Monday, July 23, 2007

Yesterday's New Quintet - "Yesterday's Universe" - Stones Throw Records (2007)

Yesterday’s Universe (Stones Throw) by Yesterday’s New Quintet, an experimental/jazz collective headed by underground uber-producer Madlib, is a record that offers both a musical glimpse into the future and also a glance into the past. With this album, Madlib has compiled appealing instrumental tracks by the various artists and groups that work together under the Yesterday’s New Quintet moniker, resulting in an exciting mish-mash of experimental, free-form and acid jazz topped off with a Hip-Hop sensibility.

The tracks on this album take the listener through a sonic tour of Madlib’s leftfield taste in music; as each track is slightly stranger than the other, however the common thread that holds the album together is eccentricity. The Young Jazz Rebels’ “Slave Riot” sounds like a Mad Max post-apocalyptic rendition of a Medeski, Martin and Wood jam session. With the off kilter drumming, menacing bass and sci-fi sound effects, this tune gives you an idea of what jazz could sound like in the year 2050.

The Jazzistics “Martin, Marcus and Malcolm” provides a more traditional flow that would not be out of place being played in the background at your local Starbucks or martini lounge. Another track that has an old, throwback feel similar to vintage John Coltrane (Madlib namedrops him frequently) is “Umoja (Unity)” by The Jahari Massamba Unit. The track has a relaxed, airy vibe that is created with light drumming and breezy saxophones bouncing off one another. The track leaves a smile on your face, plain and simple.

The only track on the album that at a first listen, would make one realize that Madlib was actually involved in this project is “Sunny C (California)” by Ahmad Miller. The track would fit perfectly onto the forthcoming Madvillian project as you can almost hear Doom spitting over the blunted beat.

If you are looking for to expand your musical tastes and take a break from the mundane commercial rap currently flooding the market, then give “Yesterday’s Universe” a quick listen. Madlib (as the head of Yesterday’s New Quintet) puts together an album that simultaneously gives a brief jazz history lesson and also a peek of what may lay ahead in this exciting musical form. This album may not be for every rap or music fan (much like a lot of the music released on the Stones Throw label); but at the very least Yesterday’s Universe will open a door wide open for you. It’s up to you however, if you want to step through and explore.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see this review posted on click here:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Video: "Stronger" by Kanye West

Whether or not you are fan of Kanye West, you definitely need to check out this new video for the the single "Stronger" which is on his forthcoming album "Graduation" which is set to drop on August 21st. The video helmed by legendary music video director Hype Williams, is a treat for the eyes; and obviously the ears as well.

The video can be compared to a mini-motion picture as it is a visual feast that allows us to watch Kanye travel through what looks like Toyko in pursuit of a beautiful woman, whom we only see gyrating at some futuristic club. While in pursuit, Kanye grows "stronger" from his introduction at the beginning of the video in a strange space pod/chamber (Ala Keanue Reeves waking up the first time in the Matrix) as he seeks out this bombshell. Let's not tell Kanye's new fiancee about will be our little secret. We are assuming that Kanye's feelings for this woman grow "stronger" for her the more he searches. We even see him escape a hospital where he is laid up with some unknown illness; and he is so "strong" that he manages to get by and away from a SWAT team which has been sent in to neutralize him.

The whole video has a futuristic, Japanamation look to it; heck Kanye even name-drops "Akira" which is one of the most revered Anime films of all time. It reminds me of a hip-hop "Blade Runner" except instead of a young Harrison Ford running through a dark, depressing futuristic cityscape; we have a stylish young rapper bobbing and weaving through a kaleidoscope of colours and bright lights.

The video even features a cameo by the two members of Daft Punk; a electronic-music duo hailing from Paris, France. What makes this song and video so exciting is that Kanye bases the entire beat and the chorus from a sample of Daft Punk's track "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" their big hit off the "Discovery" album which was released back in 2001. The fact that Kanye is pushing the boundaries of hip-hop and pop music in general with this track, tells us that West is not sitting back on his heels and believing his own hype. He is trying to make important and interesting music, no matter what anyone thinks. Whether he is influenced by Daft Punk or Willie Nelson is irrelevant; with Mr. West we know that the end result of these strange influences will be a dope song and dope video to go along with it. Check it out and enjoy!