Album Review: Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser

Lets get this straight right from the off. Taylor McFerrins debut LP Early Riser is one of the albums of the year, and the fact that its taken this long since its release (nearly a month) to get a review together is a crime for which we here at Backseat Mafia are torturing ourselves with forthwith.

The Brooklyn based producer, composer, pianist and DJ has a lot to live up to as well, his father being Blue Note staple and legendary jazz singer Bobby, but by throwing elements of Soul, Golden Era (what they used to call Old Skool) Hip-Hop, Free Jazz and Electronic music together into his personal imaginative melting pot, McFerrin has come up with the goods – those said goods being something cohesive, exciting and most of all, Soulful. It took some time though, with McFerrin explaining “I spent years laying down tons of tracks,” McFerrin explains, “and I got into a really bad habit of never really finishing anything. So this last year the concept was – let me go back and find all the stuff that really felt right, the stuff that felt like an honest moment of creation for me, and just force myself to finish those tracks.”

Opener ‘Postpartum’ sets up the album right from the off. Textured electronics, vocals and beats are joined by this straight up jazz drumming, over which increasingly complex and probably improvised synth lines intertwine with eachother, making this intense, woozy, but incredibly beautiful soundscape. Elements of song and jazz come together to confuse and confound and change your expectations constantly.

Elsewhere, he’s joined by vocalists such as Nai Palm of Melbourne’s Hiatus Kaiyote on “The Antidote”, Emily King on “Decisions”, Brainfeeder labelmate RYAT’s on “A Place In My Heart”, as well as Taylor himself on “Florasia”.  McFerrin senior also makes an appearance, teaming up with Brazilian master Cesar Mariano on “Invisible/Visible”. Each brings something new or different to the record, from the shifting almost dizzying electronica that accompanies Nai Palm, through to the almost straight up piano jazz that features his father, to the lovely ethereal  quality of Kings vocal, over bubbling electronica.

Even on the other tracks, things happen, the pick of which is possibly the frankly fabulous electro of Stepps, that is possibly is the living (artistic) embodiment of the phrase woozy. Robert Glasper, Thundercat and Marcus Gilmore also provide their substantial jazz chops to “Already There”, which buzzes around with this infectious, perpetually shifing beat and time.

And that’s the key to the record as a whole. While McFerrin keeps it together with a cohesive vision, the record perpetually moves, shifts and surprised. His Father was/is brilliant, but Taylor McFerrin just might turn out to be visionary.

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