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Album Review - The addictive soundworld of Adrian Younge

(Linear Labs) 

'PPARENTLY (according to the pros) 'Los Angeles' is to be seen as a compilation, a 'best-of' gathering of Younge's best work thus far, in the few years he's been visible. Younge, if you don't know is an L.A-based hip hop producer born in 78 who's made some astonishing 33s and 45s.  A hip-hop producer in the most sophisticated non-DJ sense - he's an arranger and composer, works with alot of real analogue equipment, presents himself somewhere between a young Quincy Jones and an old Teo Macero, old school in alot of ways,  heavily into 60s and 70s music, especially the more psychedelic soul, the funkier soundtracks, the most sumptuous soul.  His sound is a gorgeous mix of Schifrin/Axelrod-style lushness and determinedly golden-age beatmaking. The music he's made includes albums with Ghostface Killah (2013's superb 'Twelve Reasons To Die' soon to gain a sequel in this year's 'Twelve Reasons To Die II'), the stunning Phryme album last year with DJ Premier & Royce Da 5'9" (a gloriously offensive yet wonderful album that slipped out towards the tail end of 2014 and under nearly everyone's radar, seek it out, it's incredibly addictive) as well as working with the legendary Souls Of Mischief on their comeback album last year and producing a couple of tracks for Mr Carter on Jay's 'Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail' set. Rappers appreciate his musical depth and knowledge. He makes them sound at least 25% better than they actually are.

   But for these ears, 'Los Angeles' is the most consistent set he has put out, a trembling, tremendous bolt of summer glow and glimmer that has had me strung out for most of 2015 so far. This aint a compilation, fuck that - enjoy it like it's fresh, like it's all new, like this is the only album you need by Younge, and that it was conceived and recorded in this order as an entirely self-contained statement.

   We start on Venice beach with a cresting wave, and then that Rhodes Mk-1 sound he gratifyingly uses alot and then beats of exquisite phatness and the kind of sweet vintage cine-psyche that recalls the High Llamas and the voice of Letitia Sadier crooning the bleak forlorness of 'Memories Of War' like Nico got herself Can as a backing band. Younge's music, if you're of a nitpicking mindset, instantaneously asks questions about place and space - where was this made? Where were people stood in relation to each other? What was the process? It's impossible, merely by listening, to figure any of this out, and most people will be so transported by the music it perhaps won't occur but to me it's part of the maddening insolubility of Younge's music, and therefore part of what makes it so great.  It's difficult often, to conceive of the physical studio space Younge makes his music in because he gets fiddly stuff like equalisation and compression so blissfully right his music seems to occupy a bigger, earthier, lusher, heavier place than a laptop, a vocal booth, or any of our usual imagist cliches we rush to when visualising modern music making. You can hear, and you see, old sound-stages, cost-inneffectiveness, old Hollywood but it's not as simple as being able to say this music sounds 'dated' - it doesn't, it manages through lyrical freshness and unique attention to detail to sound entirely from 2015, a studied, stylised response to the paucity of our own age, a conjuring of a fantasy past that never coincided as perfectly as much of 'Los Angeles' sounds.

'1969 Organ' which follows sounds like a heavier, even noisier Silver Apples, or an outake from 'The United States Of America', a stunningly executed slab of prog funk with a hooked change that'll haunt you in your dreams. With vocalists, Younge proves sensitive to the song and to the voice, even though instrumentally he pushes everything into the red, always toying with overload but always knowing when to hold back. 'Feel Alive' is like a longlost sublime 70s funk-soul single, Loren Oden adding a fantastic vocal as sweet and strong as Betty Davis, or something off Badu's 'Return Of The Ankh'. She repeats that trick later on the stunning spectral thump of 'Turn Down The Sound', the Portishead-like 'To Be Your One' (with a similarly tremulous William Hart) and Toni Scruggs delivers pure soul-fire on the utterly staggering 'Chicago Wing'.   When things are left entirely to Younge they get seriously bad-assed - check out 'The Sure Shot Pt.1 & 2' for some of the most evocative and suggestive instrumental hip-hop you've heard in decades.

  The tracks where rappers are allowed into the party are absolute fucking barnstormers. From his Souls Of Mischief collabo we get the freaky and fabulous 'The Last Act', with Ghostface we get the downright terrifying horrorcore of 'Return Of The Savage' and the whole stunning suite that is 'Los Angeles' winds up on 'Sirens' with Balil, an indescribably astonishing track that somehow manages to hint at what Stereolab jamming with DJ Premier might sound like before actually surpassing that in warm lambent waves of wonder. I haven't rewound, replayed an album as much this year. It absolutely hits upon a sound simultaneously smooth n gritty, harsh yet heavenly, that I just can't get enough of. Younge has a way of using old sources and new playing to create tracks that you KNOW are new but you can't quite believe aren't old classics, so strong is the writing, composition and production. Because it's impossible to nail the exact mix between the found and the created in his music it occupies a unique place, fits like an old Crombie worn by a robot. I commend it to your bosom immediately.


  1. Seriously special stuff (Laetitia Sadier and Ghostface Killah on the same record? In your dreams) and up there with Cold Fusion's staggering "The Elixir", DRS's similarly staggering "Mid Mic Crisis" and Jlin's mind-bending "Dark Energy" as records that make me feel a lot younger than my 52 years. Thanks as ever for the fab review Neil.

  2. I wish I could hear this guy's beats like everyone else is hearing them. I just hear dry, vague pastiches of mouldy old psychedelia set to stale hip hop beats. almost reminds me of a lacklustre version of Broadcast's first album, musically. ho hum

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