Though titled Habits of the Heart, the first official full length album from urban alternative dynamic duo, Idle Warship could just as easily have been dubbed “Rhythm of the Heart.” A feverish dance floor opus, the album pounds, throbs and pulsates with the urgency of a desperate heart, combining raw emotion and intoxicating energy that can only come with the stimulation of the human body’s most resilient muscle.
Developed by free spirited soul siren Res, and stalwart rap veteran Talib Kweli through several years of live performances, Idle Warship began as an exercise in the type of musical eclecticism they displayed on 2009’s Party Robot mixtape. Habits of the Heart is powered by a more consistent aesthetic, mixing the trance-like synths of the ubiquitous “international” sound, dustily aggressive percussion and the frantically emotive vocals of Res into a neon hot digital soul gumbo. The opening notes of “Enemy” set a relentless pace for what unfolds as a mad dash down the path of the heart. From the intoxicating euphoria of the reggae tinged “God Bless My Soul” to the dizzying desperation of “Covered in Fantasy,” the album stays in motion through emotion.
Much of the album’s resonance comes from Res, who imbues every note with a raw throated brand of soul rarely seen in electronic music. Whether through guttural growls on “Laser Beams,” or plaintive pleas on “Are You In,” she always seems to be fighting against the emotional currents even as she tries to ride them to some kind of resolution. The same can’t be said for Kweli’s contributions, which, while generally competent, sometimes stray from the album’s themes and rarely match the visceral intensity of Res. In many ways, Habits of the Heart, with its guitar backed hooks and forays into abstraction, often feels more like a Res album on steroids featuring a rather wordy hypeman than a true collaboration.
Still, Habits of the Heart is a rarity: a pleasant surprise by a group from whom we expect the unexpected, and an experimental collection that keeps time with the most universal beat.