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Alphabet’s Heaven’s debut, “Jay’s Odyssey”, follows Fancy Mike’s on young upstart label King Deluxe. If these are the mere first steps of this outfit, to say that I’m enthusiastic about its coming momentum would be an understatement.
Jay’s Odyssey by king_deluxe
Alphabet’s Heaven is Jonny Wildey from London. Not much else to go on, and his press release on “Jay’s Odyssey” of “It’s a look at the computer games Alphabet’s spent years playing; the jagged structure of them, and the kind of mindspace you find yourself in after directing a blue pixelated hedgehog for 5 hours” is as unassuming as they get. But here at “Alan Chaucer from Suffolk”, we’re perfectly happy to let the music speak for itself (although, his YouTube offering speaks volumes as well – now THAT’s what I call an “MPC solo”, Kanye).
I’m loath to say this, but, given the context, I was reluctant to open with the opener, as it is by far the weakest track, so I won’t.
“Walk On”, with its vocal snippets and off-kilter rhythm, may conjure up usual parallels with fellow Londoner Burial. While this track does indeed also smell of rain (some of the high register percussion even scans like the trickle of water), its hypnotic gait is something quite apart from anything else I’ve ever heard, and the unleashed arpeggiated psychedelia of its finale is formidable.
“Squuaares” is a dreamy, wistful, sensual intermission, which recalls the album’s purported concept quite aptly. I quite enjoy the grumpy beat in this one. One for staying in with a cup of coco and perusing photo albums.
“Woman”, the Alessi’s Ark cover/remix/re-imagining, is an incredible juxtaposition of lush feminine wiles and broken beats. The ghostly and enchanting treatment of the vocals and the urban cut-up mechanic extol a soulful, jazzy proclivity, and turn Alessi’s psych-folk chants into echoes akin to the heart-rending and infectious gloom and doom of one Billie Holiday.
“Jung” chirps in (literally) with some found sound manipulation that exhibit Wildey’s singular knack for insane rhythm. One would’ve enjoyed the full track that the escalation of intensity in the beat seems to promise, but maybe one doth protest too much. A very palatable interlude.
“Devil” brings the fire and brimstone via a sort of forlorn sensuality, snappy beats swathed in devotional organ chords, and subtly revivalist 90’s acid jazz-funk progressions punctuated by 808 apostrophes. I most enjoy the way the low-end rolls down this one like sweat rolling down a lover’s skin, and the chilly ambient change-up towards the end.
“Frank” is the obvious banger, and the track where Alphabet’s is flexing his rippling beat programming and plunder-editing muscles hardest, for a well-deserved mental workout. Hats off, Mr. Wildey…
“Darma” is a slowly budding psychedelic and progressive bass music piece with a beat to die for, which climaxes into one of the coolest uses of distortion I’ve heard in the past few years, save for habitual innovators such as Clark.
The unfocused retro ambient jungle of “All Night” is a nice change of pace, but ultimately a more forgettable affair in a context of such amazing tracks.
“Laaazerrrs” is deep, monolithic offering that successfully marries post-BoC radiophonic hypnagogia with an unbridled sense of rhythmic and sonic adventure. A definite highlight, along with “Frank” and “Woman” and “Elizabeth”.
Said “Elizabeth” is an intoxicating skittery doubletime number that channels the forgotten virtues of trip-hop, the golden age of Ninja Tune, and a copious sense of funk, and is a slowly inkling crescendo into a payoff of breathtaking vocal harmony.
Coming back to “Blue Garden”… Its opening washes of percolating harp samples instill a bacchanalian disposition that is somewhat broken up by the abrupt segue into the jarring distorted sidechain-triggering beats. And while distortion is used to great effect in later tracks, it seems a bit coarse in context. The second half of the track provides another mood-setting oasis, far better complemented by its own subsequent interruption, a brain-rinsing foray into forward-thinking glitch-hop amalgamations. This immensely satisfying second half of the track insures that it remains a stand-out moment as well, only one that I’m more likely to skip through to half-way in. The track can be seen as an introductory collection of all the directions presented in the album, in which case one can fully appreciate its unfettered inner variety.
This album has drawn comparisons to FlyLo, Teebs and generally the LA beat scene. While the parallels are nonetheless useful in understanding the musical background needed to fully appreciate this admittedly wonky-tributary release, I feel that to simply relegate this to the FlyLo-clone pile, and to ignore Wildey’s far-ranging influences and sonic idiosyncrasy are grievous offences. Not simply another serving of samplemangling and broken beats, “Jay’s Odyssey” is beautiful, immersive, hypnotic hip-hop, that seems to invert the formula of the much-touted “LA sound”: the sonics are windy, chilly, deep and goosebumps-inducing, as if to conjure the very different and autumnal patronage of a Londoner, while absolving warmth is supplied by the musical element. Found sounds and field recordings pervade the album, vocal inserts are like elusive nymphs of an inner mythology, and the gratuitous use of sidechain compression, despite my assertion that Lone’s “Ecstasy and Friends” had taken the technique to its logical extreme, manages nonetheless to sound fresh in Wildey’s hands.
A stellar, promising debut for Alphabet’s Heaven, and a confirmatory sophomore release for King Deluxe. One would do best to look out for these two in the coming months.
– Alan Chaucer from Suffolk