Anna Minard, our city hall reporter, claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we're forcing her to listen to all the records that music nerds consider important.
Somehow the most important first thing about Digable Planets is that name. These are not planets that should be dug. Nor are they planets doing digging. They haven't necessarily been dug. "Here are some planets," say these people. "It is possible to dig them. They could, hypothetically, be dug. We're leaving that up to you." The planets are digable. They don't go so far as to say Dug Planets or Dig These Planets or You Are So Going to Dig These Amazing Planets. (That's the Buzzfeed version of the band name. First album: Track Seven Will Blow Your Mind.) Quietly, chilled-out, you can dig these if you so choose.
And dig them I do. That mood, that chill, permeates every second of this album. It's lyrically impressive, but the overall theme is so anti-hyperactive. The low tones, horn and piano lines, and calm beats burrow into your brain, pulsing like cartoon sound waves.
There's a female voice in here, and though I love nothing more than female swagger, she's as chill as the dudes. Her low-key but quick-tongued slickness is hypnotic. It's hiphop, but, just as the group's name refers to planets, the sound is coming from somewhere outside the atmosphere of what "hiphop" often means; it's built from similar but different elements; the smoothness of the vocal style is something totally un-staccato and un-loud, honey-covered hiphop. The rhymes are my favorite kind—casual but constructed, slant rhymes, rhymes in the middle of a line instead of the end.
I like this a lot—but is it possible to not like this? It doesn't offend. It doesn't sneer. It doesn't put itself on a pedestal. It couldn't piss you off. It's the smoothest of smooth, a spare, straightforward presentation of woven sound. How could you hate it? What part of it would grate on your ears? I don't think my grandma could hate this.
I wanted to know more, so I looked them up on the internet. Turns out this 1990s group is the starting place for Seattle's own Ishmael Butler, now of Shabazz Palaces. (Sorry for not knowing that, y'all.) The three of them (how can there only be three of them?) named themselves after insects—Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug Mecca. I have no idea why.
Where should you listen to this? Literally anywhere, anytime. This is something different from music; it's like a physical thing. Like a magic fabric, a sweater that's cool in summer and warm in winter. It's like it exists and your presence or appreciation doesn't necessarily matter, doesn't change anything. It's like this album is playing constantly in another universe, and you can pull back the veil and visit it, and when you leave, it barely notices. It just keeps being, keeps playing.
I give this a "pull back the veil" out of 10.