Concept album by trip/underground hip and downtempo, hop. Leave that button alone, it works.
If the words "concept" and "album" strikes you with fear, I sympathise. On the whole, the concept album has tended to be an ego trip into an artists nether regions that inevitably results in bloated and boring works of, ahem, art.
French producer and hip hop artist Jean-Christophe Le Saoût aka Wax Tailor, has managed to avoid such a feat on this, his fourth album Dusty Rainbow From The Dark.
Tailor has described his process of making music as akin to directing a film wherein the samples and guest vocalists are the actors, vital components in the overall structure, feel and delivery of the project, all individual parts belonging to a wider ensemble.
Talking in 1992 at the beginning of his alter ego's journey into hip hop, Le Saoût explained his philosophy to making music thus; "The more I was writing rap, the more I was made aware of the necessity to cast your lyrics just like a film directors chooses to cast a story. I had written a few raps based on what a gun would say, or what a prisoner sentenced to death would tell his wife in his last letter. I felt more and more as if I was a director or a scenario writer. This led me to approach the Wax Tailor project differently, referencing cinema in a more conscious way".
It's on this new album, following 2009's excellent In The Mood For Life that he finally delivers on this promise. While his other albums were notable, they struck me as more orthodox hip hop records with no central theme, and without the sense of a cinematic vision to their production (they are damn good hip hop albums all the same).
For Dusty Rainbow From The Dark Wax Tailor has applied his mise-en-scène to the album, if that's not taking the film analogies too far!
The cover features an image of a child, the main character of the films narrative, drawn by renowned children's book illustrator Rebecca Dautremer. The narration, which peppers the album, is read hauntingly and terrifyingly, in the deep sonorous tones of British actor Don McCorkindale. These pieces of narration hold the album together and are an integral part of the story, enhancing the album and listening experience, especially when played back through headphones.
Crafting the album from this base, Wax Tailor has coloured in the scenes with layer up layer of samples, some are snatched pieces of music others more recognizable, and then on top of this, he has added the guest vocalists to add further depth to the story; Charlotte Savary, Sara Genn, Mattic, A.S.M, Ali Harter, Aloe Blacc (on the standout track "Time To Go"), Elzhi, Jennifer Charles, Shana Halligan, Akua all appear and keep the music flowing and fast paced. There is a real sense of filmic pacing on the album, leading up to the final dénouement and each single track plays its role superbly.
This is a clever album that brings a wide range of influences and textures together to make a coherent single album, it tells a story through a clear narrative arc and passes the tricky "concept album" label with flying colours.
Wax Tailor is a true musical auteur.