Kamasi Washington: Truth EP

There is something to be said about a jazz tune that can effortlessly catch a room’s attention as if each measure was written to outperform the last, like a continuous spiral staircase that becomes more illustrious with each step.

Kamasi Washington’s latest EP does just that by taking a simple refrain and delivering it the same way each time but with a new element of soul and character to expands upon the previous repetition.

The first and only track opens with the accompaniment piano in full swing, causing an abrupt mood jolt from the silence or whatever previous music was happening before the listener presses play.  The cymbal-heavy percussion masks each blank space when the other instrumentation leaves gaps, making sure to cover every area with something interesting to focus on.

For the entirety of the song, one constant element is the climactic frequency that is always changing and never becomes predictable even though the melody remains the same throughout.  An example of this is the mid-track bridge that features the bulk of the moving saxophone moments that are paired with a gentle steel marimba for that extra ’60s samba flair.  Right before this moment, the song reaches a point of a perfectly acceptable climax but instead furthers the track by adding more moving parts to the equation.

This style more closely resembles Miles Davis’ modal tropes of that were also used in many of his pieces where a songs’ opening and closer are both similar and grandiose.

Instead of delivering more of the same for the final third portion of this work, Washington understands that the track needs an extra push to create a sound that has been worth repeating the refrain for around fourteen minutes.  A small symphony performs a striking accompaniment consisting of high strings that help the “voice” of the melody transform even further from its once solitary and mellow position.

Finally, an actual voice is added when every instrument is in full utilization.  A lyricless choir provides its own iteration of the refrain that lets the listener experience the majesty that the entire song had built up.  The ending is dramatic but not gaudy, making careful notice to not overstay its welcome or give way to any stale portions that feel overdone.

Overall, Truth finds its way over to being one of my favorite jazz pieces of the year.  While it could have been an extra off of Washington’s last record The Epic, it still feels like a solid effort to provide listeners with and expanded look at the sound that carried the notorious jazz wizard to his current status in the industry.



The Avalanches: Colours

The legendary plunderphonics group have just released the second single from their upcoming album Wildflower, and it serves as a reassurance more than anything else.

When “Frankie Sinatra” released just a few weeks ago, many reactions to the song were positive, but there were those (including myself to an extent) that felt underwhelmed by the “should be incredible” features that are on the track that included Danny Brown and MF Doom.  With a duo like that, it would seem almost impossible for it to not be excellent.  Unfortunately, many of Danny’s lines are lackluster, and MF Doom’s presence is surprisingly forgettable.  On top of that, the overall sound is reminiscent to “electro swing”, which would be detrimental to the originality of this project, especially considering the impossible standard that Since I left You set back in 2000.

That being said, “Colours” is a song that will cause any skeptic to once again have faith in the band to create a worthy successor to their first product.  The track opens up with a quick yet atmospheric sample of various sounds mixed with a pitched up vocal part that repeats the word “colours” a few times.  The beat immediately picks up following this intro with a dreamy melody that sounds like a record playing backwards along with a band attempting to make music with it, and it truly works.  Lyrics are present but are either unintelligible or too vague to really hold any meaning, but by no means is that a drawback.  However, there is not much contrast throughout the song once the initial chorus is delivered.  There is a rhythm solo around the midway point, but other than that the chorus simply loops until it progressively becomes stripped down for a nicely executed outro.  I can see this track being placed between two energetic songs on the album in order to create a more diverse listening experience.

The main reason why I appreciate this release is that it proves that The Avalanches are not settling to letting their sampled parts drive the music that they produce.  I think that was the primary issue with “Frankie Sinatra”, and how it felt like a simple calypso song with a hip-hop beat placed over it.  As long as the other tracks follow the same creative direction as “Colours”, I’m anticipating a fantastic release come July 8th.