As I’ve stated multiple times in the past, the best production is that which tells a story. Music’s greatest producers know that their work should contribute something extra to a song, rather than just take up sonic space. DJ Pooh knew it when he produced Ice Cube's “Today Was a Good Day,” just as The RZA knew it when he crafted “C.R.E.A.M.” for his Wu brothers. It is this ability to weave a tale without words that has set the best apart from the rest. Throughout his career, Blockhead, is one such producer who showcases this quality.
Blockhead rise to prominence came as a result of his production on Definitive Jux emcee Aesop Rock’s albums. But in 2004, Blockhead went for dolo, and the result was the brilliant Music by Cavelight. A Trip-Hop tour de force, the album was 51 minutes of moody auras, scratches and samples. Perhaps the release was too good, as its follow-ups, 2005’s Downtown Science and 2007’s Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book just didn’t stack up. The Downtown New York producer has reaffirmed his top-tier talents, however, with his latest release – The Music Scene.
“It’s Raining Clouds” serves as this album’s “Insomniac Olympics,” with flutes, synths, vocal samples and the occasional haunting choir setting a moody tone. The title track is next, starting with a very basic percussion session and a vocal sample that says, “The music scene has got me down / ’Cause I don’t want to be a clown.” The percussion evolves along the way, as does the rest of the tune. What sounds like a distant harmonica is one of the many elements that combine to make “The Music Scene” a very lush composition, whose progression feels extraordinarily organic.
“The Daily Routine” is a nearly-seven-minute wonder which captures the tensions of an argument that is actually sampled throughout the song. Beginning with an extra-heavy guitar section and some more of those haunting choirs, this is yet another evolving song that eventually features acoustic guitar and sped-up string samples. It is extremely easy to get lost in a cut like this, and there’s no doubt that that’s exactly what Blockhead had in mind when he crafted it.
“Tricky Turtle” is a bit of a change of pace, as triumphant horns make way for similarly victorious-sounding vocal samples. It arrives at an opportune time, as it provides the listener a bit of a reprieve from the incredibly and exclusively dense sounds that had dominated the album’s first half. The intermission is a short one, however, as “Four Walls” is as layered as anything else on the record. With a thumping bass-line, distorted (Auto-Tuned, perhaps?) vocals, and timely piano keys, the cut has such a intoxicating swoon that I can’t, in good conscience, recommend listening to it while driving.
“Farewell Spaceman,” The Music Scene’s final offering, sums up the album itself very well. It is of diverse musical tastes, and ever-evolving – and in the end, that’s what makes this Blockhead’s best release since his first. It’s certainly busier than Music by Cavelight, but it’s also lighter and a more cerebral listening experience. Depending on what you’re looking for from your instrumental Hip Hop, those qualities may or may not be preferable. Regardless, there’s very little to complain about here. Just push play, and let the music take you where it will.