LoKi has been on the fringes of Vermont's hip-hop scene for several years now. He's an active collaborator with a long string of SoundCloud singles to his name. (That name, appropriately for a trickster demigod, is spelled differently all over the internet — loKI and Lo KI are frequent variations.)
LoKi — aka Liam Corcoran — has taken the interesting step of rereleasing a collaborative album from 2011, A World of Dreams, honed down to an EP of his favorite tracks. The result is an almost stereotypical slice of Vermont hip-hop: a rurally isolated young artist using the genre's conventions to speak his truth. LoKi is honest and earnest, describing himself as "a gawky Vermonter in constant conflict with his consciousness." That never-ending internal journey is very much the focus of this EP.
A World of Dreams is definitely the product of youth, created when LoKi was 19 and producer OC — aka local artist Oliver Creech — was just 16. Whether that makes it endearing or irritating is a matter of taste. It's hard to fault young artists for ambition, though. From the overwrought Auto-Tune and underwhelming singing on the outro to "Consciousness," or the synth-horn chorus swells of "Inspired Awakening," when the EP does fall flat it's only because they were going big.
The sound is consistent, however. It's a Froot Loops palette wielded by a talented young composer. Samples are only occasionally used for texture; this is a very musical project. The opening track, "Increasing Dark," cuts a cinematic line that begins with a cappella ruminations over ominous strings.
When the drums kick in, it becomes clear that OC is more comfortable layering melodic ideas than programming percussion. The dirt and compression of sampled loops would have gone a long way toward a fuller, more professional sound, and this remains true for the rest of the EP. Even so, it suits the nature of the duo's project: They are carving their own lane here.
While hip-hop references are constant, LoKi's delivery is more spoken word than rap. His vocals often have a stilted quality, but that's clearly an artistic choice. His cadence puts dramatic emphasis on every line. This is frequently awkward, shining a spotlight on weak writing and strange rhymes. Sample slice: "The Earth's just a turning globe burning slow in the inferno's glow so the motion bestows even a Jew and an Arab with something new in the carriage."
This, too, is a defining feature of Vermont hip-hop. For better or worse, the 802 has been breeding conscious rappers and cipher ramblers for decades now. LoKi truly wants to fix a broken world, but, not surprisingly, 19-year-olds don't have a lot of actionable insights to offer.
They shouldn't have to, either. As a contribution the local scene, A World of Dreams is boundary-pushing stuff, and we'll likely be hearing more from these budding talents.