Following their last release, The Day Before Halloween—an imaginative, distorted-synth-driven concept album—Atmosphere returns with a refreshing new project, simply titled WORD?

Steering back toward their signature sound, the album further highlights producer Ant’s undeniable talents as the project leans into the classic boom-bap aesthetic, bringing a unique energy out of Slug’s wisdom, wit and delivery. From onset, WORD? proves to be every bit an exercise in refining and advancing their craft as it is a harkening to earlier work. That is, while their releases have grown more broodingly cinematic, and increasingly concerned with the human condition and mortality, WORD? manages to reintroduce moments of levity and lightheartedness throughout, an approach seldom heard on their albums of late.

From album opener “Fleetwood,” with its razor-sharp snares and warm fleshy bassline, to the resonant melody of “Clocked”, there are strong hints of Atmosphere’s nascent years within the sound. Meanwhile, songs like “Woes”, “Strung” and “Vanish” cheerfully make light of daily hardships, but they’re more likely to be remembered for making listeners want to bob their heads and sing along. With Slug and Ant directing the course, the album plays like a joyride through a range of experiences and emotions, with an extensive cast of special guests hopping in along the way, including MF DOOM, Aesop Rock, Evidence, Sa-Roc, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Nikki Jean, Musab, Muja Messiah, Nino Bless, Anwar HighSign, BlackLiq and Haphduzn. The result is a project that feels like it came from the era or, perhaps more fittingly, the mindset that created albums like God Loves Ugly, Seven’s Travels, or the popular Sad Clown series, while sounding as polished and perfected as more recent albums like Mi Vida Local or Whenever.

Ultimately, WORD? pairs the breadth of Atmosphere’s talents with the beauty of their growth, all while showing they still have a lot of fun in the process and don’t mind letting the listener in on the fun as well.

The full album is set to release October 8th, but for now you can pre-order the album here.

The first taste of the new project is a music video for the lead single, “Woes” — just one of four tracks featured on Atmosphere's new maxi-single, “WORD? Side A”.

Directed by Roxana Baldovin (Maluma/Steve Aoki, Doja Cat, Kehlani, HER, Lil Uzi Vert), the music video features Slug as a fish — or shark, rather — out of water, musing on the inevitable struggles of interpersonal relationships and the labors of love. The light-hearted visuals and earnest sentiments are complemented by a summery, reggae-influenced track from producer Ant.