In Civilized Creature’s fourth release, Tales & Tails, the Portland beatster finds himself making the album he was destined to make.
Civilized Creature has been a W\A\M favorite since their debut release on Noisetrade in the autumn of 2014. Since then, Ryan J. Lane — the man behind the animal masks — has released two more albums, all available for free download. In the short time Civilized Creature has been a thing, Lane has refined the project’s musical identity to a fine point, reaching his finest in today’s release, Tales & Tails.
Like its predecessors, Tales & Tails blends a sort of “wilderness hip-hop” fusion of funk and folk-tinged electronic beats. It’s defined in part due to ecology — Lane hails from the notoriously strange Portland, OR — but that doesn’t hold the album down. The goofiness and quirky experimentation are understood to be a part of the album’s experience.
Pushing boundaries is where the Civilized Creature is the most comfortable. From the glitchy “Hanabata” to the aggressive “For Victims,” the album strikes tones we haven’t heard from him before. Moreover, there is a delicate textural balance between airy and dense. The album’s lyrical and instrumental offerings don’t drown each other out, and they are some of Civilized Creature’s best offerings. Album opener “Real Surreal Sir” might be the most compelling wordless track in his discography. “Tomorrow Worry” spins Matthew 6 in a Ringhoferian manner and sets to a swelling arrangement and delightful melody.
At the end of the album, right when you think you might have figured out the album, Civilized Creature throws in the massive “Gen to Rev,” a 19-minute rap through of the Bible’s main plot points and books. It’s honestly a little intimidating from the surface, and the rhymes don’t always work. However, that’s not necessarily the point. The novelty of the track allows for some minor technical errors. Furthermore, such an adventurous move adheres to the character and spirit of Civilized Creature.
Near the album’s midway point, in the track “I AM, With Me,” we hear the refrain “You are / Who you are / Who you are, you are.” At this point for the album and Civilized Creature, it isn’t just a rephrasing of the passage from Exodus 3 into second-person. It’s told from Ryan J. Lane to his musical project. It’s a statement that evidences a strong grasp not only on identity, but also on how to execute that unique identity in the most efficient way possible. Tales & Tails is Civilized Creature’s “I yam what I yam” moment, delivering the artist’s most complete and balanced album yet.