2020’s first major underground release is another colossal, intense and mystical offering from one of the godfathers of the underground. You can hear it in its entirety here.

Astral Trap (FKA Dari Loso)’s career spanned the last half of the 2010’s, cementing his place in the underground hip hop canon forever. His projects are dense, epic and crafted alongside some of the best producers that the game has ever seen (himself included), so I knew from its initial announcement that Stratagem Witch was going to be more of the same. As his third album within the span of a year, the twenty five track odyssey had a lot to live up to.

Quite a few of these songs (around half) were released as singles, but they serve a new function in the context of the album as a whole. ‘Shoplifting’’s cavernous thump sounds all the more amazing when it phases seamlessly into ‘Fvll of Endo’s hypnotic keyboard stabs. The producers on these tracks, Chop000 and Zepeda/Lunkhedd respectively, both contributed to the sweeping soundscapes found on 1147 Pt. 2 and Special Tech Equipment, so it’s only right that they continue to shine here. Lunkhedd has one of the best chemistries with Dari out of any member of The Super 6 Club collective, he handles around twenty percent of the beats here and displays arguably the most versatility of any beatmaker chosen to appear.

The ability to assemble a tracklist has been one of Dari’s biggest strengths over the last three or so years, so his decision to group previously successful singles together (the aforementioned ‘Shoplifting’/’Fvll of Endo’ duo, ‘TunnelLoveVision’ into ‘50 Scaled Dragon’) is hardly surprising. Most of the best new songs fall at the very beginning and end of the project, as the cataclysmic ‘Spirit Temple’ aptly kicks things off and ‘Dope in My Closet’’s futuristic buzz falls in the final stretch. Dari has nothing left to prove at this point in his career, this album feels effortless without every succumbing to laziness and he performs at his peak throughout every second of it. Whether he’s murdering a Landfill beat on ‘Pissin’ on You’ or eviscerating Dylan Ross production on the groovy ‘Ribbon’, there’s the sense that the Seattle-based rapper has once again crafted a new apex of his career.

The visual for the Neighbourhood Arion-produced ‘Phantom Tags’, included on this album, just dropped. Go peep that here.

– Chris (@108mics)

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