release from New York-based hardcore group, Show Me The Body. In blending together pummelling bass and drum grooves, which pulled heavily from genres such as post-punk, industrial, noise and sludge metal, with staccato, semi-rapped, semi-shouted vocals and searing banjo playing that could easily be mistaken for a guitar, the trio established an eclectic sound and definitive musical identity for themselves by just their first studio album. With so many abrasive styles contributing to their overall aesthetic, and with the band’s performances being relentlessly rowdy, Show Me The Body came through with a categorically caustic and chaotic collision of extreme genres that put them on the musical map for fans of punk, metal and hip hop alike. Although Body War was rather one-dimensional, the blueprint crafted by the hardcore outfit was so esoteric that this could certainly be forgiven, especially considering it was only their first record. Of course, such a fiery debut raised expectations for the follow-up release from Show Me The Body, with fans of Body War crossing their fingers for an even more explorative project that would see the group diversify their songwriting formula on a song-by-song basis, as to create a more cohesive and varied album. When the news arrived that their next release, Corpus I, would be a mixtape featuring guest artists ranging from one-piece experimental project, Moor Mother, to up-and-coming Floridian rapper, Denzel Curry, it seemed that Show Me The Body were gearing up to do exactly this, using the artistic freedom that comes with recording a mixtape to experiment with their stylings. This is certainly what I personally expected from Corpus I, but instead, Show Me The Body demonstrate somewhat of a lack of ideas amidst a selection of tracks that see the group spread themselves a bit too thin, stylistically speaking. Although Corpus I is similarly riotous and biting as its predecessor at times, it is nevertheless disappointingly non-experimental, in that the band seems to be moving their sound closer towards that of other artists, particularly contemporary punk-rap groups with similar influences from noise and industrial music, such as clipping. and Death Grips. This, combined with an increasingly lo-fi production quality that is handled rather haphazardly, makes for a mixed release that is limited in the extent to which it develops Show Me The Body’s identity.
The first full-length track on the mixtape, Trash, establishes the slightly altered songwriting approach employed by Show Me The Body on Corpus I, moving away from the banjo-driven punk rock crossovers of Body War towards a noisier and more industrial-centred sound. The combination of distorted, squelching synth lines and an electro-industrial beat is very much reminiscent of acts like Death Grips, and there are most definitely comparisons to be drawn between the punctuated, staccato hooks provided by the trio’s frontman, Julian Cashwan Pratt, and the signature vocal delivery of MC Ride. This being said, the influence that Show Me The Body draw from incredibly esoteric territory under the noise and industrial music umbrella, with power electronics standing out as a key touchstone for the group, avoids tracks like Trash from sounding like complete Death Grips rip-offs. The extent to which the band plays with dynamics on this track, for instance, with industrial clangours and electronic gurgles bursting in and cutting out intermittently, as to accentuate Pratt’s vocal performance, is particularly cogent in retaining a slight edge to their sound. Similarly, Pratt is still very clearly pulling from punk and metal vocalists in his delivery, employing guttural growls at the end of Trash, which maintains the pervasiveness of the band’s influences outside of industrial hip hop. The following track, You thought what you saw was it, is very similar to Trash on a stylistic basis, but the hulking beat and squealing freak outs of guest vocalist Eartheater, which are highly suggestive of an influence from sludge metal duo The Body, set this cut apart on grounds of its unique execution. Further into Corpus I, it’s often the guest collaborators who inject a compelling dose of character into these songs, with In A Grave being an unequivocal highlight on the mixtape, largely courtesy of the unique personalities of each of its featured vocalists, Denzel Curry, Eartheater and Moor Mother. Each artist plays off one another incredibly effectively, with Pratt’s punctuated performance leading into a hard-hitting verse from Curry, delivered with his usual level of savagery, followed up by the eerily beautiful, folk-tinged crooning of Eartheater and rounded off with a fierce and frightening rap feature from Moor Mother, all of which takes place over a speaker-busting beat of growling electronics and glitchy synth leads. Ultimately, the handful of highlights across Corpus I demonstrate that Show Me The Body are most definitely capable of retaining the individual identity they established for themselves on Body War, whilst moving towards a sound that emphasises the trio’s hip hop and industrial influences more so than their noise rock and sludge metal roots.
It’s outside of these especially inventive moments, however, that much of Corpus I reads as occasionally unoriginal and disappointingly non-experimental, not to mention the fact that not all of the mixtape’s guest artists are put to work as effectively as the likes of Denzel Curry, Eartheater and Moor Mother, often as a result of the lo-fi production that the band pursue. Cyba Slam fif world dance party – Uppa echelon dance remix, for example, seemingly aims for a similar posse cut vibe to that displayed on In A Grave, featuring guest performances from Yo Chill and Chip Skylark, but without the chemistry or flare. The instrumental itself follows a rather basic, experimental hip hop formula of a looping, electronic drum beat and searing synth melody, but the interesting textures of In A Grave don’t show up on this track, rather the beat follows a predictable and tired progression that lacks the erratic edge of the better cuts from Corpus I. What’s more, neither of the guest MCs provide much substance in their verses, rather they seem to struggle to find their footing atop the instrumental, whilst their vocals intertwine in a somewhat clumsy fashion that ultimately disrupts the song’s flow. Of the few fuzzed-out, hardcore punk cuts to feature across the mixtape, such as My Whole Family and Proud Boys, Show Me The Body lack the originality of the eclectic brand of punk they formulated on Body War, with such songs adhering to a relatively clear-cut blueprint of yelled vocals, primitive drumming and heavy distortion. Plus, the lo-fi production across much of Corpus I often lets these songs down slightly, with the overall sound not necessarily resulting in the kind of abrasive chaos that the group was likely aiming for, rather it comes across as relatively flat and lacking in punch as a result. On the other side of the spectrum, there are songs such as Halogen and Spit that employ some lethargic, swirling, almost trip hop-esque drum and bass grooves, whilst a featured vocalist performs for the entirety of the track’s runtime. Although the idea of Show Me The Body incorporating some trip hop tropes into their music is intriguing on paper, on the aforementioned cuts, the cycling beats are rudimentary to the point of being deficient in a satisfying amount of flavour or memorability, which is only worsened by the extent to which they are repeated without interruption. Once again, the trio’s collaborators could have been utilised more appropriately, with Mal Devisa’s soulful feature on Halogen standing out as being particularly awkward and generally unfitting for the song. Ultimately, the points on Corpus I wherein Show Me The Body do push the boat out slightly are seldom followed through with a sufficient amount of substance or clear vision, resulting in much of the mixtape coming across as a hodgepodge of miscellaneous, somewhat underdeveloped ideas.
Perhaps the most positive thing that can be taken from Corpus I is that there is still ample reason for fans of experimental music that covers a wide array of genres to pay attention to Show Me The Body and their work going into the future. Although Corpus I sees the band commit themselves to several styles without the focus needed to effectively actualise such sounds, this can be taken with a grain of salt, given that Show Me The Body likely intended to utilise the artistic liberties that come with releasing a mixtape in order to take some especially audacious stylistic risks. Moreover, the fact that the group is still experimenting — albeit with sounds that are more evocative of other artists at times than the sound they established on Body War — is reason enough to assume that Show Me The Body are keen to continue growing as a band, and not all experiments see success on their first attempt.
The Vinyl Verdict: 6/10