"If bedroom hip-hop producers are dime-a-dozen biscuits, Detroit’s Jason Hogans is a monstrous birthday cake, busting out of the display case. He draws equally from techno, coffeehouse acoustics and vocalized soul-searching. His :brownstudy records are always dodging and weaving classification as such, but this one throws down the ninja smoke canister.
Your first clue would be the line “You are now about to witness the strength of absurdity.” It’s how “River and Saint” launches the album: growling “WTF” via distorted jangly guitar and deft diatribe. From there you’re as primed as you can be for the unpredictable forms to come.
:brownstudy comes at you singing, chanting, buzzing … basically firing on all cylinders. His writing has never been stronger, nor has it been stretched in so many different ways vocally. He both runs triple-time through rhymes and lazily rambles on “Infinite Divisibility,” “struggles to embrace corporeality” on “With Wooden Inventions,” and generally eases his lyrics into straight-up poetry. And just when you think all the boundaries have been erased, Hogans closes back in on hip-hop with “Do Gets Done” — a bouncing biography on top of some clavinetty beeps and a great gurgly bass.
Throughout, These Trees Were Illegally Cut remains twisted and wistful, playful and contemplative, studious and stoopid. It’s as out there musically as anything Funkadelic, yet right up on your suburban lawnchair, personally giving you shit. Dizzyingly good."