[26 November 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Coming out of the birthing ground for edIT and Mush Records’ finest, Take’s long awaited debut solidifies Los Angeles as the home of glitch-hop. From the cofounder position at a beat showcase night, he’s been honing his live skills for over a decade now, releasing a handful of EPs and singles in that time. With all that experience, and an education in music engineering and composition, it comes as no surprise that 29-year-old Thomas Wilson’s premiere full-length is as mature and fully developed as a Broadway performance of Cats. Earthtones & Concrete could easily confuse a person into thinking it’s the newest from Guillermo Scott Heron’s Prefuse 73 alter ego. The record seems to satisfy the promise shown by Vocal Studies and One Word Extinguisher before Heron got a bit lost in the frills.
Showing poise beyond his years, Wilson’s genre-standard booming round hip-hop beats revel in the glow of jazz-influenced synth melodies, which spill over ambient horizons and skittering clicks and blips. His compositions flow with a graceful elegance not often achieved with glitch, a warmly organic sheen that speaks equally to the heart and mind. The liquid soul of dance lives in the “Slouched Over” remix, which pieces a bangin’ boom-bap beat together with a vibrating but cheap sounding subbase, cascading wah-wah funk, and old 8-bit video game sounds. Headbangers will want to put on a helmet when that track starts kicking. For the most part, though, Earthtones & Concrete pushes you to just pull your chutes and float on down to a blunted chill pillow bellowing grey smoke and hazy lava dreams. Groovy.
If the debut has a weakness, it’s that it does its job either too well or too often. The pacing and aural pallet stay pretty consistent throughout, which can lose some people with natural or chemically developed attention difficulties. Granted, that kind of semi-rigid consistency is something they look for with party friendly drum ‘n’ bass and house. But with a hip-hop based downtempo album such as this, you may have to put a little effort into paying the respect to Earthtones & Concrete that it truly deserves. Wilson’s definitely got the skills to pay the bills and I’m twitching with anticipation to see where he goes from here.