Odd Future rode into the mainstream nearly a decade ago on a wave of controversial lyrics that seemed specifically designed to shock. But as the years have passed, the crew’s fondness for rabble-rousing has been replaced by experimental wanderlust: Earl Sweatshirt frequently digs into Bandcamp and unearths underground rap gems by artists like MIKE, Denmark Vessey, and Navy Blue; Syd’s band The Internet have branched out into alternative R&B. And on Burd, Odd Future co-founder Pyramid Vritra teams with English producer and guitar player Wilma Archer to deliver a refreshing take on the traditional one rapper/one producer format.
The album opens with “Harness,” which suggests that the album is meant to be an “excavation of self,” with introspective lyrics and tender, bluesy guitar to match. That M.O. doesn’t last; instead, Burd slides across styles with glee, the sound of two artists feeling each other out and trying on new styles until they lock into a mutual groove. There’s a mid-album instrumental section that nods to ‘80s R&B (“Earnie”), string-laden ambient (“Put Down I”), and yacht rock (“Plumage”). Just when the whole thing threatens to tip over into haphazardness, Pyramid returns to the mic on “Over Girls,” and Archer blends all three of the preceding sounds into a single funky, flute-laden track. That pattern repeats throughout the album, with each song seeming to prompt the direction of the next. And while Pyramid and Archer may seem, on the surface, like an odd coupling, by trusting each other’s creative instincts they’ve turned Burd into a captivating lesson in the art of collaboration.