Robert Squire aka Sixtoo is a man of many talents indeed and trying to pin him down to any one area is proving rather tough. He emerged from the mid 90's underground hip hop scene as an MC to be reckoned with. Sharing the stage with such visionaries as Buck 65 and Sage Francis he soon became synonymous with the Anticon/Mush collective. His 2002 release Duration saw Squire put down the mic and concentrate on the production side of Sixtoo. This has been going from strength to strength culminating in his 2003 Ninja Tune debut Chewing On Glass & Other Miracle Cures, a compelling album dripping with atmosphere. This years Jackals And Vipers builds on this formula but is an altogether darker affair.
Constructed using meticulously stitched together recordings of various live sets then taken into the studio and rendered down to their basic elements this record works as a wonderfully rich film-noir soundtrack played out in 13 movements. Each track is named Jackals & Vipers In Envy Of Man Parts 1-13 and they are designed to be listened to as a continuous whole.
Things start off pretty dark with a brief intro leading us into the drum heavy Part 2. Creeping along to pounding beats and sinister synths this awesome opener sets the tone of paranoia and pretty much keeps it up until the final movement. Though very much rooted in hip hop Squires touch is often light and it's in these moments that we see him as a master of his craft. Each sound, whether booming or whispering, is bathed in detail. Each beat comes with added effect and the samples are expertly disguised creating an impressive air of mystery that is essential to the whole. This multi layering and constant reworking can produce insanely claustrophobic compositions but can also lean back allowing strings or a delicate piano chord to evoke grand, spatial landscapes.
As the final movement draws to a close you are left with as many questions as answers but all good art should leave the viewer or listener in this way. Jackals And Vipers opens its arms and welcomes you into its hidden world of paranoia and intrigue but once you leave you'll be none the wiser as to how it was all done. It gives of itself only as much as it needs to and the rest is up to you but seeing as over generosity is often the downfall of instrumental albums such as this Sixtoo manages once again to avoid that pitfall and produce a caged piece of hip hop brilliance.