For over 20 years, Atmosphere have pursued the underbelly of what it means to be human with a rabid curiosity. Ant's dusky production has provided the pulse for Slug's evolving and matter-of-fact pen. As Slug transitioned from throwing-up-in-the-backseat-raps to holding-hands-when-you-cross-the-street-raps, Ant has grown to be a master of crate digging and unearthing the humanity of a drum loop. Thriving at the intersection of guttural and self-effacing, Atmosphere will go down as some of America's best archivists.
On Whenever, the duo continue to move in lockstep. Within the minutiae lie clues they're still struggling with mortality and the need to protect emotional energy, as on previous releases, but there's a quiet romanticism now, with Slug sounding – reluctantly – in love with life. And no other producer can pull truths out of a rapper like Ant fishes the blues out of Slug. Be it the twinkle of "Bde Maka Ska" leading into twanging guitars, or the anxious skitter of "Lovely," Slug finds obvious comfort in working with Ant. "Postal Lady" recounts the simplicity ofSlug's life over warm and enveloping production, while "Romance" recalls God Loves Uglywith its undulating glitches, as if we crawled through Ant's drum machine. It's clear the pair's harmony is reaching new peaks.
These aren't dad-raps, these aren't anti-establishment-raps, and these aren't chasing-old-fire-raps. Even at its darkest ("You're Gonna Go") Whenever houses blessed-to-be-alive-raps. The album breathes in the way only Slug and Ant could summon a collective breath. On Whenever, the duo inhale panic and exhale greatness.