Upon the very first listen, it appears that RJD2 didn’t stray too far from his norm. And although some demand a continuous evolution from each artist, I personally welcome a unique yet intricately perfected sound. On each subsequent listen to More Is Than Isn’t, I feel that RJ did precisely just that - tweaked individual elements to improve on his particular aesthetic, while taking the entire production an entire notch up. Like a brand new vintage from your favorite winemaker, this particular year has its special characteristics of the land and weather in Ramble’s head, while bearing the much desired and sought after fruit.
There are a total of 16 tracks on the album, yet upon just a few rotations a few begin to get stuck in my head. Even briefly glancing at a track title, before I hit play, gets the song looping in my head. Oh, and yes, there are “songs” on Ramble John Krohn’s fifth full-length studio album. Though primarily instrumental in nature [just as I like it], there are a few soulful cuts, including a few straight up hip-hop tracks, with rappers P. Blackk, STS and Blueprint. Some rap may not be fresh [what do you think rhymes with “gold diggers”], but the flow is smooth, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a few of these hits on the radio.
The highlights include a funky “Temperamental” where we find Phonte Coleman’s smoky voice sing a catchy melody over a head-nodding beat; an up-beat cut-up disco-glitch “Behold, Numbers!” which finds RJ behind his favorite MPC pulling out tricks that some only wish they could crack; a flawlessly executed “Milk Tooth”, with its 60s vibe, spacey synth bleeps, and an incredibly fun rhythm; and, of course, “Love and Go” which has been on loop in my mind with its amazingly persistent “You know I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go” chorus sung by the Khari Mateen in that neo-r&b-jazzy style over the raps by STS.
Those somehow new to RJD2 will have an exciting road ahead of them, if they choose to traverse his catalog. His Deadringer debut has been dominating many of my playlists since 2002, only to be topped by Since We Last Spoke a few years later. Both were released by Definitive Jux up until XL Recordings picked up RJ for the 2007 The Third Hand. This was a fascinating transition for this Oregon-born, Ohio-raised, and now Philadelphia-based beat master, which saw RJ take an interesting turn in his musical progression, genre bending and career. This is how “A Beautiful Mine” became the theme song for AMC’s Mad Men. But in 2009, he launched his own RJ’s Electrical Connections label, re-pressed most of the past releases, and with The Colossus returned to his roots.
With More Is Than Isn’t, RJ’s sound feels a lot more developed, cohesive and very laid back, no doubt attributed to the fact that he’s having fun again with music, as well as with the creative freedom and direction that he can take on his very own imprint. With that said, RJ tells me that there’s even a second volume of More Is Than Isn’t in the works, and I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s already on my radar! Overall, it’s great to see a beloved artist do what they love doing best, while sticking to their principles and musical aesthetic, because these elements are clearly audible in the music. And that’s the only thing that counts…