Blockhead made his name by being the producer of Aesop Rock’s eternally jocked “Float” and Labor Days” albums. I always thought his production was dope, and I would never deny how breathtaking his beat for “Daylight” was, but I never thought he deserved some of the accolades he got. I would hear people call him one of the best underground producers, and I just didn’t think he was there yet. It looks as though we are both ready to come around.
Via Ninja Tune comes Blockhead’s instrumental debut LP, “Music By Cavelight.” With Rjd2 and DJ Shadow wearing the crown’s as the kings of the instrumental album, and Prefuse 73 and Science Fiction waiting their turns; Blockhead is here to claim his piece of the kingdom. His beats are slow and methodical, layered with sample upon sample, a continuously changing soundscape that creates one of the most atmospheric albums I’ve ever heard. The opening track, and a selection from his EP of the same name, “Insomniac Olympics” sets the tone for his opus with its dusty horns leading the way and moody pianos carrying the load. The pace of the proceeding track distracts you from realizing that “Carnivores Unite” is just as layered and well-constructed. Things are just starting to get interesting however as “You’ve Got Malestrom” is good enough on its own to make the album worth purchasing. Straight up, this is one of the best beats I’ve ever heard (and I’ve got 2000+ albums). When he drops the xylophones in at about a minute, I damn near lose my mind every time.
One of the more emotionally charged tracks (set off by the pianos that open it), “Sunday Séance” is quite epic and signifies the tempo that the remainder of the album takes. “Road Rage Breakdown” doesn’t really live up to its billing as it is more of a theme song to one of those insanely bizarre nightmares that make you question your sanity in the morning (ahem, not that I have any of those). The three part series of “Triptych” isn’t just dope because of how nice each individual song is, but pay attention to the detail. Each track contains similar elements at some point, and Blockhead weaved them in so naturally that you could easily miss it even on multiple listens. “Breath and Stop” is also notable as Blockhead takes an approach comparable to Prefuse 73 and uses chopped snares to create a hip hop-electronic hybrid. Well, that is until the track flips and he goes back to his aural picture painting.
A title like “Music By Cavelight” may have you imagining a Neanderthal sitting in a fire lit cave banging a rock and a log with a mammoth tusk in some syncopated fashion. You wouldn’t be far off. Not that anything on this album sounds remotely like a caveman playing his version of the drums, but every song here is as vividly descriptive as the above scenario. Like the aforementioned RJ and Shadow, Blockhead’s true talent not only lies in the sheer dopeness of his beats but in that he covers his canvas with pictures that most can’t paint with words. This album should do more for Blockhead’s career than any of his work with Aes Rock did, but I guess that is up to y’all.