Dday One: Dialogue With Life
The Content (L)abel

Dialogue With Life, the fourth studio album by Los Angeles-based beatmaker Udeze Ukwuoma under the Dday One name, is special for a number of reasons, though not all of them are musical: during the production phase of the project (the album was recorded between spring and autumn at The Revolving Container in LA), Ukwuoma underwent open heart surgery for a congenital heart anomaly, a life-changing event that would give anyone serious pause and naturally induce reflections on physical and spiritual matters.

Awareness of that operation brings the full meaning of the text by Ukwuoma included on the package into sharper focus: “Dialogue With Life emerged from profound introspection and solitude. It was during this period away from external static that I was able to attune to the station within ... The [cover] image of clouds juxtaposed with communication wires is symbolic of the title and themes of the project. These themes include courage, gratitude, the physical world, and spiritual ascension.”

Such words hint that Dialogue With Life might deviate dramatically from the tone of past Dday One releases and perhaps present a more serene, ambient-styled take on the project. As it turns out, the forty-three-minute collection perpetuates the dynamic style and aggressive spirit previously captured on 2011's Loop Extensions-Deluxe and 2012's Mood Algorithms. As he's done so memorably before, Ukwuoma, using turntable and sampler, creates collage-styled constructions packed with detail and incident.

Samples are often dusty in nature, and horn, acoustic bass, percussion, piano, and vocal sounds figure prominently within the mix. Sourced as the samples (presumably) are in some cases from decades-old jazz recordings, the result can sometimes ends up sounding like a heady hybrid of instrumental hip-hop and acoustic jazz (see the sax-powered “What We Do”). With its acoustic guitar playing and Spaghetti Western vibe, “Towards the Roar” could pass for a collaboration with Glen Porter as much as a solo Dday One outing, while “Like a Jungle” catches one's ear with its whinnying horn playing and infectious hip-hop groove. One of the set's most intricately structured cuts is the album standout “Journey to the Center,” which works plaintive horn melodies, sitar and fiddle accents, bone-dry bass lines, and a thunderous beat pattern into a commanding five-minute display.

Much like his other releases, Dialogue With Life defies easy categorization. Calling it instrumental hip-hop isn't incorrect, but it's also inadequate, and describing it as collage-styled implies a randomness that isn't present. Though the typical Dday One track features a dizzying number of elements, there's never the sense that the material has been thrown together hastily. Instead, beats and samples are artfully assembled with care and circumspection, and the listener comes away dazzled. Throughout this solid addition to the Dday One catalogue, Ukwuoma weaves his parts into vibrant wholes using an approach that might best be called painterly.

December 2014