Madlib - Sound Ancestors Music Album Reviews

Madlib - Sound Ancestors Music Album Reviews
On his collaborative album with Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden, the producer, multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and archivist remains masterful by simply turning what he hears into something new and revelatory.

Listening to music can be a way of making it. Few artists understand this better than Madlib. Across dozens of releases and nearly as many alter egos, the West Coast hip-hop producer, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and de facto archivist born Otis Jackson Jr. has worked chiefly by flipping cherished records from his collection, inviting audiences to hear what he hears: the unique emotional texture of this particular vocal line, a saxophone solo distilled to its most elegant single bar. Madlib places these moments at the center of our attention, stuttering and alive, their significance impossible to ignore for those of us who might miss it otherwise. Cue up one of his beats side-by-side with its source material and you may be surprised at the similarity. But such an attempt at demystification would miss the point of his music. Some producers specialize in manipulating their samples until they are unrecognizable; for Madlib, the hearing itself—the noticing—is as important as whatever happens after that.
Sound Ancestors, his new album, is a rare entry in his vast catalog to be billed straightforwardly as a Madlib solo release, not a collaboration with a rapper, or a record by one of several fictitious jazz players and ensembles he’s invented, or an entry in an arcane thematic series. But it, too, is a joint effort, this time with Kieran Hebden, the electronic producer better known as Four Tet, who curated, edited, and arranged its 16 tracks from a body of hundreds of recordings that Madlib sent him over a period of two years. Their process reminds me of 2003’s Shades of Blue, which Madlib created by raiding the vaults of Blue Note Records, sometimes chopping the original jazz recordings intricately and sometimes letting them unfold for long stretches without much apparent editing. Now, Madlib is the one opening his archives, and Four Tet is the one listening and assembling.

The two are friends whose recorded collaboration began in the mid-2000s, when Four Tet remixed several tracks from Madlib’s classic MF DOOM collaboration Madvillainy. Hebden’s arrangement of Sound Ancestors shows deep and intuitive engagement with Jackson’s weed-scented sensibility, which has no use for presumptive distinctions between the beautiful and the funky, the silly and the profound.

“Loose Goose,” a delirious early highlight from the album, pairs an enormous dancehall rhythm with a minor-key woodwind line and a repeated sample of Snoop Dogg exclaiming “Fo’ shizzle, dizzle,” before veering hard left into the territory of some faintly demonic, helium-voiced avant-garde pop, then returning to its original groove just in time to end. Immediately after comes the whiplash of “Dirtknock,” built on a loop of tender vocals and bass guitar from the cult-favorite Welsh indie rock band Young Marble Giants, plus a snippet of what I can only guess is a YouTube tutorial about how to properly hit a bong. Of the many mind-expanding contrasts in this passage, the most striking involves the surface quality of the audio: the way the trebly mix of an early 1980s post-punk record sounds especially brittle and tactile when it emerges out of reggae’s subaqueous low end, and vice versa. Madlib’s preference for leaving his samples largely raw and untreated, and his appetite for music across genres, eras, and locales, lead to many such juxtapositions. Recording fidelity is no longer a fixed characteristic of the album as a whole, but an inflection that is subject to change from moment to moment, as mutable and expressive as rhythm or pitch.

Despite the album’s frequent joyous and even comic moments, it also has the feeling of an elegy. Its release comes not long after the death of MF DOOM, and one of its tracks is presented as an homage to J Dilla, another collaborator and kindred spirit who died young. “Two for 2 - For Dilla” is a pitch-perfect emulation of the late producer’s style, and serves to highlight the similarities between the two musicians (Sound Ancestors, like much instrumental hip-hop from the last decade and a half, bears more than a little resemblance to Dilla’s 2006 swan song Donuts), but also the differences. Soul samples arrive in herky-jerky staccato, turning half-words and breaks between syllables into unlikely hooks: pure Dilla. But the stretched-out backdrop they punctuate in the track’s second half bears Madlib’s smoky signature, suggesting the sound of Donuts as imagined in a daydream on a lazy afternoon. It would be hard to come up with a more fitting tribute.

One emotional peak comes during “Hopprock,” a track whose construction seems almost offhanded: palm-muted guitar, a simple drum line, a fragment of bass that pops in every few bars. Several ghostly voices float at the margins, sounding more like Four Tet’s previous work than Madlib’s. Their words are mostly indistinguishable: a yeah here, a what! there, a few ooohs in between. Together these elements alchemize a feeling that none would summon on their own. Listening in the right mood feels like watching a sunrise over a mountain.

Across his catalog, Madlib has maintained a tricksterish relationship to authorship, relishing his ability to leave you wondering who exactly is doing what, and when. On a series of jazz-oriented releases that feature Otis Jackson Jr. playing many or all of the live instruments himself, he has adopted a series of fanciful aliases: Yesterday’s New Quintet, Sound Directions, Ahmad Miller, The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble. Whatever other roles these characters serve in his process, they also upend received hierarchies of value in musical creativity. He’s happy to take credit for an album that a traditionalist might write off as plagiarism of other people’s work—but when he’s playing bass, drums, percussion, kalimba, synth, organ, electric piano? That wasn’t Madlib, that was Monk Hughes & the Outer Realm.

Sound Ancestors is elusive in subtler ways. “Duumbiyay,” its gorgeous final track, features a grainy child’s voice and a crisply recorded jazz combo working in tandem. When a piano enters the mix and stabs out a two-note figure that precisely mirrors the singer’s exclamatory phrasing at the end of a line, the moment is mildly startling. The voice and the instrument sound like they were recorded in different decades, perhaps on different continents. As the track goes on, their involvement becomes more intimate: the piano seems to accompany the singer deliberately, harmonizing the simple melody with a jaunty left-hand bassline and densely clustered chords, as if they were in the same room. Maybe we are hearing the magic of two musicians reaching unknowingly toward each other across time and space; maybe Madlib played the piano himself along to an old field recording he likes, or maybe he hired a session musician to do it. Maybe the strange mix of fidelities is all baked into a single uncanny sample, and he’s just letting it play. Whatever the answer, the effect is the same. Hey, you, the music calls out. Listen to this.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Madlib - Sound Ancestors Music Album Reviews Madlib - Sound Ancestors Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 09, 2021 Rating: 5


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