Not much trash to talk on Trash Talk & Kenny Beats’ first collaboration EP, Squalor
Sacramento’s Trash Talk has been making waves since 2005 with their unique combination of ’90s powerviolence and thrash metal with elements of skate culture. With contemporary hip-hop producer Kenny Beats, Trash Talk present their very first release of new music since Tangle (2016) with Squalor.
Trash Talk were initially a much more aggressive and DIY band in terms of aesthetics and sound, highlighted by their first two albums, Walking Disease (2007) and Trash Talk (2008), which heavily embraced the late ’90s powerviolence scene and sound pioneered by bands such as Charles Bronson and Man Is The Bastard. However, by 2010’s Eyes & Nines, Trash Talk had opted for a more crossover thrash sound, which bleeds into the well-produced and stable Squalor EP.
Deeply entangled within the alternative hip-hop scene as avid listeners and fans alike, Trash Talk’s collaboration with Beats should come as no surprise. However, in the brief, eight-minute runtime found on their EP, Squalor, Kenny’s overarching contribution is pretty vague and uncertain. Albeit well-produced and musically an expansion on their ideas presented on their latest release four years prior, Squalor fails to really go anywhere unique. The experimental and psychedelic audio manipulation sprinkled all over Squalor offers something interesting from both Trash Talk and Beats, but not enough to be a full-fledged, developed concept.
Such might be the consequence of the extremely short runtime, even by powerviolence standards, with songs ranging from 56 seconds to barely over three minutes, offering a fast and furious final product, but dry in variety. “Point No Point” opens up the EP and is really the defining sound of the release: a brief explosion of thrashcore that is chopped and screwed by Beats himself and put over a drum ‘n bass- style loop, even featuring a movie sample as a transition.
“Something Wicked” is the most conventional track by far, consisting of a verse and chorus song structure that follows a fast, power chord-driven guitar riff. The dynamic variance displayed on this track follows suit on the following song, “Worst of Times,” which also follows a riff, this time played on clean-picked bass guitar, bookending the highly energetic but brief choruses.
“Clutch/A.N.M,” the shortest track found on Squalor, lies in the same vein as the opening song, a short but blisteringly fast song that borders on grindcore, before cleanly transitioning into the finale, “Kicking & Screaming.” In the longest song, Trash Talk builds upon the dynamic-centered song structure featured earlier on, with a spastic and energetic chorus that dissolves into Beats’ recording chops, manipulating Lee Spielman’s frantic vocals.
Squalor is not a bad release by any means and couldn’t even be described as disappointing. The news of Trash Talk returning is heralded by any contemporary thrashcore and powerviolence fan, as well as the exciting return from drum virtuoso Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta, Suicidal Tendencies, Chiodos, Thundercat) to the band after his brief stint with the group in 2014. Even the collaboration with a hot, current, scene-adjacent producer absolutely screams a fresh take on Trash Talk.
Beats’ obvious mastery of audio production and technology warps an aura of contemporary experimentation pioneered by Dj Shadow and J Dilla in the ’90s with modern hardcore punk and, not to mention, is done extremely well. The meeting of the spirits on Squalor with Trash Talk and Beats ultimately is very tasteful, but confusing, as Beats is only featured for a small fraction of the album, yet headlines the co-credits.