Originally introduced as the man providing the sonic backdrops to Aesop Rock’s first two official releases, Float and Labor Days, Blockhead shared production duties on last year’s Bazooka Tooth with other producers, most likely to work on his instrumental opus for Ninja Tune, Music By Cavelight. Following the little heard Broke Beats, this album marks the official debut for Blockhead as a solo artist, leaving an incredible first impression, much like DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing or RJD2′s Dead Ringer.
Comparisons to Shadow and RJ are inevitable, not only because Blockheezy is another hip-hop-producer-turned-instrumentalist (or is it the other way around?), but because his sound draws influence from both. More so is his influence from Shadow than RJ, as proven on the incredible “Insomniac Olympics”, which samples the opening horns from the Olympic Games. However, what separates this track from being a gimmicky song that simply samples a familiar tune are the layers upon layers of samples that accompany it. Built around those famous horns are a matching heavy bassline, hard funk drums, moody strings, some somber pianos, and some distorted crooning. The Shadow influence is also heavy on “Breathe and Start” and the three-part epic “Triptych”, however Blockhead’s technique is all his own. So while the mellow piano keys on any of the three parts of “Triptych” might channel Endtroducing, Blockhead’s manipulation of the same vocal sample in three different pitches on part one, or the added live bass guitar of part three are a style all that’s his own.
While it’s evident that Blockhead admires Shadow’s work, it’s too good to call it biting, and the similarities end there. His own sound comes through vibrant and clear on the opener, “You’ve Got Maelstrom”, a dark, building beat that screams for an Aesop Rock verse, as well as on the incredible “Sunday Seance”, again utilizing the moody pianos, but also dark Cold Vien-esque spacey breakdowns. His beats are incredibly visual, taking the listener to completely another plane entirely, as found on the “Carnivores Unite”, another beautiful concoction of samples and live guitars, or “Road Rage Breakdown”, a blunted beat that smokes the weed for you.
Sure, many instrumental albums are repetitive, boring, and sleepy, but Blockhead’s got something that stands out here with Music By Cavelight. While it goes a little bit too far off the deep end on “Bullfight In Ireland” and the “Music By Cavelight” title track, the remainder of the album is a wonderful trip worth taking. Whether listening to Blockhead’s Music…. in a smoke filled room, during a lonely drive in the evening rain, while gettin’ it on with your lady, or while slowly murdering someone, it’s a superb soundtrack that plays solidly throughout.
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