Elvin Estella already has two albums on Ubiquity (2000’s Soulmates and Pacific Drift from 2003) and a collaborative history with Guillermo Scott Herren, for whom he is also tour DJ, to his name. Whilst anyone going to appreciate the hype about Senor Herren’s Prefuse 73 and Savath & Savalas projects live can hardly have ignored the compressed beatmangling visited upon those performances by Estella’s hand on the mixing desk/decks, his own records have gone relatively unnoticed. This is a shame, at least on the evidence of Pacific Drift, which reconciled a mood of sunny, proggy psychedelia with simple, deep hip-hop grooves to create instrumental flows both muggy and refreshing that lived up that album’s subtitle, “Western Water Music Vol. 1”. Unfortunately Estalla’s debut on Plug Research (home to purveyors of a more clinically experimental form of beatscience, several of his Dublab.com cohorts amongst them) is not a sequel to that first volume, although one will apparently be forthcoming on Ubiquity.
Rather, And Everything Else… sees Nobody applying a reductionist methodology to his already nigh-minimalist trademark sound: if his beats and bass lines are just as solid as they used to be, the patterns he deploys them in have simplified, deadening their former vibrancy just as the flow of the compositions has been cut down to angular bouts of repetition, the tracks overall less centred on melodies and more on an understated drifting through abstracted segments. Overall, whilst the differences may not be that apparent superficially, the results are less finished and welcoming.
However, certain habits prevail: just as Pacific Drift employed members of Beachwood Sparks and Aisler’s Set to cover a halcyon hippy anthem over Estalla’s bare framework (in that case the Monkees’ “Porpoise Song”, which became a tender if slightly disjointed oddity), so this album sees the return of Chris Gunst, Farmer Dave Scher, and Jen Cohen to vocal duties on the second track, a claustrophobic six-minute version of the Flaming Lips’ “Where Is the Light?”. Whether or not covers are the last resort of the unimaginative is an issue for another time; in this instance we end up with a pleasant enough homage that flowers into a pretty glow on the choruses but otherwise remains slightly drab, the earache-inducing monotony of the beat failing to help matters.
Opener “The Coast Is Clear (for Fireworks)” plays against type by enlisting enthusiastic children’s applause, but in general there is too little here that sparkles, the sparseness of the rhythmic collages frequently giving one the impression of solid groundwork that now simply awaits further developments, be they instrumental or vocal, to become complete and emotionally involving. Thus the Mia Doi Todd-voiced “You Can Know Her” is a languorous improvement, MC Xololanxinco brings enough gusto to “Con Un Relampago” to make it diverting even for those of us desemparado of Espagnol, and the second La Correcion collabo with Scott Herren, “Tori Oshi”, is a melting pot of melancholic Latin fretwork with a punchy beat lurking beneath. These tracks don’t work merely because they distract us from Estella’s shortcomings (the cheerful bombast of “Wake Up and Smell the Millennium” and acoustic outro “Siesta Con Susana” are perfectly fine in their own right), but they do highlight what’s lacking from a good proportion of the album.
Granted, choosing to call yourself Nobody probably hints at a personality more introverted than some. And Everything Else… truly disappoints not in its lack of perfection (that would have been a bit much to ask for) but rather because too much of it could have been made by Anyone.
// Notes from the Road
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