Minneapolis’s Andy Bothwell, who performs under the name Astronautalis, has made a decade-long year career of putting out post hip hop albums that function like collections of historical short fiction.
His previous three albums reflected on other times but his fourth full-length This Is Our Science (2011) emerges into the present day, revealing Andy Bothwell’s life story as he chooses to tell it. Here are hyper-literate, hyperreal accounts of the open road, love with no future, and the kind of life decisions we all have to make using the best available information.
Bothwell’s actual story, as near as anyone can tell, starts in Texas, makes stops in Seattle, Florida, and Minneapolis, and circles the globe. Officially, it includes three years on the Warped Tour, countless rap battles won while soaking up indie rock and, in time, legendary status achieved for his incandescent live show.
It’s a checkered biography with clear parallels in his patchwork sound, which splices the existentialist indie folk of Bright Eyes with the transcendentalist indie hip hop of Aesop Rock, and some slippery electronic production. He delivers it with the searing intensity of a cerebral screamo band like Circle Takes the Square or Blood Brothers, only with much better diction.
Astronautalis’s rawness and sheer iconoclasm do the best hip hop and the best punk proud. The beats are steady and strong, but it’s not head nodding rap, nor is it booty shaking rap, it’s music for completely losing your sh** to, and that element of violent, febrile catharsis — you know, the feeling in the air at a basement hardcore show or a wee hours underground open mic — is what makes it a successful fusion of both.
Photo by Megan Thompson