New York's Antipop Consortium travels a path deemed unconventional even by the anything-goes standards of indie hip hop. For instance, you could've caught the Queens-based group warming up for Radiohead in Europe this summer or sharing a Montreal stage in October with Oakland laptop spastic Kid606. Maybe Antipop's damn-the-demographic appeal has something to do with the fact that the act recently signed to the U.K.'s Warp Records, better known for the crunchy post-techno of Aphex Twin and Autechre than the blunted psychedelia of American underground rap. But then again, hip hop and electronica have always kept cordial relations: Most of the Warp lads claim to have been b-boys back in the day, and Antipop's analog groans suggest that it probably has some Stockhausen records squirreled away in the closet, right behind its track suits and Adidas shell-toes.
On Antipop's debut, 2000's Tragic Epilogue (75 Ark), lyricists Priest, Beans, and M. Sayyid laid down twisted flows over autistic beatbox rhythms, soaking monotone vocals in echo for a kind of wee-hour surrealism. But on its new Warp mini-album, The Ends Against the Middle, the group disperses the murkiness. E. Blaize -- co-producer, engineer, and "fifth Beatle" -- cleans up Antipop's sound, emphasizing the queasy analog keys and whipcrack snares. Still, the music is unlike any hip hop you've heard, more Joy Division than James Brown, with wheezy organ lacing the sci-fi bleeps with an eerie humanism. Even Antipop's boasts feel off-kilter: Proclaiming the album is full of "nonstop hits like that bunny with the battery," these rappers are energized by a weird and nameless force.