PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Greyboy: Mastered the Art

Maurice Bottomley

Greyboy

Mastered the Art

Label: Ubiquity
US Release Date: 2001-05-27
Amazon
iTunes

All is well, Greyboy is back and dropping bombs. How does this sound -- phat basslines, deep jazzy vibraphone, MCs in full flight and snippets of Henry Mancini arrangements? No? Mexican guitar, breakbeats and scratching, ethereal flutes and Italian cinema orchestral strings? Still not hooked? Then the world of the original Californian acid jazz-beatmaster is not for you. Pity, because this is a triumphant return to his hip-hop roots for San Diego's Andreas Stephens. A feast of future-lounge plus old school beats and rhymes -- this set will hopefully win Greyboy a lot of new friends.

His long-term fan base will initially be suspicious of the ditching of most of the Acid Jazz trappings. They need not fret. Just as the jazz-dance scene has mutated into many genre defying forms in England so it has in its other bases -- be they Toronto, Japan or California. The jazz touches are still very much in evidence but cinema and hip-hop seem to be the current inspirational preferences. Given this, Greyboy has an advantage in that he started from hip-hop and switched to jazz and rare groove samples largely through being unable to find suitable MCs. Anyhow, he sounds very much on home ground throughout this fresh and lively record. What should please everybody is the leap forward in production values. Crisp and confident, this is as mellow as we expect the West Coast to be yet has more of a kick than recent work by Nobody or the Om/Mushroom Jazz crowd.

Ubiquity never release a really bad record from their various labels. However rather too much of their output has been of the OK and Interesting variety. Here they have their hands on something exceptional. From the two very different versions of the title track, by way of the impressionistic instrumental pieces to the relatively down-the-line rap cuts, everything here is in perfect shape. Sample plus live, acoustic-electric, organic-digital or whatever oxymoron is currently being used for this type of music -- Mastered the Art is by far the most consistently successful example to emerge this year.

Much of this is down to bringing the best out of a limited number of key artists. Dave Pike plays meaty, heavyweight vibes and keeps the jazz end of things in the frame. Multi-instrumentalist and Greyboy All Stars member Elgin Pike adds variety and class. MC Mainflo rides the beats with suitable fluidity and gives the record bite. Greyboy himself works turntables and samples with considerable technique and great inventiveness. All contribute to that rare but much sought after state where there is ambience aplenty but buckets of funkiness.

Pike excels on the title track and a gentle jazz-funker, "Bath Music". The latter is a chill-out compilers dream -- lush strings, and female voice underpin a fine work-out from the vibraphone. The bulk of the instrumentals are slightly spacier, cinematic affairs although the Spanish guitar led "Smokescreen" is exquisite and provides the album's other melodic highlight. "Hold It Down", "Uknowmylife", "Dealin' with the Archives" and "Ghetto Boogie" are the main hip-hop efforts. The last named has a real old fashioned bounce but the others fuse a free flowing vocal style over a dizzying array of sounds. The Easy Listening samples and a penchant for acoustic instruments ensure not too great a disparity with the non-vocal numbers but some bubbling bass and effective rapping add energy. All of these elements come together on "Mastered the Art" itself. A repeated rap chorus, chop-funk guitar, vibes and a whole heap of exotic sounds combine to make a tune that shows how hybrid stylings should be approached.This is an object lesson in the mix and match end of dance culture.

There is a bonus track -- the remix of the title track. It is rather more straightforwardly Latin-dance-jazz than the rest of the album and does not quite fit into the careful unity of the rest of the set. But guess what? It's really good. I will be amazed if this slightly housey bossa nova does not become a favourite with the right DJs. Icing on a very palatable cake. All in all if you like the mix of genres pushed by magazines like Straight No Chaser or people like Gilles Peterson and DJ Smash, if you value subtlety and imagination in your dance-based music, this is well worth checking out.

San Francisco is currently the source of some of the finest and the most creative contemporary dance music. Labels such as Naked Music, Om and Ubiquity are spoiling the soulful-jazz end of club culture. A criticism has been that the product is just too smooth and soporific. The balance here is, I assure you, perfectly poised between the relaxed and the robust. Greyboy was the first artist that Ubiquity signed and for some time their most well-known. He has now also proved himself their best acquisition musically. The title's boast is, for a change, not a vain one.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.