Noise and hip-hop often seem to stand at opposite ends of the musical spectrum, seldom touching, let alone fusing together as thoroughly as they do on Kouhei Matsunaga and Sensational's late 2010 Skam Records release, "Sensational Meets Koyxen." Here, experimental noise is conjoined to hip-hop, resulting in a high-energy album whose every track presents itself as an unrelenting audio attack.
Both musicians are formidable in their own right. Kouhei, based between his native Osaka and Berlin, has worked closely with Merzbow, the late and great Conrad Schnitzler, and Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic, to name a few, and continues to make waves with his off-kilter noisecore. Ex-Jungle Brother Sensational's debut, "Loaded With Power," was dubbed by one critic, "The most bold and experimental hip-hop record of the last decade."
With "Sensational Meets Koyxen," the disjointed raps of Sensational "fit" around Kouhei's controlled, deconstructed beatrs. The stripped-down electronics Kouhei produces are matched in vitriol by Sensational's snarling delivery of each line. Tracks like "323" provide a delicate balance between Kouhei's abstract beats and the bouncy, hyper-aggressive lines of Sensational, combining to make tracks so heavy your entire body quakes at the sheer weight of it all.
The album opens with "300," a demented, incredible mess of a song. This track represents one of the album's highpoints, with Kouhei contributing insane beats that play a slightly more prominent, critical role than Sensational's lines. Because, really, the strength of the album lies in Kouhei's ability to make his brand of hard electronics as interesting and urgent as any lines a hip-hop innovator like Sensational can spit.
"Sensational Meets Koyxen" is the follow-up to the pair's excellent first recording, "Sensational Meets Kouhei," released by WordSound in 2006 after being recorded in a single day Sensational spent in Osaka. The rawness and grit of "Sensational Meets Kouhei" remains intact, is perhaps even felt a bit more on "Sensational Meets Koyxen" – Sensational's always slightly wobbly, unbalanced delivery seems to mesh even more tightly with Kouhei's hard, bass-heavy electronic experiments.
The production and beats are even more sophisticated and certainly far, far weirder on this sophomoric effort from the two, with the penultimate "368" standing out as a particularly complex and bizarre track. "368" really gives Kouhei space to breathe and to explore, and while the tracks dominated by Sensational are certainly fun, the moments when Matsunaga takes center stage really make "Sensational Meets Koyxen" the challenging and strange album that it is.