Ammoncontact: Sounds Like Everything
Plug Research

Sounds like everything? Well, not exactly. What it does sound like is minimal instrumental hip hop in a laid-back, unpretentious California style. Maybe the sunny LA climes have something to do with the mellow vibe. Regardless, it's a perfect party record as its grooves contentedly meander without ever staying in one place for too long. Anyone pigeonholing Allen Avanessian's Plug Research as an experimental electronic label hasn't been listening lately, as the label's been pushing this relaxed fusion of digital programming and hip hop for a while now. Adventure Time collaborators Frosty and Daedelus offered an enticing taste of it on their recent Dreams of Water Themes and now Ammoncontact (old friends Fabian Ammon Alston and LA producer and Dublab associate Carlos Niño) pursues it further. Sounds Like Everything sounds like a fine time was had by all, including guests Daedelus on guitar (“Super Eagles & Black Stars”) Joshua Speigelman on flute, bamboo flute, and kalimba (“Encouragement,” “Zato Ichi”), and Andres Renteneria on drums and percussion. Its twenty tracks are fragmentary at times (eight are two minutes or less), but the non-stop fifty-five minute flow lends them a cumulative substantial weight they would otherwise lack.

So what's it sound like specifically? Sounds Like Everything encompasses a fairly broad stylistic range, from latin-styled percussion hoedowns to minimal, bass and drum-driven grooves to spacey Sun Ra acoustic jazz. Half of the tracks feature head-nodding, minimal funk and hip-hop beats, bass, and moog, although sometimes other instruments like flute (“Juno What I Mean,” “Drops”) and percussion (“We the Continuum”) give the tracks extra spice. Ammoncontact often flavours its music with samples of piano (“Fatu Batu”), orchestral surges (“House Plants”), and full-bodied horns (“Ultra DB”). The tastiest groove in this hip-hop style is “Super Eagles & Black Stars” which channels the two-bass attack of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time as its warm, treble bass interweaves with its deeper counterpart, the sound fleshed out further by gentle guitar playing. Perhaps a closer point of reference for Ammoncontact's style might be Ui as both groups share a predilection for slinky, slippery bass lines and drum grooves with a third instrument, often a moog, added for melody. As stated, a heavy latin influence runs through the recording too with flutes and percussion often highlighted. The timbales on “Hu Vibes Re:Invention” make the connection clear, while “Top Tape 1,” with its bells, congas, and shakers, is a percussion spotlight. “Encouragement” in particular brings out this dimension most dramatically. It sounds like a wild street party featuring a latin percussion band whose bells, shakers, electric piano, and flute combine to create a churning rumba-like groove. Ammoncontact's jazz leanings comes forth also, as many pieces use jazzy acoustic bass and piano sample and couple them with funky hip hop beats. Vinyl crackles add a textural quality, while saxophone (“Stereo-X 5:15 Pt 2”), vibes (“1 st Melody Music”), and flute (“Zato Ichi”) expand the instrumental palette of the jazzier pieces.

Perhaps it's the recording's seeming lack of ambition that imbues it with such charm. There's no sense that Ammoncontact intends for Sounds Like Everything to be regarded as revolutionary or genre-defining. And what's wrong with that? Not every release has to jumpstart a revolution. The back cover exhorts the listener to “play it for everyone,” not a bad idea when such engaging music has something to like for all those exposed to it. “Our Cry for Peace” includes a rap (“This is our cry for peace, peace throughout this universe”) that leaves little doubt about the group's hippie vibe, but it's the instrumental array of impassioned flute soloing, jazz piano, and latin percussion that leaves a more lasting impression.

December 2003