Philadelphia rapper Raj Haldar has used his Lushlife project to do the unthinkable when it comes to merging disparate genres. Over the years he’s managed to infuse rap into a myriad of different worlds, for better or worse, but still manages to keep his soul intact within them all. It would appear his primary goal with these compounded styles is to see how far he can push it without losing sight of himself, and with his Redamancy EP he may have finally found that sweet spot he’s been thirsting for.
This is his first project in quite some time, having taken time away from music to focus on writing children’s books. This break from the game may have been just what he needed though, as Redamancy continues his winning streak that started with 2016’s underappreciated Ritualize. That record, in addition to his work as Skull Eclipses (with producer Botany), has all been leading up to this fantastical concept he’s presenting on Redamancy.
At a lean six tracks, this latest EP finds Haldar in peak performance. Opener “Redamancy” melts a chiptune chorus over a heaping pile of thick jazzy beats while Lushlife’s bars cut through it like a katana; “This is dope boy space program rap don’t be at / This is last chance on Earth rap manifest.” Early single “Hessdalen Lights” brings Dirty Projector Felicia Douglass into the fold for some smooth soul mixed with star-kissed taps and zooms. Douglass’ voice gives a nice change of pace for Redamancy, breaking up the already-short project into smaller consumable bits, but doesn’t outshine Lushlife – something that plagued Haldar’s work previously.
In true noise fashion, “Deprogrammed in the Bahia Hotel” is a blissed-out jazz explosion that’s as brisk as it is tantalizing. On a longer album the tandem of “Fando Y Lis” parts 1 and 2 may have had greater impact, and while it’s not a skippable section by any means, it does feel like a slight detour after the strong opening trio. But this kind of pitstop seems necessary as the conclusion approaches. Part 2 flourishes more than its predecessor and wouldn’t feel out of place on a Nicolas Jaar album or a Darkside remix. Lushlife’s flow remains solid, but Redamancy’s strongest attributes come from his passion for fitting each piece of the puzzle tightly. There are moments of classic 70s funk splitting the beats, but Haldar’s delivery does take a backseat to his strong mixing talents.
Of course, the strongest and best part of Redamancy is its epic finale “Depaysement”. At just over nine minutes, “Depaysement” combines rap and shoegaze, with a huge assist from underground titans dälek. Known for their own manipulation of genres over the years, dälek have been out of the spotlight for some time too, so their presence on “Depaysement” is an excellent reintroduction for those who may have forgotten. The screeching brass, the multi-faceted composition, and the live jazz band sound crash together in the most perfect way possible. It may be the highest point of Lushlife’s career even, given how the whole thing seamlessly transitions with ease and poise, with no single sound or beat overstaying its welcome.
Bookended by two career highlights, Redamancy is a truly thrilling listen for those looking for a break from the typical rap game. The middle might sag slightly in comparison, but it’s a necessary progression from one end to the other with an explosively rewarding finish that only Haldar could have dreamt up. Assists and all, this is a promising return for Lushlife, and hopefully a precursor to some exciting things in the future.