A tech company’s “senior spirit guide” finally comes to the defense of the “financially unsuccessful” Vincent van Gogh; wonders of the natural world are reimagined as “muster points for brainstorming innovators”; the “artificial char lines” on fast-food burgers are cited as if signs of the apocalypse. For the better part of three decades, Aesop Rock has used the syntax of the moment to pinpoint the fault lines in that moment's supposedly solid foundation. With his tenth album, Integrated Tech Solutions, Aes wields insidious corporatespeak as a tool to pry that parasitic worldview away from the parts of life that truly matter.
A concept album about an organization offering “lifestyle- and industry-specific applications designed to curate a desired multi-experience,” Integrated Tech Solutions picks apart the charlatan language that hears app inventors put themselves on continuums starting with cavemen and continuing through da Vinci. On “Mindful Solutionism,” the wheel evolves seamlessly into modern agriculture—and then into atomic bombs, Agent Orange, cigarettes, and surveillance cameras. In a rare moment of transparency, the engineers Aes give voice to sum up this spiral in just a few words: “We cannot be trusted with the stuff that we come up with.”
Appropriately, the album sounds like the past and future at once. Largely self-produced, Integrated Tech Solutions catches Aes at his leanest and most innovative, leveraging “Solutionism™s careening bounce against the wistful “By the River” or the slow creep of “Salt and Pepper Squid.” The effect is a record that sounds itself like an organism growing, mutating, hurtling toward profitability—and then destruction. As fans have come to expect, Aes is cuttingly funny and slyly profound at once, whether recounting a childhood restaurant run-in with Mr. T (“100 Feet Tall") or quipping, on “Pigeonometry,” that “white dove is a pigeon—you motherfuckers is bigots.” At the same time, Integrated Tech Solutions is working on another parallel project: tracing the sprawl of modernity and cutting directly to its core. “I've been doing laps of the lost worlds,” he raps on "All City Nerve Map,” sounding at once wearied and reinvigorated. “I can draw a map to the raw nerve.”