“ 16 Tracks Effortlessly Mixed ” – Album Review: Madlib – Sound Ancestors
Organic vs synthetic? Abstract vs familiar? Old school vs contemporary? While veteran American hip hop producer Madlib and British electronic music producer Four Tet may have sparked all of these music production dilemmas, their new album ‘Sound Ancestors’ shows that a single record can possess all of these attributes in unison.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where to start when defining beatmaker Otis Jackson Jr (known professionally as Madlib). One of the most critically acclaimed producers of our generation, the California-born artist has described himself as “DJ first, producer second and MC last”. Oddly enough, he probably doesn’t give himself enough credit in this description. Of his 9 solo studio albums over the past 20 years, several can be categorized as jazz albums, and he has developed a habit of collaborating with some of the best underground rappers in the world on records such as’ Madvillainy ”. (with light MF DOOM) and ‘Piñata’ (with rapper Freddie Gibbs).
One thing he never feels is overwhelming
Perhaps not surprisingly, Madlib finally crossed paths with musical mastermind Kieran Hebden, better known as Four Tet. Although officially listed as a solo effort, “ Sound Ancestors ” was produced largely in collaboration with the UK producer, who receives arrangement and mastering credits for curating and editing hundreds of beats composed by Madlib in 16 effortlessly mixed tracks. For an album that has been cut from hundreds of sample-rich beats in two years, one thing he never feels is overwhelming.
After the three opening tracks, you’re not exactly sure which direction the album is going. The grunge style loop and the desperate voices in The call might take you by surprise, until the infectious drum beat and reggae vocal sample in Crabtree Theme sets you up in a groove more familiar to Madlib’s usual work. The next song Lonely road is Madlib at its best. The delightful use of a sample from the 1960s Philadelphia soul group, The Ethics, introduces the album’s psychedelic soul element, which is carried over into later tracks.
If you ranked Madlib’s discography based on the quality and effectiveness of its samples used, you would soon find that this is an impossible task, and would likely end up probing the depths of obscure 1950s / 60s records ( already there, made this). However, it can be argued that “Sound Ancestors” might just be the beatmaker’s best body of work in terms of vocal samples. The recurring, heavy and rumbling basslines accompany the harmonic and mellow vocals throughout, creating a fascinating contrast that leaves the listener somewhere in between.
The impact of Four Tet on the album should not be overlooked. Bulk goose brings out its raw and unsettling approach to production, with its heavy polyphonic texture creating a sense of fear. As the song reaches its most vigorous and dynamic moment, the vibrating drums take center stage and don’t let you rest. Sitting in the 5e record seat, it’s almost a reminder that it’s not an old album, not even an old Madlib album, it’s ‘Sound Ancestors’.
Jackson and Hebden barely give time to process it all, because before you know it, you’re thrown into the next lead. It’s a vital theme in all of Madlib’s work – short songs that leave the listener more craving, while not allowing us to completely process what we’ve just heard until we come back and the were listening again. This is why it is always difficult to identify a favorite Madlib song as opposed to her favorite album, as the songs act like small but important pieces of a much bigger puzzle.
Create bubbling tension until tight drums and desperate vocals erupt and whisk you off in a different direction
Hopprock is another one that could easily fit into one of Four Tet’s popular solo releases. The introduction of a minute and a spooky overlay of an answering machine will give anyone goosebumps no matter who admits it. The spooky sense of mystery could also be found in a Radiohead album, creating seething tension until tight drums and desperate vocals erupt and whisk you off in a different direction. While this is an intense and dare I say petrifying experience, you almost want her to continue for a few more minutes than she does. This is perhaps the only downside to Madlib’s branding style, which the listener can sometimes feel deprived of an experience we (for some strange reason) think we deserve. The optimists among us may be waiting for a remix in the near future.
The chaotic and sample-rich arrangement of One For Quartabê / Currently It feels like the late rapper MF DOOM is screaming to deliver some wit and rhyme amid the song’s unorthodox structure and instrumentation. Despite a frantic opening of around 80 seconds, the second half of the song offers a slower, more meaningful instrument to keep listeners lost. The absence of words allows the listener to apply their own take and tell their own life, whether sentimental or joyful.
For more than two decades, Madlib’s work has been defined not by a single style, but rather by its stylistic breadth and tireless production. On “Sound Ancestors”, the polymath compiles his artifacts with Four Tet.
– NPR Music (@nprmusic) January 28, 2021
Beyond obscure samples, abstract loops and chilled repeating grooves, there remains an unpredictability in Madlib’s work, which has been exploited and improved to full effect by Four Tet. The approach to vocals on “Sound Ancestors” is a personal highlight, as the various vocal samples are used in a purely textual and harmonic fashion, not taking center stage and letting the music dictate the mood.
While “ Sound Ancestors ” is billed as a record of 16 different songs, Madlib really delivered us 16 different tales, using sounds from a multitude of genres as tools to tell the stories the only way he knows how. make. While the genre’s fluidity and transitions may seem abrupt on first listen, the underlying theme is hip-hop and, most importantly, the rejection of rigidity.
Images in the article courtesy of @fourtetkieran via instagram.com. No modification made to these images.
Tweet courtesy of @nprmusic via twitter.com.
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