Many accidental children were had, many blunts were smoked, and many tears were cried to the sounds of 2004′s “Music By Cavelight” by Blockhead. This seminal release was the official debut from the NYC instrumentalist, who back then was best known for his Aesop Rock production on “Labor Days” and other LP’s. A year and half later, Blockhead has made a name for himself, no longer living in the shadow of Aesop, or, well, Shadow. This record defined the artist like few debuts can, so the question remains with the release of “Downtown Science” - can lightning strike twice for Blockhead?
Built as an homage to New York City, Blockhead takes a slightly different approach to “Downtown Science”, but nevertheless does not disappoint. When it begins with the heavy “Expiration Date”, it seems that Block aims to take us on another “Endtroducing”-esque quest, but as the album plays on, it reveals several other sounds and styles. Keeping true to form, Block is at his best when crafting his mellower blunt-sessions such as “Cherry Picker” and “Crashing Down”, which carry the tradition of his first album, but just as it begins to drag on a bit on the random “Stop Motion Traffic”, he jolts you awake. “The Art Of Walking” is a Cut Chemist-like cut-and-paste track that chops up and repairs some funky soul samples for a concoction that begs for a remix with Jurassic 5. He also surprises on “Good Block, Bad Block”, which at first almost seems too abrasive with it’s sleazy power chord guitars, but slowly grows on the listener with Block’s added layers of flutes, Gregorian chants, and crashing drums, making for a good combination. The bluesy “Dough Nation” also works, where Block takes what sounds like a Steven Tyler diddy-bop and builds his world on top of it. Towards the end, the album takes you back down to the “Cavelight” era with both “Quiet Storm” and “The First Snowfall”, two beautifully, sultry closers. Meanwhile, it’s nice to see Block experimenting with new styles on “Downtown Science”, as both “Roll Out The Red Carpet” and “Long Walk Home” take him in an even different direction - the London creamy spy theme (via NYC).
While “Music By Cavelight” has matured to classic status for this writer (after numerous repeated listens during sessions of hot, steamy sex), “Downtown Science” comes in as a close second. It’s less linear approach to experimenting with different sounds and styles makes it feel disjointed at times, however all of it is so well done, it’s still very brilliantly executed. With a bonus DVD that provides the entire “Music By Cavelight” album in videos, there’s just too much good about this package to pass it up - even if it’s not as spot on as it’s predecessor.
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