Yesterday's New Quintet
fictional band, with fictional band members, that is really just him multitracking on keyboards and drum machines, is not for the musically unadventurous. I was really into his (or "their" if you want to live in Madlib's insane world) first album, Angles Without Edges
so decided to pick up the newest two albums, Stevie
and Monk Hughes and The Outer Realm- Tribute to Brother Weldon. Stevie
is a tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder, of course, and Monk Hughes
is a tribute to Weldon Irvine, the composer and arranger. Monk Hughes,
believe it or not, is actually even more abstract and conceptual than that. It is, in fact, supposed to be a solo effort from the bassist of YNQ, the fictional Monk Hughes, but of course it's all still Madlib. If you're confused, YOU SHOULD BE! Wait till you hear the CDs!
Some people like Stevie
more, mostly because it's grounded in the recognizable tunes of the great Stevie Wonder. I don't. I love Stevie Wonder, and I like this album, but as has been commented by MANY amazon reviewers (the only critics that really matter), it shows Madlib's nakedness and overly simplistic keyboard stylings. Most of these were noodlings before Angles Without Edges,
and it shows. There are some good ones. I like the stripped-down, spacey version of "Superstition" Madlib brings out, as well as his tripped-out versions of "You Got It Bad, Girl" and "Too High." Also decent is his medley of "Superwoman/Where Were You Last Winter." Some of the other tracks fall flat though, Madlib seeming a little to fascinated by his ability to play standard keyboard lines with too much delay, sustain, and chorus. Overall, the album sounds less sophisticated than Angles
so it's no surprise it was recorded before that. In all, the album's all right but doesn't have the same sense of completeness and complexity most Madlib projects do. It's definitely creative stuff, but not on the usual level.
though, is a piece of work. Weldon Irvine, who I honestly have not heard much of, gets a treatment of creative acid-jazz, fusion, and free jazz that would make anyone take notice. This is probably the most sophisticated keyboard work Madlib has conjured up for any of his recordings, and is leaps and leaps past Stevie.
The rhythms are chaotic, mimicking Intelligent Dance Music, the keyboard lines are inspired and thickly layered to give off the first glimpses of Madlib as a composer and arranger coming into his own. "Run with The Sun", the opening track, is straight madness. It sounds like it could've been a track off Miles Davis' Live at the Filmore West.
It starts and stops, cycling through several different crews, and features enormously messy breakdowns. Someone might say, isn't that distracting? Yes, it is, but if you like fusion jazz and free jazz it's what you're used to. "Piece for Brother Weldon" I think is the standout track of the album, a definite piece of tribute music where Madlib tries out an unusual rhythm and soars with adventurous keyboards all over it. It's at time melodic, at times hard to listen to, but at all times fresh and creative. "Irvine's Vine", "Welldone", and "Liberated" are genuinely hard tracks to listen too.
The rest of the album, though, is at least grounded enough that it's somewhat accessible. What I have to give Madlib credit for is producing something this creative and edgy. While he's always pushed the envelope, this takes it to new levels and honestly simulates and sounds like a lot of the music he's inspired by tempered and empowered by hip hop sensibilities. Essentially, he's proved himself on
to be more than just a producer and a keybaord noodler, but a tried and true musician.