review: basil panagop & the swirlingly atmospheric hip hop of new single mtl

by | Music, Music Reviews

The music of Basil Panagop is laid-back, assured and thoughtful. It’s hip hop, the kind that revels in languidity, in an indolent assuredness.

Basil Panagop himself appears at first sight to be something of a mystery: With a name that may or may not be Greek, and signing himself off per email as Vasil (is he Russian after all?), he hails from Canada but lives/lived in Glasgow. He’s a rapper but designs clothes. He (apparently) has a degree in economics.

Releasing music since he moved from his native Canada to London, and thereupon to Glasgow, the young man who almost ended up as a hedge fund manager has spent the years entrenching his world view, developing his vocal delivery and exploring sounds to provide a backdrop to both.

His newest single MTL is inspired by when, as a younger man, he first went to Montreal from the quiet Novia Scotia where he’d grown up.

Montreal he describes as a place that delighted him, in its straightforwardness, its brusqueness, and its outre sexuality. It was the first place where he encountered people that were confident in their sexuality, regardless of how that sexuality presented itself. He pulls back from detailing any sexual adventures he may have personally experienced in this formative time in Montreal, but you get the distinct feeling that he left the city a less innocent being than he was when he arrived.

Montreal’s brusqueness is something that he found mirrored, in its own way, in Berlin; and what made him fall in love with the European capital and to relocate there after his stint in the UK.

MTL floats into your speakers with some loose background noises getting closer, then a piano thing hits that sounds like the opening to Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic Take Five, but the time signature is altered, straightened out into a pushing hi-hat driven four-square beat. The instrumentation is, typically of Panagop’s output, kept sparse, with sounds and instruments coming in and out as his mood takes him. There’s also his signature use of both slowed-down and speed-up helium vocals, spinning in and out on the third verse.

Could be excitement or could be paranoid semi-panic

And the atmospheric feel pervades throughout. Come the fourth verse, the hihat goes into overdrive and starts repeating and overlaying itself, before dropping out and later coming back, so that you get a feeling that could be excitement or could be paranoid semi-panic…you don’t know, but the mood and heavy somnolence that lays behind that spitting hihat doesn’t leave you unmoved either way.

Find Basil Panagop on his website | Basil Panagop on Instagram

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