Finally! An album coming out of the hip-hop corner of the world which reminds me why I was so bowled over by it the first time around. I don’t want to point fingers or anything but, generally speaking, it is a genre which has been hi-jacked by mumbling, self-aggrandising rappers, wielding a lap-top to create the same trap beats and wonky electronica over and over again. They rap about “the street” from their parents house in Connecticut. Authentic it is not. It’s almost an insult to the memory of those early days. Sorry, I sort of make that sound like hip-hop is dead, clearly it isn’t, as Time to Move elegantly and eloquently demonstrates.
Perhaps calling it hip-hop is a bit limiting but then the genre was always been the playground of musical magpies, finding shiny sonics, musical infusions and far-flung inspirations from often the most unlikely of places. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Talent borrows, genius steals,” and you know that he would have been the hanging out with Universal Zulu Nation in the early Bronx years if he hadn’t have had the misfortune of being born into the upper echelons of British society a hundred years earlier. And although, like all artists, you can see J. Andrew’s influences at work, Time To Move is nothing if not original. Not only leaning on the expected hip-hop moves but working in funky grooves, pop sensibilities, alt-rock weight and even a couple of musical skits. (The two minutes of Extra Sauce being worth the price of the album alone…not to mention being a satirical comment on modern music production…I think.)
Energy of 1000 kicks things off nicely, coming into earshot with a goth-metal riff but quickly burying it under beats and scratching before a salvo of deft lyrics nail the album’s tone firmly to the mast. And as if to say “okay, you think you have me sussed, think again,” Lighthouse, which follows, heads off in a more soulful direction, still wandering hip-hop’s outer track but revelling in keyboard sounds which are both chiming and charming, bass lines happy to merely punctuate rather than propel, softer lyrics and hazy vocal deliveries. A nice little curveball to stop you getting too comfortable; this is an album which isn’t going to play to your expectations.
Stay Out The Way is a cool blend of both these approaches, busy back beats meets chilled soul licks topped off by aggressive and tongue-in-cheek raps from Zak Meister, brutal and honest narratives from Katie Ladubz, and Comfortable sits at a point where the urban music sound collides into brooding, alt-rock, a place which has always been responsible for some singular and significant creations…RATM anyone? Not that this sounds anything like them, I’m just saying that it’s a great place to conduct sonic experiments.
The title track is a moody, slow-burner, crawling ever forward on hypnotic and repetitive beats, Long Haul is an in-your-face mission statement and the album ends with Summer, another blast of dexterous lyrical flows set against smooth instrumentation and skittering percussion.
A revelation! That’s the only word for it. Not only touching on the familiar sounds of the past but looking to take those sounds into a bright new future. As always it isn’t about the building blocks, the same ones are available to everyone, its about the art of choosing the most interesting ones to wield and then using those to build new sonic architecture. And that’s what J. Andrew is…a sonic architect. Nothing less.
In a world where we seem to have become content with lowest common denominators, at a time when technology has meant that even the most unimaginative, most plagiaristic, most brain-dead “artist” can have a career in music, Time To Move provides a benchmark, a piece of music that such wannabes should be made to study before they go back to flipping burgers or selling used cars having realised that they are never going to make the grade.