Throughout the bulk of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Ishmael Butler, , the founder of the critically applauded and groundbreaking hip-hop acts Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces. Now, as you may recall 10 years ago, Butler was preparing to publicly emerge from several years near-complete creative silence. In the summer of 2009. Butler quietly unveiled Shabazz Palaces with a pair of self-released EPs that quickly established the project’s unique sound and aesthetic — Butler’s hyper-literate verses full of complex inner and out rhyme scheme paired with psychedelic sonic textures and refracted rhythms. Initially, confidentiality was essential as Butler desperately wanted Shabazz Palaces to stand on its own strength and not on his long-held reputation, so he adopted a pseudonym for himself.
Interestingly, as Shabazz Palaces’ profile and network expanded, Butler recognized that he needed new monikers for his various creative pursuits and collaborations. Knife Knights, was the name that he devised for his work with the then-Seattle based engineer, producer, songwriter and film composer Erik Blood, who has also been a vital and important collaborator in the Shabazz Palaces web. Blood and Butler can trace their collaboration and their friendship back to when they were introduced to each other at a Spiritualized show in 2003 through a mutual friend, whom Butler was about to record with. As the story goes, Blood was a diehard and obsessive fan of Digital Planets, and naturally as all obsessive fans would likely do, he passed along a bootleg copy Blowout Comb for the mutual friend to have signed — and Butler dutifully provided.
Over the course of the next few years, they’d run into one another by chance and sometimes they’d make small talk about possibly working together. When Butler finally sent Blood a few songs to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. Around the same time, Butler, who grew up as an ardent and passionate hip-hop student began listening to and absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes while Blood, an ardent hip-hop fan had always been an inclusive and obsessive music listener; in fact, on every Shabazz Palaces album, Butler and Blood have specifically focused on and delighted at that artistic intersection, pushing hip-hip into new, psychedelic territories. “He [Blood] takes my ideas and clarifies and pronounces them, helps me realize them,” explains Butler in press notes. “He helps me get to the essence.”
After a decade of collaboration together and the development of a very rich and dear friendships, Butler and Blood have written and recorded a proper full-length together as Knife Knights — 1 Time Mirage, an album that finds the duo and a cast of collaborators and friends creating and weaving a unique sound that meshes soul, shoegaze, hip-hop, bass, noise and chaos with the album representing a free space for unfettered and radical exploration. recorded in three separate sessions, interrupted by Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets tour schedules and Blood’s recording projects. The album’s latest single “Low Key” is centered around a hazy and and hallucinogenic production featuring tribal house-inspired beats and shimmering beats, over which Butler delivers his lyrics like a shamanic incantation.
Directed by London-based enigmatic luminary Dean Blunt, the recently released video for “Low Key” is equal parts surreal, ridiculous and impenetrable, evoking a dream-like logic within itself, while being hazy and lysergic.