Rejoice O’ boom bap junkies! The master’s prodigal son has returned from his magnificent alter- ego (Quasimoto) brick-fighting, Brazilian crate-digging, Freddie Gibbs-producing trip through the language and lands of beat, back to his father’s blessed house of holy instrumental Hip Hop, so as to carve rhyme-less slices of fatted calf once more. Or, possibly, in other words: Madlib; the seminal L.A Hip Hop producer and natural air to the throne of J Dilla has decided to stop producing other people’s records and finally get back to his own solo beat work, under a contortion of one of his regular aliases ‘the Beat Konducta’ = ‘Rock Konducta’.
No stranger to a wee bit of genre-splicing record piracy, Lib’s always been famed for his stoic ability to (to some – bastardize, in his own words he’s been “sued a lot”, to others – magnify) any rare, library or private-press record and sample it to high heaven, till the original cut seems tame in comparison. Turn Brazil’s answer to later-era Beatles into a Scooby Doo like super villain theme? Sure. How about raiding Blue Note Records to mutate Wayne Shorter’s sacramental jazz standard ‘Footprints’ into a Thom Yorkesq skitzo-fest? On it. What next? Transfiguring a Steve Reich early work so it slots wonderfully into a stoner anthem? Um…yes.
Now he’s decided to flee from his regular canon of Funk, Jazz and Soul, instead planting his wayward fingers into the excessively hulking mess that is Rock music, so as to further the Madlib invasion of every sub-genre imaginable. I say every imaginable because Lib’s not intending on digging out his Bon Jovi records, he’s going after “American psychedelia, Germany’s Krautrock, acid-soaked Spanish prog-rock and synthy, early-80s oddities” so as to sniff out the most dastardly strange cuts to work with. He’s been dropping a track about every 4 months since the start of the year from the upcoming ‘Rock Konducta Vol. 1-2’ double album and just this week came the latest, ‘Hold The Organ’, from Volume 1.
The tracks a real stonker: a dissonant wash of dusty smooth Organ, harrowing newborn cry, jarring analogue alarm clock and scattered beats build a vacuum high up before it all tumbles down, morphing into a devastatingly dirty groove that I reckon can summon a furious foot stomp in even the most sedated of us. Thus, all in all, a wonderful beat right?…Well, yes, the beat really is great, and it makes me excited for the forthcoming album, but there’s a problem afoot that this track (to me) encapsulates, and sadly it’s one that infiltrates the culture of sample and beat based music all too often.
Naturally sample based music is built around one thing: samples. Thus beatheads delve deep into the treasure troves of vinyl stacks, all in hope of finding the perfect break or loop to cut’n’splice into their music, which I’m totally fine with, about half of the music I adore contains samples. But what I really detest in the culture is its tendency for producers to be first rate shoppers, and second rate beatmakers.
Now, I’m not calling Madlib a second rate producer, when he wants he can cut up joints perfectly to mash and twist samples into unrecognisable latter-jams (ref: checkout this). But on ‘Hold The Organ’ I believe he’s fallen into the age old trap of discovering a super rare, based record not enough souls have heard since its inception, been psyched to pedestal it, but then instead of cutting it together with any real degree of ingenuity has merely edited out most of the vocals, lazily layered a few percussive loops over the top (the alarm clock, the washy cymbal), EQ-ed it, turned up the bass and pushed the whole recording through compression into the red, so we are left with a finished product that really is at best a remix, and worst just a re-edit of the original track, certainly neither Madlib can justify as having ‘written’.
Now A) I might be wrong, I don’t know where Lib got the sample from, thus I’m basing my presumption on the ‘wholeness’ sound of the beat (normally his cuts are a lot more fragmented and erratic) thus if my argument can be found to be flawed by someone finding the original track (maybe I should Shazam it? Madlib himself admitted on Radio 1 this month that even he has to do this sometimes…for his own tracks) I will apologise profusely. And B) You might not care anyway, just turn on, tune in and drop out, right? Regardless, I do, and I can’t help but think that here Madlib’s showcasing his phenomenal shopping talents rather than his musical.
Listen to ‘Hold The Organ’ here.
‘Rock Konducta Vol. 1-2’ will be out in full next February, however Vol.1 is available now, exclusively on tracklist-less vinyl from Stones Throw//Madlib Invasion Records.