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     With Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, Frenchman Wax Tailor (WT) introduces his 2005 full-length debut to America, and this instrumental effort just may be one of the most cinematic hip-hop efforts ever created. WT admits to being influenced by American instrumentals like DJ Shadow and RJD2, yet this album doesn’t show any blaring similarities to their works. His mostly down-tempo creations are often moving enough to serve as soundtrack music to an indie drama or thriller. True to the title of this album, WT’s specialty is mining emotive melodies and reanimating them with a hip-hop undertone.  

    On the album’s most haunting track, “How I Feel,” WT lays down thick drums and tops them off with an assortment of laidback horns, somber strings and some bluesy sampled vocals. This mix of rich percussion, moody samples and vocal snippets is used often. But WT’s sound isn’t all about the dramatic instrumentals. On “Damn That Music Made My Day,” he pays homage to his favorite hip-hop tracks by expertly sewing together a mix of samples from EPMD, Jeru, BDP, Digital Underground, Eric B & Rakim and more. Then he connects with North Carolina’s criminally slept-on true schoolers The Others on the high-energy hip-hop flashback “Where My Heart’s At.” As The Others appear again on the equally impressive “Walk The Line,” it’s evident that WT has an ear for quality, under-the-radar MCs.

    The one major drawback to this album is Wax Tailor’s tendency to sometimes try and emulate the sounds of trip-hop pioneers Portishead. On songs like “Our Dance,” the sci-fi vibe and Charlotte Savary’s Beth Gibbon-esque vocals simply sound too akin to their eerie resonance. The suspenseful “Don’t You Remember” suffers from a similar fate. These tracks aside, Tales of the Forgotten Melodies proves to be an exceptional debut. Hopefully, listeners stateside pick up on it as much as they have in Wax Tailor’s native France.

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