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The Natural Curriculum The Best Fertiliser Is The Gardener’s Shadow

Released: 12 September 2016
The Best Fertiliser Is The Gardener’s Shadow

The Natural Curriculum have been an integral cog in Manchester’s hip hop scene for over a decade, but it’s only now that we’re blessed with their debut album, The Best Fertiliser Is The Gardener’s Shadow. The backbone of the group and the record is Joe Mills, aka Joey Average, but better known as Aver, who handles sonics throughout, as well as the gorgeous cover art.

It’s as moody and quirky as you’d expect from a group of Mancs who grew up on underground hip hop. Aver’s murky production is a character all of its own, answering the ever-sardonic and intelligent narrative woven by lyricists Chalk and Bill Sykes, who are accompanied by Joe himself. Layering up percussive elements over Aver’s always-tight drum snaps are DJs Rickards and Omas on cuts, with Jam providing the beatbox.

‘Middle’ is a melancholy lead single, Chalk’s swaggery flow easing you into an album full of the unexpected. The group dynamic comes to the fore with joint choruses in ‘Don’t Speak Your Mind’, a spookily radiophonic backing keeping proceedings edgy. ‘We Are Transparent’ laments corny rappers and herd mentality, and ‘The Calming Presence Of Steven Ryan’ is a drum workout for Aver, resulting in a little flirtation with jungle and breakcore.

Appropriately enough with DJ Shadow being back in the limelight, The Best Fertiliser reminds me in places of a rainier version of his own debut, Endtroducing, all weird spoken samples and unexpected instrumentation, sometimes uncomfortable until you hit the destination. TNC’s work thrives in its own realm, a unique hip hop experience for the connoisseur - or, in their own words, “tighter than a duck’s chuff”.