awE naturalE is an album without floors or ceilings. It neither begins nor ends. It doesn’t announce its existence with grand intentions or furrowed severity—it prefers to adroitly hover in the air. With 13 tracks in 30 minutes, constantly shifting through disparate vibes, weeded R&B, alien fast-rap chirps—Seattle’s newest bizzaro-rap partnership THEESatisfaction seem solely concerned with making music on their own terms. This is an album that moves with breezy ambition, brimmed with confidence—any followers that stick to its saunter are inconsequential additions.
You probably first heard Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White filling in the gaps of Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 megaton Black Up. The stakes aren’t nearly as high here. awE naturalE is a decompressed series of rinky-dink ideas—couched disco glitz on “QueenS,” the feminista, coffee-shop poetic “Bitch,” the mystic, conga-jam “Needs”—despite the artistic template set by their famous friends, they’ve made a quintessential living-room record, perhaps one of the few exotic alt-rap records you could catch playing in a Starbucks. These girls are building songs for easy satisfaction, not headphone odysseys. There are no confrontations, implications or inclinations; they only ask for an open mind, open ears and a willingness to soak in the glow.
Occasionally that pacifism can verge on straight-up bewilderment. THEESatisfaction’s songs are smooth, uncontested things, usually clocking around two minutes. They fade in and out with a peculiar abruptness, to the point of sounding like clips taken from grander statements. It all helps the record feel like a clean blur, the truncated tracks structured to make the glide smooth and unpunctuated. For what is essentially a debut showing, Irons and Harris-White certainly don’t want to get in our way.
There are moments where awE naturalE can feel warmly nostalgic. A specimen of the golden-age of underground rap, when labels like Anticon and Def Jux were still in the business of issuing fringe hip-hop to the world’s momentary curiosity—they deserve such a pedigree, perhaps that’s why the guitar-slinging Sub Pop stepped in to release their record. It certainly sounds like something that belongs on a nontraditional home. THEESatisfaction’s zoned songwriting won’t earn any retrospection, but it’s wonderfully reassuring that they made an album like awE naturalE—it’s living proof that unique statements can still be made in those old, unstylish indie-hop tenants. Let it be an inspiration for something grander.