National Music Reviews
broken sp-404 x op-1
J Fisher = Brockhampton + Tyler, The Creator
J Fisher’s latest album, broken sp-404 x op-1, is a stellar demonstration that some of the best things in life are broken. The way Fisher masterfully manipulates synth and trap beats would never have you guessing these sounds are coming from two broken instruments. Electronic and sonic glitches in the beats give the album an experimental quality while still being smooth and digestible. The second you hit play on this album, you’ll sink into its undeniable flow and be swept away in its current.
But what is an album without a proper introduction? Fisher gives you all the introduction you could ever need with the opening track, “The Jeremy Fisher Show.” The track gives a perfect wind up to the album with ‘80s video game–sounding synths and a nice trap beat in the background. The trap gives some steadiness to the slightly off kilter synths which push and pull the beat, making the track—and the whole album—incredibly dynamic. This opener also sets the lyrical tone and makes sure to remind you just what this album is with Fisher rapping, “Anyway / This is The Jeremy Fisher Show / It’s comin’ out real soon / It’s gonna be a real nice cartoon / For you and your fucking friends.”
The opening track gets its synths stuck in a loop before dipping straight into “Beoke (ft. Melikxyz).” This track heightens the celestial feel with smooth, floaty electronica. The smoothness of the beats is beautifully juxtaposed with Fisher’s speedy rapping. Listening to this track gives the sensation that you’re simultaneously out of breath and deep breathing. It creates a tension that’s oddly comfortable to be in the middle of. “Beoke” also never lets you forget this was made on broken machines, with sonic glitches and vocal distortions speckled throughout. Fisher’s voice will suddenly dip into low, demonic tones, then straight to comically high ones. These characteristics keep you on your toes and hooked on.
The second half of broken explores Fisher’s more experimental side and leaves some of the more familiar hip-hop styles behind. Fisher marks this transition with “R.I.P. SD Reader,” which sounds like the most terrifying dungeon level of any video game in the beginning. The track is a chaotic blend of synthetic bells, chimes, clicks and clacks that soften into mellow, jazzy keys.
broken’s experimentation reaches a peak with “Shwango.” Fisher is less vocal in this track, only integrating them as a part of the rhythm on occasion. Every sound in this track is squeaky or scratchy or distorted in ways that will only intrigue. “Shwango” is like descending deeper and deeper into the darkest depths of a cave—the more you listen and the deeper you go, the more you’ll find. However, what you may find is the growls and screams from 8-bit monsters.
Fisher brings you back to the surface with the final track, “Mangos (ft. Odter).” This track leaves all the smooth and calm behind in favor for ending with a bang. Using sharp and aggressive percussion and loud vocals is a dramatic and welcome change of pace. Fisher is also cheeky with self-awareness, rapping, “It’s been quite the fucking journey hasn’t it? / Oh yes it has.” “Mango” doesn’t forget where it all started, though, finishing off with a chill, funky guitar to fade us out.
Overall, Fisher has created an album that is astonishingly soothing in its discomfort. Listening to broken sp-404 x op-1 is like floating in a river that likes to remind you it has waves. Fisher shows off their skillful use of synths while proving that broken instruments can make fascinating music too. –Marina McTee