Jean Dawson: “CHAOS NOW*” album review – levitating anti-pop shows his intentions with experimental magic


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Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

It’s hardly any surprise that Californian experimentalist Jean Dawson became a music addict – especially when his Spanish mother learnt English by listening to the whole catalogue of West Coast hip-hop.

It’s also any surprise that he takes a long hard drag from those rap artists before him, when he grew up on the lyric books of Kendrick and co. as opposed to colouring books like the rest of us.

Jean Dawson is best known for his lyrical and hypnotic genre-mashing blend of hip-hop, trap, and experimental indie rock, Jean Dawson has been ballpoint pen-plotting to studio mic-singing since his 2019 Bad Sports EP garnered attention from all crevices of the misunderstood generation, the sparse industry of experimentation and discovery. Following from his debut full-length, Pixel Bath, which struck many with the imitate anger-issue of Power Freaks, Dawson compels us to dig deeper into the life and times of a boy exploring identity, with his sophomore – CHAOS NOW*.

An album not just littered with asterisks, CHAOS NOW* is an immersive backpacking of a spacey experimental departure as Dawson picks up indentions of l”ife sucks, I need rock” Kenny Hoopla with single THREE HEADS*, spooky lo-fi pop of EKKSTACY with SCREW FACE* and of course, the hip-hop fascination of ever-evolving Tyler, The Creator in POSITIVE ONE NEGATIVE ONE*, quite possibly the most impactful instrumental on the record. More bee sting than Flower Boy, Jean Dawson ventures into the forestry of darkened indie rock,/emo pop-punk with a hardened edge to it. This is certainly true with 0-HEROES* and SICK OF IT*, two songs that very much fall into territory of fellow emo trap-rap artist, nothing, nowhere. It must be the water they drink over there.

Of course, Jean’s true songwriting capability shine best on BAD FRUIT* and PIRATE RADIO*. A crash course to honing in on a wedge of sound that encapsulates as many genre flavourings as possible, it’s an echoic escapism to the music alone, mastered with its beautiful string sections interloped. “Pull up, nobody panic / Why did you vanish? / Hold up, needed a hand and / Nobody had it / All of it’s golden, my body is floating / I’m still alive / My paddle is broken, I’m out in the open / I’ll never die / I’ll never..

Whatever your preference or whether you fell into this album (like me), you can’t ignore the work-value seeped into it. While some songs stumble out of the starting blocks as creatively-inducing pieces (BLACK MICHAEL JACKSON* and HUH* to name a few) we saw on Pixel Bath with Triple Double and Poster Child, it has a deep enough foothold to keep it aloft in a world of experimental hip-hop trendsetters.


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