In hip-hop, live performance rarely means more than overblown karaoke. Old-school heads (and Beck) continue to advocate for two turntables and a microphone, and in the 90s the Roots succeeded at kicking it live with an honest-to-God band, but for a form that’s made such strides in the studio, few practitioners have shown much interest in bringing the same level of innovation to the stage. New York’s Antipop Consortium–the trio of Beans, Priest, and M. Sayyid–are another exception; they drop their science over their own electronic improvisations. On their first three recordings they improved steadily, balancing decidedly abstract delivery (betraying their roots in New York’s spoken-word scene) with increasingly freaky all-electronic instrumental elements. Still, nothing prepared me for the new Arrhythmia (Warp), the best and most adventurous hip-hop album since Outkast’s Stankonia. If there’s a mission statement here, it’s “Bubblz,” where the rappers twist the ubiquitous Indeep couplet “There’s not a problem that I can’t fix / ‘Cause I can do it in the mix” into “Got a problem that I can’t fix / I just…” and then dissolve the lyrics entirely in an electronic squiggle. As MCs, the trio engage in thick internal rhyming, nonverbal noise (including some scatting on “Silver Heat”), dense alliteration, and loopy phrasing, draping unwieldy lines over fixed-beat measures and reveling in the resulting spillover. The music is even more surprising, full of alien bleeps, static that moves between speakers, insectoid flutters, and, on the minimal break on “Ping Pong,” syncopated table-tennis samples. And as APC demonstrated last fall at the Empty Bottle, they rejigger the whole business live, getting lost in the music rather than merely presiding over it. Diverse and DJ Old Man Malcolm open. Friday, May 3, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Davison.