Bay Area Collective, Sonicbloom, has been churning out projects since coming together nearly a decade ago. Like most groups comprised of five or more members, it’s easy to lose track of individual members for whole tracks if you’re not a die-hard fan. That may not have been the sole reason Sonicbloom’s Spends Quality branched out for a two-album run, but it would seem to be at least one of many factors. It’s a decision that pays dividends for both Spends and listeners, as Time Peace—the more jazzy, laid back of the two offerings—shows a versatility seldom displayed as a member of Sonicbloom.
Any assumptions that Spends Quality’s departure is permanent or hostile are quickly put to rest by the fact that Time Peace is entirely produced by fellow Sonicbloom member Mr. Tay. But while their group offerings usually leaned toward the Bay Area staple of electro-funk with a mix of live instruments, Time Peace is light and airy. In turn, Spends Quality showcases a much more restrained flow. He almost exclusively opts for an A B A B rhyme scheme as opposed to the rapid-fire flow of previous Sonicbloom tracks, which sometimes could make the listener feel they were aggressively being rapped at.
The flip side to that relaxed vibe, is that there are moments when Time Peace lacks a certain dynamic quality. That’s not so much an inherent flaw as it is a matter of personal preference. Spends Quality keeps an overall positive vibe, which should be applauded. And he’s refreshingly brash on “Quicksand,” which finds Mr. Tay offering an energetic mix of scratching (courtesy of DJ Riff Raff) and synths to give the album more of a natural ebb and flow. But Spend is also prone to the occasional cliché, as on “Place To Be,” where he rhymes, “I got my business plan / Do my independent thing, so I can stick it to the man.” References to Charlie Sheen’s nearly two-year-old catchphrase “Winning” (“In With The New”) do absolutely nothing to add any excitement to the mix. One isn’t entirely sure what to make of “So Good To Me,” when Spends spits, “That beat hit so hard, it left a taste in my mouth / Clear my throat / Get it off, my stress / Spit it out / It’s so good to be an emcee without a doubt / I write songs not books / That’s what I’m about…” over a beat that lacks the punch he references. That said, Mr. Tay generally holds down his end of the collaboration, although a majority of the album often finds the desired low end sacrificed for live instrumentation.
The decision to step out into solo territory with two albums is a rather bold one. But given that Sonicbloom releases material through their own CFO Recordings imprint, it’s a decision that’s most likely backed by Spends Quality having a surplus of material to share as opposed to a cash grab. And while it’s nearly impossible to knock a project that promotes the virtues of inner-peace and independence, there is something to be said for presentation. Ultimately, Time Peace lacks a lot of sonic and lyrical pyrotechnics. But it’s a solid (if not spectacular) listen that puts a premium on optimism and substance. In a frustratingly crowded marketplace, those qualities will take the album farther than most of filler released this year.