I awoke to get digitally angry at an ad for the Gothenburg Film Festival where one lucky applicant will be deposited on some rocky god-forsook with nothing but the festival’s crop to watch in a lighthouse as the violent sea rages just outside.
Why angry? Who knows anymore. Who knows why we do or feel anything. But this here’s-what-we’re-a-gonna-do pandemic response - Gothenburg being the second city of pandemic warning fable Sweden - seems coy and callous. A cute marketing solution that ultimately deflates purpose and experience into a flattened husk. You know the movies are just gonna run in the background while Sven or Inga reaches at phantom notifications (no phones allowed. Fun rule, guys!) while staring at the sea.
I’ll get over this like many things. But it made me think about how a similar strategy works for the collaboration between Otis “Madlib” Jackson, Jr and Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden. The former sent the latter little things he’d culled, sculpted, extracted from the mountain of vinyl in which I picture he lairs. The latter edited and mixed or just put it in there. Whatever curating is. And I am on my own island with naught but this in my headphones and it is filling me with life.
Madlib is no stranger to informally gathering of the sonic world for your sonic perusal - his Beat Konducta series is superb. An Alan Lomax tour of his whims. Nor is he anything but a brill collab bro - see the riveting Freddie Gibbs records he helmed. When he’s not doing that, he’s a fake-jazz space marauder with Arkestral pseudonyms like Yesterday’s New Quartet and (I thinks it’s just him) Jahari Massamba Unit, getting big with beats enough to clog the void. Madlib is good at being busy and busy at being great.
Four Tet operates similarly, though in a shimmerier vein, limning the cerebral edges of jazz and electronica with an almost naive joy. This duo makes sense. Dirt and flowers. Static and signal. Groove and needle. The results are the little plastic bird and the water from which it drinks. Tracks like “The Call” and “Riddim Chant” are thin slices of the pies colling on their cerebral windowsills. “One for Quartabe/Right Now” emerges like a golem born of AM radio snips and blaxploitation movie blasts.
Among these affable exercises in beat science, we have the real nexus of the black hole depicted on the cover.* The title track summons groovy demons through the judicious exploration of a trap kit. “Road of the Lonely Ones” strolls in on a thick summer breeze, barely rustling the curtains and it steps through your window. “Two for 2 - for Dilla” is a fever dream in dub, fractured and swooning. What I want actual dub to sound like most of the time. The final track “Dumbiyay” pits old Smithsonian records African chants against jazz racket on repeat like you are on hold with all the world at once, hoping they pick up but OK if they never do.
All in all, a record full up with mystery and joy. Perfect for your personal island, however you form it. I can picture Sven or Inga, our contest winner, slogging through yet another sub-Wes Anderson design lookbook-as-cinema in their little lighthouse when they hear something potent out there on the crashing waves. Maybe it’s Madlib, beat conducting on a Gilligan’s Island raft. Or perhaps it’s just a jambox zip-tied to a clanging buoy playing this album on repeat. Either way, Gothenburg should book them for the after party.
* I know this is just sugar or maybe cocaine taking a shape because of sound vibrations, but you tell me that's not how a black hole works.
Main Photo by Carl Pocket
Madlib at Echoplex, March 28, 2014