Not every electronic musician exudes the assembly and sound of a full band, but some can create such an illusion with the appropriate equipment, a versatile ear, and a limitless mindset. The ever-progressive Blockhead proves these skills, fusing trip-hop, beats, vocal samples, and jazz to solidify his own style of turntableism in Interludes After Midnight. His established sound is a unique mix, dynamic and expressive, showing off the individual sounds and wholeness of each track. The most enticing aspects of Interludes After Midnight include eloquent blends of stirring bass lines, haunting vocal samples, an array of instruments, and ever-evolving hip-hop beats.
Behind the smooth chemistry of Blockhead is Anthony Simon, a producer, rapper, and music-melder from Manhattan. After three albums of original, yet era-reflecting work, he has released his fourth idea of modern trip-hop on May 1st. Like his previous records, Interludes After Midnight pushes delicious drum-and-bass, various samples from indiscernible sources (possibly cheesy, classic musicals and children’s songs), and inter-track expansion of progression, volume, and instrumental layering. Although parts of Interludes After Midnight appear less than thrilling, the majority of the album vibrates alluringly and does its best over massive speakers. We can only imagine its potential stir during a live set.
As icing to the drum and bass cake, the vocal samples add spice to each piece, ranging from decorative to center stage to downright strange. Essentially, each has a function rather than merely existing as extra sound. “Panic In Funkytown” repetitively insists to “do your own funky thang” while establishing rhythm. “Snapping Point” childishly asks us to “let’s be rubber bands,” while “The Robin Byrd Era” gets weird with listeners (“Here’s one for your face!”). The loveliest samples seep from “Hungover Like Woah” as an eerie female voice flutters delicately within the mix. The male vocals in “Meet You At Tower Records” establish an alternative rock vibe, until the rapper slides in silkily and gets us focused on the true flow of the piece. This fusion of rock vocals, rap, and an eventual touch of female oldies vocals and horns combines several throwback genres to create something new.
Instrumentally, Blockhead inserts several melodic samples, bestowing a range of genres with minimal changes to his style. Often he incorporates wild and whimsical flute, which stands independently or melds into juxtaposition against heavy bass. Intense horns, electric guitar, and wholesome piano all make appearances. Although tonally separate from the consistent drum and bass, they are arranged over the beats and become harmonious with the core of each song.
The superb tracks on Interludes After Midnight feature groove in the bass while focusing on trebly treats. “Never Forget Your Token” enters like a hip-hop classic, bwah-bwahing with oceanic synth and an intricate bass line. Smooth jazz piano pearls over the mix and is arranged over the fast beats. Possibly the best track is lava-lamp slow and gooey with ambient keys – “Hungover Like Woah” contains a harem of male vocals and sly, creeping percussion. Eventually some reverb emerges and deeply satisfies the speakers. “Beyond Reach (feat. Baby Dayliner)” exceeds our expectations as the most unlikely of all the songs as it moves beyond the trip-hop genre. Its jovial piano, carefree vocals, and upbeat percussion remind us of bands along the lines of Phish or Ween. The track remains full with alto vocal samples and galactic glistening, proving Blockhead can mash up familiarity with its artistic opposites.
Interludes After Midnight conveys the sounds of several artists with the unity of one mind. The album overflows with elements, both constant and extremely momentary, but does not appear to be stuffed with contradicting material. The diverse aspects and odd juxtapositions settle on an even plane, cementing Blockhead’s signature style. Each song brims with differences without forgoing direction – the tracks have a place to be and a place to go. Musically, the record is something to be appreciated, and in the case of the dance floor, it ensures satisfaction and late-night mischief.
1. Never Forget Your Token
2. Creeps Crouchin’
3. Panic In Funkytown
4. Hungover Like Woah
5. Meet You At Tower Records
6. Escape The Meadow
7. Smoke Signals
8. Tools Of The Industry
9. Midnight Blue
10. Snapping Point
11. Beyond Reach Feat. Baby Dayliner
12. The Robin Byrd Era