Hydration is a group comprised of Mark Houston and Jason Lee. The duo apparently has very different musical tastes. Houston has an affinity towards alternative, progressive, and rock music while Lee has a background of hip-hop and electronic music. Their recent release Unwritten Poetry predominantly falls into the latter. A majority of the songs have an overt hip-hip vibe that leaves little room for anything to be considered into the category of rock or alternative.
The songs are connected by a warm almost lounge like vibe that instills a sense of tranquility and nostalgia. A lot of the atmospheric pads and delay effects make a slew of sounds that work particularly well with R&B. The songs also attempt to be connected by the story arc of a fictional character called Abel who is confronted with an existential crisis. It’s a broad story and I would not have picked up on it if it weren’t stated in linear notes. I find most narratives within albums don’t pan out very well and that’s no exception here but luckily for me and many others it’s an innocuous element that is marginal.
Unwritten Poetry’s strengths lie in the production, delivery and repeatability of the song. Take for instance the first song “Testimony (feat. Gage Catherman, Kyle McCrohan).” The song contains a brief intro of what sounds like a pastor preaching before busting into some of the best music and lyrics on the album. I really loved the energy of that the drums, horns and background harmonies provided while a nice flow of rhymes come at you fast and hard.
I was hoping the next song would build on the initial energy of the first track but instead we are treated with “Relentless” which is a subdued song that sounds ethereal. “Relentless” has a dreamy, almost new age feel that might have worked better halfway through the album. The lyrics use water as a metaphor for strife and struggle.
A similar dreamy, ambient vibe is created with “December,” ”Beauty of Solitude” and “Dead Poet's Song.” The album contains a couple of songs such as “Flee (feat. Lisa Depledge)” and “Cain (feat. Kyle McCrohan, Hunter Bingham)” which benefit from contributors who lent their vocal abilities.
The album closes with a wordless instrumental track that revolves around a distorted guitar and a hip-hop beat. It wasn’t a bad song but I felt it was an odd closer as nothing else on the album sounds like it or even has a similar energy. Unwritten Poetry is a flawed but solid effort from the duo. They built a solid foundation but still have some tweaking to do before their master work.
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