Released a month or so ago, this EP comes from Brasstracks, a group known for blending elements of jazz and instrumental horn music with modern pop and EDM. Robert Glasper worked with the group on many of the songs on this EP, and his experience in jazz and jazz fusion certainly shows. The album is an interesting mix of rap over Brasstracks’ instrumentals and pop-ey, slightly adjusted vocals over the same. There are some hits, some that I’m only lukewarm on, and one particularly bad miss, but in general, it’s a pretty good EP.
Part of the appeal of this group at a higher level is that although their music is oftentimes very fun to listen to, they don’t forgo good writing and demonstrations of their genuine, instrumental talent. I’m thankful for that, as it blends modern genres that, although flawed, I am often a fan of with some fairly talented musicians with a good sense for, well, musicianship that tends to make up for many of the gripes that I have with those aforementioned genres. 7.5/10.
In particular and so that I don’t leave ambiguity considering the above:
“Those Who Know,” the third track on the EP, features vocals with some pretty tasteful auto-tuning, and a good diversity of melodic themes and motifs, so that it remains interesting and engaging throughout. It doesn’t feel forced though, or that the group simply threw together a bunch of lines that they thought were catchy into one song. In general, it’s mixed well and no parts overpower each other, which I appreciate.
The real hit from this EP though, in my opinion, is “When You Say That”. This instrumental track features a bangin’ beat with one of my favorite production techniques in context. Around halfway through the song, the group completely washes out the audio, presumably dropping a high-pass filter over the entire mixing board, allowing the music a moment to breathe before jumping back into the bass-steeped, head nodding main theme of the song. Although the themes and motifs used in the song are relatively consistent over the 3-minute runtime of the song, this use of that technique allows for the music to remain engaging and to not feel as though it’s overly repetitive or uncreative. Big fan of that one, if it wasn’t evident.
The first and last track are titled, “Improv #1 (Intro)” and, “Improv #1 (Outro)” respectively. Both feature the group with Robert Glasper, whose presence speaks for itself, given his clout in the music (and jazz, particularly) industry. Both a very well put together, and feature well-written and well-performed parts from all of the included musicians, Glasper included. The intro features competent verse from The Underachievers, a hip-hop duo from Brooklyn, and that adds a good dimensionality to the tracks and to the EP in general.
I feel pretty ambiguous about the second-to-last track on the EP, “Opposite Ways”. The vocal style that the hook uses isn’t my favorite, and the verse seems relatively uninspired and pastiche, highlighting how easy S'natra feels it is to survive as a musician, since he loves it so much. That’s certainly a candidly healthy way to approach a very hard career to pick, but the content in general didn’t seem like anything groundbreaking and felt a bit generic.
The one big miss that I saw on this EP was the second track, “Brownstone”. I’m absolutely not a fan of BXRBER’s vocal style, melodic content, or lyrics in this song. The song seems almost entirely devoid of meaning, at least to me in my listening, and I’m not a fan of the atmosphere that’s created by the conjunction of the sampled high-pitch backup vocals and the style used by BXRBER. The beat, produced by Brasstracks is perfectly fine, but its quality is overshadowed by the vocals.