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It may sound like hyperbole, but there is truly no one out else there quite like Astronautalis. In addition to moonlighting as a travel writer, avid photographer, Harleyrider, and most assuredly being the first rapper to perform and have a piece on display at the world famous Venice Biennale, this nomadic wordsmith has been perfecting his own unique hybrid of hiphop, indie rock and punk for over a decade. Cut The Body Loose is Astronautalis' fifth fulllength and also the first album he's released since his Justin Vernon a.ka. Bon Iverfronted, highprofile hybrid project Jason Feathers, who released their debut De Oro last year. While sonically different from Astronautalis' own music, he insists that in many ways this album was inspired by the making of De Oro.
"The process of creating De Oro with Justin Vernon and those other guys was the most fun I ever had making an album and it really changed the way I thought about making my own," Astronautalis explains. In keeping with that new approach, he decided to record Cut The Body Loose at Justin Vernon’s April Base home/studio outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with his long time producer, engineer, and musical collaborator, John Congleton (Modest Mouse, St Vincent, Earl Sweatshirt).
"I realized early on in the writing process that I was creating my record about the south that I grew up in, and around, and down the block from,” he explains, “as well as my Father's South, my Mother's South, and the South of the past, and the South of future, and all the magic, and mysticism, and horror, and tragedy, and weird, sweaty, fucked up beauty that entailed.”
Not only did Astronautalis take influence from the music that was ubiquitous to his youth like Trick Daddy, Mystikal, Three 6 Mafia and the classic No Limits Records roster, he drew further inspiration from every corner of the south's musical past. He cites everything from the New Orleans trad jazz of Allen Touissant and Professor Longhair, to the hill country blues of Mississippi Fred McDowell, the night trips of Dr. John, and even the legendary college marching bands during halftime at the Florida Classic.
And somehow, Astronautalis manages to tie this "bipolar southern insanity" to the dominant hiphop hallmarks of today to create his own jagged, puzzlepiece persona on this record. "Running Away From God" is about him attending a wedding in New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina and admiring the beauty of watching people still find love, drink, dance, and celebrate in the chaos. He had a similar experience when he played a show in Cadca, Slovakia, a poor mining town where people, despite the bleak situation of a mine gone
bust, and a economy teetering on the edge of collapse, still managed to not only survive, but to really live. "The overarching theme of this record is seeing people in adverse conditions take matters into their own hands and still find the energy to go dancing or fall in love or create art," he explains. "I've started to get really frustrated with our complacency here in America and those feelings came out a lot on this album."
Although this may be Astronautalis' most aggressive album, to call it angry, or pessimistic, would be to miss the point. It is, in fact, an album about liberation. In a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, there is a ritual of grief, that carries from the wake, to the service, to procession of the pall bearers out of the church. Each step of the way, the sorrow, and pain, escalates, soundtracked by the music of suffering. Heavy, gutwrenching, plodding dirges fill the air, as the funeral service, and the casket itself, spill out of the church, and into the streets. The mourners, and a full brass band follow along with the casket, as the pall bearers, carry the departed to the cemetery gates. The music guides the pace of the procession, while shaping the suffering of the mourners. And just when it seems as if the pain is becoming too much to bear, the suffering insurmountable, the casket reaches the cemetery gates, the band swings into the raucous celebration of "When the Saints Go Marching In", and the mourners "cut the body loose" as they leave the body to gravediggers, and they dance on down the street. The time for sadness left in their dust.