Normaling, "Corpus Callosum"

City Paper

(Space is the Place)

What the actual fuck? Last week British music magazine FACT pimped local outfit Normaling’s debut EP as a “weird-and-queer take on Baltimore club” music. Let’s assume that’s ye olde Oxford English Dictionary definitions of weird (“Having the power to control the fate or destiny of human beings”) and queer (“of questionable character”), as “Corpus Callosum” sounds like a market grab to position Normaling’s two DJs—Lemz and .rar Kelly, the latter an alias that sounds like it should be a Carles-like rant blogger on “Portlandia”—as two of the supposedly rising faces of Baltimore’s constantly evolving party music. Of course, when club music started out a quarter-century back with the imposing Miss Tony as its night-life face and Frank Ski, Scottie B, and Shawn Caesar cutting the beats, it was weirder and queerer than Easter dinner with Kiki and Herb.

A decade or so into trendsetting DJs and producers picking the pockets of regional dance music from around the world and Girl Talking pop-music quotes into it, the greatest sin you can make is being boring, and Normaling’s kitchen-sink approach to breakbeat jams here skews to the familiar and well-trod. On the hip-hop stomp of leadoff ‘Urban Anatomy’ and the electro-tinged ‘Assmacker’ and clap-clanking ‘Ignobiles,’ Normaling resorts to being borderline risqué, like a fashion magazine ad. The mixes lack the life and anarchic defiance that makes Baltimore’s dance music such an enervating jolt. Techno folds into house funk folds into recognizable samples folds into something else pedestrian.

Yes, the EP comes to life a bit when guest MCs Rye Rye and TT The Artist (on ‘Low Drop’) and DDm (on ‘Shade’) appear, but that’s only because they have such self-confidence that they elevate anything around them, the way Ben Kingsley can un-suck utter nonsense such as “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” or “The Love Guru” whenever he’s on-screen. “Corpus” is like that: lowest-common-denominator entertainment that’s inert save when somebody with charisma steps to the fore. Pass. 

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