Spotlight 10
Ten Favourite Labels 2013

52 Commercial Road
Chantal Acda
David Åhlén
Daniel Bortz
Peter Broderick
Brass Mask
bvdub / bvdub & loscil
Dale Cooper Quartet
Jack Dangers
The Foreign Exchange
Nils Frahm
Bjarni Gunnarsson
Robert Haigh
Marihiko Hara & Polar M
John Heckle
Arve Henriksen
Joy Wellboy
Kaboom Karavan
Land of Kush
Jessy Lanza
Last Days
L.B. Dub Corp
Lights Dim with Gallery Six
Livity Sound
Om Unit
Ø [Phase]
Matana Roberts
Sakamoto + Deupree
Secret Pyramid
Quentin Sirjacq
Special Request
Stratosphere & Serries
Ricardo Tobar
Tom Trago

Compilations / Mixes
In The Dark
Mathias Kaden

EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Anile / Lm1 & Kharm
Gerwin & Nuage ft. 2Shy
Jon McMillion

Seaman and Tattered Sail

Oddisee: The Beauty In All
Mello Music Group

The latest album from Washington D.C. producer Oddisee (Amir Mohamed el Khalifa) is an instrumental collection, but unlike sets of similar design by hip-hop artists, Oddisee's doesn't play like some Dilla homage. If anything, The Beauty In All argues that one should regard Oddisee less as a beatmaker and more as a composer. That is, the album tracks focus on the composition as a total sound construction and end-in-itself, not as the potential backing for an MC's flow. As if to reinforce that point, the opening cut uses a beat that's so minimal it's downright skeletal, but “After Thoughts” is such a beautiful five minutes of downtempo music it hardly needs an intricate beat pattern to make its case. Suspended by a looped piano tinkle and sweetened with synth textures, the quietly uplifting track makes for an arresting starting point for Oddisee's twelve-track set.

Elsewhere, Oddisee explores a number of different directions, some fast and others slow, some restrained and others punchy. Though synths are deployed liberally, the material exudes a largely acoustic as well as jazz-inflected vibe with piano (acoustic and electric), drums, guitar, and bass oft-emphasized within the arrangements. Acoustic touches help distinguish one track from another: the tag at the end of “Fashionably Late,” for example, resonates with flute and percussion accents, while a thumb piano stands out from the proggy Moog landscape sketched within the funky body-mover “Fievre.”

Yet while head-nodding beats aren't necessarily the album's focal point, they're still a foundational part of the overall sound. Armed with boom-bap swing and muted horns, “In My Day” swaggers with serious intent, as does “The Gospel,” though this time accompanied by an impassioned vocal choir. In similar manner, the string-drenched “Patience in Play” receives a powerful boost from Oddisee's beat thrust, while the silken “Caprice Down” brings out the producer's soulful and jazzier sides. And as fully developed tracks such as “No Rules for Kings” and “Fork in the Road” demonstrate, he also does a credible job of simulating a live band sound in these tracks. Speaking of The Beauty In All, Oddisee states, “This record is dedicated to imperfection and the sense of pride and accomplishment we get from our struggles.” Truth be told, little struggle is involved for anyone tasked with the prospect of listening to this excellent collection.

November 2013