Copper Fields is less of an album and more of a piece of found art. Like an anonymous note tucked into the pages of a library book, or a CD-R mix you find on the side of the road. A small window into another’s life and struggles that only ever opens wide enough for a pinhole-sized stream of light to peek through. Something doesn’t quite feel right about either, though. The note is in a language you can’t read and the paper it is written on smells vaguely of ammonia, and you can hear a murmuring, static voice under the songs when you play the CD. If you could descramble either of these message, what you’d discover is something dire. As things become clearer, you may regret acquiring the fruits of your curiosity even as you feel compelled to continue the task of attaining them. Let this be a warning, Copper Fields is a transmission that only becomes more unbearable, the clearer it is perceived.
This infernal sonic swarm comes courtesy of Philly rapper and noise neerdowell, Manikineter aka beat beast Carl Kavorkian. While Kevorkian is best known for combining hip hop with irradiating splashes of punk and metal, Manikineter takes these genre splicing interests in a different, more disturbing direction. Performing in a gimp mask and sweat-stained sleeveless T, Manikineter produces perverse energy to that signals the fact that you’ve stumbled onto something that you weren’t meant to witness. Something that society cannot tolerate and must, therefore sweep away. Rather than something sexually deviant or cruel though, that thing which Manikineter unearths for us, that society cannot bear the sight of, is capital “T” truth. Plane and unadulterated.
Copper Fields is constructed like a mixtape, with two sides, and a theme for each. The A side, which includes, the intrusive opener “Courtesy Call,” the strained, eardrum-pricking “Please Hold,” the cracked krautrock of “Sick Cash,” and the glitch, scraped bass slither of “You’re Account is Past Due,” communicates a message of an indictment of the debt traps and cycles of economic deprivation. Banks and lenders bait you with the promise of freedom- a new home, an education that will lead to a good career, or even just some extra cash to make it to next payday, but as soon as they get their teeth around you, they will be sure to get their pound of flesh, and then some.
The B side of Copper Fields begins with “Welcome to a World of Hate”, a simmering serving of distortion that only becomes more turbulent as the temperature rises and Manikineter’s voice enters to give the boil an additional flavoring of bitterness and unease. This side of the album is about the United State’s reactions to the mass street actions that ramped up after the death of George Floyd. Here, Kavorkian looks on in anguish as the country cluelessly and callously attempts to square the round peg of systemic racism to fit within the prevailing political and social narratives of the time. An attempt to metabolize the movement in a way so that nothing actually has to change. The pain pulses like a lacerated heartbeat on “53 Card Pick Up” and distortions spins and dissipates like so many hopes and lives disappearing down a drain on the desperate outpour of “Pissing into the Wind.” The highlight of this side lands a little late in the tracklist with “CHUD,” a horrorcore-esque, bone-munching creep that speaks to the reality that black folks in the country are rarely treated as people, but more as fuel to keep the engines of our society running. A story of cannibalistic civil arrangments that can trace their origins back through the deepest folds of our history.
Aesthetically, Copper Fields is a hard pill to swallow. The difficulty you will have with its sounds are nothing compared to the harrowing truths, nestled in the belly of each track. Distilled crystals of terror extracted from a reality built on pain and unmerited suffering.