Alec Morris, who handles public relations for Brasstracks at INFAMOUS, very generously reached out to me on Wednesday, having sent over a pre-release copy of this new, follow-up EP from Brasstracks. Over the last couple days, I've listened to it myriad times through all the equipment to which I currently have access.
Since this EP is so short (although the same holds true for the first EP), I thought it more appropriate to just give each track its own section, as seen below. After the individual sections (and for the reader that only wants my opinion in aggregate), they'll be a more holistic section which covers my general opinions on the EP.
Improv #2 feat. Robert Glasper, Thirdstory & S'natra
Just as with the first EP, the first track of this new iteration begins with Robert Glasper. I'm beginning to think this is a conscious tactic to put the listener's in a good mood; it worked last time and, given Robert Glasper's absurd domain knowledge, it worked again.
I think I can best describe this track as pillowy - syncopated vocals, swung drums, and some (surprisingly tasteful) compression all contribute to the lovably off-kilter feeling which this track elicits. The compression makes what might have been an overly-sterile track feel organic and keeps the listener involved.
Thankfully, Brasstracks, Robert Glasper, Thirdstory, and S'natra made the choice to leave the downbeat alone, which keeps this song from falling off a metaphorical rhythmic and groove-anemic cliff.
By and large, it's a good start. Let's move on to...
Stay There feat. Xavier Omär
Transitioning into the second track, this one holds a stronger vocal focus. Omär's lyrics and vocal style fit well with the atmosphere established through Brasstracks sensitive and dynamic horn backing. After a bad brush against the vocal-focused, "Brownstone," from For Those Who Know Pt. 1, it's refreshing to hear something with similar construction, although much better executed.
One specific element which was particularly refreshing in the context of the track as a whole was the 16th note runs by the horns from about 2:50 onward. It adds a sense of lightness and touch to what is, otherwise, a very invigorating song.
What I'd like to highlight, for this track, is its construction. I'm a big fan of the buildup to the break at ~1:30, as well as the break itself. The whole song grooves unapologetically hard and it left me with trouble keeping my head still.
This song is, generally, a very good idiom for how Brasstracks constructs a song. Much thought and care was obviously given to exactly when, where, and how an instrument should leave or reenter. This may read as clichéd and trite, but I think it's worth mentioning that most groups don't do this nearly as well as Brasstracks does. Of course, (likely) all artists make these considerations; the difference lies entirely in execution.
Too Far Too Fast feat. Thirdstory
Although it is a featured single, this track is the low point of the EP, to my tastes. This is unlike, "Brownstone," as referenced previously, however, as I still do enjoy the song. Although Thirdstory's register is a bit high for my preference, the lyrics are well-constructed, convey a meaningful thought through the lens of the author, and fit very well into the dense, forested background of the track. Multiple lines of vocals weave their way between a fast-paced drumbeat, heavily syncopated horns, and a none-too-simplistic bassline, intricately finding the pockets of empty space that allow Thirdstory to sing through all of the organized chaos.
I'll Sing About You
And here we are at the final track. Even without knowing that, it's legible, exclusively from the audio, that this is the conclusion of the EP, in full. The track is mainly instrumental, with tastefully integrated choral vocals throughout. The song is thick, dense, and flows as molasses.
This final song is a great example (derivative from my appreciation for their skill with arrangement/construction, mentioned prior) of what I love about Brasstracks. From their choice of the actual sounds, to the mixing, to the arrangement, Brasstracks does an exemplary job of using every element over which they have control in service of communicating through the music. It'd be pastiche and unhelpful for me to quantify how I feel, reaction-wise, to this song, but give it a listen, and I think you'll get a peek at what I mean, intuitively.
Conclusion and Summary
This was a much-appreciated addition to my library! I'm happy to be leaving this review more satisfied, in aggregate, with this EP than the last, and am excited to hear what Brasstracks will offer in the (hopefully near) future.
In terms of summary, I think the overarching motif that I see, from this EP, is that Brasstracks is continually evolving. On this EP, the listener can hear increased influence from funk, from R&B, and from soul, and well as a more refined and purposeful arrangement and mixing process. These are all good signs to me and they indicate to me that we'll likely continue to hear from Brasstracks for the (currently) foreseeable future. 9/10.