The sax-slanging Detroit native Grant Kwiecinski knows a thing or two about producing records. At age 24, he owns his own label, All Good Records, which releases music by a roster of up-and-coming talent, including the man himself. And Griz also puts it all out for free on his website. It’s a major vote of confidence for humanity, and an equally big one in his ability to sell out tours to earn a living, although it doesn’t look like that’s going to be a problem any time soon. Griz is best known for dropping electro-soul bombs like Mad Liberation and Rebel Era, and he’s back with a vengeance with this new nine-track surprise release dubbed Chasing the Golden Hour Pt. 1.
Griz hinted at the possibility of a new release with last month’s "Feelin’ High" and the single “Summer '97,” featuring label mate Muzzy Bearr, which dropped back in July. While both tracks are solid additions, they’re eclipsed by all the new material in this consistently quality album. Golden Hour 1 has soul, style and musical sensibility in just the right measures, and marks Griz’s arrival at the zenith of his musical career. He’s already proved his mettle as a heavy-hitter, and now he concentrates his energy on more sophisticated experimentation.
Golden Hour 1 reveals a subtle change of direction for Griz, with relaxed summertime jams like "Blue Vervain" and "Cabin Sessions" (the latter featuring Exmag and Eric Bloom). However, Griz's best undeniably lies in his fusion of electronic music with Motown soul. On “It’s Over (But It’s Just Begun),” Griz throws down a seamless blend of classic samples and catchy beats, updating history to a fresh perspective. His command is evident with the briefest of pauses halfway into the soul scorcher “Sometimes the Truth Don’t Rhyme” that has you waiting for the funk to drop, until a screaming sax works its way into yet another easy groove. “The Moment Seizes Us” slowly builds on itself, getting down and dirty with some grimy laser bass and finally finishing things off with a brilliantly produced melody. Griz isn't a rising star anymore - he has fully risen.
The LP doesn't overload on collabs like Say It Loud did. This time around, we see contributions from innovative electronic producer and trumpet wiz Russ Liquid, whose grooves soulfully on “Love Will Follow You,” as well as the work of frequent collaborators Exmag and Muzzy Bearr. And even Blue Oyster Cult singer and guitarist Eric Bloom also steps in for a few, fitting right in with Griz’s penchant for seeking out innovative collaborations.
Throughout the album, there are only a few things that detract from Griz's evolution toward more mature, developed artistry. There's some odd spacing between a few tracks, leaving the listener hanging longer than it should. And the mixed bag of samples, from classic Motown songs to cheesy comedies, might evoke some grimaces. Sometimes it works (“Sexier Than Austin Powers”) and sometimes it doesn't ("Blue Vervain"), but nonetheless, Griz has an ability to combine humor with smoothness through the production room. He mixes a wide range of samples into the album, including a Boyhood clip and a lengthy bit from cult classic Orange County. This disparate catalog appeals to your head and your heart, and perhaps even your funny bone if you have a soft spot for Zoolander.
Chasing the Golden Hour Pt. 1 is an album heard best when blasted, and we don’t think your neighbors will mind. It's made to get you moving and it succeeds, at varying tempos and methods of groove. In a musical landscape glutted by samey EDM, Golden Hour 1 rises above the static. We can only hope that Part 2 is on its way soon.