Enigmatical: Exercises in Beat Tradition Vol. 1 & 2
The Enigmatical / Misto Soon Configuration: A Miniature of Bigger Things
What we've got here are two collections of raw tunes from individuals who've soaked up so much jazz and hip-hop growing up the music now oozes from their pores. There's nothing contrived about the vignettes captured on these discs, despite the fundamental difference between them: the collaborative project is a vocal-oriented set rooted in live interplay, while the other is a sample-based instrumentals collection.
The collaboration amounts to a small-group recording where voice and saxophone trade off in a way that brings back memories of 3-D Lifestyles, Greg Osby's bold jazz-rap fusion from a decade or so ago. In that case, the M-Base up-and-comer stepped away from the compositional calculus of colleague Steve Coleman and a gig as a member of Jack DeJohnette's ensemble for a risky hip-hop-based experiment. Abetted by a small ensemble, Gothenburg native and crate-digger Enigmatical (real name Daniel Nilsson) and Misto Soon, an MC originally from Skåne and now residing in Gothenburg, attempt something as progressive on eight full-bodied tracks. Misto Soon brings a relaxed and jazzy vibe to the recording in his spontaneous freestyling and provocative rhymes. Credited as the project's producer and arranger, Enigmatical contributes electric keyboards under the Nilsson name, while Joel Wästberg plays saxophone and piano and Thomas Jansson and Edvin Edvinsson man contrabass and electric bass respectively.
“Con-Tours” gets things moving nicely with a robust arrangement where the MC's flow is nicely augmented by a rich horn backing and strong interjections by Wästberg. Echoes of Coltrane's classic quartet resonate in the track's impassioned backing, something also audible in “Investment Session” when the tumultous attack recalls A Love Supreme. In addition, MC turns by Nadasdi and Rodan Kairos nudge “...Of Constellations” towards straight-up hip-hop territory, and the vocal-free “Ceremonial Fugue” gives Wästberg a chance to strut his stuff over a cowbell-driven, Latin-funk vamp. At one point, we hear someone say, “[There's a] big difference between somebody's who's playing and really trying to communicate something a lot deeper than somebody who's just trying to show you that they can really play, you know.” That not-too-subtle difference is manifested clearly in A Miniature of Bigger Things when the contributors pool their talents in the service of the music rather than individual egos.
On the fifty-minute Exercises in Beat Tradition Vol. 1 & 2, Enigmatical guides the listener on an instrumental tour of his beat catalogue, in essence what amounts to twenty sample-based tracks of varying length the producer constructed between 2003-2008. The material's hip-hop vibe comes courtesy of the downtempo head-nodding breaks, while the tracks' jazz spirit arrives by way of Enigmatical's jones for the classic ‘60s sounds of acoustic bass, piano, saxophone, muted trumpet, and flute, plus an occasional violin and cello. Wiry funk grooves thread their way through trippy, vinyl crackle-soaked settings where a plaintive soprano sax coils itself around electric piano shadings (“Transparent”) and a bluesy tenor sax drapes its silken whisper across a shimmering backdrop (“Straight Up”). Shifting the vibe slightly, sitar playing lends a psychedelic aroma to “Thunderdrums” while the soft sprinkle of one-time Mingus pianist Jaki Byard floats through “Byard Deep.” The feel is predominantly laid-back though the beat attack in “Thinkerman” is noticeably tougher than most. A slow-motion meditation or two (e.g., “Mind Modulation”) occasionally intervenes but for the most part we're talking slinky beat flow ornamented by Blue Note-styled colouration. By now it should be obvious that Enigmatical's jazz-based instrumental hip-hop should have natural appeal for aficionados of Madlib-styled beat-based instrumentals.