Madlib – Sound Ancestors: Review

Through the years many producers in Hip-Hop try to make a name for themselves by adding little quibbles in their opening stamp, like DJ Mustard’s “Mustard On The Beat Hoe.” Not everyone can make a new by following new trends. But for others, the true elegance comes from those who go through harrowing quietness and establishing themselves by their work and not plays. Madlib is one of the many who let the music speak more than telling the world who you are. His new album Sound Ancestor continues to show his elegance, with help from UK DJ/Musician Four Tet, as he takes his style to the future with an array of hip-hop/electronic hybrid tracks that cement his status as one of the greats.

When Kieran Hebden, or known better by his moniker Four Tet, was dropping a lot of work on YouTube through the pandemic, one thing came out worthy of note. And that was the news that he was working on a new album with producer MadLib. Four Tet’s time during the turn-of-the-century post IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) for the electronic music genre is heavily influential. His keen live instrumentation always enveloped one of the idiosyncrasies of his music, as one of the progressive artists at the time. 

So by bringing him into the fold with Madlib’s Jazz Hip-Hop – Sampledelic style is an odd pairing, but they make it work by never steering toward accessibility before reaching an Avant-Garde direction like the latin-music flare in the track “Latino Negro.” It’s embodiment of the Latin esoteric guitars and the lush and stagnant noise from the drum patterns.

After the initial taste in the intro’s simple high string keys and synth singularities, Sound Ancestors begins to take the melodic tones of Four Tet and makes a potent atmospheric undercurrent on the bombastic percussion center of the first few tracks. This is all before it gets to the lush and subtle stars that twinkle within the electronic currents, like on “Riddim Chant.” The illustrious track is embolden by electronic touches in the keys and what sounds like low barring wind chimes. 

These unique touches resonate throughout, even if they come unabashedly subtle, like in the track “New Normal,” which feels like a post mark of an early 2000s era of Boom-Bap-Jazz Hip Hop. And “Chino,” has that grit from a begotten era of New York where the DJ scratches had rule. It’s subtlety is as remarkable as the essence of the Golden Era sound, brought to the modern ages. 

This is why Sound Ancestors’ turn in the third section is where the momentum truly delivers. As the album keeps it rising with the first few tracks, the second half solidifies Madlib’s talent (along with Four Tet). The various sounds they work with are pieces of artistic beauty, especially “Two for 2 – For Dilla,” which acts as a homage to legendary instrumentalist and producer, J Dilla. It delivers a beautifully inspired track that makes great use of its jazz undertones.

Unfortunately at times the middle of the album feels almost like the middle of the road as a collective of notes don’t always hit with the same veracity as the first and third sectors flew out more. There are lowly vocalizations that add to the style and atmosphere and they heighten it further.

Madlib and Four Tet come strong with Sound Ancestors, and it comes as one of the many who have made January 2021 a strong month for music. They bring Jazz-Hip Hop to a new future with lush-overarching electronic coats on the music. The momentum bombastic and distinguishing instrumentations has a bit of a dip, though not enough to downplay the perfect mixing and editing. And that is enough to go back for smooth depth filled listening for any melancholic day at home.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

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