A few years ago I discovered an amazing concept album called Unsavoury Products, a collaboration between electronic artists Black Dog and spoken word artist Black Sifichi. I knew based on a few songs I’d heard on the web (they used to be on Epitonic.com, anyone remember that site?) that it was going to be challenging, and it was, but the more I play it, the more I enjoy it.
Black Dog supplies beats, textures and soundscapes, while Black Sifichi gives rambling, hallucinatory spoken word pieces on subjects like insanity (“Mental Health Hotline”), consumerism (“If I Were King”), music theory (“Let’s Talk Music”), communication (“What Do They Want”), rebellion and cynicism (“Dear Ron”) and awful detachment from reality – a man who thinks he’s turning into a dog (“Dogbite”), fear of being hexed (“Someone at the Office”), being buried alive (“Wishing Well”).
You get the idea of someone who’s been irreparably damaged by drug abuse, while at the same time achieving some kind of inner wisdom that may or may not apply to the rest of us.
The album cover gives a clue of what’s to come, with photos of rotting steaks and a sticker that gives a “use by” date of 1967 and a “display by” date of 2525. The label states, “contents may unsettle.”
Contents do indeed unsettle — and make you think — if you listen with an open mind. In fact, if you aren’t willing to listen, there’s no point in messing with this album. It’s no good playing it in the background while doing other things or in the car, driving down the freeway. Devote some time to Unsavoury Products and it will pay off as Black Sifichi’s wit begins to soak into your brain.
The album was originally supposed to be a collaboration between Black Dog and Naked Lunch author William Burroughs. However, Burroughs died before the project could be completed. Instead, the artists discovered Black Sifichi and decided to make a tribute to the spirit of Burroughs. Disturbing, intelligent, witty, slightly unhinged from reality, world weary… I think they pulled it off.
Below is a student film someone made, illustrating “Mental Health Hotline” from Unsavoury Products and a couple of other Black Sifichi pieces.