Sabzi – PARTHENIA (2011)

Blue Scholars and Common Market. On the Northwest scene, they are viewed as some very prominent acts, both capturing the essence of Seattle hip hop. What’s great about these groups especially, is that they’re very relatable. As Geo says on the title track of the album Bayani, “two students skipped a class, went and crafted an album.” The adroit Sabzi, also known as Saba, handles production for the two, and also has quite the solo career.

Being a jazz-trained pianist, he already possessed a background in music before he turned to turntables. Sabzi says perhaps the biggest influence on his music is the thoughts and perspectives of the youth that he works with in high school and college workshops. He’s also been known to sample Indie music, and even Bibio, whom I happened to review last. He stays devoted, continuing to produce sprawling creations that incorporate these extensive musical influences for his fans.

If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the Seattle scene, Sabzi’s latest digital release, PARTHENIA, will provide an adequate introduction, at least to the instrumental aspect.

The album stars off with “Hydroq B,” which hints at the mechanical quality that will be present throughout, while also proposing an ambient soundscape that would be best suited for sweltering, slow summer evenings. This leads on to “Purbasha,” a more energetic track with airy abstractions. “Chronique” abides to the chill-out essence, with an eery synth floating around at various times. What’s easily noticeable about this album, even this early, is that transitions between tracks are unwrinkled. The short but sweet “Me¢hani¢a£ Inse¢ts” paves the way for “Larkeeee,” which features a loopy synthesizer line that weaves through a xylophonic melody. The synths play an important role in this album, deepening and highlighting the resonance of other elements of the music. Next is “ur a hella flake, bro,” which, if you’ve heard Blue Scholars’ latest release Cinemetropolis, may remind you of “Fou Lee,” as it features the same abrasive breathing. “Quimbara Wang” and “Trailer Park Bazaar” continue the obscurity, while bringing in some timely bass instrumentation and percussion. “Colossal Mass” oddly separates itself from the other tracks, even if it follows the same approach. The album comes to a fitting close with “SPECTACULAR.”

In conclusion, this is an instrumental project that is unique from the norm and offers music that is sound all the way through, and never dull. My favorite tracks on the album were Purbasha, Larkeeee, and ur a hella flake, bro. You can purchase and listen to PARTHENIA on Sabzi’s bandcamp.

Overall: 84/100

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (2009)

Avant-garde, idiosyncratic, uplifting, and at some points, disheartening. These would be the words that best depict Bibio’s outlandish take on music, heavily influenced and slightly emulatory of Boards of Canada. Though he is not by any means an artist to spearhead an entirely new movement, he constructs his own identity extremely well.

Steve Wilkinson’s 2009 release, Ambivalence Avenue, is his first with the reputable Warp Records. With this comes slight alteration of his music, abandoning his previous style, which may have been considered tedious by some, and taking a new, experimental approach. With no lack of articulating ability, he ventures through a number of genres and generations of music, creating something unconventional and unexpected in a deeply digitally woven, yet nostalgia-spawning way.

The album starts off with the title track, which serves a crucial role of introducing us to many of the ambient, euphoric, and seemingly re-occurring sounds this album has to offer. Those sounds celestially contrast with others that sport electronic basslines, through exceptional transitions. The title track leads on to “Jealous of Roses,” a track with a beautiful 70’s feel to it, and a coalesce of funky samples. The more gritty, yet equally satisfying tracks, like “Fire Ant” and “Sugarette,” could easily be possible Madlib or Dilla cuts. “Haikuesque (When She Laughs)” sports a bit of low-fidelity folk. “Lover’s Carvings” is host to an uplifting atmosphere, although the first minute or so was, in my opinion, a little dull. Soulful is “Abrasion” and even more so, “The Palm of Your Wave,” which both muster feelings of great despair. “S’vive” brings a more choppy sound, and “Cry! Baby!” is another especially saddening and touching song. The album comes to fitting close with the eccentric “Dwrcan.”

In conclusion, from harsh, 8-bit moments to halcyon, soothing tunes, Ambivalence Avenue is a work of art. It’s most definitely worth a listen (or ten.) Although there wasn’t a track that I didn’t enjoy, stand-outs on the album were Jealous of Roses, Fire Ant, and Haikuesque.

Overall: 91/100

Dibia$e – Sound Palace (2011)

The LA beat scene’s new course in hip hop may be veering far too close to the multiple layers of synths of techy, fast-paced dubstep for many heads’ liking. However, it is also home to many producers who like to keep versatile, and seesaw between futuristic beats and more nostalgic beats, with jazz loops for instance. Dibiase, usually stylized as Dibia$e or Mr.Dibia$e, is a notable fit in this group. He may not be a producer you’re all too familiar with, but within the underground Los Angeles scene, he is often considered a conscientious underground legend. His laid-back music has been weighed against the likes of Nujabes, while his more modern-sounding, experimental beats have been compared to Flying Lotus’ work. Unquestionably something to flaunt.

Following his release of his “Cakeology” EP, Dibia$e is back with “Sound Palace,” another conscious wonder. Sure to give avid listeners of instrumental albums raging erections, or at least the ever-so-familiar urge to headnod. No sir, this is not music to listen to on a Sunday morning when you have nothing better to do. Alright, I’m getting carried away, but it’s still a good listen.

Dibia$e enthusiastically incorporates anomalous, abstract samples, and chose to follow a very distinct vibe throughout the album. The distinguishing quality of this album has to be the fact that it almost seems to represent a conflict between, or rather, an amalgamation of, his two styles of music. “Smooth Sailin” introduces us to the album with a mellow ambiance, as the name would suggest, and leads on to tracks with a more rugged, raw feel. Some tracks (“Fly Me 2 The Moon”) give the impression that he’s paying homage to Dilla himself. Others, namely “Rockout,” not so much. The album did have a few flaws. One of the biggest, I felt, was that transitions between tracks weren’t great, and variation and progression in the beats was lacking. Then again, with most of the tracks being around only two to three minutes in length, it’s expected.

All in all, about 35 minutes of absolute audio hypnosis, and some replay-value is definitely anticipated. My personal favorite tracks are Woman, Suncity, and Fly Me 2 The Moon.