Paul Thompson acts his waist size
Henry Canyons is hungry. Maybe you can tell when he’s bobbing and weaving between French and English on “Evander Holyfield’s Ear”; maybe it’s when he trades foreboding barbs with Billy Woods on “Mood Swings”. One way or another, his new EP One Thousand Plateaus is a vivid opening salvo. At times, thematic through-lines get tangled, caught up in knots that may or may not come to a natural conclusion. Fortunately, the man at the mic has your attention. Canyons casts himself as the young Leo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can—alternately reckless and over-thinking, but with enough inimitable cool to pull it off.
One Thousand Plateaus is loosely based on Guattari and Deleuze’s 1980 philosophical treatise of similar name. Broadly, the book deals with multiplicities, rejecting the black-and-white thinking that dominated some schools of philosophy. It’s with this eye for the subtle that Canyons approaches his first project for Backwoodz Studioz. On “Schizophrenia”, he follows clear, easily placed imagery (“Tacky motel room, my chick’s got cheetah print on”) with an extended riff on the Star Trek convention into which he’s thrown. But after the hook, he’s posted up in Paris, “Picking up [his] earnings from a Picasso sold at auction”. Presumably, this is the same guy—or, more accurately, both characters are part of Canyons.
“Schizophrenia” and “Holyfield Ear” bookend the slow creep of “Offshoots” to make up a three-song run produced entirely by Austin’s Boom Baptist. The suite is a solid, varied introduction to those who missed Canyons’ scattershot Vignettes (2012). But Plateaus shines when the Backwoodz crew gets involved. The Willie Green-produced “Roses & Carnations” and Woods-featuring “Mood Swings” catch Canyons at his most vital: on “Roses”, he keeps his “true character hidden like a face behind a burqa”. Recorded more recently than the opening three, the tracks might be a harbinger of things to come on Canyonland, the Brooklyn-bred, L.A.-based rapper’s forthcoming debut LP. One thing’s for certain: Canyon’s enthusiasm will never cease.