Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

Music
cover art

Bilal

Levels EP

(Plug Research / iTunes; US: 18 Jan 2011; UK: 18 Jan 2011; Online Release Date: 24 Jan 2011)

Level Up

It seems that neo-soul and jazz singer-songwriter Bilal Sayeed Oliver has been riding high for the past few years. He was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for his appearance on Robert Glasper’s song “All Matter”, and was given the nod again this year in the same category for the song “Little One”. He released his third album (one being unreleased) last year, Airtight’s Revenge, which just came short of cracking the top 100 of the Billboard Hot 200. Now, he has an iTunes digital EP to offer to the masses, “Levels”, which is the third single from Airtight’s Revenge. It comes with a corresponding video that was directed by none other than super-producer Flying Lotus, making his directorial debut behind the camera. That connection is apt, because “Levels”, at least in its original incarnation, has Flying Lotus’s sonic fingerprints all over it (the single comes with the original track, an instrumental version that’s wholly unnecessary unless you want to try your hand at karaoke, and two remixes or “re-edits”, one of which is cut up by the hands of none other than, yes, Flying Lotus). “Levels” is a claustrophobic track that has the hallmarks of the collage technique found on Cosmogramma. The beats gurgle like Swiss clockwork run amok, a piano line lilts and rock guitars surge towards the end of the track with ferocious intensity. It’s a decent song, though it’s a little busy and unfocused. The real standouts are the remixes, which pare the original track right down to the bare bones. All this goes to show you that maybe Steve Ellison (a.k.a. you-know-who) and the other remixer, Sonnymoon, knew something that Bilal didn’t. On the whole, the Levels EP is an intriguing bit of glitch pop. Unfortunately, though, the opening lyric is prescient: “Yeah, I’ve heard this one before.”

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more. He also reviews books for bookwookie.ca.


Tagged as: "levels" | bilal | funk | rock | soul
Media
Related Articles
By Elias Leight and Colin McGuire
11 Dec 2013
The best R&B albums of 2013 feature long-time stalwarts and compelling new voices.
19 Mar 2013
After the personal catharsis of Airtight's Revenge, Bilal's back with a lighter, tighter, more romantic affair that bridges the gap between his experimental and lover sides.
18 Mar 2013
Listening to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre speak around the massacring of children without missing a beat, it's easy to agree with Lewis Black that this century is starting to look just as physically dangerous as the last one—even if, as Steven Pinker claims, it's actually more peaceful.
22 Jan 2012
Bilal Oliver belongs to an elite class of late '90s Neo-Soul singers, but his guest appearances may be the true gems of his career.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.