A lot can happen when you take two years to record an album. In Mike Ladd's case, Father Divine
's twenty-four-month gestation period also included the birth of an actual child (as well as a wedding and a move to Paris). While the influence of these events on Ladd's music can't be denied -- he says getting married has made it easier for him write songs about girls, for one thing -- Father Divine
has remained true to Ladd's original vision. ROIR is known for releasing cassettes of dub and other genres, notably Bad Brains' first album. Ladd wanted to make an album that would evoke the analog rawness of those early tapes, as well as their disregard for genre boundaries. Father Divine
does just that, stirring up a tasty stew of diverse influences from hip-hop to jazz to bhangra to dub. Father Divine
's musicians, who include jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, dub artist Raz Mesinai, Antipop Consortium's High Priest on keyboard and guitarist Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio, are game for experimentation; they swing from almost-traditional hip-hop on the stuttery "Apt C2", one of whose hooks is furnished by a kid's toy keyboard, to "Murder Girl"'s retro soul/pop, on which Ladd gets comfortable writing about girls ("You always gonna be my baby / Just stay ten blocks away"). Elsewhere, he's somewhat more positive about the females: "Barney's Girl" waxes nostalgic about an old flame who was "A whole lotta punk and a little hip-hop", to the seductive bump-and-grind of layered hand drums and summery synth lines. Producer Gymkhana is responsible for much of Father Divine
's spontaneous charm; different parts of beats run over each other like racing puppies, helped along by ubiquitous sheets of dense dub echo. Ladd's smart, often almost stream-of-consciousness rhyming enhances every track he's on, but instrumental cuts like "Crooner Island" (which starts out sexy dub and ends up punk rock/new wave slam) are so cunningly constructed that they don't lose anything for Ladd's absence.
Father Divine is that rare album that's conscious of its diversity without being pretentious about it; Ladd and his buddies are just having fun, and they want you to, too.